Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Six

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read more sooner, head over to Amazon (there’s a button on the left that will take you there).


Evelyn knows better than to go much longer without eating. So she goes to the kitchen, places a large helping of stew in a bowl, and puts it in the microwave. She is waiting for the beep that will tell her it is ready. She is waiting to take a tray back to the study. The stew. More wine. A chance to listen to the other messages.

“I’m going out now.”

It is Davy, at the door between the kitchen and the dining room.

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know.”

“You can’t go out without shoes.”

“That’s what I’m saying!”

“Maybe you should watch television.”

“But I don’t know how!”

“Sure you do,” Evelyn says. “It’s right in here.” She walks toward the small family room that is off the kitchen. She approaches the low, round coffee table and picks up the remote. She clicks on the TV, and places the remote back on the table.

“Oh…” Davy says, with the awe-inspired tone one might hear on an archeological dig. “Oh my. Now that is very interesting.”

“It’s just cable, baby,” Evelyn says. “It’s just cable.”


Back in the study, Evelyn savors the stew. She takes her time slowly chewing the chunks of beef, the squares of potato, the slices of zucchini. She smiles as she picks up the hints of spice that only Claudia can explain.

And Evelyn makes sure to bring variety to the process. Between spoonfuls of stew, she tears off chunks of the fresh Italian bread, and she dips it into the thick liquid in the bowl.

She lets the juices run down her chin, but just for a bit. Then she quickly collects them with the remaining bread or her napkin. She will not let herself get sloppy. She will not allow a stain on her blouse.

No matter what, she will remain neat and clean.

Still, there is something almost Neanderthal in the meal. And she loves it. In a way, it frees her.

To put food into her mouth. To chew and taste and swallow.


After rinsing out her bowl and putting it in the dishwasher, Evelyn circles the counter to get a view of Davy. She is relieved to see that he is sound asleep in the chair that faces the television. She doesn’t dare go into the room and turn down the volume; doing so might wake him. Rather, she hopes he will stay there, stay asleep for as long as possible.

Evelyn returns to the study with the remaining wine—a bottle that was once half full is now half empty. She returns to the study knowing that she has yet to listen to the two remaining messages.

This time, she presses the correct button: New. And the message that plays is the message she is supposed to hear.

“Yes, hello, Mrs. Bennett?” The voice is mature, yet tentative. “My name is Ashley Morgan. I was one of your husband’s students. I’m, um, calling because I’m involved with a nonprofit that supports elder care and research. We’re putting together an event. I know that Dr. Bennett has been diagnosed with—oh God, should I be talking about this in a message? Jeez, I’m sorry. He was so dear to me…” (Ashley seems to be having a moment. Evelyn doesn’t know whether to feel for her, resent her, or think she is naïve.) “…I’m wondering, Mrs. Bennett, if we might include some of his work. I remember his amazing pen-and-ink sketches of architecture. I’m wondering if you might donate them. I’d appreciate hearing back from you. I’m in Manhattan. Two-one-two, five-five-five, four-nine-oh-one. Or you can email me at ashmor—that’s A S H M O R at A O L dot com. I hope I’ll hear from you. And if I don’t, please forgive me if I call you again in a few days. Thanks!”

Click. And then, again, the nasal-voiced man who lives in the phone. “Friday. Three-oh-three-p.m.”

Why does he always emphasize the “p” part? Evelyn wonders, as she waits for the next message to play.

“Hey, Ma. Adam here. Calling on Friday. How’s it going? Anyway. Got a demonstration in Albany tomorrow afternoon, so I thought I’d stop by in the morning. Might have a few people with me. Hope it’s okay. See ya then!”

“Friday,” the nasal-voiced man says. “Four-twelve-p.m.”

Evelyn looks at the clock on the mantle. Four-twelve is now history. Ancient history.

She wishes she were tired. She wishes she could sleep. But she knows better than to belabor that cause. And while she is glad she might see Adam tomorrow, she knows she doesn’t need to get rest for the event. He’ll have his mind on other things. He’ll probably not even notice her.

* * *

... to be continued on August 7th.

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Or, you can read the back story and more in the interview that was posted by book reviewer Kristin on July 28th. It's here. You'll also find on that site Kristin's July 23rd review of The Somebody Who as well as instructions for entering the book giveaway that will end this week. Hurry to enter, as the giveaway ends at 6PM EST, August 6th.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

At Your Service

Several years ago, I was having dinner with a friend at the Louise’s here in Los Feliz. The waiter approached our table, and as servers now do, de rigueur, he introduced himself.

