“TEXAS TOAST” PROLOGUE

stylish angel

Image courtesy of kimbiggio.com

Belton Texas 1958

The little girl’s grey eyes drifted off to the group of Brownies and troop leaders gathered around the cookout area half a football field away. No one so much as glanced in her direction. She knew if she wanted to make her move, she had to seize this moment. With heart racing, she quietly slipped into the aqua blue water and made a bee line for the massive ladder that lead to the hugest slide she had ever seen. Up and up, and still further up she climbed. If this went wrong she was in seriously deep doo doo, as her mom had warned her repeatedly earlier in the day not to venture to this part of the pool, but who could resist this? She paused for a brief moment while she gingerly parked her butt at the top of the scalding metal slide, savoring the delicious whoosh and thrill she knew she would feel on the wild ride down. She sighed as she realized she would have to admit this to Father at confession Friday, but some things are simply worth the price. She inhaled deeply as she pushed away from the sides of the slide and swooped down. My God, this was so worth it!

The adrenaline rush she felt as she hit the water was immediately followed by a sense of something very wrong. Where was the bottom of the pool? She began to sputter and choke in a blind panic as she realized she couldn’t gain the purchase necessary to propel herself back up to the surface of the water. Arms now flailing frantically in an attempt to grab hold of anything that would save her from this awful mess, the little girl realized her mistake and knew she was drowning.

As darkness began to swallow her, she suddenly felt herself being half lifted, half drug to the surface of the water by her armpits, where she was deposited against the rough concrete edge, which she clung to as if her life depended on it. Coughing, gagging, rivers of snot and water gushing from her nose as she gulped for precious air, she swooped her sodden hair from her face and glanced cautiously around to see who had rescued her, fearing it would be her mother, and knowing that a whipping with a belt would inevitably follow.

Instead there was a lady in a swimsuit, tall, quite pretty, with reddish brown hair and the kindest eyes she had ever gazed into. She didn’t know this lady, had never seen her before, in fact. The stranger said nothing, just continued to stare into the little girl’s eyes in the oddest way. The child realized that what she was seeing was utter, total, all-encompassing love. She once again reached up to swipe hair out of her eyes and when she looked, the stranger was gone, nowhere to be seen. The child quickly glanced all around to no avail; she hadn’t even had the chance to thank the lady for saving her life. Where could she have gotten to so quickly? She leapt up from the edge of the pool and began to dart in and out of any place the lady could have gone, restrooms, the concession stands and cabanas, but the little girl was utterly and completely alone. As she scurried past the giant slide that had almost been her downfall, she realized where she had made her mistake. The slide’s ladder started in three feet of water, but the bottom of the slide culminated in the pool’s deepest end.

She hurried over to the Brownie troop where her mom was busy grilling hotdogs for the other girls. She had to enlist her mom’s help in finding the nice lady.

“Katy Shaughnessy, whatever would cause you to make up such a tale as that? Our troop has rented out the pool and grounds for the entire afternoon. It’s closed to the public, and none of us have seen this mystery lady you’re describing. I think what happened is you disobeyed me and went where I told you not to and now you’re making up fibs to get out of a spanking. Well, you better think again, sister.”

Katy sighed deeply; this was what always happened with her mom. She was always accused of making up tales or exaggerating, no matter what. As she bit into the hotdog her mom had handed her, she realized she would never forget the expression on the woman’s face and that she would never stop searching until she saw that look in someone’s eyes again.

This is the prologue from the first novel in a series called Freeze Frame. The series follows the hopefully  hilarious adventures of a group of models in the 1970’s era of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, who go on to form their own modeling agency called Freeze Frame. It follows their misadventures and romances throughout New York and Europe and exposes why no one in their right mind would want their daughters in the fashion biz.

Searching for My Yin Yang #66

In our universe, can yin exist without yang? East without West? Flim without flam? Where, oh where, is my balance?

