Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On the 7th Day of Christmas I wrote some New Year's Resolutions

Every year I make up silly resolutions I never keep. Last year. I departed from the usual format by coming up with easier ones, such as drinking more wine and eating pecans. Am really, really getting tired of pecans. This year, I decided in honor of my blog tour to do something different. Instead of resolutions for me to keep, I've written a list of resolutions that the characters in The Getaway Girls might have concocted. If they were real people, who cared about such things. And why wouldn't they, I mean even a flesh-eating scavenger has goals, right?

So without further ado, I present the 2015 New Year's Resolutions as imagined by Carl, Declan, Xavier and Audrey from The Getaway Girls: A New Orleans Tale of Monsters, Mayhem and Moms

Kids, don't try these at home.

1. Overthrow vampires and take back New Orleans. Again. Really, how many times do I have to rout out these bloodsuckers? Frankly, it's tiresome. Note: look into ways to rid entire planet of vampires or at least drive them to someplace I've no intention of visiting. Possibly Ohio.

2. Take up golf.
(And by "take up" I mean ravage an attractive female golfer)

3. Lower cholesterol. Only slash throats of extremely fit young ladies, or, if tempted by the plumper ones, consider Lipitor.

4. Also, rise from dead.

1. Do NOT allow scavengers to take back New Orleans. They have terrible manners. Draining a young lady's neck is one thing, ripping it to shreds is simply tacky.

2. Have underground coffin-recliners re-upholstered in a stain-resistant fabric. (Scotch-guard?)

3. Find that dishy Audrey and "persuade" her to destroy scavenger colony in Jamaica. Teensy favor, really.

4. Start taking vitamins. This body won't be around forever, you know. Oh, wait ... yes it will.

1. Stop making stupid vampire movies. Unless they offer me loads of money.

2. Never forget Audrey & keep the memory of our night together sacred forever ... or, at least until the next supermodel comes along.

3. Find cure for scavenger curse and rid planet of all scavengers and vampires. In between movie shoots.

4. F** vitamins, drink more cocktails.

1. Avoid hotel bars. Also, burning buildings.

2. Forget Declan. He's trouble.

3. Consider online dating. (Does eHarmony screen for blood lust?)

4. Book next girls' trip somewhere safer. Possibly Ohio. Or Jamaica.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

So now that Halloween is over, clearly it's time for Christmas. I mean, Target sent me The Book, so it must be true. Never mind the life-sized mummy still standing in my garage, scaring the living hell out of me every morning (why does the battery on my phone die after 8 hours, but the sound effects on our Halloween decor apparently cannot be turned off?). It's November and if I don't hop aboard the Polar Express soon, I may get left behind.

This year, unlike the past 2 (maybe 3?) years, I'm definitely doing a Christmas card. I have to, or people will stop sending me theirs. I'll be dropped from lists, shunned - my children will live as outcasts, our only holiday mail will be the envelope soliciting cash from the mailman. So there's that to organize. No small challenge considering we haven't had family photos taken since ... well, we did them that one time. And they were pretty nice, but I don't think I could pull off reusing a photo from three years ago. People do expect kids to age and all.

Then there's all the festive baking I'll be doing. As God is my witness, our house will smell like sugar cookies or mulling cider (or whatever other scent the Yankee Candle Co is shilling this year) every day of the season. Maybe, as I did one holiday season, I'll stash some cookies in a jar, store them in a cupboard to keep the kids from eating them - and then forget about them. You know how they say moving is a great excuse for throwing away old stuff? It's also a great way to find really old food. Interesting fact: Christmas cookies do not grow mold. So if you're planning a "make your own penicillin" party, I suggest you serve something more degradable.

And of course, don't forget the presents. The Toys R Us catalog at our house has already seen its fair share of Sharpie, so the kids are on top of the list situation. And it would be so much fun if the gifts were actually things I understood. A stuffed animal or a car I get. Madden 2015, not so much. All I know is it costs $60 and if the dog eats it, I am going to be so pissed. Of course, then you take them to see Santa and they pull the old switcheroo on you. Or they won't tell what they said to Santa. Well played, St. Nick.

In the midst of all that chaos, you've got the Elf on the Shelf making trouble. Talk about brother against brother, that little snitch is like the Civil War of Christmas toys, making the kiddos squeal on each other like inmates at Joliet. Kid: "Mom, it wasn't me, my brother did it!" Me: "Hey, don't tell me. Take it up with the Elf." All I know is this year, that Elf better start producing some good behavior. Because the threat of his daily reports to Santa is supposed to keep everyone in line, but ours only seems to stir up trouble. Also, he's lazy. For an entire week last year, we found him on a giant poster of 1930s Chicago. Which was cool for a day. But a week? Have some pride, Elf.

But you know who's really gonna love the Elf? The dog. We did not have a dog last Christmas. So already I can imagine how things will be different this year. For instance, last Christmas, our tree remained standing and only some of our ornaments were broken (and at least the kids didn't eat them). Our dog is the kind that consumes everything, just because she can. They say dogs aren't supposed to have certain foods, but I've seen ours chow down on about fifty pencils. And a DVD.

Maybe I better get an extra Elf. And give him a message to take to Santa now, before all the holiday traffic.

