Thursday, June 19, 2014

The tail end of Chapter Five of The Man on Little Creek Drive. Happy Friday.

Amy tossed and turned in the too-hot quilt, Dan’s words flashing in her brain.


A cool wisp of air blew over Amy’s toes and she stopped moving. The visions from the fight disappeared as she slipped into sleep.

Amy sat a park bench. Huge trees towered overhead, creating a cool green canopy, and the sweet scent of honeysuckle hung heavy in the air.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”

A man wearing a leather jacket sat down next to Amy. His face turned slightly away from hers, obscured by chin-length dark curls. “Do you mind if I sit here?”

Amy shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”

The man perched on the bench and darted a quick glance at her. “I used to know an Amy Mullins – that wouldn’t be you, would it?”

Taken aback, she scooted slightly away as she asked, “Who wants to know?”

He ducked his head. “A friend of a friend, you could say.” He nodded around the park. “I don’t mean to bother you. Just came out to enjoy this lovely day.”

His voice was warm, friendly, and Amy relaxed. She nodded, enjoying the breeze blowing across her cheek.

“I hear things are a little tricky at your house right now.”

Amy’s face burned. She didn’t know how to reply, but that didn’t seem to bother the man.

“It’s all right, Amy. I know. It’s rough when your husband loses his job and takes it out on you, isn’t it?”

Yes, she thought, and she could tell the man understood.

“You’re hoping someone can tell you what to do, how to help your husband and make everything better again, aren’t you?”

Amy could only nod.

“I wish I could be that someone.” He sighed, running his hands through his hair. Amy noticed that his nails were edged with greenish-black, and an odor drifted from the air around him. Like the spoiled scent of a flower left to rot in a vase.

A shiver ran through her, and she wanted to pull away again, but there wasn’t any room left on the bench to move. And there was something oddly peaceful about him. What did dirty fingernails say about a man anyway? A gardener might have those nails.

“What’s your name?” Amy asked, but the man shook his head.

“You don’t need my name. You need my advice.”

“Fine,” she replied, curious what words of wisdom this odd stranger might have for her. “Go ahead, advise me.”

“I’ll tell you the truth, Amy,” he leaned in close, as he tilted his head to the side as if telling her an important secret he didn’t want anyone else to hear. “Dan’s weak.”

“That’s not a very nice thing to say,” she protested, choosing to ignore the tiny voice in her head that agreed with the man. “Dan is not weak, and you shouldn’t talk about him like that.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s true, and he isn’t going to improve anytime soon.”

“Sure he will. He’ll find a job and things are going to be back to normal. Better than normal, even.”

The man lowered his head and slowly turned toward her. He reached out a dirty-nailed hand to place over hers. His palm was cool and damp. She didn’t pull her hand away.

“He won’t get better, Amy. He’ll just keep drinking and before you know it, you’ll become your friend Jean, waiting and watching for him to turn violent.”

“No! No, Dan would never hit me.”

The man’s voice was soft and low, but insistent. “Amy, do you really want to take that chance? What about EJ? Is this how you want her to grow up?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Amy snatched her hand back and quickly shifted her body away from his.
She jerked her chin and looked straight ahead at a large live oak tree, staring at the heavy, knotted black branches curling into a cloud of green leaves.

The air felt heavy, earthy and hot. Amy’s eyelids began to close. She was so tired. And his words, despite upsetting
her, had the strangest effect on her; almost hypnotic. All she wanted to do was drift into a long, dark sleep.

The man slid closer, whispering, “I know. I’ve seen it too many times before. I know what you’re going through, Amy. I only want to help you.”

Amy blinked through the dull fog of fatigue, and jumped to her feet. “No. You’re wrong. You have to be.”


Amy reached out her hand as the man faded from her sight. The park disappeared, and all the lovely trees and quiet green. She was left standing in a carpeted hallway, looking at a ten-year-old girl.

“Mama? Were you sleepwalking?”

Amy felt such an instant wave of sadness, she almost fell over.


Amy sighed. “Sorry, EJ, I was just… I was just coming out for a glass of water.”

EJ stared up at Amy, her hands on the hips of her purple polka-dot pajamas. “But you always bring water to your room, so –”

“I ran out.” Amy cut her off, patting her daughter’s shoulder. “Good night, EJ.”

“Mama, can you come into our room for a second? I need you to check the closet door.” EJ bit her lip, hoping desperately that Amy would come into the bedroom, check the door, and discover some funny little problem with the lock that made it open and close without anyone touching it.

Amy shook her head. “I need to go back to sleep, EJ. Busy day tomorrow. You, too.”

“But Mama, I really need you to look at this –”

“Go back to bed, EJ!” Amy pointed to the bedroom door. “In your room. Now!” Then Amy headed back down the hall.

EJ watched as her mother disappeared, and she returned to her bed, feeling sick to her stomach. She closed her eyes.