In the past four weeks, having the house completely to myself, I may have stumbled upon a truth. I think I might have an obsessive personality. I have seen glimpses of it in the past. When I started my cityscapes design business in NYC, and could easily and happily work 18-hour-days and nights. When I first fell in love with cooking and spent hours watching Food Network 24/7, and read nothing except Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines and cookbooks. What probably kept the pendulum from tipping completely over the edge in those circumstances was that I was surrounded by people, people with needs, wants, desires, and expectations. That reels you back from La La Land and forces you to stay grounded. Babies need diapers changed, bathes, and visits in the night. Husbands need time, attention, dinners prepared, and a companion for vacations. Everyday stuff that keeps one from going loop de loop.

Being completely footloose and fancy-free for one month, obligated to no one and no thing, except Pooter and Booger, has allowed me the freedom to do whatever I want when I want it, with my dressing on the side. And all I want to do is immerse myself in writing my novel. I woke up this morning and realized with a jolt that I had failed to post either a Friday OR Tuesday blog, which I’ve been quite religious about for eight months. I just can’t get this balance thing going; it’s like I’m on a teeter-totter where I can only go up but can’t come down. I can choose to reside in Blogville, keep my posts regular, and keep up with my subscriptions and Freshly Pressed, or I can immerse myself in my fiction and do little else.

I have become so fond of my two female characters in “Texas Toast” that I don’t want to leave them behind at night when I turn off my laptop; I don’t want to close the lid on their world. I love these two feisty, tough, tender, karma-challenged, kooky ladies, and apparently can’t exit their universe long enough to tap out a little biweekly blog, for fear my main characters might take offense. For two weeks, a second book idea has been trying to knock at my mind’s door, but I fear giving it my full attention will in some way denigrate my wonderful Annabelle and Katie, diminish them, disrespect them in some subtle way. Conversely, I’m terrified that if I don’t pause and give proper attention to this new idea, it might dart away like a frightened hummingbird, never to be seen again.

Balance, oh balance, where ever art thou? Do any of my fellow bloggers have this issue? It should really be quite easy to separate a blog of daily events and observations written in the first person from a fictional world where you are God and everything you create is under your control. It seems, at least in theory, the simplest thing in the world. Dash off a blog post on Mondays and Thursdays, post it the following morning, and spend the remainder of the week focused on the novel. Since that balancing act seems to be my unique challenge, and since I am also answering the siren song of summer waaaayyyy too much (beach, garden, hammock, boats, cook outs, etc.), I have decided to do one original post a week until fall, with a repost of some of my earlier blogs that received the most hits. This way I can stay connected to my faithful blog readers, and hopefully unleash my inner novelist out onto lucrative pastures. Below is the prologue for “Texas Toast”.

Prologue,  Belton, Texas 1958

The little girl’s grey eyes drifted off to the group of Brownies and troop leaders hovering around the cookout area half a football field away. No one so much as glanced in her direction. She knew that if she wanted to make her move, this would be the moment. With heart racing, she quickly slipped into the beautiful aqua blue water and made a bee line for the massive ladder that lead to the hugest slide she had ever seen. Up, up, and still further up she climbed. If this went wrong she was in seriously deep doo doo, as her mom had warned her repeatedly earlier in the day not to venture to this part of the pool, but who could resist this?

She paused for a brief moment while she parked her butt at the top of the slide, savoring the delicious whoosh and thrill she knew she would feel on the wild ride down. She sighed as she realized she would have to admit this to Father at confession Friday, but some things were simply worth the price. She inhaled deeply as she pushed away from the sides of the slide and swooped down. My God, this was soooo worth it! The adrenaline rush she felt as she hit the water hard was immediately followed by a sense of something very wrong. Where was the bottom of the pool? She began to sputter and choke in a blind panic as she realized she couldn’t gain the purchase necessary to propel her back up to the surface of the water.

Arms now flailing frantically in an attempt to grab hold of anything that would save her from this awful mess, the little girl realized her mistake and knew she was drowning. When darkness began to swallow her, she suddenly felt herself being half lifted, half drug to the surface of the pool by her armpits, where she was deposited against the rough concrete edge, and clung on as if her life depended on it. Coughing, gagging, choking, rivers of snot and water gushing from her nose as she gulped for delicious air, she swooped her sodden hair from her face and glanced cautiously around to see who had rescued her, fearing it would be her mother, and knowing that a whipping with a belt would inevitably follow.