Dear Santa,

Please watch out when you come down the chimney. In particular, I'd advise you steer clear of the chewed up wreath and partially digested stockings. If you slip on something wet, don't worry that you tracked in snow. Ten bucks says it's dog drool. I don't care what the Elf said, my kids aren't that bad so please don't give them coal. Oh, and if you haven't heard from the Elf in a few days, I apologize.

Because I'm pretty sure the dog ate him.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Grownup Guide to Halloween

I’ve always been a sucker for Halloween. Give me a pumpkin cream and dollar store cauldron and I’m good. The holiday changes once you’re an adult, though – and if you give into your inner Halloween curmudgeon, you can end up with less sugar and more stress. Since I refuse to hang up my witch’s hat, I’m sharing a few suggestions for staying sane on Samhain for grownup goblins and ghosts:

A Grownup’s Guide to Halloween

1. Ditch the dignity. If you really want to get into the Halloween mood, now is not the time to worry about how ridiculous you look wearing a Dracula cape to the office. One year, someone in my office suggested we “all” dress up in costume for Halloween. Getting into the spirit of things, I came to work wearing a leather motorcycle jacket and teased hair, thinking it would be funny to dress as a biker babe. Well, the joke was on me because nobody else dressed up, we had a company-wide meeting, and worst of all? No one realized that my outfit was a costume.

Did I let that dampen my Halloween gusto? Heck no. Before going out that night, I added more hairspray and traded the jeans for fishnets. Because if you’re going to look like a trashy Motley Crue groupie, own it. Did I later wish for something warmer than fishnets on my quest for a cab? Sure. But, on the plus side, several very friendly strangers offered me rides home. Halloween: bringing people together since we stopped burning them.

2. Remember that a little costume goes a long way. And by little, I’m talking the amount of fabric, not creative effort. Ever been in the section of the Halloween store where they stash the costumes for grown women? Party City: puttin’ the “adult” in adult costumes. There’s basically two choices: regular slutty or scary slutty. Regular slutty is your nurse, your cheerleader, belly dancer, etc. Scary slutty is regular slutty meets Elvira. Wear what you want, but I have to doubt the historical accuracy of a witch costume with thigh high slits and a navel-length neckline. If you want to look like a middle-aged Bratz doll, knock yourself out. Just don’t whine if the ‘tricks’ you’re getting offered aren’t made by Hershey.

3. Suck it up, buttercup: Halloween ain’t like it used to be. Certainly not the way it was when we were old enough to trick-or-treat and our parents sent us out the door with a vague warning to stay away from the creepy guy’s house at the end of the street. No one ever explicitly said the neighbor was a pervert, of course. Because that would be rude.

Things are different now and it’s best you face facts. You will be accompanying your kids the entire time. If they are too old for trick-or-treating, you’ll probably be ferrying them to some other appropriate activity, not leaving them at home with a buddy to make prank calls and smoke your cigarettes. (Inhale, cough, gasp that you’re “totally going to barf,” giggle, repeat).

I know that’s terrible and kids, don’t do drugs … but it was fun. Where were my parents? I have no idea. Parents were never home at night during the 80s. They were always at a dinner party. Maybe they were all at the same dinner party; a suburban Last Supper with cheaper wine and shoulder pads.

4. Drink up. Because the only thing worse than trick-or-treating with a kid who’s been mainlining Kit Kats for three blocks sans water bottle? Trolling the ‘hood sober. Trust me; both you and your child will be happier if you’re packing a chilled thermos of water for him and a solo cup of wine for you. A six-pack of beer is too unwieldy and will prevent you from toting the mask, cape, and other accessories that your kid will abandon at some point during the night. A smarter choice is a cocktail bar tucked into a radio flyer wagon. Or golf cart.

5. End on a good note. You’ve made it through the neighborhood, the kids are in bed, and you’re left sitting there, wondering: is this it? Yes. Yes, it is. And consider yourself lucky that you managed to get yourself and your progeny home in one piece. So do yourself a favor – pick out the Snickers from the kiddos’ stash, freshen your drink and put on a scary movie. Because you might be old now, but there is one thing about Halloween that’s just as true whether you’re 14 or 40.

You still can’t watch The Exorcist without covering your eyes.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Man in the Pool

In honor of my favorite holiday, tinkering with a chapter of a Getaway Girls sequel. Happy Halloween!

The house was quiet that night. The call about Mercy had shaken them all, but eventually the boys had fallen asleep. Now, as the moonlight streamed in through the bedroom curtains, Audrey felt anxious about the missing girl.

But it was more than that. She couldn’t shake the sensation that someone had been in her backyard, had looked through her window. She got out of bed and stared out her window overlooking the small pool. Nothing but a tiny breeze that barely stirred the water.

Without anything else to do, she remained standing, watching. Aqua ripples washed outward from the center of the pool, spreading in smooth flat circles. The circles extended, growing in diameter until they reached the edge. There they broke apart, the rings weakening until all movement had finally disappeared.

Or had it? As Audrey watched, small bubbles began to form on the surface in the pool’s center. That’s funny, she thought. Maybe something had fallen in. She leaned over for a better look. She couldn’t see anything but the bubbles, but they kept popping up. And getting bigger.

Now curious, she left her room and headed for the back patio door. Probably some animal, she told herself. Better scare it away before it drowned. She refused to let herself think anything else until she pushed open the French door and stood on the smooth, dark stonework.

She flipped on the exterior light and the round yellow bulb flashed a steam of light down into the pool. The bubbles continued to build, but now ripples curled forth from the bubbles, and quickly spread out into thick rings of water that expanded quickly, audibly lapping against the tile.

