Off the Hook

I’ve been fishing a lot lately.

I’m not good at it, but I go anyway. I decided I wanted to spend more time at our local lake this year, and fishing seemed like a good way to do it. I’ve never been much of a fisher, but when I’ve gone in the past, someone was always around to choose the right bait and set up my pole for me. But this year I’m flying solo. I have no doubt I’m using the wrong lures and tying the wrong knots and even going to the wrong places, but against all odds, every once in a while I actually catch something. I play it cool when it happens, but I admit it makes me happy…very very happy.

Something I realized quite quickly after catching my first fish this year, however, was that I’d never actually unhooked a fish by myself. So as I reeled in the little bass, I began to wonder, “Uh oh…now what?” I pulled him from the water and as he hung from my line, I reached for the hook stuck in his mouth. He jumped of course, so I jumped of course and secretly hoped no one was watching. Then I laid him on the shore, still attached to my line, and crouched down next to him and said, “I’m sorry.” I really did. Very quietly I said, “I’m so sorry. I bet that really hurts. But I’m gonna take the hook out now, okay? Just be still. Be still.” Then I grabbed the hook without actually touching the fish, continuing to tell him over and over that I was sorry and I’d get him back in the water as fast as I could. And you know, he just laid there on his side, breathing calmly, with his big eye looking up at me doubfully: You have no idea what you’re doing, do you? No, I really don’t. I’m sorry.

Thankfully the hook came out fairly quickly. Then I took a deep breath before reaching down and picking him up with both hands to set him gently in the water so he could swim away…far far away.

Then I cast my line again.

You might think I’d have been traumatized by that first “unhooking”. Or you might think I’d be so moved by my own heartfelt apology that I’d vow never to tempt another innocent fish with a hook concealed in something strongly resembling a tiny yummy fish. You might think that, but I cast my line nevertheless. Whizzzz…ploink! And like I said, every once in a while I catch something. Each time I lay the little fish down and whisper soothing words of encouragement as I wriggle the hook out of his mouth to set him free.

But not all the fish are soothed by my apologies and pep talks. Some of them flop around and around and I can’t get a hand on them. The first fish I saw do this actually flopped around so much he managed to unhook himself and flop back into the water without me ever touching him. It was great! But I figured he got lucky and it would probably never happen again. Believe it or not, though, I’ve seen it happen two more times! Out of about 12 catches, three of them jumped around so much that they got themselves free. The other 9 or so I unhooked and set back in the water.

So that got me thinking…

Apparently, we have two choices.
We can fight and fight and fight until we get what we want.
Or we can chill out and let someone help us get what we want.

So which is better?
Independent warrior or easygoing pragmatist?
Depends on the day, I suppose.

I have to say, though, I do appreciate it when those Zen fish agree to lie still on the sand as I hunch over them nervously. Because as I go through that process over and over, I’m getting better at removing hooks. I’m getting better at holding fish without either of us jumping. And I’m getting better at being brave–not that a 9-inch fish is terrifying, but you know what I mean. My point is that if all the fish flopped and flopped and made it back to the water by themselves, I wouldn’t get to learn anything. Granted, my hands would be a lot less stinky, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be as much fun.

I know my independent warrior instinct tends to want to run the show: I can do it; just let me handle it.
But if allowing someone else to lend a hand means they get to learn something or get to practice something or get to be brave about something, maybe stepping back and letting them help isn’t such a bad idea.

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Whizzzz…ploink!

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Making Room for a Little Chaos

I found 20 bucks in my jeans pocket last week.

I love that.

I love reaching into a pocket for some totally unrelated reason and recognizing the papery linen feel of a bill between my fingers. And I love that I can so thoroughly forget about having left any money in there in the first place that it is a complete and joyful surprise when I find it.

Along those same lines, I love that my purse is such a mess that I really have no idea how much money is in there at any given time. I pull into the gas station, put my purse on my lap, and start digging through old receipts, chap stick, eye drops, pens and notepads, pulling out any green bills one at a time… $5… $1… $10… $5… More often than not, an unexpected $20 eventually peeks out from the bottom corner. I could swear I already went through all the 20’s, but somehow there’s still one left.

Then the Universe gives me a little wink.

