Jovi Runs

Another excerpt from my work-in-progess YA novel…enjoy.
Football

The stadium was full, the band played the Landry Longhorn’s fight song and people began taking their seats. There was excitement in the air and the metal bleachers vibrated with the noise. Jovi and Opal found a group of classmates to sit with behind the band. Opal sang along with the fight song and they both clapped.

Jovi scanned the crowd and found her family in their usual seats. The twins were on their feet, dressed in cheerleader uniforms and shaking pompoms. Sassy and Grant sat in the seats on either side of the girls and both checked their phones. Jason and Analise faced each other, their foreheads touching. Jovi felt self-conscious and looked away, embarrassed as if she had been peeking through closed curtains. But her heart warmed with the knowledge that her brother and his wife were so deeply in love.

She watched as her Dad made his way up the stadium steps with a small bag of popcorn in each hand. He took a seat between Cora and Clementine. The twins abandoned their pompoms and dove into the popcorn. Jovi’s Mom was at home, and probably already asleep. Everyone being accounted for, she turned her attention to the field.

The boom, boom, boom of the bass drum brought the fight song to an end and the crowd roared as the ball was placed on the forty-yard line and Landry prepared to the receive the second-half kickoff.

Jovi knew very little about football. She was there to show school spirit, see some friends and family, and to cheer for Graeme. From listening to him talk during their date last weekend, he played offense, was a running back, whatever that meant, and wore jersey Number 22. She studied the scoreboard and saw that the Longhorns were ahead 7-3. Then she scoped out the field and spotted Graeme, in the familiar orange and white uniform, standing on the sidelines. A warmness filled her heart.

The next hour flew by and Jovi saw and understood very little of the game. There was so much going on in the stands that it was difficult to focus on the boys running up and down the field. There were trips to the concession stand, members of the band throwing candy and gum at the crowd, and the cheerleaders performed too many back flips to count. When the score was 14-6 and there was ten minutes left to play, she stood and told Opal she’d be right back.

 “Aunt Jovi!” Cora and Clementine chimed in unison, and rushed to give their aunt a hug.

 “Hey you little cheerleaders, who’s gonna win?”

 “The Longhorns!” they cheered loudly.

She hugged her Dad and Sassy, then Jason and Analise. Everyone was talking at once. Grant stood a few feet away, in the aisle, having a conversation with someone Jovi didn’t know.

Dark hair framed amber eyes. His features were strong and he stood at least 3-4 inches taller than Grant, who was six feet tall. His handsome face and imposing stature disturbed her sense of balance. She couldn’t look away, and met his rugged gaze head-on, freezing her in place. His eyes raked her with a fierce possessiveness. A sudden warmth crept across her cheeks and, flustered, her eyes darted to her feet. She could still feel the power of his gaze and her heart raced.

 “…. Cross-country meet in the morning?” Sassy asked.

 Thankful for the distraction, she turned to face her sister. Her head felt as if it was detached and floating. “Um, yeah, Marble Falls,” Jovi managed to find her words. Opal is spending the night and she’s going with me.”

 Then she turned her attention to her father, still lightheaded. “Oh, Dad. After the meet in the morning, Opal and I are going to Austin so she can shop for a homecoming dress. We’re going to stay the night with her aunt, then drive home Sunday morning. I’ll be back in time for dinner. Mom said it was alright.” She rambled. Hands clammy, her stomach churned.

“So you won’t be around to help in the orchard.” His gray eyes turned stormy.

“Mom said it was okay. I promised Opal…” Her voice sounded hollow. She felt faint. Why was she lying to her family?

“Well then. You do what you think is right,” he said.

Why had he chosen those words? He could probably see right through the lies. She gulped in a much-needed breath. “Yes sir.”

What a mess. Why had she agreed to take her best friend to the audition? Opal kept things from her parents all the time. But lying to her Mom and Dad was new territory for Jovi. Her stomach twisted in knots and she felt a strong compulsion to run.

From the corner of her eye she saw Grant and Sir Hotness move toward her. She was in no condition to meet the intriguing stranger. “Well, I gotta go,” she blurted, then turned and bolted down the bleachers.