“Hello,” he said. “I’m Jan [pronounced YON], and I will be your server tonight.”

My first thought was to share with him, Oh-my-god, that’s the name of the workstation I just bought at Ikea! But I held back. Instead, I smiled and politely said, “And I’m Katie. And I’ll be your customer!”

And so we went on from there. A lovely night, complete with fresh ground pepper and shaved parmesan until we said “when.”

… Such a different world from my waitressing years in Manhattan. Back in the 80’s, nobody knew your name. I spent seven years waitressing in NYC, and in those years, I worked at 24 restaurants. The last five of those years I spent at ONE restaurant. Do the math.

Yeah. So there were some years of hopping around, looking for the place where I could hang my apron for a while.

At one point during the drifting phase, I was working a lunch shift in the Wall Street area, and my friend and neighbor, who had a non-stop station at a family-owned Hungarian restaurant in our Upper West Side neighborhood, had persuaded that establishment’s owner and owneress to allow me to fill in for her on Wednesday nights. (I would later take over her full shift, after she was fired, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Okay, so I’m working Wall Street lunches, Monday through Friday, and on Wednesday nights, I’m at the Hungarian place in my own ‘hood. Money’s good enough, but I’m always looking for a new venue. For this reason, I’ve consistently combed the environs, dropping off -- to restaurant owners and managers all along the west side of Manhattan -- my home-made, so-very-low-tech, 3x5 index cards. The cards indicate my availability as a waitress. They also provide contact information.

By about the fourth or fifth Wednesday at the Hungarian place, I’m getting a sense of the drill. My station comprises nine “deuces” (that’s restaurant lingo for a table for two) and three “rounds” (which can seat up to eight per table). And if that sounds like a lot of station, your sense of empathy is commendable. Add to that sheer person capacity an acute absence of trays. The acrobatics I learned at that restaurant are a subject for another essay, and so we’ll come back to that at another time.

Regardless, on the Wednesday evening in question, I’m running around like usual. I’m wearing one of my mix ‘n match waitress outfits (“Restaurant Garanimals,” as it were). In this case, the combo started with a straight-lined beige skirt that falls just below knee-length but has sassy side pleats. Topping it off, above my tie-in-the-back, two-pocketed, standard issue waitress apron is a raw linen, short-sleeved, tailored plaid top whose primary color is red.

With harried energy, I approach a young couple sitting in one of the deuces. I smile as I ask if they’re ready. They are. And after they place their order, I move on. Within two or three minutes, I return to deliver their drinks. Thereafter, in sequence, I deliver their appetizers, their main courses, their desserts, and their coffees.

Just as I do for the other 20 or so couples I wait on during a four-hour shift that night.

Just as I do for the parties of six or more that take up the larger tables in my constantly turning-over station.

By the following Saturday, I’m ready for a weekend off, but I also know that my index cards are out there. Anything can happen.

Sure enough, late Saturday evening, I get a call from a local restaurant owner named Augie. His Sunday brunch waitress has phoned in sick. He’s wondering if I can fill in. I accept the offer.

I awake that Sunday morning just before eight. Shower and put on my beige skirt and red plaid top. Head down to the local eatery. (Augie’s is just west and south of my apartment; about the same walking distance as the Hungarian restaurant, which is east and north.)

When I get to Augie’s in time for the nine o’clock set-up (no one is expected before ten – this is New York, after all), I wrap the apron around my waist and introduce myself to the bartender.

The bartender is relaxed and kind. He shows me where I can find everything for set-up (creamer pitchers, all the sidestand stuff, coffee makings). He reviews the menu with me. He introduces me to the kitchen staff. He makes it clear that I can call on him if I get in a jam. (Oh, and yeah, he shows me the jam…)

Customers filter in, and while it gets a little busy at times, it never feels out of control. (After the Hungarian place, I can handle anything.) The bartender even comments on my cool at one point. He is clearly impressed by my capacities as a “guest-waitress.”

I am in the rhythm of Augie’s when I approach a couple in the corner.

“Ready to order?” I ask, smiling, my pad held in front of me, my pen primed to record their needs.

There’s a pause. The man in the pair stares up at me and adapts a dumb-founded look.

“Hey!” he says, “Didn’t you wait on us at the Hungarian place on Wednesday?”

Sure enough.

