Odyssey of a Novice Writer

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time… ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?

You’ll Thank Me

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Slowly, my eyes open.

He doesn’t look up.  He’s painting my toenails.

Telling me I’m beautiful, that my figure makes his heart melt, he says I’m just about perfect. Or would be but for my feet, which are big and flat.

Peasant feet, he says.

He should know. Stanley’s a podiatrist. He has standards.

He surprised me this morning, quickly, violently, administering the narcotic.

Now I watch as he carefully paints each small, perfect toe.

The scars around your ankles, he says, will fade.

I can’t speak.  Tears fall.

But my poor old feet!

You’ll thank me, he says, not looking up.

© All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton and Odyssey of a Novice Writer
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Word count: 100

Note: Story written in response to the ‘100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups’ sponsored on Julia’s Place (Julia Skinner). The prompt was ‘but my poor old feet.’

Memorial Day Weekend

Kate Loveton:

It’s an honor to reblog Cindy Bruchman’s post about Memorial Day. Cindy hails from a military tradition as well as a rich historical one. Cindy, like you, I have an ancestor who fought during the Civil War. My ancestor, Braxton Bragg, was a confederate general and it took me many years to digest that fact since I’ve always been pro-union and a Lincoln enthusiast. My husband fought in Vietnam, an unpopular war. He came home, life and medal intact, and made a good life for himself. But it made him – and me – cognizant of the cost of war. Cindy was in the service. She says she came home unscathed, but her son, a veteran of the Iraq war, was not so lucky. Cindy, I salute you and your son. And I say thank you on this Memorial weekend.

Originally posted on Cindy Bruchman:

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Did you know that Memorial Day in the United States was originally called Decoration Day and originated for Civil War soldiers? For many decades after the Civil War, northern and southern states honored their fallen soldiers separately. The service changed after World War I to Memorial Day and included all fallen soldiers who served in the U.S. military.  In 1971, Congress designated the service as a national, 3 day holiday weekend. Since then, it has expanded to signify the beginning of summer fun. On American television this weekend, you can re-watch countless war movies. While spending time with family and friends is valuable, it is most important to remember what the holiday is truly about.

Like Mother Like Daughter Navy boot camp graduation–like mother like daughter

As a history teacher, I spend a lot of time discussing the cause and effects of war and their ramifications to individuals, families, communities, and nations. Today, I would…

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Book Review: Midnight in Dublin by M.C. Dulac

Have you ever wondered whether you were living the life fated for you? Has the thought crossed your mind that someone else was experiencing all that should have been yours?

In M.C. Dulac’s latest novel, “Midnight in Dublin,” Lizzy James discovers that someone really is living the life that had been destined for her – and the shocking reason why her destiny had been altered.

Midnight in Dublin

While spending a weekend in Dublin, Lizzy receives a text message from a friend she hasn’t seen in seven years. The friend, Alice, urgently wants to meet with Lizzy. Alice is a woman easy to dislike. She’s beautiful, self-centered, has a glamorous career, and is about to marry the man of her dreams. Alice has it all – including a secret that’s about to change Lizzy’s life.

Under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Lizzy’s life derailed a long time ago, seven years to be precise, and she’s suffered emotional and financial setbacks since then. A life once filled with promise quickly fell apart.

Here’s the peculiar thing: Lizzy can pinpoint the day that things seemed to go wrong.  It was the same day that Alice’s life began to gain momentum.

When Alice finally connects with Lizzy, she explains that someone is going to appear at midnight to collect on a contract that Alice entered into the last time the young women were together in Dublin. Lizzy listens with amazement as Alice confides the contract she signed was to provide a mysterious stranger with a soul in exchange for a dazzling, exciting life. The catch is that it is Lizzy’s soul that Alice promised and now the pair must try to figure out a means for getting out of the contract.

I greatly enjoyed “Midnight in Dublin.” An entertaining read, the story moves quickly and confidently from start to finish. The dialogue is excellent, the plotting is good, and it has the supernatural elements that I like in a story. I hope you’ll consider reading “Midnight in Dublin.” I think you’ll like it.

“Midnight in Dublin” is available for purchase from Amazon.

* * * * * *

I enjoyed Ms. Dulac’s novel so much that I asked her if she’d be willing to answer a few questions for me.

Dulac Coffee Cup

Kate ~ Tell us something about you and your writing.

M.C. Dulac ~ I was born and raised in Australia and currently live in Sydney. Writing has been a constant presence throughout my life. I took a detour into studying law and worked as a lawyer for some time, but was always thinking of stories. After some travels overseas, I have recently begun writing seriously.

Kate ~ Which authors or books have influenced you as a writer?

M.C. Dulac ~ I remember being deeply affected by Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights.”  Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde” are two classics I re-read often. I’ve heard it said that no writer gets characters from A to B as quickly as Robert Louis Stevenson, so he is a great writer to learn from.

Of modern writers, I enjoy Cherie Priest, Cassandra Clare and Anne Rice. And yes, I have a well-thumbed copy of “Twilight” on my bookshelf. (Team Jacob!)

Kate ~ Oh, I love Anne Rice! I’ve read her novel, “The Witching Hour,” several times. Tell me, how would you define your writing genre?

