I’m on my way out the door, this time for a book event in Sherwood Park, Alberta, but I’ve also been busy this past while, because I managed to get myself involved in our local election.
It’s been a lot of running around, tearing your hair out kind of fun — but I haven’t had time to write a word — including keeping up with posting here. And there have been a couple of things.
One — I sold my first novel! “Seeing the Light” will be published by Tyche Books, and will be available in November, 2014. I am unbelievably excited, and thankful to Margaret Curelas for taking a chance on good old Farley Hewitt and perky little Marie Jenner. It’s going to be fun!
Two — I have a voting story I want to share with you! This one was originally written for the 10th Circle Project, and is about a married couple deciding on the candidate’s sign to be placed on their front lawn. (This election was for the Chief of Police, but I figure, close enough!) Hope you enjoy, and happy election!
“There are four candidates for Chief of Police,” Albert said, leaning back in his kitchen chair and undoing the button on his pants as Claire cleared the table. “What sign should go on our lawn?”
Claire sighed. “I haven’t had a chance to read much about any of them,” she lied. She’d been poring over the newspaper since the election had been announced, and knew exactly who she was going to vote for, but she really did want to get the dishes done before they discussed the lawn sign issue. She debated better with a clean kitchen.
Albert pushed himself up from the table. “Let me help you.”
It was sweet of him to offer. She smiled and they set to. In under an hour the kitchen was spotless and a fresh pot of tea sat between them on the table.
“Don’t forget to take off your eye glasses,” she said. “You just got them a couple of months ago and they cost a lot.”
“Well, don’t you forget to take off your ring,” he replied, setting his glasses in the middle of the table, next to the tea pot. “I still have a scar from the last time.”
“You didn’t get that scar from my ring,” she said. She pulled her big diamond ring, the one he’d given her for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, from her finger, placing it in a small glass jar next to the kitchen sink. “That was from the table leg, and you know it.”
“From the election last year?” he said. “No. I’m certain that was from your ring.”
She held up her hands. “Doesn’t matter. It’s gone. No rings except for the band. And I can’t hurt you with that.” She kicked off her shoes and pointed down at his feet. “Take them off.”
“I’m only wearing slippers,” he said.
“I don’t care,” she replied. “No shoes, or no discussion.”
“Fine,” he sighed. He pulled his slippers from his feet and tossed them under a chair by the wall. “Are we ready?”
“I believe we are,” Claire said. “And since you helped with the kitchen, I’ll let you start. Whose sign do you think should go in our front yard?”
“I’ve been looking the candidates over,” Albert said. He proffered the teapot to her, and when she nodded, he poured her a cup, and then himself. “And I don’t think either of those lady candidates would be good at all.”
“Lady candidates?” she asked, stressing the word lady so hard that Albert had the decency to look embarrassed. He stared down into his tea.
“I don’t think they have what it takes,” he said. “I think that Clairesholm fella just might be the ticket this time.”
“Oh, not him,” she replied, stirring a little sugar into her tea and tasting it. It tasted good. “He’s a nobody. The police won’t listen to him. You know that.”
Albert laughed. “I thought you said you hadn’t done any research.”
“Well, maybe a little,” she replied. “But Clairesholm? Who is he, really? A bus driver or something? What does he know about keeping criminals off the streets or the police in line?”
“He was a soldier before he was a bus driver, Claire. He knows a thing or two about discipline and honor. That’s gotta count for something.”
“I suppose,” Claire replied. She’d forgotten Clairesholm had been a soldier. But that still didn’t bring him up much in her eyes. Soldiers followed orders and this city needed someone who knew how to give them.
“There’s only one candidate worth talking about,” she said. “And it’s definitely not Thomas Clairesholm.”
“Let me guess,” Albert said. “Genovese.” He clucked his tongue. “I think you have a crush on the man, or something. You know he’s a terrorist, don’t you?”
“A terrorist?” She scoffed and stood, putting her tea cup on the side counter. She didn’t want it to be broken. It had been her great aunt’s. She left the tea pot on the table, though. She’d never liked that tea pot. “You think Genovese is a terrorist? He was our mayor for fifteen years!”
“And look at what he did to our city,” Albert replied. He moved his tea cup and his eye glasses over on the side counter next to hers, and then, to Claire’s chagrin, moved the tea pot, too. “He nearly destroyed it.”
“He did not,” Claire replied. She felt her anger well up. Even though she didn’t want Genovese as Chief of Police, she didn’t think he’d done a terrible job as mayor, no matter what the media bleated about him. She took a cleansing breath and tried to tamp it down. Anger had no place in this discussion.