That same couple.

And me, in the same outfit.

Were it fifteen years later, my approach might have gone something like this:

“Hello, my name is Katie, and I will be your server for the rest of your life!

* * *

Dear Readers, Follower, and Passers-By: I’m happy to direct you to “Always with a Book,” where book blogger Kristin has just posted our Q&A. (You’ll also find on that site her July 23rd review of my novel, The Somebody Who, excerpts from which I have been posting on Saturdays.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Five

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to hold the book in your hands, head over to Amazon and order a copy (there’s a button on the left that will take you there).

OR: go here to enter the book giveaway at Kristin's "Always With a Book" blog, where she posted a review yesterday.


Evelyn is uncorking a fresh bottle of Cabernet when Claudia appears in the door of the dining room. “Do you want to eat now?” she asks Evelyn.

“No, I’ll eat later. Please feed Davy, though, turn off the stove, and just put the rest in a tupperware in the fridge. I’ll heat it up later. Is Davy in the kitchen?”

“Yes. He’s reading.”

“I’ll bet he is.” Evelyn can say this to Claudia in a tone they both know is flippant, and Claudia can receive the statement without feeling uncomfortable. It is symptomatic of the odd friendship that has developed between them, a friendship that Evelyn is starting to value more than she ever could have imagined.

“Would you like a glass of wine?” Evelyn asks Claudia.

“No, thank you, I’ve got to get home.”

“Hubby’s waiting, right?”

“He better be there!” Claudia says, laughing (because she knows that Gabriel will be there and because she can’t wait to see him).

Evelyn holds up her glass of wine. “Enjoy him while he lasts.”

Claudia tilts her head and smiles in the awkward way that occurs when a part of the mouth desperately wants to frown with sadness or pity. “Anything else, then?” she asks her employer.

“No, dear. We’ll be fine. See you Monday.”

“Have a good weekend, Evelyn.”

“I’ll do my best.”


Drawn that night to the comfort and soft light of the study, Evelyn knows she has two more messages to listen to. And she is bound and determined to hit the right button when the time comes to listen to them. But, she isn’t quite ready. She is still bothered by Angie’s call (make that, calls)—by Angie’s incessant apologies and consistent unavailability.

They had been enjoying such a good friendship over the past several years. Angie was fun and funny—a wacky rightbrain type who always wanted to try new restaurants and go to esoteric movies. She was an inquisitive spirit and didn’t seem to sweat the small stuff. And her attitude about men was unbelievably refreshing to Evelyn. Though only eight years younger than Evelyn, Angie seemed a generation apart when it came to men and relationships. Angie had no desire to be married or even to settle down. Exclusivity didn’t matter to her. She just had fun. That was all she wanted.

Hmm… Evelyn wonders, the thought only now dawning on her. It doesn’t sound, from her messages, like Angie’s having a lot of fun right now.

Evelyn picks up the phone and calls Patrick’s house. Maybe Judy will go to the concert with her on Sunday.

Two rings later, a darling voice fills Evelyn’s ears with joy.

“Bennett residence. Zoe speaking.”

“Zoe! My beautiful girl!”

“Granny! Granny! Hi, Granny!”

“How are you, my sweetheart?”

“I lost another tooth!”

“You did? Are you going to try to find it?”

“You’re funny, Granny!” she says.

“Oh, honey, I try to be. I really try.”

“So—do you wanna talk to Dad or to Mom?”

“I would love to talk to either of them, but I actually have a question and an offer for your Mom. Is she there?”

“Hold on.” Zoe puts down the phone and calls for her Mom. Evelyn can hear, at the other end, snippets of a conversation—about dinner and dolls and a sleepover the next night. Then, the rattling of the phone being picked up.

“Hello, Evelyn!” Judy says, with a warmth that most mothers-in-law can only hope for. “How are you?”

“I’m managing. You know, same-old-same-old.”

“Bless your heart. God, I think of you so often.”

“Thank you,” Evelyn responds. “I appreciate it. So—what’s new there?”

“Well—where do you want me to begin? Let’s see, I am thrilled because I finally closed on a house today.”

“My God, Judy, that’s fabulous!”

“No kidding! I’ve had that real estate license for, what, three years now?”

“That really is wonderful.”

“It is. We’re going to do the final paperwork the beginning of next week, and then, damn, a nice chunk of change for the former stay-at-home Mom!”

“Good for you! I bet Patrick is proud!”