M.C. Dulac ~ Defining my genre is so hard! I like fiction where the everyday world collides with the supernatural. My stories are not really scary. I try to use the supernatural elements to explore human nature. I think the official genre for this is “urban fantasy” or “magical realism”.

Kate ~ Would you be willing to share something of your writing process?

M.C. Dulac ~ “Midnight in Dublin” is one of six novelettes set in Europe.

Usually I have a full idea of the story arc when I begin, and then plot out the story in detail. Plot notes are like a map, but the actual writing is like a holiday. I know where I’m starting, and where I plan to visit, and I know when I’ll return. But along the way anything can happen!

I draw inspiration from all sorts of sources. “The Wary Traveler” was inspired by the masked carnival pageants in Europe, and is about a hero who goes to a mountain town where the folklore seems all too real. I’ve always enjoyed the silent films of the 1920s, which led to the idea for the missing film crew in “The House of Lost Shadows.” “Four Ghost Stories” is my take on the classic English ghost story.

Kate ~ I will definitely be reading the other novelettes in this series. “Midnight in Dublin” was a very fast read for me – I flew through the book, eager to find out what was going to happen next with Lizzy. So, what’s next for you?

M.C. Dulac ~ I’m currently working on a seventh novella called “The Alchemist of Paris,” set in France in the 1820s. There’s a mysterious house, a brooding hero who shuns daylight, a resourceful heroine, a dashing villain, ancient secrets, a trip down the Nile, angst-ridden immortals and a prototype steam engine!

Making the historical background believable is a challenge. What did Paris look like in 1820? What scientific knowledge would my characters have? How do you light a chandelier? I’ll share my research on my blog in the coming weeks.

After “The Alchemist of Paris,” I can see an idea forming for a novel set in Australia during the gold rushes of the 1850s – with vampires!

Kate ~ Okay, you’ve hooked me! I’m going to be eagerly awaiting “The Alchemist of Paris.” Tell us about your blog.

M.C. Dulac ~ I do have a blog, where you will usually find two posts a week – one a factual post or a cartoon, and flash fiction on Friday.

As writers, we have opportunities today that were unheard of only a few years ago. We can share our work and be read, and connect with so many other talented creative people. It really is the best time to be a writer, so seize the moment!

Kate ~ Thanks for answering a few questions for my readers. I know they will be as taken with “Midnight in Dublin” as I was.

* * * * * *

In addition to her blog, you can catch up with M.C. Dulac on Twitter and Goodreads.

Twitter – @mc_dulac
Blog – mcdulac.wordpress.com
Goodreads 

Other books written by Ms. Dulac are “The House of Lost Shadows,” “The Wary Traveler,” “In the Time of the Forest,” “Four Ghost Stories,” and “The Berlin Pictures.”

The Man with the Good Heart

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Rotund and jolly, George Hurt always greeted friends and neighbors with a booming laugh and a funny story.

On Sunday mornings, George and his wife attended the Water Street Baptist Church, where George cooed over newborns, sang hymns with gusto, and gave generously when the collection plate was passed. He treated his pastor with hearty reverence, fervently professed his love of Jesus, and was known to slip quarters to the sons and daughers of his friends.

George was a good man with a good heart. Everyone said so.

Everyone except George’s quiet wife, who wore long-sleeved shirts even in summer.

© All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton and Odyssey of a Novice Writer

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Word Count: 100
Note ~ Story written in response to Violet Verbosity’s 100 Word Challenge. The challenge was to write a story of 100 words or less using the word ‘reverence.’ Violet’s challenge can be found here.

WEDNESDAY WHINE: Vacation is Over and It’s Back to Reality

imageThis Wednesday, I am settling into an easy chair with a glass of wine. After the day I’ve had, I think I deserve it.

This week’s liquid offering is a dry red wine, Cantina Zaccagnini. I discovered this wine when dining at one of my favorite haunts in Ocean City, Maryland. The restaurant/liquor store, Liquid Assets, is a nice bistro with casual elegance. In addition to a large bar, there are comfortable sofas, chairs and tables throughout the restaurant.  There is also a separate area with more traditional tables and booths.  One of the things I like best about Liquid Assets are the shelves and shelves of bottled wines available for sale. I love looking at the labels, trying to decide what each bottle of wine might taste like. It is a wine lover’s paradise.

While Mr. Loveton and I were sitting at the bar, we struck up a conversation with three young women seated near me. They had purchased a bottle of the Cantina Zaccagnini, saying it was their favorite dry red. Intrigued, I asked to see the bottle. They then offered me a glass (nice girls they were!) and I ended up purchasing two bottles to take home.

If you’re ever in Ocean City, Maryland, and you like wine and interesting food, check out Liquid Assets. I think you’ll like it.

I started to tell you about my day. It was busy from the time I started (7:20 imageAM) until the time I left (6:45 PM). In fact, the last three days have been busy. And why? Because yours truly was on vacation all of last week and is now paying the price. Have you ever noticed that no matter how much work you get done the week before you go on vacation, you are still behind when you return? Sigh… What can you do but grin and bear it? And, perhaps, have a glass of wine at the end of the day.

Anyway, I walked in the door this evening at 7:30 PM, ate dinner, did my workout, and decided I’d let the Wednesday Whine go for this week. I didn’t think I had it in me to write a blog post after such a tiring day.  Somehow I’ve managed it, though, so here I am – whining!

