Monday, July 14, 2014

Confusion wrinkled Mannie Green’s brow as she flipped over the postcard in her hand, looking for some clue to decipher the twelve words hastily scrawled on the other side – “Dear friend, Arrived home safe. I’m not angry any more. Your friend, Mabel.” She closed the front door behind her and leaned against the dark oak grain. The metal door handle dug into her hip. She bit her bottom lip. What on earth was Mabel talking about? When had she been angry? Or, more importantly, why was she angry? Was she upset with Mannie, or angry about something else? Mannie sighed. Who was she kidding – Mabel was always upset with her about one thing or another. She could never seem to do right in Mabel’s eyes.

Mannie dropped the rest of the mail on the table beside the door and carried the postcard into the kitchen. Pulling a chair back from the small wood table, she sat down, her eyes still on the note in her hand. The card had been postmarked in Buffalo on ____, 1908, which meant she sent the postcard a week ago. She and Mabel hadn’t had any communicated in months. Maybe that was it. Maybe she was mad that Mannie hadn’t been in contact recently. But things had been busy – her husband had been sick, she was heading up the church bazaar… Mannie stopped short – but she’d been the last one to reach out. She’d sent a letter to Mabel two months ago and hadn’t heard back. She hadn’t paid much attention, but thinking about it now, it was odd not to have received a reply. If there was anything Mabel loved it was criticizing everything Mannie did. She claimed she was simply helping Mannie to better herself, as only the truest friend would do. She said she felt sorry for Mannie wasting her life in small town Silver Creek, New York. Their usual weekly letters also allowed Mabel time to wax eloquent on all her society friends and the lavish parties they had, always for a good cause, of course. She took every opportunity to point out how much better her extravagant lifestyle was in Boston.

If Mabel hadn’t written for over two months, she must have been angry for over two months. Although, Mabel usually got more vocal when she was angry, not less. Mannie dropped the postcard on the table and sighed. She must have really messed up this time, but she had no idea what she could’ve done. The tea kettle began to whistle and Mannie rose from her seat to turn off the heat. Pouring herself a small cup, she wondered why Mabel had been in New York. She squinted as a ray of light shone through the pane window over the sink, landing on the butcher block counter next to the stove. Perfectly centered in the light was the to-do list she’d carefully written over breakfast. Sighing, she reached over and picked it. She didn’t have time to sit and ponder what minor incident had tipped Mabel off. She had things she needed to do today. Besides, Mabel said she wasn’t angry anymore, so there was no point in worrying about it. Mannie glanced down at the piece of paper in her hand. Laundry. Oh how she dreaded laundry day.

Focusing on the task at hand, Mannie gathered clothes and began putting them in the new rotary washing machine her brother had just given her. She began to slowly turn the crank. It didn’t take much concentration and her mind began to wander. Mabel had visited about six months ago. Had something happened then? She complained about the lack of servants and the cramped quarters, the cold stone floor and the uncomfortable bed. She didn’t like how dark the small cottage, especially in the evenings. She felt they could use more candles. But she complained about all that every time she stayed with them. It was a marvel she even visited at all and a testament to their true friendship, as Mabel reminded Mannie most every day while she was there. During this most recent trip, she had commented on a lack of meat at dinner, stating that even the Bible said, “man could not live on bread alone.” It was an exaggeration, but she was most fluent in that language. But would she really be angry for six months because of eating too many beans? Mannie didn’t think so. And she couldn’t blame anything on her husband. He had been travelling on business, so the traditional Mabel versus James shouting contest had been avoided. They had never gotten along, and Mabel had often said that marrying James was the biggest mistake Mannie had ever made. Sometimes Mannie agreed with her on that point.

Mannie’s wedding day drifted to her mind. She remembered standing at the front of the little brick church almost twenty-five years ago. It wasn’t the celebratory day she’d dreamed about as a little girl. She’d always imagined a bright, sunny day, her friends and family in the yard behind her parents’ farmhouse, some ice cream and lemonade, a new dress, and a handsome man who made her smile. Instead, she was in a dark and damp building, the only people in attendance being her parents, the minister, and the groom. She wore her best dress, but it was several years old and had begun to show some wear. There was no ice cream, and the handsome man who made her smile had just gotten married two weeks earlier to Mabel Thornton. They’d had sunlight and ice cream at their wedding.

Mannie had loved Robert Bailey, and he’d loved her. He was the most handsome and kindest man in the county and every girl wanted to court him, but he had chosen her. He’d said it was because she had the prettiest green eyes in the world. They were going to get married, have three kids, and be happy forever. Then one day her parents had asked her to come into the living room for a moment. She was surprised as no one ever used the room except for special occasions. The expression on her mother’s face worried her. The expression on her father’s face scared her. He told her she was almost eighteen and she was old enough to start dealing with adult responsibilities. They said the farm had been struggling, and they couldn’t afford to keep it unless something changed. Then her mother hid her face behind a handkerchief while her father explained that James Green had just inherited a lot of money and he was interested in marrying her. He promised to help with the farm’s finances. Mannie had fought and yelled. Her parents continued to make their case. She had three little sisters, and her parents’ health was declining. Robert was just as poor as she was, and had no inclination for farming. Mannie cried and refused for three days, but in the end she gave in to honor her parents’ wishes. When she told Robert, he’d been angry, accused her of never loving him, of being a gold-digger. And then, to spite her, he’d run straight to Mabel’s open arms, digging up a little gold of his own in the process.

She didn’t cry at her wedding. She’d cried enough at Mabel and Robert’s wedding. Now, she was simply doing what she had to do to save her family. She decided that sentimentality no longer had a place in her life, so she straightened her back, squared her shoulders, and said, “I do.”

Mannie blinked as she looked at the washing machine. All the clothes were clean, but she was still cranking, her knuckles white as she gripped the handle. Soapy water had spilled over the edge of the tub. She quickly stopped and stood up, flexing her fingers to improve the blood flow. All those years ago, she’d been tempted to hate Mabel, but she had no one to blame except herself. Still, nearly twenty-five years later, the memory of Mabel’s smiling face as she enjoyed Mannie’s dream wedding still managed to bring an unwanted twinge of remorse... and maybe something a little more.