“He will be as soon as he gets over his jetlag!” Judy says, with mock irritation. “He just got back from the ADA Convention.”

“Oh, that’s right. Where was it this year? California, right?” Evelyn shakes her head in bewilderment. Her son—at an ADA Convention! Her son—a dentist! (It makes her teeth itch.)

“San Francisco.” says Judy. “He said it was great. He actually thinks we should take the family out there for a vacation. Maybe next summer.”

“That sounds like a wonderful plan.”

“We’ll see…”

Evelyn can hear Judy’s distractions in the background, and she appreciates her daughter-in-law for not caving to them. Evelyn knows, as she sits there in the warm, low-lit study, sipping her wine and needing to eat, that Judy is waiting for her to speak. That Judy is attentive in that way.

“So, Judy, I have a proposition.”

“That sounds intriguing.”

“You know, I have these season tickets to Lincoln Center—the Philharmonic—the Sunday matinee. And my partner-in-crime cannot go. She’s going to bring her ticket by tomorrow. I was wondering if you’d like to go with me.”

“Wow. This Sunday, huh?”

“I know it’s short notice,” Evelyn says, “but I just heard from Angie this afternoon.”

“Oh yeah. Angie. Hmm… I would like to go. So: let me just check around here and make sure no one needs me Sunday afternoon. Can I let you know tomorrow?”

“That’d be great.”

“Then that’s what I’ll do.”

“You’re an angel, Judy.”

“Tell that to my kids.”

“Well. They’re angels, too.”

“Okay,” Judy says, with her fabulous homespun sarcasm, “now I’m starting to wonder about your criteria!”

Evelyn smiles, starts to laugh even. “We’ll talk tomorrow,” she says to Judy.

“You got it. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Judy. Kiss all the babies for me.”

* * *

to be continued on July 31st .

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Handwriting on the Wall (or, in this case …on the Post-It)

Back in the late ‘80s, when I was employed by the Ford Foundation, I had a co-worker friend who amused me one day by sharing something she had found in her boss’ outbox. It was a one-page letter onto which he had placed a post-it.

The post-it said, “Toss.”

Lest you think that Ford had a shortage of wastebaskets, don’t even go there. Said boss could easily have saved himself a few offline keystrokes by simply doing the “Toss” maneuver all by himself. But nooooo… He had to delegate!

I don’t write this with any desire to condemn the Ford Foundation. To this day, I greatly admire the work they do. Nonprofits across the world need their philanthropy, and because of their grantmaking, positive things happen and lives are saved.

That being said, I also am happy to have learned that, in the wake of recent economic upsets, the Foundation reduced its staff by about a third.

Good for them.

When I was there, and when I was working as a Grants Administrator, I could easily have done my Monday-Friday, 9-to-5 job in about 10 hours a week. But I was on staff, and so… I showed up every day. At least, I did as much until I reached that two-year mark, when I knew that, even if I quit, I could walk away with two-months’ salary.

And that’s also what I did.

Yup, it was with that “grant” from the Ford Foundation that I moved to California to pursue a television writing career. And while that free money didn’t lead to the Hollywood gigs I had envisioned, it nevertheless did open the door to a new chapter. It put me on the other side of the country, where I’ve been establishing my turf ever since.

I realize that the Ford Foundation (what with its fairyland perks) is one end of the spectrum, and mom-and-pop joints are another. I get it, too, that a lot of hard-working people are experiencing some serious suffering right now. But there’s also been a lot of spoiled, wasted time outside mom-and-pop world, and frankly, I’m glad that many of the big cheeses are having to revisit their staffing plans. Getting rid of the dead weight is long overdue, and the existence of those superfluous bodies is hardly unique to Ford.

By the late ‘90’s, I had been exposed to enough government workers to know that a lot of them are way too comfortable. It’s been said (and I didn’t say it first) that it’s nearly impossible to get fired from a government job.

While that statement may no longer hold true, I consider Linda Tripp its ultimate poster girl.

Remember her?

She’s the one who had nothing better to do with her day than to track her “friend” Monica’s comings-and-goings, particularly in relation to a certain stained dress and a different spelling of the word “coming.”

Our tax dollars at work. Gotta love it.

As for the present? I’m aware of what’s happening in California, and I’m guessing it’s also happening in states and municipalities across the country: layoffs, government furloughs, and general restructuring. As our elected officials make their decisions, I hope they are taking a good, hard look not just at the boxes on the org charts but also at the people they have working for them. Get rid of the Lindas if only to protect, ultimately, the moms-and-pops.