Vacation was good – really good! We had one day of misty coolness, but all in all it was nice spring weather in Ocean City. We walked the Boardwalk a great deal, we walked along the surf, played miniature golf, went biking, ate way too much and just thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

imageSpeaking of miniature golf, I never seem able to defeat my husband when we play. He is too good for me, and I generally lose by a stroke or two. In spite of several holes in one in each game, I still managed to lose every game we played.  That’s not good for a girl’s ego! In order to keep things interesting, I play for jewelry. If I win, I get VICTORY JEWELRY. If I lose, I get a piece of CONSOLATION JEWELRY. (Mr. Loveton, contrary gent that he is, insists on calling it LOSER JEWELRY.) Well, if you stop to consider, I’m a winner either way. Ladies, I strongly recommend you consider playing for jewelry if your husband drags you out to play miniature golf or any other similar activity.  Here is my latest piece of consolation jewelry. Since Maryland is known for crabs, this necklace seems rather symbolic of my time in Ocean City.

My favorite thing about being by the ocean is watching the sun as it rises above the water. I was up bright and early to make sure that I didn’t miss it. Would you want to miss this? I don’t think so.

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Here’s a picture of Mr. Loveton heading to the beach. Actually, he is supposed imageto be on his way to the hotel lobby to bring his wife her early morning coffee (this is for his own well-being since I’m pretty unbearable until I’ve had my first cup of joe in the morning); instead, he took a quick detour onto the beach. He didn’t think I was looking!  Doesn’t he realize yet that Mrs. Loveton sees and knows all?  I forgave him the delay.  However, notice he has his OWN coffee in hand (you have to look closely) as he heads out to take a quick walk on the beach.  The devil!

The ocean water is pretty cold in early May, as we found out when we stripped off our sandals and walked in the surf. Some might call it bracing. I think shocking is more fitting! I think I quickly lost all circulation in my toes.  It has yet to return.

I really had a relaxing week. I actually caught up on all my favorite blogs. (So, how come I’m behind again?)  I managed to write and post one of my Alphabet Soup stories. I even managed to clean up some of my email! Most of all, though, I just chilled. There’s something about being by the water that is calming. It soothes the spirit and just makes me happy.

Apparently, it also makes a certain husband a better photographer. You may recall that I posted a selfie several weeks ago, explaining that Mr. Loveton tends to cut off heads when he takes photographs. This time, expecting the worse, I told him to have at it. He suprised me! He managed to take a photograph of me – and, as you can see, my head is still firmly attached to my neck and shoulders. I like to title this photo: A Ravens Dork at the Beach.

Even though this girl now lives in Pennsylvania, her heart and soul are still in her old hometown – and she still roots for her beloved Baltimore Ravens.

A Ravens Dork at the Beach

A Ravens Dork at the Beach

This weekend, I hope to get back into my writing. Here’s what’s coming in the next week:

A long promised review of M.C. Dulac’s latest book. I also have a brief interview with Ms. Dulac to share.

A new Alphabet Soup story. This one is titled “D is for Delilah” – and, no, it is not a take on the Biblical tale of Samson and Delilah.  :D

Have a wonderful week, everyone! And if you try the wine mentioned above, let me know how you like it.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Mowing the Lawn

“Charlie, are you feeling okay?”

I sighed, and rolled over on my side. I could feel Franny’s eyes burrowing into my back, but I couldn’t work up the energy to care.

“Charlie? Well, you might answer me. I don’t know what’s wrong with you! The last few days you’ve acted like a stick in the mud! If something is wrong, say so. Otherwise, get out of that bed and get dressed. You promised to mow the lawn today.”

I listened as she walked away, angry footsteps and a loud sigh conveying what a lazy bum she’d married.

Ah, screw her, I thought, closing my eyes.

The truth is I’m not feeling well. I feel like someone’s taken a stick and beat me over the head. Not that I’d share that with Fran. She’d just say I’m faking it to get out of mowing the lawn.

My head hurts like a son of a bitch! I’ve never had a headache like this before.

“Charlie? Are you up yet? C’mon, I’ve got your breakfast on the table. It’s nearly noon, for crissakes!”

I shove the pillow over my head, trying to drown out Fran’s voice. That woman has a voice that can be heard in five counties when she starts yelling.

Maybe I’ll just lie here for another five minutes and try to get rid of this damned headache… it’s sticking to me like glue…

* * * *

“Hey, buddy, do you have the time?”

I look at the guy standing in front of me. Something about him doesn’t sit well with me. He’s dressed in black, in a heavy trench coat, a plaid derby pulled low over his eyes. Those eyes… black… almost dead. I start to move past him but he grabs my bicep, sending a chill through me.

“HEY BUDDY! I ASKED IF YOU HAVE THE TIME!”

I look down at my wrist, but my watch is behaving strangely… the hands are flying around the dial – backwards. What the hell?

“I… I’m afraid I don’t have the time…” I stutter.

“That’s right, buddy, ’cause you’re out of time.” The guy grins and abruptly releases my arm. Pain washes through me and I stagger.

The fellow reaches into the pocket of his coat and yanks his hand out, forming a make-believe gun with his thumb and index finger. “You’re out of time because this is a stick-up! Bye-bye!”

* * * *

Fran watched the paramedics as they worked hurriedly over Charlie’s body.