Refusing to dwell on it, Mannie picked up her basket of wet clothes and carried them outside to hang them on the line. Usually her little back yard brought her joy. She loved the small row of flowers lining the inside of the fence. She’d often take off her shoes and squish her toes in the small patch of green grass. But today she noticed the white paint peeling off the fence posts and how the grass was a little more brown it spots than it should be. She glared at the clothes with resentment, as if they’d made themselves dirty. She set the basket down and stretched her aching back. She could hear Mabel’s voice now: “You poor dear, a couple of servants could save you so much. Look at you. You look ten years older than you are, your hair is graying – it used to be such a nice mousy brown – your hands are calloused, and it’s all for what? There’s still dust on the mantle. If your no-good account of a husband really cared about you, he’d hire a maid, or at least a cook. My Robert doesn’t let me lift a finger. As your friend, I’m quite worried about you.” Mannie let out a short huff. Robert had nothing to do with their servants. Sure he’d managed to become quite successful in the banking world, but everyone knew Mabel was the real money of the family. She’d never gone a day without servants and, doting husband or not, she never would. As for James, it’d only taken five years for his gambling and ill-advised business decisions to run her family’s farm into the ground. They’d had to sell it piece by piece until there was nothing left. They’d had to leave Virginia altogether. Her sisters had married decent men, and they’d helped secure a little home for Mannie and James near them in New York, but there was no money for servants. As it was, Mannie took in sewing jobs when she could and hid the money in an old jar in the back of a kitchen cupboard. She’d had to use it several times to make ends meet throughout the years. Once again, things had gone wrong for Mannie, but quite right for Mabel.

It’d been that way all their lives. Mabel’s family was rich, and Mannie’s wasn’t. Mabel always had the toys Mannie wanted, the clothes she wished she had. On top of that, everything just always seemed to go her way. When they were fifteen years old, Mabel had copied off Mannie’s paper in school. Somehow Mannie had ended up accused of cheating, while Mabel was deemed perfectly  innocent. Mannie had tried to defend herself, but Mabel’s charms defeated even the schoolmarm. On the way home, Mabel had yelled at Mannie, saying a true friend would not have tried to get her in trouble. She had benevolently forgiven Mannie. When they’d reached the crossroads where they parted ways, Mabel said she’d be the bigger person and let it go this time because that’s how good of a friend she was. Mannie hadn’t felt friendly while she was getting swatted in the barn that evening.

Mannie let out a small yelp as the she pinched her finger with a clothespin. She shook her head and gave herself a mental scolding. She was letting that postcard make her agitated and upset. She forced herself to think of something else.

A dog barked nearby and she thought about the toy puppy Mabel had broken when they played together as kids. She’d said she couldn’t be held responsible as the toy was cheap and not well-made.

The blue tablecloth she was hanging blew in the breeze, reminding Mannie of waves in the ocean. She thought about the time she’d been allowed to go the beach with Mabel and her family. She thought the day her swimming costume had torn, and Mabel wouldn’t let her borrow one of hers because she was sure it just wouldn’t fit. Funny how there’d been no concern the previous month when Mabel had borrowed one of Mannie’s dresses so she could pretend to be a washerwoman in a play the kids were putting on.

When she finished hanging the clothes, Mannie headed inside to finish dinner, still trying not to think of Mabel. It was James’ birthday and he’d requested a meat pie. As she began mixing the dough, more thoughts came unbidden. The feeling of the sticky, gooey dough in her fingers was very familiar to her. When she was growing up, every summer there was a pie baking contest at the county fair. One year, Mabel thought it would be a lark if they entered. She’d never baked a pie and it sounded like so much fun. For Mannie, baking pies was a regular chore, but there was a $15 prize and her mother had the best recipes in the county, so she agreed. The two of them gathered in Mannie’s kitchen. Mannie was going to make apple pie – it was her mother’s specialty – and she’d set aside a couple options for Mabel to choose from. But Mabel wanted to make the apple pie. She reasoned that it might be her only chance to make a pie and it really was very selfish of Mannie to not allow her to make the apple pie. Mannie relented and helped Mabel make an apple pie while she made do with a blueberry pie. In the end, Mabel won the contest. When Mannie suggested to Mabel they split the $15 dollars, she’d received a lecture on fair play, being a good loser, and the pitfalls of greed.

Mannie shoved her hands into the dough, pushing hard. She kneaded the dough with more force than necessary, her face red with the exertion. Why was she friends with this woman? Why did she continue to allow Mabel to make her miserable under the guise of friendship? Was it just loyalty? The fact that Mabel had been with her for forty years? But Mannie had allowed the friendship for those forty years. Why? She pounded the dough again. Surely the woman had some redeemable qualities. But what were they?

A door slammed from somewhere in the house as James arrived home, and one more memory flooded her mind. Mable and Mannie had loved poring over magazines with pictures of exotic places, beautiful buildings, and marvelous trips. Whenever Mabel’s father received a new magazine, she’d come running down to Mannie’s, the door slamming behind her as she came in, waving the magazine in the air. Mannie’s father would always mutter something about knocking and then head out to the barn. The two girls would spend the rest of the day planning the trips they’d take to see these beautiful places. They’d imagine what it would be like to stroll down the avenue on the arm of a handsome man, to sail across the water on a big ship, to see the sunset over a deep, red canyon.

Mannie added some flour to the dough with a small smile. See, they’d had their good moments, too. Her smile grew bigger at the thought of them huddled together over the magazines, giggling and whispering and conspiring for hours. She remembered the first time she saw the picture of the castle. She’d become obsessed with it. She’d convinced Mabel to let her cut the picture out and she hung it over her bed, dreaming about it at night. It became the place she wanted to visit more than anything, and they talked about going to see it together. Mannie even had plans of how she’d decorate it if she lived there.

Her hands stilled in the dough as realization slowly began to dawn on her. She didn’t know how she’d missed it – too focused on Mabel’s words, she guessed – but suddenly the image caught in her mind. She ran to the table and snatched up the postcard. Bits of dough and flour followed her, making a mess of the card, but she didn’t notice Turning it over, she stared at the picture on the front. It was the castle. Her castle. It was a different angle and time of day, but it was definitely the building she’d dreamed of seeing. And Mabel saw it. Without her. And then she sent a postcard to prove it. Mannie’s hands began to shake.

Wiping the dough off with a towel, she went hunting for a notecard and stamp. Once found, she sat down at the table and carefully addressed the envelope to her good friend, adding the stamp to the top corner. She picked up the pen left on the table from her morning list-making, but she didn’t write. Her words needed to be perfect and she let the pen hover over the paper as she crafted the perfect response in her head. She’d say that although she wasn’t sure why Mabel had been mad, she was glad all was forgiven. However – and she was going to underline the “however” twice – she’d been thinking about their friendship and things had to change. She was going to say that Mabel needed to treat her better, and that she deserved respect. She was going to say… Mannie sighed and dropped the pen on the table. She knew why there were still friends after all these years. Because Mannie had never had the guts to stand up for herself. After all these years, did she really think she could do it now?