I don’t know how He sneaks them in there, but I’m certain it’s Him. Good thing I’m not tied to a debit card with strict records of deposits and withdrawals all carefully accounted for…that would ruin all the fun.

It’s taken awhile for me to embrace this modified fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants way of life. I come from a long line of planners who love to create To-Do Lists and follow timelines and organize all the little details that amateur planners would surely forget (bringing matches to light the candles on the cake, for example). Those are my people and that used to be my default setting as well: plan, plan, plan.
But not anymore.

The other day, for example, I was out running errands: gas, dog food, bank, groceries, etc. Early on in the trip I found myself at a stop sign pulled up behind an old green Jeep that looked vaguely familiar. I saw the driver glance in her rearview mirror and catch my eyes looking back at her. She yanked open her car door and jumped out into the empty street as I opened my door and closed in for a hug with this old friend I hadn’t seen in years. We chatted briefly, catching up on the basics, falling back into the easy goofy rapport we’d always had. If a car pulled up behind us, we directed them to go on around as we smiled and waved them through with an enthusiastic “Have a nice day!” Then we’d crack up because we’re dorks…and that’s what dorks do.

Visit with Old Friend wasn’t on my list of errands. I could have stuck to the schedule and avoided those curious, hopeful eyes in the mirror and stayed hidden behind my sunglasses. I could have rationalized that standing in the street was not only dangerous but also inconsiderate. I could have easily skipped the whole thing–and a few years ago I probably would have done just that. But instead, those few minutes spent visiting with her and waving to strangers and laughing out loud in the street turned out to be the highlight of my day…and it was all totally unexpected.

But then the Universe shoots me another wink.
And I suddenly get the feeling that running into her wasn’t a coincidence at all. I have a hunch it took quite a bit of planning–ironically–to pull off that impromptu meeting of one car right behind the other at just the right moment. And after all of that high-level organizing, who am I to ignore it simply to stay on schedule?

So I’m thinking…
…maybe it’s okay if our purse is a bit of a mess…
…and if our To-Do List is written in pencil rather than stone…
…and if we stand in the street to hug old friends and wave to strangers when given the chance.
Maybe it’s okay to save a little room for the Universe to sneak in a few totally unexpected joyful surprises every now and then.

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Based on the wink, I’d say that’s a yes.

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The Princess Who Never Laughed

Walt Disney Productions copyright 1974

When I was little, my grandma got me a subscription to the Disney book club. Every month a white cardboard package would come to her house with MY name on it—I loved that. I’d pull open the perforated strip on the back and reach in to see what new story we’d be adding to our collection. Sometimes they were just shortened versions of Disney classics: Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, Cinderella, etc. But sometimes they were totally new creations: Donald Duck as a detective looking for missing peanuts, Goofy and his wife switching jobs for a day, Mickey Mouse in a remake of Jack and the Beanstalk. Some of the stories I only read once or twice, but some of them I read over and over and over.

One of my favorites was The Princess Who Never Laughed. Goofy was the lead character, working odd jobs at the royal palace but never managing to make it all the way home with whatever wages he’d been paid (a pail of milk, a young piglet, a fine large fish…) On his way home every day he passed by the castle window in which (as the title implies) there sat a princess who never laughed, “she never even smiled.” I remember thinking how beautiful she looked with her orange hair held up in that glamorous net contraption, her jeweled choker necklace that I was dying to try on, and her clear complexion and rosy cheeks made all the more elegant somehow by her refusal to smile. Goofy, of course, was smitten with her and always managed to make a fool of himself right in front of her window as she watched. “But do you think she laughed? NO! She never even smiled.”

Oh how I loved and hated that story! How I wished just once Goofy would pull it together and not be such a clutz. How I wished his critical mother would stop yelling at him, calling him a ninny and a nincompoop. And how I wished the princess wasn’t such a bitch. Well, I didn’t think that exactly, but I did wonder what was wrong with her–why was she so grumpy and why would Goofy care so much about someone who so obviously didn’t give a fig about him?