It’s high time our economy revolved around real work, not idle gossip.

And we certainly don’t need to support bosses who delegate the disposal of their trash.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Four

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read more sooner, head over to Amazon (there’s a button on the left that will take you there).


When Evelyn enters the large kitchen, Claudia is multitasking. Her back toward the center of the room, she is stirring a big pot of stew and engaged in a rapid-fire conversation on her cell phone. In Spanish. When she glances in Evelyn’s direction, Evelyn holds up the jar of pasta sauce. Claudia shrugs, and they exchange the raised-eyebrow, pursed-smirk glance that has become a code between them. The code says, “Look what I found and you’ll never guess where I found it.”

Davy is sitting on his stool at the kitchen’s center island. In front of him, on the counter, is the most recent issue of The New Yorker. He looks as if he is reading an article intently. But what Claudia knows, and what Evelyn suspects, is that he has had that page open for nearly two hours. And while he has not been sitting there the whole time (sitting still is no longer his strong suit), he always returns to the chair and the page, and he always looks as if there is something within its contents that will unlock the meaning of life.

Evelyn is relieved that Claudia and Davy are both occupied. She doesn’t have to stay in the kitchen. She can return to the study.

But first, she will make a detour into the dining room. And, if there is any wine left in the bottle she opened last night, she will pour herself a glass. What difference does it make what time it is, she thinks, approaching the dry bar and grateful for what she finds.


“Goddamnit!” Evelyn fumes, as she hits the Stop button on the answering machine and again finds herself needing to push Fast Forward.


When she returned to the study to listen to the afternoon’s two remaining messages, she did not intend to backtrack so thoroughly. But, she hit the wrong button. She hit All rather than New. And perhaps because she was enjoying the feel of the Cabernet rolling about on her tongue, she failed to notice that the tape had gone into rewind mode.

Were it not so revelatory, this exercise in back-tracking and then fast-forwarding might not be bothering her so much. But, what she is quickly realizing is that Angie has been doing a lot of apologizing lately. “I am so sorry to do this, Ev—” Was that today? No. Fast forward. “Ev—it’s Ang, and I hate to do this to you.” Today? No, that was the lecture they had talked about going to. Fast forward. “My God, things are crazy!” That sure sounded like today’s message, but no…

Fast forward.

Finally, Evelyn hears the voice that confirms some sort of updatedness. It is the sound she refers to as “the little man who lives in my phone.” The timekeeper man. The man who says, with bizarre nasal-voiced inflection, “Friday. Two-thirty-two p.m.”

She hits the Stop button and sits back in the leather chair. She cradles the glass of Cabernet, stares at it and through it, and she wonders if Angie has simply grown tired of her.

“I found you!”

It is Davy, standing in the doorway of the study.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he adds.

He pads across the room, barefoot as always, leans over and kisses her forehead. Then, he stands back. “You’re wonderful!” he announces, his arms spread out.

“Thank you, honey,” Evelyn replies, her voice a monotone. “You’re wonderful, too.”

Then, as if he is drawn to a particular title on the bookshelves, Davy crosses behind Evelyn’s chair. He studies the spines of several books. “This is very interesting,” he says. “Very, very interesting.”

“That’s right, honey. It is.”

He pads back to a place directly in front of her. “Are you? Do you want me to--?” He holds out his hand to her wineglass. There are only a few sips left. She knows that he is offering to freshen her drink, but she cannot ask him to do that. God know what newfangled cocktail he might return with.

“I’m okay, honey. I’ll get up in a minute and get some more.”

“That’s very good, then. That’s exactly…” Davy nods. “That’s very good.”

Davy looks around the room, goes to the window and opens the curtains. “Okay,” he says, first perusing the side yard and then turning around to face Evelyn, “so now I’m going to do that thing. I’m going to do.”

“Okay, sweetie,” Evelyn smiles, “you do that thing.”

* * *

to be continued on July 24th.

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Last week, I was heading to my usual Thursday afternoon gig.

And I was taking my usual route: Hollywood Boulevard to Fairfax, at which point I’d head south and over to Sunset.

Within two miles from home, the traffic on the Boulevard slowed. Not an unexpected dynamic. After all, that’s where Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is. That’s where, on any given day, there are scads of day-players dressed as movie figures, cartoon characters, and assorted icons. They mill about and make an occasional buck by posing with tourists. Click, click. Another five dollars. (Or whatever they charge.)