She studied the postcard lying on the table. She read the description. Her beloved castle was actually City Hall in Buffalo, New York. For ten years she’d lived within a day’s travel of it. It had always seemed like something so unattainable, so far from her.  Her fingers longingly traced the outline of the building, around the arched windows, up the tall pointed roof. She turned the card over and stared at the words until they blurred in front of her eyes: “I’m not angry any more.” Mannie blinked, her eyes refocussing. Before she had time to think about it, she grabbed the pen, quickly wrote four short words, put the card in the envelope, and sealed it. Quickly, she stood up, knocking over her chair, and ran outside. Not allowing herself an opportunity to change her mind, she dropped the card in the mailbox on the corner. With a small smile she gave the box a quick salute, turned on her heel, and walked away.


Several days later, Mabel Bailey was sitting in a comfortable chair when a servant brought her the mail. A small card caught her eye and she quickly opened it. Confusion wrinkled her brow as she read the words in front of her: “But I still am.”

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A New Beginning

So, here it is – a new chapter in my life.  Honestly, I haven’t been sure what to call it – and being a word person, that’s been bothering me.  A new chapter?  A new season?

I think the problem is I don’t want it to be just another chapter.  I want it to be a whole new book.  I want this opportunity to be a complete starting over.  A new beginning. 

I guess “opportunity” is actually the best word for it.  And my prayer has been that I use this opportunity well.  I don’t want blow it or mess it up.  I think my tendencies – my flesh patterns – lend themselves to just wasting this opportunity.  So, yeah, that worries me a bit.  I lied.  That worries me a lot.

For those who don’t know, here’s a very quick backstory.  I’ve hated my job for several years now.  Recently, it’s been causing pretty severe depression – I’ve been angry and sobbing and mean and scary.  I hadn’t been having any luck finding a new job, so I was stuck at that one.  Recently, my parents decided, for the sake of my health, they would help me financially if I quit my job.  I was initially very excited about that, but then I became hesitant after thinking about being a 34-year old living off my parents money as they inch closer to retirement years.  After talking through my options with several trusted friends, praying, and having people pray for me, I decided it was time.

Honestly, I am scared out of my mind!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy to be out of that place – in fact, I’m still breathing hard from the happy dance I just did in my living room – but being jobless and having a mortgage isn’t actually a smart idea.  (Kids, don’t try this at home.)  But I’m also excited about the possibilities.

The idea is that I use this time to try and do some freelance editing and/or writing; to take some classes and workshops that will give me some certifications to add to my resume and help improve my photography and writing skills, and to actually write.  At the same time, I need to be looking for a new job, whether it’s full time or part time.  And I also want to start exercising on a regular basis… and maybe actually cook good meals so I can eat better… and clean and organize my house… and do dishes and laundry on a more regular and timely schedule… I think I’m actually going to be busier with no job than I was with a job.  I also want to use this opportunity to improve my relationship with God.  I’m making a point to set aside time to study the Bible and pray.

The absolute best possible scenario/dream-come-true situation:  I’ll write a couple best-selling novels and become wealthy and famous and never have to have a real job again in my life!  What?  It could happen! 

But honestly, my hope is that I can just take this time to become a better person – a better child of God, a better friend and daughter, a better writer… I want to grow up into the kind of person I want to be, spiritually, emotionally, physically… obviously, not so much financially...  

My prayer has literally been, “OK, God, here’s this new thing in my life now.  Please don’t let me blow it.”

I sometimes have doubts about whether I made the right decision, but what’s done is done now.  So, I’m going to trust God.  This is a huge thing for me because I struggle with trust.  I’m a doubter and agonizer by nature.  I’m a worst-case scenario kind of girl.  So, yes – terrified.  But also looking forward to what God can bring out of this. 

Thanks to all my friends who have been praying for me, supporting me, encouraging me.  (Don’t stop just yet.)

Oh, and if y'all read anything else on this blog to determine whether I have a shot at this writing thing, most of this stuff was written years ago... I've improved... I think...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Woman Caught in Adultery Monologue

Written and performed for a Good Friday service at my church.
 
 
After watching it again, the acting could be better, but I like what I wrote, for the most part.  I forgot 1 line about hearing stones being dropped to the ground.  If you watch closely, you can see the moment I realized I forgot the line. :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Christmas Poem

This is the first "real" poem I ever wrote.  It's a little silly, but I was in middle school, so it's not too bad. :)  I might've taken a few liberties with the Biblical story...


On That Wonderful Night

There once was a lady named Mary
Who was hardly ever contrary,
And for lack of a better month,
We'll say this happened in February.

It was a man named Joseph she met,
and this man she was determined to get.
When she completed this goal,
They planned the best wedding yet.

In April a problem arose,
For an angel met her while she doze.
She was told she'd have a baby -
Son of the Creator of all that grows.

This caused quite a scandal in town
For they though Mary had been sleeping aroun'.
In truth it was divine coneption,
And her son would be wearing a crown.

In December they left for Bethlehem,
but there was no room for them.
Instead they were put in a barn
With a donkey, a cow and a hen.

Late that night he was bore.
Hay and rags he wore.
Shepherds came to worship Him,
For this was Christ the Lord.

On that miraculous, starry night,
The angels rejoiced with all their might,
For the Savior of the world was born
On that wonderful night.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Harry Potter - July 21, 2007

Going back in time a litte - this was a write-up I did after working at Barnes & Noble the night the last Harry Potter book was released.

As a bookseller at a major chain bookstore, we’ve been gearing up for the 7th - and last - Harry Potter book since January. The last month or so, though, has been the real start of Harry Potter-mania at our store. We were planning who would be working, what events we would do, how we would decorate, etc. But, most importantly, we were taking reservations nonstop... the amount of books that’d be coming into our store grew rapidly, and our final count was 1,300 or 1,400 preordered books.

Last week, all the employees were given the rules for dealing with the books once they arrived – it was crazy. They’d come in boxes shrink-wrapped together. We weren’t allowed to open the shrink-wrap, and we certainly weren’t allowed to open a box. We couldn’t take pictures of the boxes, even wrapped up; we couldn’t discuss whether the books had arrived or not. We basically had to act as if the single book that we were focusing all of our attention on didn’t even exist. (Incidentally, the regular books arrived on Tuesday and the audio and deluxe books arrived on Thursday.)

On Thursday, the day before the party and subsequent midnight sale, 4 out of every 5 calls was a customer asking about reserving a book (“sorry, too late”), confirming their order (“yes, you’ll get your book; we promise”), or asking about details for the party and how to pick up the book (“you need to get a wristband”). Employees stayed late that night in order to turn the bookstore into Hogwarts and train stations and other Potter locales. They worked on getting crafts ready and moved every chair and table off the main floor.