It was lot for a little kid to sort through, but I think that’s partly why I loved it. Yes, I loved the drawings and the happy ending, but I also loved that the story made me kind of sad. It made me wonder about the characters and what they must be thinking and feeling–why didn’t she ever laugh (or even smile); why did he try so hard even when no one believed in him? Their lives were so mysterious, and I wanted to solve the mystery. So I read it over and over.

Granted, maybe I was just a weird kid who tended to overthink things.

Regardless of the reason, reading those books created a curiosity in me.
They made me want to figure things out.
They made me want to simplify things that were complicated.
They made me want to understand people and what makes them tick.
They made me want to find a way for the sad character to stop being sad and for the ignored character to stop being ignored.
And they created in me a belief that somehow every story eventually makes its way to a happy ending.

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Speaking of endings…

Do you think she laughed?

Are you kidding?
She laughed her ass off!

And they lived happily ever after.

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The Jar of 2020

Last January I saw a post on Facebook that suggested keeping a jar of memories throughout the year. At the end of the year you get to dump out the jar and read through and remember all the great things that happened. I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution person, but I liked this idea. There was no set structure that said I had to put something in the jar every day or every week. There were no restrictions on what could go in the jar–it didn’t have to be big amazing “bucket list” things; it could be everyday things (all the better, in fact). So I thought, What the heck, I’m in.

I found a mason jar in the cupboard and set it on the little island in my kitchen so I’d be sure to see it all the time. After the first couple of weeks, I already had a nice little pile of scraps covering the bottom of the jar. I have no idea right now what was on those scraps because I’m trying very hard to not peek in there before the end of the year. I do remember feeling happy when I dropped the papers in, though. I was happy that something happy had happened and that I would get to remember it again in just a few months.

Then 2020 became 2020.
The instructions came for us to shelter at home and work from home and avoid friends and family. Basically, don’t go anywhere or do anything or see anyone. Ugh.

My jar had a nice-sized heap of mismatched snips of paper in it by that time. The project was going well and I hadn’t abandoned it yet, which felt like a win in itself; but now it seemed like it might all come to a halt. With nothing “fun” to do and without anyone “fun” to hang out with, maybe the jar was as full as it was going to get.

Guess again.

The picture in this post is from yesterday–Thanksgiving Day 2020–and it doesn’t even include the paper that went in there at the end of that day. I swear I did not cram random scraps of paper in the jar just to make it look more full. Every one of those pieces contains a real-live something worth noting, something for which I want to remember to be grateful. I can’t tell you right now what is on every piece, but I can tell you that I do know not every piece contains something joyful–it’s definitely not all wine and roses in there. But even the not-joyful pieces are things that I know mattered. They are things that I will want to be able to look back on and see that I (we) did, indeed, survive.

I have to say, I kind of love that jar. I love that it’s a bit of a mess: the papers are not the same size, they’re not the same color, some are printed, some are scribbled, and–as you can see–they are not neatly arranged…at all. I also love that at this moment, just heading into December, even before the Christmas season, the jar is full. The picture doesn’t do it justice. There is still some room on the very top, but the middle section is absolutely packed; I have to forcefully wedge new papers down in there, and I LOVE that! I love that, even in a year like 2020, the jar is full. And with another month to go, I guarantee the jar will actually be overflowing by December 31st. And I love that most of the things on those scraps of paper are probably fairly trivial–there is definitely not one that says, “Won the lottery today!” But I’m pretty sure there are one or two that mention a beautiful day with blue skies and perfect weather. Even in 2020.

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Even in 2020.
May your jar be full.

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The B on His Back

My neighbor on the corner has a B on his back. It’s a thick navy blue outline tattooed in a chunky kind of font like you might see on a baseball cap. To clarify, when I say he has a B on his back, I mean his entire back, from the top of his shoulders to just below the belt line as well as the full width from left to right. Believe me when I say that it is not possible for that B to take up any more space on that torso.

Needless to say, I’m fascinated by it. I’ve looked online to try to identify the sports team that may have inspired such a bold show of support, but I have yet to match the font and color to any well-known logos. I suppose it’s possible that he just really loves the letter B; a lot of good things do start with it: baseball, beer, birthdays, Betty White, for example. And it makes me wonder which letter I would choose if I had to pick one. I’m leaning toward E or maybe K, although I’ve always found a lowercase m kind of fun for some reason.