“I couldn’t get him out bed,” she sobbed. “I kept asking him if anything was wrong… I thought he was faking it. I thought he was just trying to get out of mowing the lawn!”

The male paramedic glanced at his female colleague. “Nothing to be done here. You want to call it?”

She nodded, looking at her watch. “Time of death: 1:16 PM.”

Fran cried out, “What? What?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am… there’s nothing more we can do. Your husband has suffered a fatal brain aneurism. It may be a comfort to you to know he probably didn’t suffer. These things are almost always instantaneous.”

Bewildered, Fran simply nodded, watching as they loaded Charlie’s body onto the stretcher.

Now who would mow the lawn?

© All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton and Odyssey of a Novice Writer

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Note: This story is written in response to Steam of Consciousness Saturday (here). The prompt word is ‘stick.’ Approximately 550 words written in 12 minutes. Had a bit of fun with this one!

ALPHABET SOUP STORIES: C is for Cassandra

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Cassandra Miller had just settled her two girls in front of the TV, giving each a bowl of dry Cheerios to munch on, when there was a knock at the front door.

She looked through the small peephole and saw a man and woman in uniform. The woman was holding a large manila envelope. Taking a deep breath, Cassandra opened the door.

“Mrs. Miller? Cassandra Miller?” asked the male cop.

Cassandra nodded and stepped outside, closing the door quietly behind her. “Yes. What can I do for you?”

“Ma’am, I’m Lieutenant Laura Ridgely and this is Sergeant Frank Rollins. We were hoping we could ask you a few questions,” said the female police officer. “Do you remember Tommy Boyle?”

Cassandra sighed. “Yes… the detective.”

“That’s right, ma’am. He told us you were instrumental in assisting him with the Dickerson case…”

Cassandra closed her eyes. The Dickerson case. Images of the young woman’s bones being dug up from a basement floor swam before her. She swayed slightly.

“Mrs. Miller? Are you alright?” asked Ridgely, touching her forearm.

Cassandra opened her eyes and stared into the woman’s face. It was a good face. Honest. “I’m fine. Detective Boyle sent you to me?”

Ridgely nodded.

“You do much of a business?” asked Rollins, pointing at the sign in the corner of Cassandra’s front window:

PSYCHIC READINGS
$25.00

“Depends. Some weeks are better than others. Would you like to come in?”

“Please,” said Ridgely. “We’d like to show you a few things, let you handle them… We’re hoping you can help us, Mrs. Miller.”

She herded the pair inside, past the kids watching cartoons and into the kitchen. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“No, thanks, we just want to ask – ”

Ridgely interrupted her partner. “That would be lovely – thank you. Sergeant Rollins likes his black, but I’d like a little milk in mine.”

Cassandra started the coffee and pulled what was left of a blueberry pie out of the refrigerator. “You’ll have to keep your voices down. I don’t want my kids hearing what you have to say.” She sliced the pie and pushed a plateful toward Rollins. “You look like a man who might be fond of pie, Sergeant.”

Ridgely smiled, noticing her partner’s paunch. Rollins eagerly took the pie.

After pouring the coffee, Cassandra sat down. “Well, I suppose you’re here to ask me to look at some photographs. That’s what Detective Boyle asked me to do last year. You know, I still have dreams about the Dickerson girl.  I swore after helping Boyle that I’d never get involved in another murder case. I don’t think I want to look at any photographs…”

For a moment, Laura Ridgely concentrated on her coffee. She understood how Miller felt. While it was a part of her job, she’d never gotten used to looking at the photographs that crossed her desk daily – photographs of beaten wives, starved children, sociopaths, rapists. If what Boyle said about Miller was right, it had to be ten times worse for her.

She briefly studied the young mother. Her face was pale, drawn, and her eyes had a haunted expression. Did she already sense something? She was tempted to tell Miller to forget it, that they would find another way to solve the case.

But in those few seconds of weakening resolve, she remembered Jenna Hurst’s mother. Jenna was the latest girl to go missing over the past several months. Her mother’s hysterical pleas that the NYPD find Jenna had spurred Ridgely to consider Boyle’s suggestion to contact Miller.

When Boyle had first told her about Miller’s ‘talents,’ she’d been cynical.  Now she was desperate.  They needed a break in this case – and if Miller could help them, she’d put aside her skepticism. I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this; I thought Boyle was full of shit – and now I’m about to try to convince this woman to look at photographs of missing girls in hopes she can come up with something useful.

Coming to a decision, she pushed her coffee cup aside and tapped the envelope she’d placed on the table.

“Mrs. Miller, I know this is a lot to ask, but we need your help. Several young women have been reported missing over the past few months. They seem to have several things in common. We’d like you to take a look at their photos. We… um… well, we have a few of their personal items, things supplied by the families… we’d like you to look at those, too. Give us your impressions.”

Cassandra picked at the cuticle of her thumb, a nervous habit she’d never been able to break. “You think those girls are dead, don’t you?”

Rollins placed his fork on his empty plate. “Yes ma’am, I’m afraid we do. But we can’t seem to figure out the where, the who or the why of it.” He frowned. “We weren’t keen on coming to visit you. If you want to know the truth, I’ve never been one for this hocus pocus baloney.”

