Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Short Fiction: Prince Charming

My cousin Mariah and I share the same birthday. A month before we both turn 30, she rings me up and says we should celebrate. I hesitate. What does she mean by celebrate? Our lives are so different from one another. Mariah is an entrepreneur of some sort, married to a real estate developer with beaucoup bucks. I think she owns an exclusive dress shop on Rodeo. I don’t know who I am—just an unmarried paralegal with dreams of going to medical school.

“Fly out to L.A.” she says.

“Well, I don’t know if I can.”

“You can. I already bought you a ticket. I’ll email you the confirmation.”

“But . . .”

“No buts. The only thing you have to worry about is a nice dress for a spectacular evening out. I’m sure you can find something in my shop.”

“I’m stunned,” I say.



“You will be when I introduce you to this fantastic guy. He owns casinos, hotels, and . . .”

“Don’t,” I reply. “Prince Charming never works out.” I doubt we have the same idea of charming.

Mariah tosses her long blond locks and laughs. “It will be a small group of friends. We will be celebrating on Donnie’s yacht. You’re going to love this guy.”

I almost say it sounds like you love this guy, but I don’t. My cousin means well.

And so a month later I find myself on Donnie’s yacht with Mariah, her husband Mike, and a small group of their friends. We’re sailing to Catalina. The music is playing a little too loud and the champagne is flowing. I feel a little queasy and ask the bartender for scotch. I can’t stand the champagne bubbles bursting up my nose. I’m dressed in a sleek black dress. I have to admit it’s a nice dress, but it was way beyond my budget. Still it makes me feel as neat as the scotch in my glass. I’ve pulled by blond hair back into a chignon and the only jewelry I have is a pair of bangle earrings and my grandmother’s platinum cocktail ring set with a large pink topaz. This is as good as I get.

I glance out at the beauty of the ocean and then back at the cluster of people dressed for an elegant dinner party. I try my best to participate in the conversation. Clearly, I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd. They look expensive, they talk money, and they must spend it faster than they can talk. God, I’m such a bumpkin and a poor one at that. I know what my cousin Mariah is thinking--if I was half smart, I’d be figuring out how I could get my hooks into this Donnie fellow that she’s been raving about.

A few couples are dancing, but most are sitting around and sipping champagne and talking about their important jobs, their investments, politics, travel, and religion. Although most are young professionals (and you would think they might be liberal), I’m guessing there are a few conservative Republicans in this group because they talk disparagingly of welfare moms, illegal immigrants, and lazy unemployed people. I resolve to keep my mouth shut, but the scotch is beginning to erode my carefully composed demeanor.

Donnie offers a toast to us birthday girls and gives me a sly wink as everyone clinks glasses. He thinks he’s irresistible. I smile as sweetly as I can. Mariah flashes a big toothy grin at me—teeth so white and perfect that I catch myself wondering how much that mouth cost.

Donnie likes to talk about himself a lot. Every so often he glances over as if to assess the effect of his performance. He has opinions about everything and his is the only opinion that matters. I expect if you disagreed with him, he might throw you overboard. He’s got to be 40 or so, not that that matters, but right now I’d settle for an uncomplicated boy with no pretensions to greatness. My eyes wander to the cute bartender. He catches me looking at him and I quickly glance away.

“So Miss Shawna,” Donnie says with a sigh as he settles on the seat next to me. “Tell me a little about yourself. You’ve been sitting here looking all quiet and mysterious. I mean, that always works on me, but Mariah tells me you are a fascinating girl.”

“Really?” I manage a cynical huff. “I’m pretty simple. “

“You’re beautiful.” His eyes look me up and down. “As beautiful as any of the actresses and models I know. If you need an entrée, I know everyone in the business on both coasts.”

I smile and look into his eyes, feeling a little nauseous. This is where I’m supposed to bat my lashes, exclaim ‘really?’ and pant with excitement. He’s handsome, but I don’t like him.

“Mariah tells me you work in a law office.”

“Yes, I’m a paralegal for the time being. I’m hoping to go back to school.”

“Law school? I can always use a good lawyer.”

“No, med school.”

“Hmmm.”

“Guess you have no use for doctors, huh?”

He laughs. “No, I’m healthy as a bull.”

We engage in this teeter-totter conversation. He’s trying to charm me. I’m trying to behave myself and conceal my unkind thoughts. I think he’s a little puzzled about why his usual song and dance is not working on me. I don’t know. His ego sucks all the oxygen out of the atmosphere. I am not stupid. I know all these other women here think he’s wonderful. They would understand if he ignored me, but they would not understand why I would like to dismiss him. He’s a boring blast of hot air and what saves him from anonymity is flash and cash. I sneak a look at the bartender. I wonder if he can carry on an intelligent conversation about something other than himself.

Suddenly, a sharp, sickening pain hits my stomach and my scotch and appetizers are propelled out of my mouth. I can’t move to the edge of the boat fast enough. I hang my head over the side and heave uncontrollably. Mariah is at my side offering me a cocktail napkin. I want to die of humiliation. As I raise my head and look back at Donnie, he is wiping off his pant leg and shoe, a look of complete disgust on his face.

When we finally arrive in Catalina, I beg to remain on the boat while Donnie and his guests take the shore boat in for dinner. They leave me lying on a bed below. Once they are gone I come up on deck and find a comfortable place to sit and observe the harbor. The bartender brings me a glass of ginger ale to settle my stomach.

“Thank you. . .”

“Name’s Jim.” He leans against the railing and lights up a cigarette.

“Shawna.”

A comfortable silence settles in around us. We watch the slow descent of the sun. I sip the ginger ale. Then I hear his soft, low chuckle and he turns to look over his shoulder at me. His grin is broad and mischievous.

I understand and roll my eyes. That is how we begin.



4 comments:

  1. Loved this Linda. Sort of would fit into our 'settings' first prompt for WEP. Yolanda and I posted a whole pile of links of where you can submit your ff pieces.

    I enjoyed the wry humour in this and so glad she spewed on his fancy clothes and shoes, lol. Good one. And the mystery of the ending. Love it.

    Denise :-)

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    1. Thank you Denise. I have an upcoming to trip to Alaska that may fit your prompt for WEP.

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  2. Really, Alaska? How wonderful, can't wait to read all about it.
    Yeah, I'm getting caught up, especially on your wonderful stories.
    This one was priceless, don't care for those sort of situations either, I'm not good at pretense. Take me or leave me. Last sentence was perfection.'That is how we begin."

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    1. I'm looking forward to the Alaska trip but I sure hate packing. I am the worst packer. You'd think I was getting ready for heading out on the Oregon trail in a covered wagon.

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