It’s not the letter itself that puzzles me about my neighbor’s tattoo, it’s the sheer magnitude of it. I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve even taken a tape measure to my own upper body in order to better estimate the B‘s dimensions, which I’ve concluded to (easily) be 2 feet high by 1 1/2 feet wide. Like I said, it’s a big B.

Lucky for me, my neighbor spent much of the summer standing around smoking cigarettes in his front yard with his shirt off, so I had plenty of opportunities to examine the B as I walked by with my dog for our evening stroll. I have to say, it made me smile every time…every time. Because it led me to wonder how that conversation went…

(door opens, jingle bell sounds, burly guy with long mustache and ponytail looks up from a cluttered countertop)
Tattoo Guy (TG): What can I do for you, buddy?
My Neighbor (MN): I want a giant B on my back.
TG: Excuse me?
MN: I said a B. On my back. I want a giant B on my back.
TG: Uh…okay. You mean like a bumblebee?
MN: What do I look like, a little girl? No, not a BUMBLEbee. A LETTER B. A big one.
TG: Oh, I got you. So…like on your shoulder?
MN: Man, are you even listening to me? I said I want a B on my back. My WHOLE back. You got it?
TG: Yeah, I got it. Well, that’s gonna take some time, dude. And some dough.
MN: Hmm…well, what if you just do the outline? If I get a buyer for my boat, I’ll come back and you can fill it in.
TG: Yeah. Okay.

And so it began.
My neighbor probably looked through the tattoo guy’s binder, found his perfect B, pointed excitedly and said, “That’s the one.” Then he stretched out on a table or sat in some kind of backwards chair so the tattoo guy could draw the outline in marker before inking it in for good.

MN: It doesn’t feel like you’re making it very big. I said big, remember?
TG: It’s covering your whole ribs, man.
MN: Bigger.
(tattoo guy wipes damp cloth across back, starts again)
MN: Bigger.
TG: Man, there ain’t room to make it bigger. I’d have to go up to your shoulders and almost down to your butt.
MN: So do it.
And he did.

And I wonder if my neighbor was happy at the end. After hours on the table (or backwards chair), I’m guessing he got up and looked over his shoulder into the mirror to see the outline of his enormous navy blue B. And I’m guessing he smiled, satisfied that his vision was at last a reality. There may have even been a fist pump and growly declaration: “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

I hope so anyway.
Even though I don’t get it, I do hope it makes him happy.
Because he’s my neighbor…and a person…and it’s good to be happy.

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“That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

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Clarity Can Be a Bitch Sometimes

Do you ever try to convince yourself something isn’t really what it is?
-These pants aren’t really that tight.
-This car isn’t really that dirty.
-This ice cream isn’t really that fattening.

After awhile, you get pretty good at it.
-This job isn’t really sucking the life out of me.
-This dream isn’t really that important.
-This disappointment…sigh…isn’t really that disappointing.

And you coast along…
All is well…all is well…
Tra la la…

Then one day: POW! Clarity smacks you right in the kisser.

Me: OUCH! Holy Cow, what did you do that for?
Clarity: Did you see that?
Me: Yeah, I saw.
C: And?
Me: And what?
POW!
Me: DAMMIT! Stop doing that!
C: Did you hear that?
Me: I heard.
C: And?
(pause)
C: (balling up a fist) AND?
And you know you can either get clocked upside the head again or just admit that you see what it is you don’t want to see. Sometimes it’s a pair of jeans you can’t zip up or a windshield coated in filth or a typewritten line indicating grams of fat per serving on a carton of Rocky Road. But sometimes–the more difficult times–Clarity shows you a person.
You finally see the truth in black and white. It’s been true all along, but now you know that you know, and you can’t not know. The truth has absolutely smacked you in the face and there’s no going back. They say ignorance is bliss, and that sounds about right…delightful, in fact.

The initial punch always knocks the wind out of me, which is physically impossible but nonetheless true.

And after the punch comes the wave. The wave of realization: This is not going to change.

And suddenly the disappointment that wasn’t all that disappointing is, indeed, so so disappointing because Clarity is not backing down on this one.