“Frank, please,” muttered Ridgely. She looked directly into Cassandra’s eyes. “Boyle told us that you were the one who told him to dig up the basement of Mary Dickerson’s next door neighbor. When they did, they found Mary’s remains beneath the dirt floor.

“How did you know that, Mrs. Miller? Boyle told us you held the photograph of Mary Dickerson in your hands… and you just knew. How did you know?”

The worried cuticle of Cassandra’s thumb began to bleed and she quickly brought it to her mouth, sucking away the little bit of blood. When it stopped bleeding, she sighed. “I don’t think I can explain it except to say I have a gift.”

“A gift?” repeated Rollins.

“Yes sir, that’s what my grandmother called it. She had it, too. It sometimes seems more like a curse. I don’t mind telling you that a lot of the stuff I see, I wish I didn’t… like that poor girl’s bones laying beneath that creep’s floor, just crying out for someone to find them. I sure wish I hadn’t had to see that!”

“I wonder,” said Ridgely, her voice thoughtful, “if your grandmother wasn’t right. In some sense, it is a gift. You brought justice to that girl, and closure to her family. If that isn’t a gift, I don’t know what is.”

“Well, Lieutenant, it’s a mighty expensive one.”

“The best gifts often are.” Ridgely pushed the large envelope across the table toward Cassandra. “Inside this envelope are the photos and personal effects we’d like you to look at.”

“Not now. I can’t look at those now. If I do this, I’d rather wait until my girls’ daddy gets home from work and can keep watch over them. If I start looking at those things and get upset, there won’t be anyone to keep track of my children.” Tears suddenly welled up in Cassandra’s eyes and she rubbed a shaky hand across her forehead.

“Dear God, I thought I was done with you people! I promised my husband I wouldn’t get involved in another case. You don’t know… you can’t… how much this sort of thing takes out of me.”

“But the readings,” said Rollins, “you do readings for people. Is that a gimmick or it is for real?”

“It’s not a gimmick, Sergeant. It’s part close observation and part feeling. I watch the people I’m doing readings for, get a feel for them based on their appearance, their body language… but the rest of it is intuition… the gift.”

“Do readings take much out of you?” he asked.

“Not like what you want! Seeing photos of dead girls, touching their stuff! It sends something cold right down into my soul. I feel the horror those girls felt, their fear… Sometimes, if I’m given a photo of a suspect, I see through his eyes what he’s done.

“The Dickerson case was the last straw for me. I still wake up looking through that boy’s eyes at what he did. I still hear that girl’s cries. I don’t know that I can go through that again!”

Ridgely reached across the table for Cassandra’s hand, hating herself for forcing the issue. “I know how difficult this must be for you.”

“No, you don’t! Not really.”

“Okay, you’re right,” conceded Ridgely, pulling her hand back. “There’s no way I can really know what you’re experiencing. But I’ll tell you what I do know: we need your help. Those girls need your help. Their parents need your help. Please, Mrs. Miller, won’t you help us?”

Ridgely watched Cassandra bring her thumb to her mouth, and again bite at the cuticle surrounding the nail.

“Mama, can we have some more cereal?” asked the towheaded, five-year old, standing in the kitchen doorway, dragging a worn teddy bear.

Cassandra looked at the little girl. “Leah, you get on back into the living room. I’ll bring you some juice and cereal in a minute, baby.”

“Cute kid,” observed Rollins, watching the child’s pajama-clad feet scamper back into the living room.

Ridgely then went for the kill. “You’re a lucky woman, Mrs. Miller, to have a sweet little girl like that. I bet you’d do just about anything to keep her safe.”

“Yes, ma’am, I sure would. My girls mean everything to me.”

Ridgely nodded, pointing to the envelope. “There’s a photo of a girl named Jenna Hurst in that envelope. A few days ago, I had to tell her mother that we haven’t been able to find out anything about her daughter’s whereabouts. That was real hard. You see, Jenna meant everything to her…”

Cassandra smiled bitterly. “You don’t play fair, Lieutenant.”

“No, Mrs. Miller, I don’t. And I suspect that if Jenna Hurst was your daughter, you wouldn’t want me to play fair, either. You’d want me to do anything I could, bully anyone I had to, if it helped find your daughter.”

Cassandra said nothing, staring at the bloody mess that was her thumb’s cuticle.

“Am I wrong, Mrs. Miller?” asked Ridgely, her voice hard.

A moment went by, then Cassandra looked up. She sighed heavily and rose to her feet. She picked up the envelope. “No, you’re not wrong.  I’ll look at your photos.  Damn you…”

©All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton and Odyssey of a Novice Writer

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Note:  This story is written in response to a challenge issued by Esther Newton to write a story with the random line I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this, I thought. I changed the punctuation a bit, but it was Esther’s line that gave me the idea for this next chapter in my Alphabet Soup Stories series. Esther’s funny, informative and interesting blog can be found here.

ALPHABET SOUP STORIES: B is for Ben

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“Hey, Mikey, see that blonde over there, the one sporting the big rack? She’s giving you the eye, buddy.” Jack finished tying the laces of his bowling shoes and pointed toward the blonde getting ready to bowl in lane four.

Ralph, sitting beside him, started to laugh as Mikey’s thin face suffused with redness.