After The Baby Rabbits Disappeared

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Excerpt from my book, More Than Everything

A year goes by.  A year of life in the fast lane with lots of money, and we finally move out of the rent house in town.  Shane’s paranoia has maxed out.  He is now convinced we are being watched and is sure the cops are listening to our calls, so he finds and leases some property out in the country.  Ten secluded acres in Wise County.  There is an old run-down trailer house, a big barn, a chicken coop, and a huge garden plot.  There is no phone line and Shane likes it that way.  Shane decides that it is secluded enough that we can live there and he can cook his speed there too every few months when we need to make more money.  He and his buddies buy a big, prefabricated barn and put it out there next to the trailer.  We store all of our furniture and boxed belongings in the barn for the time being and live in the old, furnished trailer with the ratty gold shag carpet, a gold crushed-velvet sofa and a heavy, Mexican-style wood coffee table in the living room.  In the kitchen there is a yellow Formica table and two matching chairs that is the spitting image of the one my parents had when I was growing up.  The one that mama would sit at, smoking cigarettes and talking on the phone while she swatted me away like a fly.  One bare light bulb hangs over the center of the table.  One bedroom is empty and in the other one, we throw a double-size mattress on the floor and use a cardboard box for a nightstand.  We stack other cardboard boxes on their sides, so the openings face outward, forming a series of cubby holes, and use them as a dresser for our clothes.

It is great being out in the country, far away from the junkies.  Our dog, a black lab named Dino loves running wild.  A friend brings his dog out there too, also a black lab, and Dino is in heaven.  Those dogs play, run, swim, hunt and have the time of their lives.  For several months it is bliss; just me, Shane and the dogs living quietly, taking long walks in the woods and going fishing.  Shane and I have never spent so much quality time together.  It is nice.  We are relaxed out here away from the city.  Shane actually talks to me and hardly ever yells.  He tells me things I’ve never known about him and I fall in love all over again.  We sit in lawn chairs under the stars and listen to the crickets and the hoot of an owl.  We sleep soundly and make love loudly and shower together every day.  Shane finds an old tiller in the barn and after a day of tinkering on it, has it running like a top.  He tills up the huge half acre garden plot for days and the earth is rich and fragrant; I sit in the big middle of the loose dirt grabbing handfuls and letting it sift through my fingers like all-purpose flour.  We plant every kind of vegetable you can think of and revel at each tiny, green shoot that sprouts from the ground.  We buy rolls of chicken wire and patch up the pens and fill them with chickens, turkeys and geese.  We spend the spring mending fence, planting flowers, and sprucing up the place.

One day I am the only one home and I’m mowing the front lawn barefooted.  I decide to go inside and put on some shoes before I try to mow the backyard where the grass is six inches high.  I turn off the mower, run inside, grab a pair of socks out of the sock cubbyhole, and my tennis shoes from the closet and sit on the edge of the bed to put them on.  As I’m tying the last lace, a large plastic thermos suddenly tumbles down from a shelf in the closet and lands at my feet.  I jump up and look into the closet to see why the thermos would have fallen and I’m eye to eye with a huge chicken snake, as big around as a can of Coke, coiled and stacked on the shelf like a garden hose. Continue reading

Even Steven

fall light

Late afternoon light spilled into the modest living room through the open door. Monty, who lay napping in the sunny spot, was probably taking Claire’s sudden death harder than anyone. The two had been inseparable the past three years. Claire had found the abandoned puppy rooting around inside a toppled garbage can on her weekly walk to Hudson’s market six blocks east of her tiny cottage.

“I’ve given him my dinner scraps and a bath with my dandruff shampoo.” Claire told Thelma on the telephone that night. “He sure is a cute little thing.”

“Well, you’ve done your good deed, now put him outside and let him find his way home.” Claire’s best friend had said. “The last thing you need is a filthy animal living in your spotless house.”

“Maybe.” Claire had replied. “But right now, I’ll just let him sleep here in my lap. I think that bath wore him out.”

Everyone thought it was strange that Claire kept the dog. She had never allowed pets in the house while the kids were growing up. Even stranger, they thought, was that Claire had named the puppy after her deceased husband of 57 years.

“It was a nice service.” Thelma said as she served herself a helping of the lasagna that pastor Bill’s wife, Anita had dropped off earlier. She sniffed before taking the first bite.

“Yes, and didn’t she look natural.” Said Sissy, Claire’s youngest daughter, who sat at one end of the kitchen table that was piled with food.

A steady stream of family, friends and neighbors had kept the screen door busy all day but now there were just a handful left as the sun set outside. A quiet settled over the little house. Everyone was tired from the day’s sad activities.

Claire’s granddaughter, Sharon broke the silence. “I remember spending many a summer here. I loved Grandma Claire, but dreaded the daily cleaning regimen. Continue reading

Mr. and Mrs. #Shannyforever

Magic Was In The Air ~ July 12, 2014

We had a wedding!

Friends, family and loved ones gathered at the end of a beautiful July day, in overwhelming joy, to witness the exchanging of heartfelt vows, celebrate love, and to dance our butts off. All of that and so much more! Everyone ate, drank and got merry, just as intended. And now two extraordinary young people are a brand new family because they chose each other!