So you grieve the loss…of blissful ignorance…and you prepare to break up with Hope. It’s not as tragic as it sounds actually. Hope may quite possibly have been holding you back with all of its well-intentioned wishful thinking and second chances. But Clarity, in its no-nonsense straightforward way, says, “Enough of that. Let’s move on.” That’s the brutally great thing about Clarity–it has no patience for dawdling. It calls us to action. “No more moping,” it says. “Fresh start. Here we go!”

There’s definitely a love-hate thing that happens when Clarity shows up, but a few tears and cuss words and deep breaths later, you start thinking a fresh start sounds pretty good. Clarity smiles a smirky smile, high fives you and pulls your hand into one of those fist bump-slap-grab things and pauses to look you straight in the eye, “Let’s do this.”

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Let’s do this.

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The Art of Procrastination

calendar
Chris is making me do this.  Ruth is in on it too, but it’s mostly Chris’ fault.  She’s the one who invited me to join the Writer’s Group.  The Writer’s Group.  It sounded so prestigious, so intellectual and exclusive.  I envisioned us sitting out in a rosy courtyard, poring over rough drafts of our future bestsellers, offering praise and constructive criticism with slightly British accents.  Meanwhile, white wine spritzers and finger sandwiches would be served by a handsome college kid in khakis and white polo shirt who was just trying to earn a few extra bucks.  “Keep ‘em coming, Trevor,” we’d call after him as he retreated to the kitchen.  Then we’d giggle and whisper about his cute butt.

Imagine my surprise when I realized there were no accents, no sandwiches, and no cute butts—present company included.  But it is a group and there is writing, so I suppose the name “Writer’s Group” is apropos.  And, as to be expected, there are also deadlines.  Sometimes it’s the first Tuesday of the month or the first Wednesday, although sometimes it gets rescheduled for the following week or the following one or maybe even the one after that if someone needs to take her husband to the doctor or someone else really really needs to go to the beach.  Regardless of where it falls on the calendar, D-day looms.  It hovers overhead, watching my every move and offering unsolicited advice:  “Why are you reading?  You should be writing…Why are you watching TV?  You should be writing…Why are you staring off into space?  You should be writing.”  Ugh, I hate that guy.

I have a lot of experience with procrastinating, so—not to brag or anything—I’m quite good at it.  My ultimate procrastination story was writing a 20-page paper in 12 hours in my last semester of college.  I had done all the research and outlining for it, but I could not make myself sit down and turn any of it into sentences until the night before it was due.  The Catch-22 of it is that I received an “A” on it, which only further proved to me that last-minute efforts were good enough, so why change?

The key, of course, is knowing your limits.  I had a friend in college who (more than once) put off reading a novel until the day before the final.  He would take the book and go into the study room around 10:00pm, fully believing he could make it through all 300 pages and understand every word of it in time for his 8am exam.  By midnight his eyes would start to droop.  He’d stretch out on the floor under the table, lying on his stomach, staring hard into the open paperback.  It was only a matter of time before he was passed out, face down somewhere around page 90.  Poor guy didn’t know his limits.  Rookie mistake.

The other key to successful procrastination is weighing the consequences.  Even though I knew my 20-page paper was a large part of my grade, I also knew I had a good-sized cushion going into it, so I could turn in something pretty mediocre and still squeak by.  However, other things carry greater consequences.  I never procrastinate in paying bills, for example.  I enjoy electricity and water and shelter, so the consequence of not having them is a great motivator for keeping ahead of those due dates.  On the other hand, if I were to show up to the Writer’s Group empty handed, I presume the punishment would be minimal—brief chastisement and an empty threat to cancel my membership, perhaps—amounting to nothing more than a slap on the wrist.  After being told politely to “try to do better next time”, I’d nod meekly and vow not to let it happen again, knowing full well that when I sat down to get a jump on things I’d look at the calendar and see that I still had plenty of time.

Plenty of time…

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Keep ’em coming, Trevor.

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Juuust Right

cottage5

Yoo-Hoo! Anybody home?