A shovel leaned against the brick siding of the house, and she picked it up carefully. The dirty metal handle was warm and she clutched it tightly, taking another step closer.

The bubbles had now multiplied into a thick, frothy blue and white foam that coated the surface of the pool.

"What the hell," Audrey gasped, her whispering voice lost in the jagged churning of water.

As if in response, the foam suddenly exploded into a tall fountain. Water spurted ten feet into the air, spraying Audrey and the entire patio. She jumped back, drenched, as the fountain twisted and thickened. Beneath the water, a dark form began to rise.

Shaking, she dropped the shovel and turned to grab the handle of the door leading back inside when a heavy wave knocked her to her knees.

And a voice rang out above the splashing. “Remember me, Audrey?”

Audrey froze, sopping wet in a huddle on the ground.

She knew that voice.

She lifted her head and saw a tall, dark-haired man in a striped shirt and jeans standing – standing – on the water in her swimming pool. He reached up with a long, muscular arm to flip a hunk of wet hair from his forehead. His eyes were blue and brilliant, but cold. And he smiled with a mouth full of sharp, white teeth.

Like a shark circling his prey, he moved around the perimeter of the pool, still miraculously hovering atop the water. “You didn’t answer, Audrey. I asked if you remembered me.”

Then in one quick, fluid movement, he stepped onto the slick stone.

Audrey’s teeth were chattering, for despite the sticky night air, the water suddenly felt like ice. “Yes," she stammered. “I remember you.”

She could hardly forget the tall, pretty one – the man who had looked as though he belonged on a yacht, not trying to rip out women’s throats in a decaying house in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. A man she’d impaled with a nail-studded drawer and set on fire.

A man she’d thought was dead.

“Sucks to be wrong, doesn’t it?” His eyes sparkled as he surveyed her, crouching on the ground. “No, I didn't die. You killed the others. But not me.”

Audrey stood up slowly, her eyes never leaving his. “That’s because you left the rest of them to die.”

The man shrugged. “I’m a scavenger, sweetheart, not a Marine. I do leave men behind.”

He took a step closer and then stopped, extending a hand. “Where are my manners? We’ve never been formally introduced. I’m Rho. Nice to meet at last.”

Audrey grabbed the doorknob, trying to get a firm grasp with her wet fingers. “The feeling isn’t mutual. What are you doing in Dallas?”

Rho studied his fingernails for a moment. “Aw, I’m just a cowboy at heart,” he drawled in a passable Texas accent.

Then he shook his head. “Just kidding. I’m here for revenge.”

“Revenge?” Audrey asked, her eyes flitting around for the shovel.

“Loyalty's not my thing, so I don’t care that you killed my boss. But getting rid of Carl let those whiny vampires back into the Garden District. I could barely stalk a sorority girl without running into the undead. You cost me my hunting ground and my home." He glared at her.

"So I had to relocate. Thought about Seattle ... too cliched. Then I read an article describing how many companies were moving to Texas, bringing carloads of naive newcomers. And I thought hey -- if it's good enough for corporate America, it's good enough for me."

He paused, staring down the length of her body, and as his glance traveled back up to hers, he winked. "Plenty to eat. And your hot, miserable summer seems to make everyone just a little more careless.”

Audrey felt her breath come in shaky little gasps. “You’re staying here?”

Rho smirked. “We'll be neighbors. I just can’t wait to catch up with you. And your boys.”

“Stay away from my kids!”

“Oh, I’m not going to kill them. At least not right away. That would ruin all the fun. But I’ll be around. All summer.”

He took one more step forward and Audrey turned her wrist to engage the doorknob. Just as she heard the click of metal, Rho lunged at her, grabbing her chin with the long, cruel claws that extended from his fingers where nails should have been. He twisted her face until she was inches from his and he sniffed the skin above her cheekbones.

“Just as sweet as you were the last time we met.” He drew one long, yellowing claw down her face and across her lips, drawing a thin red line of blood.

“But I’m not. I’m going to leave you and your family alive long enough to watch me murder as many of your friends and neighbors as I can before I get bored with Texas.”

He lifted the blood-flecked claw to his own mouth and sucked Audrey’s blood from his hand. Then he shoved her back down to her knees. “And then, I’m coming for you.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why do they call it writer's "block" -- which sounds like something wooden and practical that you might pick up at Home Depot?

Really, "writer's ugly gray fog of despair" would be more accurate.

Anyway, regardless of what you call it, and for fun let's call it Fred, it has descended on my brain, infected my laptop and frankly, I think it's making my hair flat. Every time I sit down at the computer to work on my book, an evil troll pops out of my head and whispers increasingly depressing and just plain rude comments until I sigh and get distracted by something less difficult.

You know you have writer's block when giving the dog a bath sounds like a really good thing to do RIGHT NOW. Or you're suddenly tempted to start on those 23 thank-you notes from a 5-year-old's birthday party that are two months late.

I'm almost too scared to stay in front of the keys, worried what other task that I've been procrastinating might sound like a good idea. If I start on the family Christmas card that I haven't sent in two years, I'm totally screwed.

It's like one of those stupid summer colds that show up in July and you can't seem to shake. And you just know if writer's block were an actual disease, it wouldn't be one of those bacterial infections you could clear up with a z-pack. Nah, it'd be a virus, long and lingering. The kind that makes you want to climb into bed, read OK magazine and eat Cheez-its.