There was so much love and joy floating around this place for three full days, I thought I might burst. Every time I turned around there was another smiling face or a hug or a special conversation waiting for me. Not only did the gorgeous bride choose a bright, fun, caring and thoughtful man to share her life with, but he came with a warm, loving family that has embraced us all and now we are bound together too….an unexpected and totally awesome benefit of our children coming together.

Continue reading

A Settlers of Catan Confession

Catan

So, have you been roped into had the pleasure of playing a game of Settlers of Catan yet? Perhaps with a nerdy twenty-something in your life?

“It’s a board game Mom, come on you’ll love it. It’s pretty easy once you learn the rules.”

Oh the rules…. We’ll get to those later, but first the premise: Each player is a settler trying to build settlements and cities by acquiring and trading resources. You get victory points as your settlements grow and the first one to get ten victory points wins. Sounds easy enough.

“Ok! Count me in. I’ll be blue.”

As I sipped a second glass of wine, the kids proceeded to lay out the hexagon-shaped board pieces with pictures of grass, bricks, rocks and wood on them, placed some number tokens (seemingly randomly) on top of those, divided up some cards into stacks and handed me the dice.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to a lonely wooden man standing on a board piece that looked like the desert. Continue reading

Magical Thinking

 

Writing 101 – Assignment.

Tell the tale of your most prized possession. Use as many words as it takes.

 

 

Image

My red scrapbook is old, musty and bulging with a lifetime of love letters, keepsakes and photographs. It is where I keep the Apollo 17 pin that I wore while watching the last rocket (that would ever land on the moon) launch from the white sands of Cocoa Beach in December of 1972. Nestled among the yellowing pages are my blue and gold embroidered Presidential Physical Fitness patch, and my nickel-plated Vietnam POW/MIA bracelet; the very bracelet that I wore religiously for months until it broke in half. I secretly worried that the breaking of that bracelet meant my soldier might never return home.

When you’re thirteen years old, you can get carried away with magical thinking.

But the very first page of my scrapbook, the one with my baby pictures, is where my heart lives. There are four black corner stickers hugging my most prized possession in the world – a photograph of me and my daddy. The caption reads: “Vanessa 9 months, with Daddy”. My childhood scrapbook is not neat, organized, color-coordinated or of archival quality. But it’s mine, and mama’s handwriting under that fading photograph is proof we were once a family. Continue reading

Trucker’s Knot

Writing 101 – Assignment.

The neighborhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Write this story in the first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

 

It was a couple a weeks ago – bout supper time. I was out on the porch here. The sweat kept runnin in my eyes, and I had ‘ta use the bottom of my shirt ‘ta mop it up. I was practicin my Trucker’s Knot with a piece of rope Gramps give me last time we was visitin him at the old folks home. Gramps always has a present for ya but not many words. I already have my merit badge for tyin knots but I want to get good at the Trucker’s Knot cause my daddy’s a trucker and next time he’s home I’m gonna supprise him!

After about the millionth time tryin the Trucker’s Knot is when the cop car showed up. Usually when one a them comes ‘round, the lights are flashin and the sirens are a wailin, but not this time. It pulled up nice and quiet and didn’t make no ruckus.

Two men got out and knocked on Mrs. Pauley’s door. While they waited for her to answer, they turned an saw me on my porch. We’ve lived across the street from the Pauley’s since before I was borned. The Deputy waved but Mr. Grimley didn’t. Mama calls Mr. Grimley a slumlord – whatever that is. All I know is nobody likes him and when things get broke he takes his sweet time a fixin ‘em. Continue reading

Home

 

 

Writing 101 – Write about finding something.

 

My parents divorced when I was eight years old after years of drinking, fighting and gnashing of teeth. I cannot conjure a memory of them being happy together during my entire childhood. Smiles and laughter rarely found their way into the fabric of our days.

Daddy has been gone now for over 25 years, mama is remarried again and the past seems like a bad dream – a tragic play with unskilled actors flailing through their poorly-written scripts.

Last fall, while visiting our aunt, two of my sisters and I set up camp on her living room floor and rifled through box after box of old family photographs. We looked at vacation photos taken at Six Flags, faded, creased pictures of unidentified relatives, and shots of tombstones of those long gone.  There were the obligatory “say cheese” group snapshots at holiday gatherings and K-12 school photos of almost everyone.

And then, as I grabbed yet another pile to sift through, a gift fell into my lap. A wallet-sized, black and white picture of my parents that I had never seen before. Nestled dangerously close to each other, they are sitting on one end of a couch, daddy’s arm around mama, a huge smile on her face and the perfect look of peace and contentment in his eyes. They are so young, so beautiful, and so obviously in love.

In that photograph that now sits framed on my nightstand, I can see their love – see back to a time when it made sense for them to be together. In that photograph, I found home.