I’ve never been a big fan of Goldilocks.  Young, attractive single gal heads out for a solo hike in the forest but neglects to pack any snacks.  Inevitably, her tummy starts to grumble but rather than follow the path back to town where food would be readily available, she ventures deeper into the woods and happens upon a quaint little cottage.  We know, of course, the cottage belongs to a family of bears (although it is unclear as to how they came to own this prime bit of real estate).  We also know there is indeed food inside–delicious porridge hot off the stove as a matter of fact–however, the bears are not home because, ironically, they’re out on a little stroll of their own.

Goldilocks knocks on the door but gets no response.  One assumes she then knocks a little louder and follows it up with a sing-songy, “Yoo-Hoo!  Anybody home?”  Then she waits… Nothing.

This is the point in the story where you or I or any normal person would sigh heavily, acknowledge our mistake in not planning ahead, and turn and walk away.  But not Goldie.  She tries the doorknob and is stoked to find the cottage unlocked.  She walks in, looks around, and sees that someone is obviously living there which means she’s clearly trespassing.  But then she smells the porridge and all bets are off.

From there the story is a bizarre play-by-play of her sampling not only the food but also the furniture in the stranger’s home.  She declares ungratefully in complete sentences that certain porridge servings are too hot or too cold, and seating and sleeping choices are too hard or too soft.  Eventually, she finds some porridge that is just the right temperature, a chair that is just the right fit (which she proceeds to break), and a bed that is just the right firmness in which she makes the foolhardy decision to lie down for a nap.

Shortly after she nods off, the bears return home, eager to dig into their long-awaited porridge.  But, alas! What’s this?  The house has been ransacked!  Baby bear’s porridge is gone and his chair is in pieces.  The bears are understandably upset and set out to find the culprit.  In a sudden plot twist, the porridge-loving bears become scary, growling beasts chasing after a helpless girl.

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A while back I saw this quote:  “Focus on Goldilocks more than the bears.”

And despite my issues with the Goldilocks story, I love that quote.  Even though I think Goldie is a low-grade criminal and the bears get a bad rap, I appreciate that quote.
Because Goldilocks went for it.
She took risks.
She knew what she wanted and she didn’t settle for anything less than what was just right for her, and she didn’t let the possibility of big, scary, growling things slow her down.

Focus on that, says the quote.  Set your sights on what you really want, not just on what’s safe and available.  Don’t let fear keep you from your just right.

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Granted, you could be eaten by a family of a non-porridge-loving bears, so take that with a grain of salt.

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Flirting with Disaster, part 2

margarita2
Just wanted to clarify that Flirting with Disaster is not gender specific…

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He watches her walk in and take a seat at the end of the bar.  Dark hair, dark eyes, full lips that aren’t smiling, but he’ll see about that.

He slides onto the stool beside her.  “Can I buy you a drink?”

She looks him over and smiles.

It’s a great smile, easy and comfortable and damn sexy, too.

“I’d love a margarita,” she says.

He signals to the bartender.

Moments later, the bartender sets two glasses in front of them.

“Oh,” she says, “can I get a spoon?”

The bartender raises an eyebrow at the guy, then reaches under the counter and hands her a spoon.

“Thanks.”  She stirs the frosty crystals for a full minute then ladles icy cold tequila into her mouth.

“Yum.”

“Happy?”

She swallows another scoop and smacks her lips.  “Very.”

Conversation flows easily.  She’s a personal trainer.  He’s in finance.  She grew up in the neighboring town.  He’s from out of state, moved here for work.  She’s not married.  Neither is he.

“Why don’t we get outta here,” he says an hour later, draining his second glass.

She smiles.

How can a smile be so simultaneously sweet and seductive?

“What did you have in mind?” she asks.

He grins.  “I’m open.”

“That sounds fun,” she says with a wink.  “I just need to be home by midnight so my kids don’t worry.”

“Oh,” he says, trying to hide his surprise, “you have kids?”

“Six.”

“SIX?  You have six kids?  Wow, don’t take this the wrong way, but you certainly don’t look like you have six kids.”

“Ha.  Thanks.  Wanna see a picture?”

“Uh, okay…sure.”

She scrolls through her phone.  “Let me find one with the whole family.”  (scroll…scroll…)  “Here we go.  Here’s my little crew.”  She holds out the phone for him to see.

He leans in for a closer look.

“Those are cats.”