On Friday, the first person arrived at 5 in the morning! By the time we opened at 9, a line had formed halfway down the sidewalk. Cheers went up as people got their wristbands, and some of them literally danced out the store, discussing which letter they’d received and what time they were coming back. Our festivities started at 7 PM, but I arrived for work at 6 in order to attend the pre-party meeting and get debriefed. At that point, the store was just starting to get more crowded than normal but it wasn’t too bad yet. The break room was full of my coworkers and managers, as well as about a dozen volunteers, most in varying degrees of costume. A few of us, myself included, didn’t have a costume and we were promptly given a Hogwarts hat and pin to wear for the evening, as well as a wand, if we so desired. I figured the wand could make a good weapon against unruly children, so I selected a nice, green, woodsy wand with a rope handle. I gotta admit, I felt a bit cool walking around the store with my wand. Because of the black button-up shirt I was wearing, along with the hat and wand, I had many people tell me I looked like a cop, so I found myself dubbed a Hogwarts MP. I was assigned to work with another coworker at the cash register for the evening.

By the time I left the meeting, the store was getting very crowded and costumes were becoming more abundant. The registers were pretty quiet, so I was allowed to wander and check out the events for a little while. We had a greeter in full wizard costume who had a sorting cauldron (since we couldn’t find a sorting hat); each person through the door could pick a piece of paper and be sorted into their proper “class.” We had a costume contest, a wand-making station (in the religion section for those who like irony), a wizard hat-making station, face painting, trivia games, picture frame decorating, and a cardboard Harry that people could have a Polaroid taken with. There were colored arrows taped all over the floor to direct people to each station.

After about half an hour, I was sent to CVS to buy every bit of Polaroid film they had. When I returned, the party had definitely hit its stride. There were children, adults, and teens everywhere. Adults were mostly sitting in the aisles and loitering in the open spaces created by the lack of chairs and tables; some had even brought in lawn chairs. The kids and teens were going from event to event, collecting their souvenirs and leaving a trail of glitter and feathers everywhere they went. Probably 3/4ths of the people were in a costume of some sort.

Back at the register, I had very few customers. A few people with deer-in-the-headlight expressions came though, claiming they had no idea all this was going on or they never would have come that night. I kept quiet, wondering what rock they’d been hiding under for the last few days. Occasionally, a customer would come buy a book to read while they waited, but most people didn’t bother to pay for their diversions.

Sometime around 8:30 or 9, we hit our maximum capacity; sometime around 10:30, we decided to enforce our maximum capacity. At that point, a line began forming outside, and no one was allowed in until someone else came out. We began lining people up at the registers around 11:30 and by 11:40 all 8 of our front registers were manned and boxes of books were being brought up. The cheers were so loud we couldn’t even hear the mangers, who were talking on the intercom, trying to keep the lines orderly. A reporter from the Washington Post was taking pictures and interviewing people as we announced the winners of the costume contest and gave them their prizes. A cheer went up at 10 ‘til 12, 5 ‘til 12, and, of course, 12 o’clock. A moan went up when they were told we couldn’t actually open the boxes until 12:01, so it would be after midnight, but at 12:01, when the boxes were ripped open, the noise was deafening.

We had a manager directing people to specific registers, and from 12:01 until 1:30, I don’t remember slowing down once. I was grabbing books, sliding credit cards, and counting money so fast, I felt like I had 4 arms. Volunteers behind us were constantly carrying stacks of books to each of us or running to fetch the occasional audio or deluxe version so that we never had to miss a beat. Fortunately, we received a lot of compliments about how fast and efficient we were. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’m estimating we served about 700 customers in an hour and a half.

It was after we closed that I began hating the party. The amount of stray books strewn across the store gave the impression that a tornado had hit. Our information desk had stacks so tall you could barely see over them. To put things in perspective, on a typical night we have 2 or 3 people responsible for collecting and putting away all stray books and magazines, walking every single aisle to straighten every single shelf, doing the trash, and bringing out carts for shelving the next morning. We’re usually done 30 to 40 minutes after closing time. Last night we had about 12 people working, we skipped the shelf maintenance, and it still took us an hour.

Overall, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’m not a big Harry Potter fan, and I don’t claim to understand the hysteria this book caused, but I decided to just have a positive attitude for the day and allowed myself to be caught up in the excitement. Towards the end, when the clock was ticking toward midnight, I was actually having a lot of fun. I’m glad I was there and had a part in the whole event. That said, I’m also really glad this is the last book.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Literary Survey" - Jan. 31, 2007

Another one from the old blog.

“Literary Survey” – Jan. 31, 2007

I have a MySpace account and I find myself answering silly little surveys all the time. At first they were kind of fun, but recently they've become very repetitive because they all ask the same nonsensical questions over and over. But this - this is a real survey!

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback? In general, I prefer trade paperbacks because they are cheaper and more portable than hardbacks, but not as small and hard to keep open as mass markets. Sometimes, though, a nice, illustrated hardcover collectors or special edition of a classic or favorite book can be really nice. And a mass market can be good for travel since they’re so small, or for a book that I’m not sure about since they’re the cheapest.

Amazon or brick and mortar? Definitely brick and mortar. I like to feel the book, flip though it, smell it. Buying books is almost as much of an experience as reading them. However, Amazon (or Barnes & Noble.com) is good for hard-to-find or out-of-print books.

Barnes & Noble or Borders? Oh, Barnes and Noble, absolutely! I'm not saying that just because I've worked for them for close to five years - I think they have a better layout and customer service, and they just seem classier. Plus, they have Starbucks. :)

Bookmark or dogear? Bookmark! Don't you dare dogear my pages; do not bend the book all the way back; do not write in my books! Treat my books with respect!

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random? I like my books alphabetized by author within genres. (Although biographies are alphabetized by the person they’re about.) Wow, can you tell I've worked in a bookstore?

Keep, throw away, or sell? I definitely prefer to keep, but if there are books I have multiple copies of or just really didn’t like, I prefer to give them to someone else who likes to read or sell them at the local used bookstore. Never throw away a book!

Keep dustjacket or toss it? Usually I get rid of the bookjackets because they annoy me when I’m reading (they keep flipping off), and I like the more rugged look of the “naked” book. However, if the book doesn’t have the title on the spine, or it’s a special edition or something, I’ll keep the bookjacket.

Read with dustjacket or remove it? If I keep the bookjacket, I definitely remove it during reading. As I said, they just drive me crazy.

Short story or novel? Novels, usually. In my experience, it’s rare to find a short story that really has enough time to build a character and plot and then adequately resolve the plot. There are some exceptions, of course, but overall I prefer a novel.

Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)? It depends on my mood. I like collections that have themes or common characters and such. It’s nice having the whole book go together. But some of the “Best of...” anthologies have been nice for quick reads.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket? Neither. I’ve attempted the first Harry Potter several times, but I can’t get very far. I don’t understand the hype – it’s written on such an elementary level. I know they’re meant for children, but the sentence structure doesn't go much beyond “See Spot run.” And adults go crazy over them? I don’t get it. The stories (plot) are not bad, I guess – I like the movies – but not enough for me to put up with the lousy writing. As for Lemony Snicket, I’ve just never been interested in reading them. Plus, the craze at the bookstore where I work kind of makes me sick of both of these series.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks? I try to go to chapter breaks, but if it’s really late and the chapter just keeps going, I might find a break within the chapter. I usually keep going, though. I stayed up until 5 the other morning because I just couldn’t stop reading.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”? If a book actually started out with “It was a dark and stormy night,” I’d have trouble taking it seriously until it proved it deserved otherwise. Likewise, “Once upon a time,” should be limited to children’s fairy tales. On the other hand, every time Snoopy writes, “It was a dark and stormy night... ” it’s a literary masterpiece. :)

Buy or Borrow? I like to keep, so I like to buy. However, if there’s a book I’m not convinced I’d like, I might borrow it (though if I find myself really liking it, I go out and buy it - I like to have the option for a re-read). The best way to do it is to get gift cards so I’m buying, but not spending my own money. :)

New or used? I usually like new - I’m a germaphobe so the new, unused book appeals to me for sanitary reasons. That said, I do like antique books, but I don't really handle the antique books I buy. Every now and then, I do buy a modern used book, but it's rare. (The fact that I get a nice discount on new books at work is also a factor.)

Buying choice: based on book reviews, recommendations or browsing? Usually recommendation and browsing. I don’t personally know the professional book reviewers, so I don’t know if their opinions line up with mine. I like recommendations from people I know. Also, working in a bookstore, I find a lot of books that seem intersting just by doing my job. Sometimes these books are good; sometimes they aren’t.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger? I don’t need everything completely tied up with a pretty bow, but I don’t like when major issues aren’t resolved. I don’t like endings that seem like the author just rushed to finish or didn’t know how to finish, and I often don’t like endings that require you to buy the sequel. However, as usual, there are always exceptions. ;-) For the most part, let’s just say that I don’t like cliffhangers.

Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading? Any time is a good time, but I do most of my reading at night and the least of my reading in the morning (unless you count nonstop reading from night into early morning). Having a job kind of dictates a reading schedule.

Standalone or series? I like both. Although it can sometimes be annoying to HAVE to buy the next book in a series, it’s also nice to know that there’s another book out there that can be counted on. And sometimes there’s a character so well-written that you just want to read about them again. Standalones are great, too – just read the book, finish, and get on to the next book in your stack – boom!, you’ve accomplished something.

Favorite series? The "O’Malley" and "Uncommon Heroes" series by Dee Henderson, "Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery, and the "Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis, off the top of my head.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard? "Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin" by Marguerite Henry. It’s a children’s book, but it’s the first book I remember reading (though I’m sure I read books before that), and I used to read it with my father (we got along back then), so I’m sentimental about it.

Favorite books read last year? "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry and "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Favorite books of all time? Oh this is a hard one! It’s hard to pick, but I’ll say "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare and "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma" by Jane Austen. But, to quote another blogger, “Ask me again tomorrow, and you’ll probably get a different list.”


"MySpace"? Wow, dated already! And Borders is closed now. And I no longer work at a bookstore. Good grief.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

All the Wrong Places


Lucy sat alone in the middle of the park bench with a briefcase on one side and her umbrella and lunch sack on the other. If the items did not have the desired effect of preventing anyone else from sitting next to her, they would at least provide a buffer zone around her. She nibbled on her cheese sandwich, watching the park activity around her: a group of teenage boys tossing a Frisbee; a couple holding hands and whispering as they strolled down the walkway; an artist sketching a picture of a young woman holding a flower; a mother teasing her children as she helped them feed the ducks; an old man leaning to kiss the temple of the gray-haired woman sitting next to him; and a group of five women talking as they ate lunch together. The park rang with a mix of birds, laughter, and splashing water. Usually, Lucy appreciated the serenity of the park; it was a quiet place to eat her lunch where she did not have to make small talk with her co-workers and could read without interruption. Today, though, she felt unsettled. She tried again to return her attention to her book, but had read no more than three words before the sound of “Jingle Bells” filled the air. She looked up, wondering why a Christmas carol was playing in the middle of September, to see one of the women juggling with a phone, purse, and bag of chips. As soon as the phone was flipped open, the carol stopped. Lucy rolled her eyes – why couldn’t people take the small effort to change the song on their phone to something more appropriate for the season. It wasn’t that difficult. They were just too lazy to bother. As she packed up and headed back to work, it occurred to her that she could not even remember what her cell phone sounded like. She hadn’t heard it ring in over four months – not since the lawyer called to tell her about her grandmother’s will. She wasn’t sure there was even a person still living that knew her number; she only carried the phone with her in case of emergencies.

She opened the door to her building and walked quickly towards her office, careful not to make eye contact with anyone. She closed the door to her office and turned on her computer. Why had she been so unsettled at the park? Sure, the people seemed happy, but she was happy, too. Her life was fine – she had a good job, a nice home – what more did she need? The computer’s flickering screensaver finally caught her attention and she forced herself to focus on her work. That plan worked for ten minutes until a squeal broke the silence in her office. Curious, she got up and cracked open her door. Lucy saw a woman, whose name she should have known, and Mary, who did something with computers, giggling and squealing like teenagers. What’s-her-name was flaunting a diamond on her left hand. Lucy rolled her eyes, but Mary seemed impressed enough for the both of them. Closing her door again, she walked toward her desk, thinking that at least one person should get some work done in this office. As she rounded the corner, her hip bumped the edge of the desk and a picture of her grandmother crashed to the floor, shattering glass and sending half of the gold-flecked, antique frame under the desk and the other half flying into her leg. Ignoring the slight bit of blood on her calf, Lucy immediately bent to retrieve the picture, at the same time wondering why her eyes were blinking back tears. Her leg didn’t hurt that much and this was just a silly picture – nothing to get emotional about. She gently lifted the photo so as not to bend it or cut it on the broken glass and stood, staring at the picture of Grandma Benson. Esther Benson had been the only parent Lucy had ever known. She had told Lucy how her mother had left barely a month after giving birth, claiming that she never wanted to be a mother and she refused to tie herself down when she still had so much to offer, and how her father had struggled to take care of her. He had worked two jobs and they lived above the garage of a friend’s home, but he had never complained. He always said that Lucy was precious to him and he’d do anything for her. After he died in a car accident, Esther decided to raise her granddaughter, knowing it was what her son would have wanted. Lucy was two years old then, and the only memory she had of her parents was an old prom photo Grandma Benson had shown her.