Instead there was a lady in a swimsuit, tall, quite pretty, with reddish-brown hair and the kindest eyes she had ever gazed into. She didn’t know this lady, had never seen her before, in fact. The stranger said nothing, just continued to stare into the little girl’s eyes in the oddest way. The child realized that what she was seeing reflected was utter, total, all-encompassing love. She once again reached up to swipe hair out of her eyes and when she looked the stranger was gone, nowhere to be seen. The child quickly glanced all around to no avail; she hadn’t even had the chance to thank the lady for saving her life.

Where could she have gotten to so quickly? She leapt up from the edge of the pool and began to dart in and out of any place the lady could have gone, restrooms, the concession stand and dressing rooms, but the little girl was completely and utterly alone. As she scurried past the giant slide that had almost been her downfall, she realized where she had made her mistake. The slide’s ladder started in three feet of water, but the bottom of the slide culminated in the pool’s deepest end. She hurried over to the Brownie troop where her mom was busy grilling hotdogs for the other children; she had to enlist her mom’s help in finding the nice lady.

“Katie Shaunessy, whatever would cause you to make up such a tale as that? Our troop has rented out the pool and grounds for the entire afternoon; it’s closed to the public, and none of us have seen this mystery lady you’re describing. I think what happened is you disobeyed me and went where I told you not to and now you are making up fibs to get out of a spanking. Well, you better think again, sister.”

Katie sighed deeply. This was what always happened with her mom. She was always accused of making up tales or exaggerating, no matter what. As she bit into the hotdog her mom had handed her, she realized she would never forget the expression on the woman’s face and that she would never stop searching until she saw that look in someone’s eyes again.

Blah Blah Blah ging #34

Congratulations! It’s a girl…born of the miracle of blogging. I’ve realized creating a blog parallels conception, pregnancy, and childbirth. Conception… that moment when an idea occurs to you that will be the nucleus or spark of your blog. Not quite as much fun as true conception, but to those of us obsessed with writing, it will do in a pinch! Pregnancy is that time when you write and rework, watch it grow and take shape, getting bigger and more complete with each passing moment. Tweaking lines here and there, surfing Goggle for just the right image to illustrate a point. Then, labor and delivery… POSTING DAY! Definitely a lot less painful than the real deal, but oh, just as exciting to see this little baby posted in all its final glory, just like your first glimpse of little Ashley or Bobby after all those hours of painful labor. “Look, that’s MY baby blog, the cutest, smartest one in all the nursery of blogville!”  

Image from buzzfeed.com

If any of my readers have not yet discovered “stuff southern people like”, written by girloutofdixie I’m here to ‘hep’ you out. Check out this link to her very funny posts. How can you not love “Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit (and other colorful expressions)”? Exercise caution; her posts have been known to cause hot coffee to come spewing out of my nostrils.

Let’s return to Paris and what has now turned into THE CONTEST FROM HELL. Deborah, my roommate and competitor in this modeling contest to win the hearts and minds of The Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys, was a sunny, outrageously fun girl, and despite her great success and my utter failure, we got along famously and had lots of laughs. As often as possible we tried to rendezvous and have lunch together. Our life of crime started out innocently enough, as these things so often do.

One weekday we were having lunch in a bistro when the men at a neighboring table began flirting with us. WHAT, French men flirt? Mais non! Say it isn’t so! By the time our espressos arrived they had offered to buy our lunch if we would meet them for drinks after work. Okey dokey on the lunch buying thing, but as to drinks, not so much. Deborah had a fiancé in the film business back in LA, and I was now channeling my “woe is me, poor, poor, pitiful me” routine and hating all things and people Francophile. I’d even gone so far as to swear off French fries for the rest of my days, if God would just hear my pleas and get me out of this hell hole called Paris. We thanked these good little froggie men and bid them adieu, promising, but never intending, to meet them at the George V later for cocktails. We had progressed about a half a block, when we heard shouts of “Mademoiselles, wait, wait. You forgot to pay your check.” “Oh no, the gentlemen at the table next to ours were buying our lunch.” “Ok, so sorry to trouble you.” And off the waiter trotted, and our criminal career, short-lived as it would be, was born.  