But, on this particular day, the crowd was larger than usual, and the traffic was especially slow. As I inched ahead, I noticed a lot of cameras held up in the air. The tourists weren’t shooting their family members in one posed shot. They were shooting a moment.

Soon enough, I discovered what the moment was: Batman and Spiderman, in conference with two cops. Batman and Spiderman, both in handcuffs.


And here’s the part that really blew me away. The first thing I thought was this: I’ve never wanted to tweet so badly.

Oh my God, am I really “going there?”

What might I have said, in 140 characters or less?

***Superpowers headed to jail! News at eleven.

***Be particularly vigilant, people. The protectors have been taken IN!

***Sorry, tourists. Your Grauman’s photo options have been depleted. Until further notice, it’s Marilyn or Homer Simpson.

… Maybe that’s why I’ve never been inclined to “tweet.” I fail to see a dynamic entry in the mix, and I am not even interested in continuing this exercise.

I don’t know; maybe, too, I’m just not a fan of little newsbytes. Maybe I’m also not convinced that the collective “we” should be encouraged to provide them and/or spend our time tracking them.

… A few days before the heroes’ arrest at Grauman’s, I watched a rerun of the Letterman show. Miley Cyrus was the guest, and boy, was she charming. That girl is smart and awesomely mature. I was surprisingly impressed, and I sensed that Dave was, too. At one point, he asked her if she twittered, adding that people have been telling him he needed to.

Miley disagreed. After stating that she hates twitter, she added, “You already have a show, so you don’t need a twitter.”

She also shared that she had tried it for a moment, but she felt stupid. One tweet: “I lost my lucky bracelet.” Subsequent tweet: “Woo-hoo. I found my lucky bracelet.”

Really? Do we need to know?

Miley doesn’t think so, and neither do I.

But here’s the more important question:

Do we care?

If we do, well… I pity us.

It’s sad enough that Batman and Spiderman are getting hauled off to the County Jail. Can we at least stop wasting our time with these quasi-updates?

Feel free to leave your comments, and please, don’t limit yourself to 140 characters.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Three

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read more sooner, feel free to head over to Amazon (there’s a button on the left that will take you there).


Evelyn parks the car in the garage, but decides not to click it shut. She doesn’t feel like going in through the utility room. She doesn’t want to look at the mess in there.

She opens the trunk and pulls out the two bags that represent today’s acquisitions—a few pairs of knee-highs from Nordstroms and a book about quilting. Not bad, she thinks to herself. Not bad for a lady on the run.

Then, still wanting not to be home yet, she shuts the trunk ever so quietly, heads out to the driveway and wanders around the front yard.

The day is incredibly crisp, as late October always is in Westchester. The leaves are on their last days of luxuriant color. Soon, they’ll be making their slow, gliding dives into the yard. She will have to call a service. Pay someone to come out and help. Davy can't possible rake them. He has the strength to do so, but—the job would confuse him. Besides, she never feels comfortable when he goes outside without a companion.

“What are you doing?”

It is Davy. He probably saw her from the living room window, and now he has opened the front door.

“Oh. Hi.”

“What are you doing?” Davy asks again.

“Your clothes sort of match,” Evelyn comments, marveling somewhat at the fact that he’d found a striped shirt to wear with his striped shorts. (She has long since given up on suggesting that it is a little late in the year for summer clothes.)

“That’s what I mean,” says Davy, nodding.

She smiles at him and shakes her head ever so slightly. She notices that his beard is getting grayer.

“I don’t know where my friend is,” Davy states next.

“You mean Claudia?”

“I don’t know.”

“She’s probably in the kitchen getting dinner ready.”

“I don’t know.”

I don’t either, Evelyn thinks.


After yelling a “Hello” to Claudia, who is—as Evelyn had suspected—in the kitchen preparing their dinner, Evelyn puts her bags on the table in the hall and goes into the study. The answering machine is blinking, as she knew it would be. Three messages.

She presses the button marked New and waits as the tape rewinds. She puts her hands on her hips and stretches her back into an arch. It feels good to stretch.

“Ev—it’s Angie. Calling on Friday. I guess it’s about two. Anyway, I am so sorry to do this to you, but I can’t do the concert on Sunday. Ugh. God. The shit is just really hitting the fan for me these days. I won’t go into it. I’ll spare you. Anyway, I hope you can find someone to go with you. I’ll swing by tomorrow with my ticket. Probably won’t have time to visit. God, I’m sorry. Things just really need to slow down, if you know what I mean. Anyway, you don’t have to
call me back. I know that you have your hands full.”