Deciding once again she had better get back to work, Lucy began to pick up the glass, but was distracted by some folded, yellowed pieces of paper that had obviously been kept in between the picture and the backing of the frame. She unfolded the paper to find a letter, written in faded pencil. It began, “To my Beloved.” Beloved? Lucy sat down on the floor in the middle of the broken glass and began to read the letter. It was long, written by her grandmother to the grandfather Lucy had never met.

Lucy had loved her grandmother and felt loved in return, but hugs and kisses were not common in the Benson family and Lucy grew up seldom hearing spoken words of love. And yet, here, in her grandmother’s own handwriting, were sentence after sentence of devotion, passion, and commitment. She had apparently written it shortly before his death to tell him how much she loved him. The letter recounted their wedding day, singing in the Christmas production at church, the birth of their son, vacationing with friends in the mountains, summer potlucks in the town square, and the day the doctor told her that her husband was going to die from cancer. She told him she would never regret a day because of all the joy and love he had given her.

Lucy swallowed hard and leaned her head back against the desk. This didn’t make sense to her. Her grandmother had been a homebody as long as Lucy had known her. She went to church every Sunday morning, but never stayed for Sunday school, and she went to the grocery store every Thursday. That was it. There were no dinners with friends, holiday parties, or chatting with neighbors. So Lucy did the same – no friends, no clubs, no school activities. She had assumed that was the way it had always been for her grandmother. She remained sitting on the floor for a while, but by the time she stood up, she had made a decision – she was going to find herself a husband. If it was good enough for Grandma Benson, it was good enough for her. If a person needed a husband for a complete life, then she was going to go out and get one.

***

It had been two weeks since Lucy’s decision to find a husband, but so far, things weren’t going well. A few guys had flirted with her and she thought about asking them out. She even got as far as asking one guy if he had plans for the evening, but she hadn’t been able to follow through with the next question, and he hadn’t taken the hint. As she walked towards the park for lunch, she gave herself a pep talk. She needed to be proactive. Why had she chickened out before asking the man for a date? He was nice, good-looking, and funny. What was the worst that could happen? He’d say no and she’d be in the same situation as when she started – no harm or foul. Or maybe the worst would be that he’d say yes. Then she’d have to spend an entire evening in small talk, trying to be charming and pleasant. She hated small talk. Why couldn’t people just talk about real issues without having to dance through the pleasantries first?

Lost in thought, Lucy didn’t notice the man until she slammed into him. He was solid and she bounced off him, landing on the sidewalk.
“Oh wow, are you alright?” He dropped what was left of the hotdog that had been squished between them and bent down to help her. Her butt was throbbing, but there was no way she was going to tell him that.
“Um, yeah, I’m fine, thank you.” He held her hand to help her stand up. While retrieving her briefcase and lunch from the ground, she glanced up and noticed him trying to wipe ketchup off his shirt... at least she thought it was ketchup – there were various smudges and stains of many colors all over the shirt. “I’m so sorry – I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”
“It’s ok; it was an old paint shirt anyway so it’s not a problem.” She nodded and they stood there staring at each other. Lucy wracked her brain for something to say; she felt really stupid just standing there. She glanced down and noticed the hotdog on the ground.
“Your lunch – I ruined your hotdog. Could I buy you another one?”
He smiled. “That’d be great, thanks.”

They sat together on a park bench, eating lunch and making the dreaded small talk. His name was Chris and he was an artist. He had just moved to town and was living in his sister and brother-in-law’s basement until he could find a place of his own. She told him she’d just moved to town as well, but she had lived here when she was a child so it was a homecoming of sorts. He told her he had another sister in LA and a brother in Houston. She told him that she didn’t have any family. When it was time for her to return to the office, he walked her back to the building. As she opened the door, he stopped her. “I really enjoyed lunch. How about dinner Friday night?” he asked. She turned to face him, still holding the door open.
“Um, what?”
“Dinner? Friday night? Interested?”
This was it – a date. She should go... shouldn’t she? But what if he was some crazy psycho killer? Sure, he looked friendly enough, but nobody would ever go out with a psycho killer if they had it tattooed on their forehead. Or worse, what if he was really clingy, or... “Um, hello?” He waved his hand in front of her faced. “You still with me?”
“Oh, sorry. I, uh, I was trying to remember my schedule. Um, sure, Friday sound’s fine.”
“Great. Where should I pick you up?”
She hesitated, biting her lip. “Um, I may have to work late. Why don’t I just meet you somewhere.” He frowned, but nodded his head.
“Alright. There’s a great diner on Maple Street. 7 o’clock?” She nodded, said goodbye, and went inside.

***

Lucy had been sitting alone at the diner long enough to know that there were 235 tiles in the ceiling; nine cars in the parking lot – three red, two blue, one silver, two black, and one yellow; eleven people in the diner – eight customers, two waitresses, and one cook; and forty-seven napkins in the napkin holder. If she hadn’t been so angry and embarrassed, she would have laughed – twenty-eight years old, on her first date, and she’d been stood-up. The waitress stopped by the table, just as she’d done four times before, to make sure she didn’t want something to eat while she was waiting, but Lucy had had enough waiting. “Could I just have the bill for the coffee, please?”
“Sure, honey, but are you sure you don’t want something to eat?”
“Um...”
Annie, according to her nametag, laughed at her hesitance. “Honey, are you hungry?”
Lucy nodded, though Annie barely gave her time to answer before continuing. “If you’re hungry, and you’d have to be after smelling our wonderful cookin’ for so long, you should eat. Now, what do you want? I suggest you have the meatloaf and mashed potatoes.”
Lucy nodded again, not even registering that she was agreeing to the order until Annie smiled and said, “Good. I’ll bring it right out to you.”

The waitress returned, setting down a plate of the largest helping of meat and potatoes Lucy had ever seen. At her mumbled thanks, Annie frowned and asked if Lucy was feeling all right.
“I’m fine.”
“Just checkin.’ I noticed you were staring out the window and checking your watch a lot. I know what a no-show looks like.”
Lucy was speechless for a moment. After five years in the city, she’d forgotten how direct the people in this town were. “I’m fine. I’m sure he got hung up in traffic or something; it’s no big deal.” She was a little annoyed at the pity showing on Annie’s face, and she knew the waitress wasn’t going to let the matter drop, but instead of asking another question, Annie just smiled and said, “Enjoy your meal; just holler if you need something.”

To Lucy’s surprise, the food was delicious... and the waitress wasn’t that annoying. Annie asked a few questions when refilling the coffee or bringing water, but kept the conversations casual, commenting on the weather, the latest movies, and the food. She asked Lucy how long she’d been in town and when she discovered that Lucy used to live there they compared schools and graduation years, trying to figure out if they might have met in the past. Oddly enough, Lucy wasn’t bothered by the chitchat and by the time she got ready to leave, her watch read 9:00. Annie called out goodbye as Lucy was leaving, “I hope you come back again soon. You have to try our chocolate cake; we’re famous for it.”
“I will,” Lucy replied, realizing that she meant it.