Whoever said “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”, wasn’t hanging out with Deborah and me. Every day, five days a week, for two weeks, we played out our little scam and it worked brilliantly and effortlessly. We would always select a table next to several men who were just being seated as well. We would engage them in conversation and some harmless flirting in front of our waiter/garcon, and very casually and slowly exit the bistro when we’d finished eating. We were careful to choose restaurants where we could sit near the entrance, without stairs or multi-levels to impede us, just in case. The crazy thing about this was that Deborah always had plenty of money to cover these meals, but my silly pride wouldn’t allow her to continuously pay for my food; clearly I preferred criminality over humility!

Until the eleventh and final day, the scenario never varied from that first escapade. Our waiter or a manager would always follow us when we left without paying our tab, and we would always inform them that the gentlemen at a certain table were paying our check. They bought this story every time, because they’d seen us engaged with the men at that table and it seemed totally plausible. The final Friday we did this, however, something didn’t go according to plan. I still to this day don’t know what alerted the restaurant or our waiter, but when we left without paying and were followed, the con didn’t fly and the boy confronting us immediately drew a whistle from his shirt and began blowing it with furious determination and yelling for the police.

With KK streaming behind me and snow boots pounding the pavement, Deborah and I flew into the nearest Metro entrance and jumped on a conveniently incoming train. Back in the day models toted around giant, cumbersome, leather portfolios that usually weighed at least 20 pounds. So there we were, weighed down by these heavy beasts of burden, breathing hard and laughing about our close call, when we saw two French policemen (gendarmes) hurrying towards us in the adjoining subway car. The next twenty minutes were a blur of running, dashing from one subway car into another heading in the opposite direction, leaving Metro stations, running a few blocks, and re-entering the subway yet again in an attempt to head off these two very determined Keystone cops.

Oopsey! Image from bigtimestunguns.com

 Goodness, all this for a lousy $40 lunch! Eventually we shook them off, and believe me when I say my life of crime was well and truly finished! Chastened, Deborah and I vowed “No more free lunch”.  I only had one more week left in Paris anyway, so it was finally OK to spend some of my closely guarded $200 on food.

With eight more days left on my commitment to the Paris venture, and no bookings in sight, I found my way to a pay phone and called my parents. I was sobbing as I begged them to send me a ticket home; I just couldn’t face another week of rejection and humiliation in this place, and goodness knows what horrible fate awaited me back in NY when Wilhelmina heard about this! My parents felt strongly about the ethics of fulfilling promises and honoring commitments, and gently declined to throw me a lifeline. They did offer to send me a one-way ticket from NYC to Texas after I returned from France. It was then suggested that when I finally returned to them AND my senses, and gave up this silly notion of modeling and New York, I could marry a nice young man on one of the adjoining farms and produce some nice little ferret-faced children. Yikes!

My future! Image from cooktractorparts.com

Then, on my last full weekend in France, we were all invited to Claude Francois’ beloved country home south of Paris.

Claude's amazing Dannemois/Image from daylife.com

It was called Dannemois, and probably would have been one of the great memories in my life, if I hadn’t been such a sobbing, driveling, emotional wreck. Deborah had flown off to London for the weekend to meet her fiancé, so I was on my own with no one who spoke English as a first language. I was exhausted at that point by translating every word from French into English, then back again in order to converse, and my heart just wasn’t in it anyway. Martine tried her best to cheer me up, but I was hell bent on being a sob sister for the entire weekend. Other than tears and woe and self-pity, there were only two things I remember about that Saturday and Sunday.

One was an odd ‘beauty’ ritual, whereby we were all sent out into the snow and freezing cold, then brought back inside to a huge sauna where we were slapped with eucalyptus branches. This was an attempt to make one’s skin glow, but it just made me cry harder. The other was that Martine informed me I had a full-day booking on Friday, which would be my final work day in Paris. With eyes averted, no one could would tell me who I would be working for, or what the shoot entailed. Thank goodness, or I might have committed hari kari right there in the sauna!