Nineteen and gullible, the shy boy worked in a bakery with the pair. As soon he was hired, the two jokers realized something wasn’t quite right with the kid; it wasn’t long before he became the butt of their jokes. Good natured and glad to have friends, Mikey went along with them. If his feelings were ever injured, he never showed it.

“Go on, sh-sh-she ain’t lo-lo-looking at me,” the boy stuttered, sliding on his shoes.

“Sure she is. When you ain’t lookin’ in her direction, she’s giving you the once-over. Ain’t that right, Ralph?” Jack looked over at Ralph and winked.

Grinning, Ralph nodded. “I noticed it, too. You oughta go over and say hello to her, lover boy.”

Seeing where this was going, the fourth member of group, Ben Lytle, scowled. Giving Jack a painful nudge in the side, he muttered, “Cut it out – leave the kid alone.”

Sometimes Ben wondered what he was doing hanging out with Jack and Ralph. They’d been friends in high school, and that was part of it, but that was ten years ago. Why hadn’t he moved on? He recognized the pair had a streak of cruelty, one that had worsened since they’d met Mikey.

The main reason he still hung out with them was that he had nothing else to do. A year ago his ex-wife had blindsided him, leaving him for some guy in her office.

It embarrassed him to remember how he pleaded with her to stay. Crazy about her since high school, he’d begged her to reconsider. But she wouldn’t listen, saying she wanted more out of life than he could offer. As she was walking out the door, she got in a parting shot. “You know what’s wrong with you, Ben? You’re just too nice. Just too boring, freaking nice.”

Since when was being nice a crime? Okay, maybe he wasn’t the most exciting guy in the neighborhood, but didn’t loyalty count for something? Maybe she had a point, though. He’d even been nice when his boss told him he was going to have to take a pay cut.

Nice. Where did it get you? A divorce and a reduced paycheck.

His dad used to say that things had a way of working out, but for the life of him, Ben couldn’t see it. All he could see was a succession of long, lonely days, forever hanging out with Jack and Ralph, trying to keep them from giving the kid the business.

Sighing, he ran a hand through his hair. “Look, can’t we just bowl a couple of games without you giving the kid a hard time? Lay off him.”

“Who are you? His mother, for crissakes? We’re just having a little fun,” whispered Jack.

At that moment, the blonde in lane four started shrieking. “I got a strike! I got a strike!” The four men watched as she began jumping up and down with excitement.

“Oh, mama! Give me some of that,” muttered Ralph under his breath. Almost reverently, he watched the blonde’s breasts bouncing up and down with each jump.

Noticing she had an audience, the blonde quieted down and started giggling. Giving the men a slight wave, she turned back to her friends.

“Sh-sh-she’s pretty,” said Mikey, staring at her.

“Well, go on over and say hello to her,” said Jack.

“Don’t listen to him, kid,” said Ben, rummaging around the table for a score sheet.

Mikey hesitated. He was never sure whether he should listen to Jack and Ralph.

“Come on, you gotta strike while the iron is hot. She’s waiting for you to make the first move.” Nudging him forward, Jack began to laugh as the kid made his way over to lane four.

“That was fuckin’ mean,” said Ben. “That girl’s gonna blow him off.”

“Sure she is. That what makes it funny.”

Ben turned away. “You’ve got a sick sense of humor.”

“Want to see something else funny?” asked Ralph, pulling a tube of glue from his pocket and reaching for Mikey’s bowling ball. “Look what I got here.”

Jack whistled with appreciation. “You’re a genius… a fucking genius!” he said, while Ralph squeezed the goo into the finger slots of the ball.

Ben wasn’t watching. His eyes were on Mikey who had made his way over to the blonde. He couldn’t hear what Mikey was saying but he could see the blonde’s friends giggling.

He could brain the two clowns next to him.

The blonde said something to Mikey that made the kid’s shoulders droop. He turned around and headed back to his friends.

“So, lover boy, how’d it go? You taking that sweet bundle home tonight?” asked Jack.

“N-no… she said she has p-p-plans for later. You musta b-b-been wrong, Jack. She s-s-said she wasn’t l-l-lookin’ at me.”

“Aw, man, guess we were mistaken… sorry about that,” said Jack. “Well, it’s her loss, buddy. Look, let’s get the game started. You go first, Mikey.”

The pair tried not to laugh as Mikey picked up the bowling ball. The boy shoved his fingers inside the slots, and then stood there, a confused look on his face.

“M-m-my ball! Something’s wr-wr-wrong with it!”

Frowning, Bed looked up from writing their names on the score sheet. “What’s the matter, Mikey?”

“Th-th-there’s something inside the holes.” Mikey tried to wriggle his fingers out, but couldn’t. “I-I-I can’t get my fingers out… they’re st-st-stuck!”

Ralph and Jack collapsed on the bench, laughing hysterically while Mikey tried to yank his fingers free.

“Oh, sweet Jesus, I just can’t take it…” Jack wiped tears of mirth from his eyes.

Ben stood up. “Just what the hell did you two morons do?”

Convulsed with laughter, Ralph couldn’t speak. Instead, he handed over the tube.

“Super Glue! You jackasses put Super Glue in the slots?”

Bellowing like a pair of hyenas, the two could only nod.

“I-I-I can’t get my f-f-fingers out, B-B-Ben!” Scared, Mikey began struggling to release the ball, tears beginning to run down his face. “He-he-help me, pl-pl-please.”