***

Monday morning, Chris was standing in front of her office building, looking very contrite. She sighed and walked towards him.
“Hi,” he mumbled. She decided to skip the small talk.
“Hi yourself. Were you in a car accident on Friday night?” He looked startled, but shook his head. “Did anybody you know die?” Again, he shook his head. Hearing all she needed, she nodded and walked towards the door.
“Wait, Lucy, let me explain.” She sighed and turned back to face him. She crossed her arms and waited. “I’m really sorry. I went to have a drink with some friends. I just lost track of time, you know? That happens to everyone. I didn’t remember until like 8 and by the time I got to the diner you were gone.” Lucy almost laughed out loud.
“I was at the diner until 9.” She enjoyed the look of fear creeping into his eyes... until it turned to pity.
“Oh wow, really? You waited for me that long?”
“No. I wasn’t waiting for you. I was talking with a friend and enjoying a nice meal. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get to work.”
“Come on, Lucy. Give me a second chance.” She glared at him.
“This conversation was your second chance.”

***

It wasn’t difficult for Lucy to forget about the morning’s confrontation. She was 28 years old and if she was going to find a husband, she didn’t have time to waste on guys like that. She was pouring over blueprint plans when she heard a knock.
“Come in,” she said, and the door opened to reveal Ms. Recently Engaged standing timidly in the doorway.
“Ms. Benson, could I ask you a question?” Lucy nodded. “My fiancĂ© and I just bought a new home and we’d like to get it fixed up nice so we can move in right after the wedding. I asked around and everyone said you weren’t very busy yet, so I was wondering if we could hire you to be our designer?” This all came out in one breath causing Lucy to wonder if people really thought of her as this scary or if the woman was always wound this tight. She thought over her workload. She only had 3 clients at the moment since she was still getting settled in the company. The large project was due to wrap up in a week and the other two were relatively small and easy. She could use another account.
“How much time would we have until the wedding?”
“Six months.”
“Well, if you can make some quick decisions, I don’t think that’d be a problem. I can take you as a client.”
Lucy heard the squeal again. “Oh thank you so much; Tom will be so excited. This is his wedding present to me, and he said we have to make it perfect! How do we get started?” One breath again, thought Lucy before answering.
“Well, I’ll need to see your place, and we need to talk about your style and preferences and we’ll have to discuss what kind of budget you want to work with. We can set up an appointment at – ”
“Could we discuss it over lunch?” At Lucy’s blank stare, the woman quickly began to back-pedal. “Oh, I’m sorry. You’re probably busy. I’m just so anxious to get started and I tend to get over-excited about things. We should just schedule an appointment, like you were saying.” Looking at the woman’s red face, Lucy had a momentary twinge of guilt and empathy. “Lunch would be fine,” she said, “I know the perfect place. One thing though – could I ask your name?”
The woman smiled. “Debra Morgan; I’ve been the secretary here for five years.”

***

When Lucy and Debra entered The Diner, she heard Annie call out from behind the counter, “Oh Lucy, I’m so glad you came back. My husband and I were having dinner with his brother and I started thinking – he’d be perfect for you. You want his number?” Lucy laughed.
“Let’s start with a table first and work from there.”
“Oh you’re right; I’m so sorry. There are two of you? Right this way.” Annie took their drink and lunch orders as normal, but as soon as she set the food on the table she turned to Lucy and asked, “So, do you want the number?” Lucy glanced at Debra and then at Annie.
“Annie, I’m not sure – ”
“Oh c’mon, Luce. Steven’s a really great guy. The only better person you could find is my husband, Ryan, and I’m not giving him up. Y’all could meet here. If you want, Ryan and I could eat with you.”
“Alright. I guess have a better chance of not being stood up if you know the guy.” She had meant the comment as a joke, but Annie remained serious and shook her head.
“Oh no, he’d never do anything like that – you’ll see, he’s one of the best. Alright, we’ll work at details later so y’all can get to your food.”

Lucy and Debra began talking about Debra’s hopes for her home, discovering that they shared a mutual passion for antique wood furniture, but the conversation drifted to Debra and Tom’s relationship, movies, office gossip, travel, and books. It was a longer lunch than Lucy had ever taken, but she didn’t really notice; she was enjoying herself too much. Before returning to work, they planned to meet that Saturday evening at Debra and Tom’s new home to take measurements and get Tom’s input on the design plan. Lucy also made plans to meet Annie and the boys Thursday night.

***

Lucy thought the “double date” went pretty well. She was grateful for Annie and Ryan’s presence because they helped to fill a lot of awkward silences. Their family seemed a lot more interesting than her’s. They were obviously a very close family and she enjoyed hearing them tell stories on each other and laughing at their misadventures. She enjoyed the evening so she was surprised to see Annie’s grim expression when she brought it up at lunch the next day.
“I’m sorry Lucy. He said he didn’t think a second date would be a good idea.”
“But why? I thought it was a nice night. We were all laughing and I thought we were having a good time.”
“We were, but he said he didn’t think you were interested – that you hardly talked to him the whole evening.”
“I know I was quiet, but I just didn’t have much to say.”
“Lucy! He was asking you questions all night, but every time things got personal, you changed the subject.” Lucy sighed and thought about the previous evening. She had been reserved, but it was a first date. Was she just supposed to spill her guts to a total stranger? Annie continued, “Lucy, you have to open up a bit if you want people to like you. I’ve been trying because you seemed so alone, but you make it difficult for anyone to get to know you.” Annie left to help another customer and Lucy was surprised to feel tears in her eyes. She hadn’t had many friends in her life, but she’d convinced herself she liked it that way and it was a personal decision to remain alone. It never occurred to her that people wouldn’t want to be her friend. She had chosen to stay away from people, but could it be that people had also chosen to stay away from her? The realization stung.

Annie returned with a glass of water and a worried expression. “Are you alright, Lucy? You haven’t touched your spaghetti.”
“I’m fine. I was just thinking about what you told me. It was kind of a shock to the system.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Why don’t you bring your food and sit at the counter and we can talk some more.” Lucy nodded and Annie helped her move her lunch over. “Lucy, I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“No, it’s alright. I guess I needed to hear it.” Annie took plates full of food over to a woman and child in the corner and when she came back, Lucy asked, “Have I told you that I moved back here because my grandmother just died and left me her home?”