Wait, that's what I want to do all the time.


I knew things were bad when I actually took the latest issue of Parenting magazine to bed with me at 9:30 last night. To be fair, I'd already read all the trashy stuff and I was left with Time or Parenting. Food and Wine I considered, but it's for happier days. Deep down in my funk, twenty recipes for pea shoots was just more than I could handle. And let's be honest, I couldn't muster the brain power to fake my way through Time. Especially now that they've taken away my once-reliable Joel Stein column. WTF, Time? Why not take away the Tooth Fairy while you're at it. Speaking of which, my mental fog caused me to forget to put money under the pillow just last week. Sure, I spun it -- "look, the tooth fairy left you money in your shoe instead, you must have missed her. Silly tooth fairy!" but it was a close call. And clearly a distress signal that my writer's block is now morphing into mommy block. Possibly person block. Probably at some point I will just turn into a block.


Hold on. My computer just lost power. I plugged it in, turned it back on and came back to this post. That's gotta be a sign, right? Maybe writer's block isn't winning after all.

Take a hike, Fred. There's a new beast in town.

And she's fresh out of Cheez-its.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The beginning of Chapter 6...

“You definitely have a problem.” Maribel said, studying my hair in her pink princess mirror. Her face twisted as she grabbed a sparkly barrette out of her mouth and jammed it a little too close to my scalp.


“Sorry, but you gotta sit still for this to work.” I bit my lip and tried not to yelp as she yanked another hank of hair back with the hairbrush.

Maribel's grandmother was home from work in the afternoon for once, so Mama was letting me play at her house. Since we almost never got to play at Maribel's, anytime we did was an occasion for makeovers. At my house, Mama didn’t let me wear makeup and I didn’t really care – but Maribel told me if I wanted to make it in middle school I better learn to get cute now.

Maribel had all kinds of fancy hair accessories, hot rollers, a curling iron she actually knew how to use – and best of all, real makeup. Maribel's grandma brought home tons of stuff from her salon. I was jealous; my grandparents were all dead and the only things my Aunt Becky ever brought over was bad news and my cousin Preston.

“So you don't think I'm crazy?” I asked, as I handed Maribel the curling iron. I'd decided I had to tell somebody about what was going on at our house. My parents were clearly in no condition to help Bailey and me solve the closet door mystery.

“Nah.” She stretched the tip of her finger toward the end of the iron.

“Doesn't that burn?” I asked.

“You gotta test it to make sure it's hot enough,” she said. “Abuela does it all the time.” She nodded like this was something even I should have known, and then touched the iron.

“Oww!” She yanked back her finger and stuck it in her mouth.

“Guess it's hot enough,” I said.

Maribel muttered something in Spanish that I'm not allowed to say in English before she continued, “I heard Abuela tell plenty of ghost stories from back in Mexico. That kind of thing happens all the time down there.”

“Really? You think we have a ghost in the closet?” I was nervous, but also hopeful; maybe Maribel's grandmother would know what to do.

“Maybe it’s a ghost. Maybe it’s something worse.”

“What could be worse than a ghost?”

“El chupacabra. The goat-sucker.”

“A what?” I asked.

“This monster, he’s like a vampire for animals, and he sucks out their blood.”

“That’s gross.” I told her. “And we don’t have any goats, so he’d be out of luck at our house.”

Maribel shrugged. “Maybe he ate all the goats, and he’s going after people now.”

“Somehow, I don’t see a goat vampire hanging out in my closet.”

Maribel nodded. “Probably not. Maybe it’s the demon that sucks out people’s souls.”

I shook my head. “Now you’re just making stuff up.”

Maribel waved the curling iron around and I hoped she wouldn’t jab me by accident. “Not according to Abuela. El chupacabra is just something people made up to explain why their animals died. But the soul-sucking demon – they call him The Man – well, she said he’s real.”

“Maribel, there’s no such things as demons. That’s just in scary movies.”

Maribel looked me in the mirror, her big black eyes staring into mine. “But there’s demons in the Bible. And in church. And Abuela said The Man is a real demon.”

We didn’t read the Bible much at my house, and when we did go to church the minister just talked about helping people and giving money. But Maribel went to a different church and, for all I knew, we weren’t there the days our minister talked about demons. So I asked her, “how come the demon’s called The Man?”

Maribel shrugged. “I guess he looks sort of like a man, but the main reason is that he goes after the women. The moms.”

I felt all the hairs on my arm stand up. “The moms?”

“Yeah, Abuela said it happened in a village near where she lived in Mexico. The Man sucked the souls out of the women and just left their bodies behind. All the kids ran away and the whole village turned into a ghost town.”

“What about the dads? Didn’t they do anything?”

“Abuela said The Man steals from the men, too, but just enough to make them weak, so they don’t notice when he comes for their wives.”

My hands got all sweaty. “Is this for real?”

“If I was going to make something up, I’d come up with a much better story than that.” Maribel said, grinning. “Like my mom comes back and she’s totally rich and Abuela could stop working and we’d all go shopping together every day.”

“If you’re making stuff up, why don’t you make up a dad, too?”

Maribel sneered. “He left when I was two weeks old, so I already know he’s a total dud. At least my mom waited till I was in first grade to ditch me. Now, let’s check out your hair.”