A little laugh.  “Oh, I know, I know, technically, they’re cats, but they’re still my babies.”

“Why are they dressed like cowboys?”

“Oh, it’s just something we do for fun.  They love it.  Well, except for getting their boots on—believe me, that’s no picnic.”

He stares at the photo, hypnotized by six sets of hats, bandannas, and boots in various colors.  Contrary to popular opinion, none of them seem to be loving it.

“This is Mittens,” she says pointing, “and this is Tuesday and this is Princess…”

He checks his watch.

“,,,and this is Shania Twain–ha ha, don’t ask–and this is Butterbean and this little guy right here,” she says, moving her face closer to the screen, “is Mr. Bojangles, but sometimes I call him Mr. Bobo even though he hates it.  Isn’t that right, Mr. Bobo?  Isn’t that right?”

He and the bartender lock eyes.

“Well,” he says, taking two twenties out of his wallet, “I’m gonna go.”

“Oh,” she says, looking up from the screen with her killer smile.  “Are you sure?”

He pauses at the full lips and perfect teeth, the graceful neck, the tone arms, and slender fingers still wrapped around her phone.  Mr. Bojangles stares helplessly from under the brim of his turquoise cowboy hat…Save yourself…

He smiles.  “Positive.”

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Flirting with Disaster

margarita

Flirting with Disaster.  I love the image that saying brings to mind.  Flirting (in a bar on a Friday night) with Disaster (personified).  And I just have to wonder how that scene might play out…

“Can I buy you a drink?” asks the ruggedly handsome, blue-eyed hunk.

She looks him over, hesitates, and decides, What the heck?

“Margarita.”

He signals to the bartender.

They chat over drinks, then over another round and agree to one more.

“Why don’t we get outta here?” he says an hour later, draining his glass.

She smiles to herself, careful to avoid his gaze–she’d always been a sucker for Paul Newman eyes.

“What’d you have in mind?”

He offers a crooked grin in response.

“I just thought maybe…” (reaching into his jacket pocket) “we could…” (setting two pairs of scissors on the bar) “go for a jog.”

(pause)

“Excuse me?”

He pushes the orange-handled pair closer to her and picks up the other one, sliding his fingers and thumb into the appropriate slots, all the while smiling a cool, easy smile.  “You heard me, darlin’.”

“So, you’re asking me to…run with scissors?”

He leans in with a husky whisper, “Ever tried it?”

“Well, no.  No, of course not.  It’s dangerous!”

He locks onto her bewildered gaze and replies with another cocky grin, “And?”

Damn those baby blues.

“And…” (smiling coyly, batting her eyelashes) “and can’t you think of anything else you’d rather do?”

“Darlin’,” he says, setting down the scissors and picking up his glass to inspect the last bits of ice, “I can think of plenty of things.”  He tips his glass and shakes a half-melted cube into his mouth.

She smiles ever so slightly in an attempt to play it cool.  “Such as?”

“Such as,” (crunching ice, swallowing) “how do you feel about chain saws?”

“I’m sorry…did you say chain saws?”

“Got one in my truck.  And a ladder, too, an old rickety one.  We could fire up the Husqvarna and just see where the night takes us.  How does that sound?”

(pause)

“Uh…crazy.  That sounds crazy.”

“Exactly.  And after that, we could set off fireworks out in the dry field on the edge of town–I got a great deal from a guy selling them out of his van last month.”

It’s then that she notices his shirt; it’s missing a button–several, in fact.
And there’s a jagged scar just above the collar.
And a patch of poison oak on his ear…and twigs in his hair…and–Holy cow!  Is that blood?
Upon closer inspection, she realizes the cocky grin may actually be the result of a jaw that’s been reset one too many times.
Then, finally, even the eyes betray him.  (How did she not see it before?)  One of them isn’t really tracking with her…because it’s glass.  Damn those baby blues…well, the left one anyway.

She reaches into her purse and sets two twenties on the bar.  “I’m gonna go.”

He flashes a Cheshire cat grin with a bit of urgency behind it.  “You sure about that, darlin’?”

Black gaps echo where two molars and a canine should be.

“Positive.”

.

.

.

Damn those baby blues.

.