She swept the spoons to the floor, enjoying the silvery clang clang they made as they rattled to rest under the chair next to Albert’s slippers. “If we’re going to blame anyone for the state of our city, we don’t have to look any further than Edith Pace.”
“You shouldn’t speak ill of the dead,” Albert snapped.
“Fine,” she said. “Tell me what she did that was so right.”
“The best thing she did was –” Albert started, then chuckled. “No, I don’t suppose you’d think that was the best thing she did,” he said.
“You mean arresting Genovese?” Claire asked. “You’re right about that. It was very heavy handed of her.”
Albert’s eyes hardened and focused on her.
“What are you staring at?” she asked. She took the creamer and threw it to the floor. It smashed, and the cat ran up, frantically licking cream until Albert scooped it up and locked it in the back bedroom.
“Claire you know Dizzy’s crazy for milk,” he said. “The shards of glass could really hurt her!”
“Sorry,” she replied.
“Heavy handed?” he asked. “Did I hear you say heavy handed? How should she have handled it?”
“I just thought she could have dealt with the situation differently. The perp walk and all that. Completely uncalled for.”
“She had to show she had him under arrest. Didn’t she?”
“My God woman, he almost brought us to war!”
“Oh, I don’t think we were as close to war as that,” she scoffed, but she knew he was right. In ’96 they had been that close to war. She still had the gas masks they’d been given by Hope Emergency hanging in the back hall closet.
“And she was the Chief of Police.”
“How was she supposed to act?”
“She should have handled it more discretely!” she cried. She walked away from the table so she could think clearly. “Just offed him, and then put his head on a pike. On the bridge, or something. All that money wasted on a trial. You know?”
“So you admit Genovese is a terrorist?” Albert asked. He leaned back in his chair, and looked as self satisfied as Dizzy the cat did after she stole food from the table, and Claire suddenly wanted to slap him. Hard. Knock the look off his face.
“Yes!” she cried. “Yes, he is! He should have been killed for what he did, but not paraded around like a dog! The man deserved better than that!” She swung but he dodged her easily.
“So Genovese’s out, and Clairesholm is the logical choice,” he said. He stood, and bounced a few times on the tips of his toes. He also took a swing or two in her direction, his hands loose fists. “You ready to admit it, woman?”
“Clairesholm is a pussy!” she cried. She watched for the inevitable feint to the right and then a quick left. He always led with that. She moved closer to the side counter, then quickly scooped up the tea pot and held it over her head.
“Oh no, Claire,” he said, holding out his hands, “Not the tea pot. Please!”
She stared up at the pot, then sighed and put it back down. Even though she hated the thing, it had been his mother’s.
She scooped up a cheap vase with fake flowers in it that she’d never cared for, and threw it at him. “We are not supporting Clairesholm!”
He leaped out of the way, and the vase shattered on the floor behind him.
“Nice move,” she said.
“Thanks,” he replied, and picked up a novel she’d been reading. A Stephen King. Big, heavy. Dangerous. “Give me one good reason why we shouldn’t support Clairesholm.”
“He’s a soldier, right?” she asked, trying to watch both the book and her husband’s chest. He could use the book as a ruse, and jump her after throwing it. He’d pulled that trick before, in the election of ’07, when they were picking the new Parks and Rec Department head. That skirmish had been short and ugly, and she was still embarrassed about it. Also, her broken baby finger had never healed right.
“Yes, he is a soldier,” he said, waving the book above his head and obviously looking for an opening. “What about it?”
“He didn’t run the army, or anything, did he?”
“No.” Albert’s eyes thinned as he thought. “What of it?”
“We need someone who knows how to run a huge department,” she said. She tried to remember what her wrestling instructor had taught her. Albert still outweighed her by a hundred pounds. “And since Genovese’s –”
“A terrorist,” Albert said, grinning. He lowered the book.
“That’s right,” she said. She set her feet just so, wishing his chair was out of the way. “But Lucy Adolpho has been in a position of power. She was Hope’s Deputy Chief of Police. She knows the job, backward and forward.”
Albert frowned. She’d caught him off guard, mentioning Lucy Adolpho. He put the book down, and flexed his fingers. “I thought you said you didn’t care for the lady candidates,” he said.
“I never said anything about them!” she cried, and launched herself at him. She caught him off guard, and though she did hurt her hip knocking the chair out of the way, when they crashed to the floor, she was on top.