Maribel cocked her head to one side as she looked at me. The front was pulled back in super-tight twists and the rest was supposed to curl around my shoulders like the prom hairdo we'd seen in a magazine. My hair wasn't cooperating, though, the curls hung limp like old banana peels and the twists were tight enough to yank my eyes up on the sides. I had an awful headache and I didn’t look like a cute middle schooler. I looked like a squinty, cranky ten-year-old with bad hair.

“Not bad, but I think we need more hairspray,” Maribel decided, and I closed my eyes at the sight of the giant aerosol can.

“Do you know anything more about The Man?” I asked, trying not to breathe in the fumes.

“No, that’s all Abuela told me.” Maribel frowned, then waved her brush in the air. “Hey, you know what they do in the movies when there’s a ghost or demon in their house? They move. In the movies, they never do it till the end when somebody’s dead or possessed or the whole house collapses, but you don’t have to wait that long.”

“Daddy lost his job, so we can't move, and Mama would have a fit. She'd never believe me anyway.”

Maribel nodded. “You're probably right; grownups never believe kids about anything – not in the movies or real life.”

“Maribel? What are you girls doing in there?” Maribel's grandma came into the room, dressed in a hot pink tracksuit.

“We're playing beauty salon; can't you tell? EJ's my customer, doesn't she look pretty?”

Mrs. Rodriguez smiled at me. “Of course she does, but why do you always have to play beauty salon? Why don't you ever play lawyer or brain surgeon?”

Maribel crossed her arms. “But I want to be like you.”

Mrs. Rodriguez laughed. “You are, more than you know.” Then she turned to me. “One of my clients just called, I’ve got to run over to her house. Mr. Nackett came by to give you a ride home, EJ.”

Maribel looked from me to her grandma, and asked in a small voice, “What about me?”

“You’ll come with me. Bring your homework and we’ll make dinner when we get back. EJ, let’s get your things.”

I grabbed my backpack and followed her to the door. “Find out everything you can about The Man,” I whispered to Maribel. “I need to know more.”

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. :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

More Monster Monday ... on Wednesday. Another excerpt from The Man on Little Creek Drive:

A strange noise woke me. Metal on metal, like the time Mama’s brakes almost wore out and the mechanic told her if she’d waited one more week to bring in the car, she could have been killed.

I glanced at the clock; 3:30 a.m. I looked toward the closet door, but it was closed. I got up and tiptoed down the hallway.
Daddy was still passed out in the den, but I could hear the noise getting louder. The kitchen light was on, and I peered around the corner.


She was standing with her back to me, at the back stretch of the counter where she kept the crock pot and the toaster. And the knives.

“Mama?” I repeated, but she didn’t answer. Still wearing a tank top and pajama pants, she must have just gotten out of bed. Her hair twisted around her shoulders like messy brown ropes.

I walked closer. The noise, I realized, was coming from the automatic knife sharpener build into the back of the butcher block, the block that held the sharp knives me and Bailey weren’t allowed to touch.

Who would sharpen knives in the middle of the night? Martha Stewart, maybe, but not Mama.

Something told me to make as much noise as possible as I walked across the cold tile floor. Whatever the reason for early morning kitchen duties, I wasn’t looking to get stabbed by accident if I surprised her. Despite my stomping around, she didn’t seem to notice. Her head cocked at an angle, she stared at the sharpener and she didn’t pay me the least bit of attention.

She held the big knife; the one she used to slice tomatoes, and pressed it to the metal wheel of the stone. The screech made my ears hurt. How could Daddy possibly sleep through this?

“What are you doing?” I finally reached out and tapped her on the back.

My mistake.

She whirled around, holding the knife by its wooden handle out in front of her. The blade was shiny in the bright kitchen light…And about six inches from my gut.

I jumped backwards, waiting for her to say something. But her mouth was closed and her eyes stared right through me, blue and empty.

“Mama, be careful!” I watched as she touched the edge of her finger to the blade, drawing a tiny bubble of blood. She didn’t even blink. She walked past me, holding the blade out at an angle, exactly the way she’d taught me never to walk with something sharp.

I followed her as she headed into the den. Toward Daddy.

“Mama, don’t you want to put that knife away before you hurt somebody?”

She stopped, turned and, this time, she looked in my direction. Not exactly like she was looking at me, but like she’d heard a noise and was trying to find out who made it.

“It’s really late. You should put the knife away and go to bed. You’re working tomorrow, remember?”

Her eye twitched.

Daddy groaned in his sleep.

Wake up, Daddy.

He snored instead, and Mama’s head jerked at the sound. Ignoring me, she took three steps across the carpet.
“MAMA!” I screamed and knocked a vase from the end table, whacking it into the corner of the brick fireplace, where it shattered into a million little green pottery pieces.

“Dan?” Mama glanced down at Daddy, asleep on the couch. Then she saw me and the broken vase.

“EJ! How could you? That was my mother’s. What were you doing?” She started to kneel down, but I pointed to her hand.

“Don’t you want to put that away first?”

Her eyes shifted down, and she gasped at the sight of the knife.

“I don’t…” She stared at me, maybe hoping I could fill her in on what just happened. Yeah, right. She’d never believe me, and she still had a weapon.

“It’s OK, Mama. I’ll clean this up. Just put the knife away. Please?”

Her eyes moved from me to Daddy and back again. She backed out of the room, whispering to herself.

I cleaned up the vase, picking green slivers of pottery from the carpet so Bailey wouldn’t cut his feet in the morning. I hated to break Grandma’s vase, and Mama was going to be way angrier at me tomorrow when she remembered all of this.