Since Angie had hung up without saying “Goodbye,” Evelyn feels compelled to give the message closure. She hits the Off button on the machine. And she realizes that she isn’t surprised. Put off. Inconvenienced. But not surprised.

She looks toward the clock on the mantle to see if it is too early for a glass of wine. Then, her eye having been distracted by the appearance of something that is clearly not mantle-worthy, she shakes her head. And she feels, as she has come to feel a million times daily, the type of exasperation that churns in the soul when one is no longer shocked by nonsequitur. The mantle has a new decoration, placed there, no doubt, by Davy. It is between the clock and the brass candlesticks. It is a 16-ounce jar of pasta sauce.

Evelyn approaches the mantle and retrieves the sauce. She then moves the candlesticks a bit closer to the clock. Maybe if there is no empty space, she thinks.

* * *

... to be continued on July 17th.

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Where Women Fall Short

Born in 1957, I was perhaps uniquely fortunate to be raised by a feminist. And what might surprise you is that, in making that statement, I am thinking about my father.

I can’t say exactly what informed my father’s perspective, but he clearly admired women and seemed most comfortable in their company. It is probably for this reason that he chose to teach at a women’s college. It also is probably for this reason that my memories of him at social gatherings place him more comfortably chatting among the women than the men. Dad was just never one of those “guy” types. He was entertaining, conversational (when he would acquiesce to my mother’s encouragement that they go to that evening’s party), artistic, and well – I think he just always had tremendous respect for women. He believed in our power and our minds. He never short-changed us as a collective group.

While this is a wonderful aspect of my upbringing, it’s made it a bit tough in the marriage and dating departments. I’ve done both, and at the moment, I’m doing neither. It could be that I’m at once too picky and too capable of being complete without the benefit of a partner. It could be that my father helped build my own sense of a woman’s tremendous worth. We are a remarkable gender. We can handle multiple tasks with intelligence and compassion. We don’t necessarily get caught up in – nor are we therefore thwarted by – oneupsmanship. We are damn good company, and our craving of damn good company makes our gatherings fun. Women rock.

But in my years of observing our behavior and of comparing it to the behavior of men, I have to say there is one area where we are absolutely stupid, and where men’s perspective, in comparison, is highly evolved.

Here’s where women fall short: We believe that we can change men.

And here’s where men shine: They don’t give a moment’s thought to believing that they can change women.

I’d be willing to bet on it: any woman who reviews the relationships she has had will remember times she thought that her man would change. Not only that, he’d change for her.

I doubt men entertain such futile musings.

… Several years ago, I was involved with a man who was remarkably good company until we hit the expiration date on our relationship. Which is to say, we had a great couple of years. I enjoyed what appeared to be his absolute respect for women. We were on the same page 99% of the time. In addition, because he was a movie enthusiast (and because his enthusiasm was contagious), I raced with him one afternoon so that we might get to the local theatre in time to see the very first screening of Kill Bill 2.

I had seen Kill Bill 1 on DVD a few weeks earlier, so I was up-to-speed. I also was excited to see how the story would play out. I was learning that Tarantino is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

I loved Kill Bill 2, and because I own a copy of the movie, I’ve seen it a few times. But even before I had the chance to absorb its story through subsequent viewings, the underlying message of the movie leapt out at me: None of that mayhem – none of those bloody, violent killings – would have occurred if the lead female character had understood that men don’t change for anyone. The entire plot of that two-part masterpiece revolves around the place where we women fall short.

In the final chapter of the Kill Bill series, after he has injected her with the truth serum and before she finally ends his life with Pai Mei’s Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, Beatrix Kiddo (aka The Bride) admits to Bill that, while she knew he was a killer, she never thought he would do it to her.

Guess again, sister.

For many of us women, the need for male companionship is basic and the rewards can be quite enjoyable. But: we need to let go of our belief that we are so special as to be given different treatment. We need to let go of thinking that “our man” will change simply because we’re in the room. We need to abandon what is perhaps a natural instinct to nurture (and therefore help grow/develop).

In its place, we just need to appreciate. Among other things, we should appreciate the fact that men never look at us and imagine who they might create from the assortment of characteristics we present. (Forget Henry Higgins, gals. He’s fictional.) Men don’t envision our potentials. They don’t hear of our past shortcomings and think, “Oh, she wouldn’t do that to me.”