The closet door closed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Atkins hasn't bested me yet, back to the book! Another quickie from The Man on Little Creek -- work in progress...

“Damn it, Amy, just leave me alone!”

Loud yelling echoed down the hallway, waking me up, sticky and hot. My pajama top was damp with sweat. My heart was beating so fast, for a moment I couldn't place who was hollering; I thought Daddy must be back in the den and had fallen asleep with the TV on too loud.

“Dan, please be quiet, you're gonna wake the kids!” Mama's voice sounded just like it did when she was trying to be calm, but really wasn’t. That’s when I realized it wasn't a movie I was hearing.

“Be quiet, you'll wake the kids!” Daddy fake-whined in a lousy imitation of Mama's voice. “I'm so sick of you trying to blame me for everything, Amy! You just jab, jab, jab, and then pretend you didn't start the argument every time.”

“Dan, come on –” Mama tried, but Daddy cut her off again.

“No, you come on! You know, I almost think you're glad I lost my job just so you can say 'I told you so' and complain about me to your friends!”

“Dan, you cannot honestly believe –”

“Really? Really? You think I can't believe that about you? You love being right. You want me to be the bad guy. Well, I'm done, do you hear me?”

The whole house can hear you, Daddy, I thought, squashing my hands so hard over my ears that my head hurt. I didn't hear what Mama answered but Daddy's stomping through the house and out the garage door was plain as day.


I heard Mama mutter, “For the hundredth time, Dan, don't slam the door!” Then she started to cry. Out loud. My stomach was doing flip flops now and I felt really hot. Should I get out of bed and go find Mama, or should I pretend I hadn't heard a thing?

Her footsteps outside my door made the decision easy and I quickly closed my eyes and curled up on my side. I heard her come into the room and pull the blanket back over Bailey and then she tugged my sheet up onto my shoulders. As she walked back out the door, I opened my eyes and looked across the room at Bailey. His eyes were open, too, and his bottom lip stuck out in an upside down half-moon. I put my finger to my lips and he nodded his head, pulling in his lip and sniffling quietly.

“It's OK, Bailey,” I whispered when I was sure Mama had gone back to her room. “Daddy's just mad 'cause of his job.”

Bailey shook his head, and pointed a chubby, shaking finger at the closet door. I turned to look and saw the tiniest beam of orange light coming from inside and then, with a click so quiet I almost missed it, the door shut.

I turned back to Bailey and we looked at each other for the longest time.

“Monster in our house,” Bailey whispered.

I didn't say a word.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Why Atkins Sucks

I told myself I'd write another chapter this week, but lethargy (ahem, laziness) got in the way. I blame Atkins.

Disclaimer: I am not a dietician. I am not an expert on anything. I only care about losing 5 pounds before my vacation, so that I can gain it all back eating Cuban food in Florida. But that being said, here's why I think (as of Day 5) that Atkins SUCKS:

1. I got tired of meat by dinner on Day 1, and the sight of grilled chicken made me gag. I'm more of a "meat flavors my carbs" kind of girl.

2. Any diet that says a steak is better for me than a whole tomato is stupid.

3. Burgers wrapped in lettuce are impossible to eat. Especially in a movie theater. Especially when taking in a special showing of the 1986 classic, "The Lost Boys" at the Alamo, where they served yummy-sounding vampire-themed cocktails that I had to forgo, because they are "not approved" in Phase I of this lame diet.

4. I'm sick of eggs. Eaten them the first 3 mornings, and then on Day 4 I skipped breakfast because I lost my will to eat another egg.

5. It's not even that I'm craving bread or anything, I just want a damn orange.

6. This must be how people get scurvy. See above.

7. If you can explain to me how pure cream in my coffee is better than milk, you should probably invent something because you are a DAMN GENIUS. Don't get me wrong - I love cream. But come on, how's taking the teaspoon of sugar out of my coffee and replacing the milk with cream possibly a good idea? That sounds like a one-way ticket to cholesterol town.

8. The diet has made me too tired get out of bed early to exercise. I've read all the message boards about how it's just the first few days, and my body is going into withdrawal, blah, blah, blah. But still. Doesn't that seem intrinsically wrong? And the whole "withdrawal" argument, frankly, isn't very convincing. It's not HEROIN folks, it's just bread.

9. Failing a magical transformation over the weekend, I'm thinking if I just cut out grains, rice and potatoes that should work just as well. And not worry about how many tomatoes, veggies or fresh fruit I consume. Or having a glass of wine. Before Christmas, I was following the "glass of wine and handful of pecans for dinner" diet (patent pending) and that seemed pretty effective (sure, it also leads to alcoholism, but sacrifices must be made). I fell off that wagon between Christmas and New Year's and never got back on, but I think it's worth reviving.

10. The only reason I am doing this is to feel cuter in a swimsuit in Florida. The second I get there, I'm eating whatever the hell I want. Because life is too short to go without Cuban bread. :)