Or maybe she wouldn’t remember a thing, I thought, as I heard her crying in the kitchen.

“What’s happening to me?”

If only you knew, Mama. If only you knew.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Who doesn't need a monster on Monday? A little excerpt from The Man on Little Creek Drive...

She sat on a wrought iron chair outside the art gallery, a steaming cup of coffee in one hand. The sounds of jazz spilled out from the white stone building. The opening had been a huge success – as she peered inside, she could see her assistant beaming as he counted the paintings sold.

“Excuse me, Amy?” A man walked out of the gallery, right behind her. She turned, and so did he, leaving her with a glimpse of curling black hair slipping from a ponytail and an expensive-looking suit. As he ducked away, Amy caught a flash of sharp white teeth.

“Yes,” Amy answered, slightly irritated by the interruption.

“May I join you for just a moment?”

Amy nodded.

The mystery man pointed toward the gallery. “You arranged this show?”

Amy felt her face flush. “Yes I did. Did you like it?”

The man laughed. “Like? I loved it. I could hardly tear myself away.”

“In that case, let me introduce you to the artist,” Amy started to stand, but the man averted his face again and gestured for her to take her seat.

“Oh,” she gulped, confused by his furtiveness, “I just thought you might like to meet the person responsible, since you enjoyed it so much.”

The man shook his head, and a few more stray strands of hair came loose, falling over snow-pale skin. “I’m not interested in the artist. I came here to admire your work. The skill and the work you poured into arranging this – it’s obvious how gifted you are. Every little detail was perfection.”

Amy was flattered, but a little thrown by the compliment. Was she good at her job? She couldn’t remember. She used to be good at doing things. People told her so, didn’t they?

The man circled around behind her, murmuring, “You should be complimented all the time, Amy. You were so smart, so clever. Talent like yours shouldn’t be wasted.”

Amy peered at him, and stepped closer. “Who are you? And what do you mean, wasted? Do we know each other?”

The man deftly stepped to the side and began to walk away. But not before Amy reached out, grabbing the soft fabric of his suit jacket. He stopped and turned partially, a pointy white chin and straight nose visible in profile. Then he twisted his head further, his neck swiveling in a movement that looked almost unnatural, and just for a moment, he raised his eyes.

They were red, almost glowing through the tangled strands of black hair falling across his face.

Like headlights in a dark forest.

“Oh, I know you, Amy.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Haikus from Corporate America. Because it's Tuesday...

I am so sleepy
Power Point makes my eyes bleed
Oh snap – clip part porn!

My email just crashed
But my internet still works
Hmmm, what’s on Twitter?

My email still down
Oooh, who viewed me on Linkedin?
Mom – stop stalking me

My boss is angry
She is yelling on the phone
But – phew - not at me

Conference calls suck
They make me suicidal
What are we talking about?

I have a deadline
But Pinterest sent me Brad Pitt
They know me so well

I missed my deadline
But I need to check Twitter
Oops, missed it again

Deadline is so screwed
But a Duggar is engaged
Quit distracting me!

Deadline was last week
But LiLo is on Oprah
Am I not human?

This form is boring
Ten bucks nobody reads it
Filled out in Chinese

Turns out I was wrong
Newsletter team not amused
My Mandarin sucks

Thank God it’s Friday
Wait, what? It’s only Thursday?
Well-played, God. Well-played

Call at 3 o’clock
Right now it’s 2:42
Plotting my escape…

I may not like you
But if your kid’s a girl scout?
Yeah, I’ll take thin mints

I talk in questions?
So you? Don’t Know? What I mean?
And nothing? Gets done?

Oh! There’s that weird guy
The one who roams the hallways
His stealth intrigues me

The weird guy is back
He stalks the marketing girl
They speak of yogurt

He looks exotic
I will call him Eskimo
And I will track him

Eskimo walks again
He looks kind of hungover
Does he drink at work?

Eskimo came by
Turns out he does drink at work
And now? So do I

Saturday, April 19, 2014

So this isn't Easterish at all, but after wiping key lime pie filling from my hair, I needed a break from the holiday prep. Here's a little something from a book I'm working on...

Amy filled the coffee maker for the next morning and swiped the kitchen counters with a damp rag. She looked around the kitchen one last time before turning off the light. “You coming to bed?” She poked her head into the den, where her husband sat on the couch, hunched over a laptop computer.

Dan shook his head. “Gotta finish this report for tomorrow’s meeting.”
Amy walked over to her husband and kissed the short graying hair on the top of his head. “Sounds fun. I’m subbing at Bailey’s school again, so we’ll be up early. ‘Night.”

“Good night,” Dan replied without looking up.

Amy walked down the hall, stopping at her children’s bedroom. She tiptoed inside, picking up stray Matchbox cars from the floor and dropping them into a plastic crate. She bent over EJ and kissed her forehead. Then she bent over Bailey and went to tug the blanket back over his legs, when something hard poked her in the leg.

“What the –” she whispered, staring at a large gray plastic baseball bat Bailey clutched tightly in his hand. The bat stuck out at angle; almost, Amy thought, as if Bailey had intended for it to strike anyone who leaned in close to his bed.

She tried to tug it out of Bailey’s grasp, but his fingers curled even more tightly around the handle. She sighed and pulled the blanket over both her son and the baseball bat, before giving him a quick peck on the forehead.“Sleep tight,” she whispered, then walked back out of the room and closed the door.