Worried he’d injure himself with all his thrashing about, Ben put a hand on his shoulder. “Calm down, kid. We’ll figure something out,” he said, although he hadn’t a clue what.

“Excuse me, can I help?” It was the magnificent blonde from lane four suddenly standing next to him. At her approach, both Ralph and Jack had stopped laughing. Tongue-tied, Ben just stared at her. Only Mikey continued to blubber.

“I’m st-st-stuck!”

She smiled. “I can see that,” she said softly. “Now stop fidgeting and take a seat on the bench.”

Sitting down, Mike watched as she gently pulled this way and that, but the recalcitrant ball remained fixed to Mikey’s fingers.

Sighing, the blonde looked at the two men seated next to Mikey. “What happened here?”

Ben managed to find his tongue. “Super Glue – they poured it into the slots.”

The blonde pursed her lips, but Ben could have sworn he heard her mutter softly, “Pricks.”

“Look, sweetie,” she said, placing a calming hand on Mikey’s cheek. “I’m a nurse, and I think you need to go to the hospital.”

“N-n-no! No hospital!” He looked imploringly at Ben. “Don’t wa-wa-want to go to the hospital, Ben!”

Ben pulled a chair up to the bench and sat down. “Look, pal, I’m afraid we’ve got no choice. You want to get your fingers out of that ball, don’t you?”

Mikey was about to protest when the blonde smiled at him. “I’ll go with you. I know the doctors and nurses. You’ll be fine, I promise. Okay?”

Slowly, Mikey nodded.

“Hey, buddy, we’ll go, too,” said Jack, eyeing the blonde’s chest.

“I don’t think so, slime ball,” she said. “In fact, if you don’t wipe that smarmy look off your face, you might be spending the night in jail. He could press charges against you.”

Ralph frowned. “Aw, Mikey wouldn’t press no charges against us. We’re pals, right, buddy?”

Mikey looked at Jack and Ralph. He knew he wasn’t very smart, but he was smart enough to finally get it that the pair weren’t really his friends. The knowledge made him sad.

“Come on, Mikey,” said Ben quietly. “Let’s go get this ball taken care of.” He helped his friend stand, and was surprised to find the blonde’s eyes on him.

“You’re not like the other two,” she said as the three of them exited the bowling alley.

“No, I guess I’m not.”

“B-B-Ben’s my friend,” agreed Mikey.

“That’s right, kid.”

“What’s your name?” the blonde asked.

“Ben Lytle.”

“Well, Mr. Ben Lytle, you need to get yourself a better class of friends than those buffoons inside.”

“You got that right.”

The blonde tilted her head, studying him. “You know, you’re pretty nice,” she said, smiling. It was a sweet smile, meant only for Ben, and he felt a sudden thrill.

Maybe his old man was right after all. Sometimes things had a way of working out.

©All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton and Odyssey of a Novice Writer

ALPHABET SOUP STORIES: A is for Adelaide

cig-in-hand

Adelaide inhaled the calming nicotine, then tapped the cigarette against the glass rim of the ashtray. Smoking was a filthy habit and one she should give up. But not this weekend, she thought, bringing the cigarette once more to her lips.

Sitting on the edge of the canopied bed, she looked around her old room. All these years and it was still the same: lace curtains, pillows dressed in pink ruffles, and furniture painted white. A timeless testament to the girl who never was.

She frowned, grinding the finished cigarette into the ashtray. Why hadn’t Mama changed the goddam room into a den or a sewing area?

But Adelaide knew the answer. The room was her mother’s bitter monument to what should have been.

It had been twenty-five years since the confrontation. At the time, giving in to a tempest of tears, Adelaide had sworn she’d never come back. In response, her mother regarded her with icy eyes and turned away. Twenty-five years of bitter silence.

It was her father’s call, heartbroken and in the middle of the night, that finally brought Adelaide home. “Please, Addie – the service is tomorrow. Come home – just don’t bring her.”

Her. Even after all this time. She has a name, thought Adelaide, she has a goddam name!

Still, Adelaide came home. For her father’s sake.

Liar! You came for Mama. In spite of everything, you came for Mama.

Reaching into her purse, Adelaide fumbled for the crushed packet of cigarettes, dismayed to find it empty. Tossing it onto the pale pink coverlet, she wondered if she should make a quick trip into town. Instead, she walked over to the framed photograph sitting on the bureau. Taken the day of her parents’ wedding, it set the course for the relationship between her mother and father.

Her mother, beautiful in pale blue, wore white gloves and a wide brimmed hat that dipped slightly over one eye. Glacial in expression, she stared resolutely forward. Beside her, Adelaide’s father gazed raptly at his wife. She was his glorious Varina, the center of his life.

It would always be that way.

Varina Douglass, the original steel magnolia, possessor of soft words and even softer skin. Beneath the softness, however, was a hide tougher than that of an armadillo. She conquered her small town with exquisite manners and fastidious propriety, reigning ruthlessly over the Clayton County Junior League, the Ladies’ Garden Club and the First Baptist Church. She was the arbiter of what was right, coolly reminding transgressors tempted to stumble, “That’s not our way; it isn’t seemly.”