“She’s got the chops,” she whispered into his ear, maneuvering herself so that she had him in a sleeper hold, which was a bit dangerous, but she watched his face. She didn’t want to kill him, only make him tap or say ‘you win’. “And she is definitely not soft on hardened criminals. She would have hung Genovese’s head on the bridge. She said so.”
“But what about the kids?” he squeaked, grappling at her arm, looking for a way in so he could break her hold and take advantage. “Lucy Adolpho thinks kids should be treated differently than adults –”
“Of course they should be treated differently than adults!” Claire cried, wrapping her legs around his waist, and then tightening her arm, giving his throat a little more pressure, too. “They are children!”
“They are criminals!” he replied, unable to escape. She’d have to remember to thank Ralph Gusto, her instructor down at the rec center. This was working ever so well.
“They are also children,” she said. She squeezed with her legs, and thought she felt one of his ribs go. “Their brains need time to develop properly. They can’t do that in jail.”
Albert looked up at her, and she felt a faint pulse of alarm when she saw that a blood vessel had broken in his right eye.
“Give up, Albert,” she said.
“But she looks like a lesbian,” he gargled.
“Really?” she asked. “A lesbian? That’s your big argument against Lucy Adolpho?”
“At least the other one –”
“You mean Peggy McArthur?”
“At least she wears dresses.”
“Oh my God,” Claire said. “You have got to be kidding. We should vote for Peggy McArthur because she wears dresses? Really?”
And then, she made a mistake. She eased the pressure on his throat so she could look him full in the face.
He gasped in a breath, and the purple of his face lessened slightly. “Gotcha,” he said, and grabbed her. He bundled her up and tossed her away from him like he would Dizzy the cat. She hit the coffee table, and cried out when she felt the legs go and both she and the table top crashed to the floor.
She tensed, waiting for him to jump her, but he didn’t, so she scrabbled to her feet and made ready for his attack.
It didn’t come. He was on his hands and knees, wheezing terribly.
“I think you broke a rib,” he said. “Might have punctured my lung.”
“Really?” she asked, not letting her guard down. He’d sucked her in before with the ‘I really think you hurt me this time,’ routine.
“Really,” he said. He put his forehead to the floor and tried to take in a breath. It appeared he couldn’t.
“Tap out,” she said.
“Oh come on, Claire,” he wheezed. “Help me.”
“I’m not phoning the ambulance until you tap out,” she replied. “You know once you’re out of the house, the discussion has to stop until you come back. Just tap out.”
“No,” he said, grimacing. He staggered over to the small table that held the phone. “It can’t be Lucy Adolpho. I don’t think I could bear that.”
“Because she’s a lesbian?”
“See? Even you call her that!”
“Only because you did,” she snapped. “I think she’ll do a good job.”
Albert scrabbled with the small drawer that held the phone book, and Claire frowned. Had she gone too far with the sleeper hold? Was his mind so scrambled he couldn’t even remember the emergency number?
“Are you all right, Albert?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, still scrabbling with something in the drawer. He pulled out his hand, and she saw, shocked, that he held a gun. He moaned as he swung the barrel in her direction.
“Forget Clairesholm, then,” he said. “Just say Peggy McArthur. Please.”
“A gun?” she gasped. “You brought a gun into our house?”
“I had the feeling you were doing something–underhanded,” Albert said, and waved the gun in her direction, even though he looked more like he wished he could lie down. “What was that move you used on me? You’ve never done anything like that before.”
“Remember when I asked you to go to dance lessons with me and you said no?”
“I took a few wrestling lessons.” More than a few, truth be told. And Ralph Gusto had told her what a quick study she was.
“I knew it. I knew you were up to something.”
“But a gun, Albert? A gun?” She watched the end of the barrel wave about, ending up pointing at the middle of their table. She looked up at Albert, and didn’t like his color at all. His face was gray, and oily sweat covered his forehead.
“I think you should sit down,” she said.
“I think you might be right,” he replied. He reached for a chair, groaned again, and dropped the gun on the table.
“Do you really think Lucy Adolpho is the best choice?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “I do.”
He looked at her, then tapped his fingers on the table, twice.
“Give me a hand, that’s a good wife,” he whispered, then fell half-conscious into the chair.
She grabbed the phone and called for an ambulance, then walked over to him and placed her hand gently on his head. “Thank you, dear,” she said. “Are you going to be hurt if I put out the sign myself? I think they’re going to keep you in overnight.”
“No,” he said. “You won fair and square.” He wheezed in a breath, and winced. “I really think you did break a rib.”
“You’ll heal, dear. You’ll heal.”