Twenty minutes later, Amy was asleep in her own bed, a paperback novel abandoned across her chest.

In the den, Dan turned off his computer, rubbed his eyes and leaned back against the couch. He switched off the lamp and told himself to get up and go to bed, but the couch was so comfortable.

The sun-and-moon clock in EJ and Bailey’s bedroom ticked loudly and slowly into place at twelve ‘o’clock. Outside, a heavy cloud bank drifted over the moon, covering up its yellow light. Inside, the bedroom was silent and dark.

CLICK. The closet door slowly opened.

CLICK. Something shadowy stepped out of the closet.

CLICK. The shadow moved across the bedroom, pausing at Bailey’s bed.

The bedroom door handle began to turn.

From the inside.


Bailey shot up out of bed, and saw the sliver of a tall, dark shadow on the threshold of the door. He opened his mouth, and screamed, “MONSTER!”

The shadow whisked past him so quickly he could see nothing more than blackness as he waved his baseball bat around. Footsteps sounded down the hall as Amy and Dan, running from opposite directions, headed to the bedroom. Just before they reached the room and his sister woke up, Bailey sat alone on his bed and watched in horror as the closet door closed all by itself.


After an hour, Bailey was finally asleep again, his parents having thoroughly searched the closet to prove that no imaginary creatures lurked inside. Amy tiptoed away from his bedside, and returned to her own bed.

“Monsters,” she murmured to herself as she pulled the quilt over her shoulders. Right now the only thing scaring her was the prospect of waking up in a few hours, and she slipped quickly into sleep as her head met the pillow.

“Amy?” A quiet, masculine voice called her name. Amy stirred and sat up in bed. She could feel the presence of someone close by, but she couldn’t see anyone.

“Who’s there?” She peered into the shadows. A faint earthy scent drifted beneath her nose, and the air seemed to shift as if the person who spoke had moved closer.

“A friend,” the voice said again.

“What friend?” Amy knew she must be dreaming, because she wasn’t the least bit afraid, only curious. “This isn’t real, is it?”

“Do you want it to be?”

“What do you mean?” Amy pulled her knees up to her chest and looked from side to side.

Then she saw him.

At the foot of the bed sat a man. His back was toward her, his face toward the door. A tangle of chin-length hair grazed his neck, but beyond that she couldn’t make out much else.

“Why are you looking away from me?” she asked, tilting her head for a better view.

Jerking his head, he let out a low laugh, and Amy caught the faintest glimpse of a pale chin and sharp, white teeth. “Because I don’t want you to see me yet.”

“Oh? Are you hiding something?”

“Maybe. Are you, Amy?” he asked, and the lilt in his voice when he said her name sent a flash of heat across her face. “Are you happy?”

“That’s an odd question,” she replied. “I mean … it’s the middle of the night, who’s happy to be woken up?”

“Thank you.”

She sensed a change, and leaned forward. “Thank you for what? That wasn’t an answer. Of course I’m happy. I’m fine. Or I will be as soon as you turn around –it’s very disconcerting to talk to someone’s back.”

He shook his head. “Are you sure you want to see me? Because once you do, you might be sorry.”

Nervous laughter filled the quiet room. “Well, how bad could you be?”

At the sound of her laughter, he slowly turned his head, hair waving slightly as his chin turned to the side. He swept his arm across the length of the bedcovers and a shaft of moonlight pooled through the window, falling across his hand. It was filthy, splotched with mud, the nails black-encrusted.

She scooted backward, as a chill crept across her arms.

“Who are you, really?”

The dirty, long fingers stroked the fabric of the quilt as he loomed closer, his face still hidden. The odor of something rotten seeped from his skin. “I’m the man of your dreams.”

Amy opened her mouth to scream, but he held up his hand, silencing her. “Shhh. Don’t be afraid. Go back to sleep, Amy. And dream.”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Oscar Menu

It’s almost here; the evening when I sit glued to the television ogling glittering gowns while wearing yoga pants and a Cubs’ t-shirt. Yes, the glamour, the glitz, the glory of Matthew McConaughey in a tuxedo (shirtless, please? “It’d be a whole cooler if you did.”)

It can only be … The Oscars.

Each Academy Awards season, I try to concoct a meal based on the Best Picture nominees. This year, I said I wasn’t going to – too busy, scrambling to finish the manuscript for another novel and wiped out from work/kids/the looming threat of a dog everyone in my family keeps lobbying for … I had all the excuses ready and I just said not this year.

I lied. Credit goes to my husband, who despite LOATHING award shows was appalled when I declared 2014 to be the year I didn’t make my Oscar meal. Declaring, “If I’m going to sit through your stupid 3 hour show, we’re not half-assing it,” he then proceeded to download Nebraska from Netflix and proposed his own Oscar menu:

Captain Phillips: Fish sticks from Long John Silvers
Dallas Buyers Club: steak
Nebraska: corn on the cob
Gravity: Pop rocks
Philomena: English biscuits
12 Years a Slave: “cotton” candy
American Hustle: a wig
Her: blowup doll
The Wolf of Wall Street: fried wolf

I had to admire his ingenuity, but Long John Silvers for the Oscars? Not on my watch, pal. Not to mention the difficulty of obtaining fresh wolf meat in Dallas this time of year. Sure, we could probably pick up a blow-up doll and a wig off Central Expressway, but I’m certainly not dining with one. Though it does have a certain Wolf of Wall Street ring of excess. . .