She imposed her will on everyone, especially the unhappy Adelaide, who was forcefully dressed in ribbons and bows. Even as a young child, Adelaide knew that frills and flounces were not for her, and yet her mother persisted. Adelaide would be the debutant her mother had been, the girl with many beaux. Adelaide would be popular, would marry, would bear several beautiful children that would be a credit to all Varina held sacred.

So many ‘woulds’ – and the biggest of them all was that Adelaide would live up to her mother’s code of what was seemly.

There were early indications that Adelaide was not her mother, indications Varina steadfastly ignored – at least until the afternoon she entered Adelaide’s room without knocking, surprising the two girls in bed.

No soft words then; instead, a sharp slap.

“What’s wrong with you, Adelaide? Some behaviors are evil,” said Varina. “You’re a freak – an affront!”

The ‘freak’ soon left home, never to look back. Except… maybe sometimes… Holiday calls, her father always answering, saying her mother couldn’t come to the phone. Cards and letters returned unopened – Adelaide had a drawer full of them.

It was always about you, Mama, always about what you wanted.

But I loved you… in spite of everything. Why couldn’t you love me, Mama?

Turning away from the photograph, Adelaide picked up her purse. Maybe she would go into town and get those cigarettes. Later, after she returned to Chicago, she’d make an effort to give them up. It would please Janet, who worried the habit was killing her.

It’s time to let go of killing things.

Walking past the front parlor, Adelaide heard quiet voices. It was one of the ladies from the Junior League, speaking with her father.

“Poor Adelaide, home at last. How is she, Robert? Such a terrible thing for a daughter, losing her mother.”

Slipping quietly from the house, Adelaide’s eyes filmed over. The truth was she’d lost her mother a long time ago.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton and Odyssey of a Novice Writer

__________________
Note: With this story begins a series of short tales I hope to write, each tale named for the character in the story. The entire series will be called the Alphabet Soup Stories. I hope you like this first entry.

The story is also written in response to the Three Word Wednesday challenge (found here) to write a tale using these three words: bitter; glorious; stumble.

Variety is the Spice of Life

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It’s hard to be faithful. Isn’t variety the spice of life?

That’s what Jake had always thought – at least until he’d met his Angela.

When he first laid eyes on her, he knew he had to change his cheating ways. In the past, he’d wasted his time on bimbos, the kind of girls who were good for only one thing (although it was a very good thing!) and not much else. But his Angela was different.

Chaste, sweet, faithful. Angela was the kind of girl a man brought home to meet his mama.

Angela, Angela… an angel she was! An angel fate had sent his way. Resolving to be worthy of her, he decided to straighten up and fly right. Angela wasn’t the kind of girl to put up with a boyfriend’s wandering eye.

The problem was that Jake was a randy fellow who’d always had an eye for the girls. He knew the odds he was up against, but he was determined. So, when a pretty girl walked past him, he resolutely looked the other way. If a soft thigh brushed up against his during a subway ride, he’d swallow painfully and move aside. The enticing scent of female mingled with perfume would produce from Jake a string of muttered “Our Fathers,” the prayerful mantra which Father Benedetto had once assured the much younger Jake would douse teenage lust.

But Lord have mercy!

Did He have to create so many beautiful women?

Everywhere he went, they confronted Jake. Gorgeous women, dressed in tight skirts, their plump thighs beckoning.  Women wearing soft sweaters that barely covered large, bouncing breasts. They haunted him, these wonderful women, issuing invitations he couldn’t accept. Yes, they were everywhere! In the park, in the office… in his dreams. The world was like a supermarket stocked with female delight – and he was unable to shop!

Not if he wanted to keep his Angela.

Desperation began to nibble away at his routine and so he decided to vary it. He’d leave the house earlier and earlier in an attempt to miss the pretty girls who gathered at the bus stop in the morning. He stopped waving to people on his street, afraid he’d be enticed by a nubile neighbor. He walked quickly, purposefully, to wherever he was going, fearful he’d give in to temptation if a blonde in an extremely short skirt asked for directions. Jake took to looking down at the pavement wherever he went, ignoring everyone and everything around him.

That’s how he ended up in the hospital, legs in traction, several ribs fractured. He never saw the car heading his way, so busy was he looking down instead of up.

Fortunately, the nurse who tended him had the face and the figure of a marine. There’d be no fervid flirtations over nightly sponge baths. He sighed, relieved. He could still be faithful to his Angela.

He looked over at her, sitting by his bed, reading a magazine. His Angela.

“Mr. Barone? I’m Dr. Bainbridge, the orthopedic surgeon,” said the tall, handsome doctor, entering the room. He extended his hand to Jake.

Angela dropped the magazine and stood up quickly. Intercepting the doc’s hand, she shook it and smiled brightly. “Hello, doctor,” she said, her eyes sparkling, “I’m Angela.”

All those months, trying to be good. Jake really had been too busy looking down. He was looking up now. Just in time to see the car that was about to hit him.

© 2015 All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton and Odyssey of a Novice Writer

* * * * * * *

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Author’s Note: This story is written in response to Linda G Hill’s ‘Stream of Consciousness Saturday’ challenge. Linda’s challenge was to let your imagination fly, using one or both of the words ‘very’ or ‘vary.’ I had no idea what I was going to write about when I tried this exercise, but this is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy it. Linda’s challenge can be found here.

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