***

Tom and Debra’s house was fairly empty since they weren’t planning on moving in until after the wedding. They had a few odds and ends – some kitchen utensils, a pool table, and a few potted plants – but no furniture. Tom had ordered pizza so when Lucy arrived they sat on the floor in an empty room, eating dinner and discussing ideas for the house. Lucy had already mentioned knocking out a wall and opening the room up, but that idea seemed to make them nervous. She was just about to explain some of the benefits when the doorbell rang. Tom answered it, and when he returned to the room with two women following, Lucy heard the squeal again.
“Ohmigosh! What are y’all doing here?” There was a lot of fast and furious conversation that Lucy didn’t quite follow, but at last, Debra turned and made introductions. “Lucy, these are two of my best friends, Sarah and Danah. They came to surprise me and celebrate my engagement.” She turned to the two women. “This is Lucy; she’s our designer. Oh! Y’all can help us decide on some things – she wants to knock down a wall!”

The two women seemed nice enough, but Lucy really liked them once they agreed with her about knocking down the wall. They all toured the house together, throwing out ideas and opinions. Every room seemed to prompt a story, causing the tour to last a lot longer than it otherwise would. In the kitchen, they began talking about family recipes and sibling water fights while doing the dishes. Lucy told them about how her grandmother always had hot chocolate waiting for her when she got home from school. She always managed to have it ready at the perfect temperature the moment Lucy walked through the door. Then she would start dinner and Lucy would sit at the kitchen table, sipping her drink and telling her grandma about what happened at school that day.

Tom left to return to his apartment around 10:30, and Lucy mentioned that she should probably be getting home as well. Debra grabbed her arm and Sara exclaimed, “Oh no, Lucy, you have to stay and finish telling us about that guy in New York. You can’t leave us hanging like that.”
“Alright, but only five more minutes.” It was 11:30 when they were interrupted by a horrific noise coming from outside. Danah held up one hand, motioning for silence. “Did you hear that? What on earth?”
Sarah leaned toward the window. “It almost sounded like a baby crying... or a dying cow.”
Huddled together, they walked through the kitchen and the noise grew louder as they got closer to the back door. Debra peeked out from behind Lucy’s shoulder. Should we go out there?
Sarah shook her head. “I’m not going out there! Who knows what that is.”
Danah nodded her agreement. “Maybe we should call Tom.”
Lucy rolled her eyes. “I’ll see what it is.” She grabbed her cell phone in case she needed to quickly dial 911, and a frying pan in case she needed to quickly knock someone unconscious. She opened the door, but all she saw was blackness. The loud noise stopped and she was just about to close the door when she heard a quieter noise, like a whimper. She turned on the light and stepped outside. She still couldn’t see anything and she ventured farther outside, pressing the “9” on the phone and raising the frying pan above her head. She could hear the girls talking from the doorway:
“Do you see anything?”
“Shh”
“Don’t ‘shh’ me.”
“Be careful, Lucy.”
She heard rustling behind a bush and pressed the “1.” She walked around the side of the house to view behind the bush. When she saw the little brown ball of fur, she lowered the frying pan and hung up the phone. She gently scooped the shivering puppy into her arms and carried him into the kitchen.

Sarah was the first to notice the animal in her arms. “Oh, it’s a puppy! Look at him – he’s so cute.” They all huddled around, fawning over the pup and scratching his ears. “What should we do with him?”
“Oh, I’d love to keep him,” Debra said. “But, Tom’s allergic.” Danah and Sarah each lived a couple hours away and had no way of getting him home, so it was decided that Lucy would take him home that night, and the next morning Debra would post flyers throughout the neighborhood announcing they had found a puppy. They continued talking while taking turns holding the sleeping pup on their laps. It was 12:40 when they finally left the house to go home... it was 1:15 when Lucy finally pulled out of the driveway with the puppy sitting on the passenger seat.

When she got home, she looked around the kitchen for something to give the pup, but really had no clue what dogs ate. She settled on a bowl of water and some bread. When she realized that sounded like something they fed prisoners, she gave him some cheese crackers too. “Alright then,” she said aloud to the pup, “what the heck do I do with you now?”

***

Debra and Tom’s wedding had been beautiful. Lucy had been a bridesmaid and it was all she could do not to cry at the wedding. When had she turned into such a sap? She met Danah, Sarah, and Annie at Starbucks after the reception. She had no sooner sat down when Danah asked, “So, who was that with you at the wedding?”
“That was Steven, Annie’s brother. He’s just a friend. He took pity on me when I was complaining about coming to the wedding as a “party of one.”
“What happened to Michael?” asked Sarah.
Annie rolled her eyes. “Oh wait until you hear this one.”
“He was too selfish, it just wasn’t going to work out.”
Annie snorted. “Four months of dating and when they break up, her exact words to me were, ‘He wouldn’t let me hold the remote control when we watched TV.’”
Amid the responding laughter, Lucy protested, “That’s important! If he won’t share the remote, he won’t share anything else.”
Annie looked at her. “Mmhmm. And what was wrong with Caleb?”
“Body odor. Horrible, awful body odor – I couldn’t even finish my meal.”
Danah hid her smile behind her hand before asking, “Lucy, I know people need to have standards, but are you ever going to find a guy who measures up?”
“Yes... unfortunately.” Annie reached over and put her hand on Lucy’s arm. “Hon, are you still upset over Sean?”
Danah looked confused. “Wait a minute. Who’s Sean?”
“Sean was a really great guy. I fell kinda hard for him – I even joined the choir just because he did.”
“What happened?”
He wasn’t interested. He got engaged to someone else last month.” A chorus of “I’m so sorry” followed.
“Thanks, but I’m alright. Obviously he just wasn’t the right one. Besides, if things had worked out with him, then I never would have met Luke.”
Annie began to laugh. “Oh, I can’t believe you even brought him up. That guy was insane.”
“Definitely, but at least life was interesting for awhile.” Annie explained to Danah and Sarah. “Turns out this guy had a knife fetish and was a bit of a pyromaniac.” They launched into crazy boyfriend stories for a while and then decided to go see a chick flick so they could see what relationships were supposed to look like.

***

Lucy opened the door to her home and barely got both feet in the door before a large mound of fur attacked her. “It’s good to see you, too, Jasper. Now get down or I won’t tell you about my day.” Jasper immediately sat down as if eager to hear the tale. As she moved about the house, changing into old sweats, fixing herself some tea, and getting comfortable on the couch, Lucy told her faithful companion about her latest adventures. “I think I’m going to call off this whole finding a husband thing. It’s brought me nothing but heartache and embarrassment. What do you think, Jasper?” Lucy looked over to gauge the dog’s reaction and noticed she’d put him right to sleep. “Hey!” she yelled, eliciting little more than one open eye and a heavy sigh. She laughed and bent over to scratch behind his ears. “So sorry to bore you. I just think some people are just meant to have dogs instead of husbands.”

Lucy sighed and leaned back against the chair. So what if she didn’t have a husband. She’d done just fine for twenty-eight years without one, thank you very much. She grabbed a book to start reading just as her phone began playing “Moonlight Sonata.”