So, having decided against rubber dinner companions or semi-frozen seafood, I had no choice but to come up with my own Oscar menu. Admittedly, it includes a lot more components I don’t actually have to cook – which I feel is a fitting nod to JLaw’s domestic skills in American Hustle.

Without further ado, may I present the 2014 Oscar Menu:

Champagne (Wolf of Wall Street)
Samosas (Captain Phillips)
Irish cheddar (Philomena)

Salad with Dorothy Lynch dressing (Nebraska)
Garlic bread (American Hustle)
Pizza (Her)
Llano Estacado TX cabernet (Dallas Buyers Club)

Moon pies (Gravity) & blackberries (12 Years a Slave)

Bon appetit - and keep your fingers crossed for good ol' Matthew Sunday night -- because wouldn't it be awesome if 2 years in a row, the Academy Awards went to guys who got their start in Dazed & Confused?

"You just gotta keep livin' man, L-I-V-I-N."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Yesterday morning at 7:53 a.m., I received an email from Ashley Madison.

The subject line read as follows:
Life is short. Have an affair.

Whoa, y’all. Buy a girl some Starbucks first. After I stopped laughing, I did a little research. For those of you who don’t know, Ashley Madison is a website for people who want to have affairs… but I guess, lack the time or the right contacts to make that happen on their own?

Is that a thing now? Are we so lazy and impersonal as a society we can’t even find people in real life to cheat with? Back when Grandma was a girl, they didn’t have websites. They had the milkman.

And who came up with the name? It sounds like a furniture store. Maybe that’s the point – so spouses don’t see those emails and suspect a steamy rendezvous; they just think you’re just buying a new ottoman.

There were so many things about this email that brought up questions I never knew I had, like how did I get on that email list? Usually when you get on the list for something, it’s through something you purchased or signed up for. So that really got me thinking. Was it the lime green personal organizer I recently purchased on Amazon that revealed an as yet-untapped proclivity for looser morals? Or maybe it was the array of summer sausage I recently purchased from Bavaria Smokehouse. (Feel free to insert your own meat joke here). The last thing I signed up for was the homeowner’s association, and I’m pretty sure if our ‘hood was a hotbed of swingers, the dues would be more than $50.

And what’s with the early roll call, Ash Mad? Is 7:53 am the prime time people make the choice to cheat? Like 11:15 is too close to lunch, and after 8pm people are too busy watching Mad Men? Me, I’d need some coffee before entertaining thoughts of adultery.

Then I opened the email. And laughed even more.

How can a company organize an entire site devoted to illicit relationships, yet not figure out how to send emails that actually work? Here’s what I saw: two broken links. That’s it. Can you imagine the letdown from someone who was actually thrilled to get this email, and possibly would have been swayed into a new lifestyle of cheap motel rooms and late night sexting? (Or whatever it is the kids, ahem, grownups, today are doing).

Heads up, Cheaters: Learn HTML.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

DISCLAIMER: This has zero to do with my book, New Orleans, flesh-eating scavengers or anything remotely supernatural. This is the result of me sitting through a particularly nonriveting meeting last week at work. But rest assured, there's suspense and a certain degree of horror. Because conference calls? Pretty scary stuff.

The following is a transcript of a monthly team meeting. The team in Texas is gathered in one conference room, speaking via Webex call to the team in Chicago.

Lisa (on the phone): Blah, blah, blah (introduces meeting). So you need to enter the PDR in the GPS Blue and ACA and DOA …and a bunch of other acronyms everyone pretends to understand.

Random lady in orange sweater sitting in the back of the room: PDR? What’s PDR? Who said that?

Laura: (leaning over table to address Random lady in orange): We’re on mute; they can’t hear you.

Random lady in orange: I’m taking notes for someone, I need to know.

Laura: (sighs, unmutes speaker)

Random lady in orange: What’s PDR?

Laura(muttering): they can’t hear you if you are talking from the back of the room. You need to sit near a speaker.

Random lady in orange: (shouting) WHO SAID THAT? WHAT’S PDR?

Someone on the other end of the phone: random shuffling of papers, no one answer RLIO, who furrows brow.

Elisabeth: blah, blah, blah (talks about entering timesheets)


Elisabeth: (surprised) Spells name.


Laura: (shaking her head): Yes. It was a ‘U’.

Mary: Blah, blah, blah (talks about coding time and expenses).


Mary (wearily): A ‘Z’ code.


Mary: (looking across the room at RLIO, who is sitting roughly twenty feet away): B-A-T


Half the people in the room: try not to make eye contact so as to not laugh and incur wrath of RLIO.


Laura: (gritting teeth) E. It’s an ‘E.’

Mary: So when you enter a P code, please don’t forget your Z code, blah, blah, blah


Mary: (pretends not to hear, stares at the table)

Lisa: Think it’s time to sign off. Thanks everyone.


We never did learn the difference between a P code or a Z code, or the true identity of the mysterious RLIO, but rumor has it she works on the web team.

And her contract just expired.

And it isn’t being renewed.

But if I meet her again, I’d like to express my gratitude for her determination and relentless refusal to let her questions go unanswered, even if it meant yelling in the middle of a meeting no one’s really sure she should have been attending in the first place.

Because thanks to her? I can spell everyone’s name.