Men see us for what we are and they take it or leave it.

They’re smart that way.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sneak-Peek Saturdays: Excerpt Two

A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read more sooner, head over to Amazon (there’s a button on the left that will take you there).


Evelyn has always been a fool for routine. And less than a year ago, she quickly established a routine for her trips to the mall. For the first forty-five minutes or so, she is just impulsive, going into whatever large store or specialty boutique happens to intrigue her in that moment. She never has a shopping list in her hand or in her head. She just lets the chips fall where they may. Sometimes, she just browses. Sometimes, she buys more than a few things. Regardless,
after no more than an hour, she heads to the nearest large bookstore chain—whichever one has a coffee bar. Her legs growing tired at this point, she takes a basket, quickly fills it with five or six books of interest, and heads to the café. There, she orders a latte and a scone and ultimately finds a comfy seat where she will relax for as long as it takes.

Today is no different.

Although the café is quite crowded when she arrives—and still crowded once her order has been filled—she doesn’t have to wait long for a chair. And she thanks the young man who gives up his chair for her. The appreciative smile she shares with him belies the thought she was entertaining as she approached him—the thought that said, You seedy little bum! Why are you lounging around in the middle of the day! Who’s supporting you? Don’t you have a job? But Evelyn doesn’t say this. Instead, she just smiles and thanks him.

There is a table beside the comfy chair that the “seedy bum” just surrendered, and Evelyn places her cardboard tray there. Her precious latte. Her precious scone. Bending uneasily, she puts her basket of books down on the floor. And then she sits.

And her exhaustion sits with her. And so she exhales. And she closes her eyes for a nanosecond.

In that nanosecond, she hears the chorus of Strangers in the Night.

It is her cell phone.

Evelyn digs through her ridiculously large purse to reach the noise. Within moments, she retrieves the phone and reads the screen. It is Marilyn calling. And because Evelyn is a mother, she has no choice but to take the call.

“Hello, Marilyn,” she says lovingly enough, the phone cradled between her cheek and shoulder as she lifts the cap off her latte.

“Men are such fucking jerks,” is Marilyn’s salutation.

“Mmm…” Evelyn’s response might seem inappropriate, but it is also barely audible. She knows, because she knows Marilyn, that it isn’t necessary to respond. All she needs to do is continue with her process. So she reaches for the packet of pure raw sugar, opens it quietly and pours the contents into her latte. She slowly stirs the softly steaming brew, and she waits…

“Barry’s such an asshole!” Marilyn continues. “And I have tried so hard. But he’s still not ready to buy a house. It’s like he’s afraid or something. Sure, he hasn’t got the promotion that he thought he would get two fucking years ago, but still! And! He’s done nothing about it! He’s like a fucking wimp around his boss!”

Evelyn enjoys a sip of latte. Still a little too hot…

“And now,” chants Marilyn, “no thanks to him, Sara is having major problems in school. I don’t even know if she’s going anymore. And I have really tried with her, I swear. I just don’t know what to do!”

Evelyn breaks off a small piece of scone and lets it melt in her mouth.

Marilyn lets out a noise that might best be described as histrionic exhalation—the kind of respiratory gesture that could extinguish candles in other states. This is typical. This is the sign. Marilyn will now be moving on to cheerier topics.

Evelyn takes another sip of latte and anticipates the predictable.

And so it comes: “All I can say is thank God for Matthew!” Marilyn’s voice now adopts a tone that sounds maudlin in its effort to convey pride. “Oh, Mom, he did the sweetest thing the other day. Oh my God. He told me that they had a talk in class about heroes? And they were specifically talking about women heroes? God, I love that teacher of his! Really focuses on the women! Yea, teach! So, they were talking about what makes a hero and what defines a hero and, you know, all that shit, and Matthew said he raised his hand and said, ‘My mom is a hero!’”

Evelyn wants to ask Why?

“Isn’t that so sweet?”

Pause. Oops! Evelyn didn’t know, when she had taken that rather large chunk of scone and had begun letting it dance with her taste buds, that her turn was pending.


“Mmm…” (gulp) “Sorry. I had something in my mouth.”

“Isn’t that sweet?”

“That’s sweet,” Evelyn says, reaching for another chunk of scone. “That’s very sweet.”

“Yeah, well. I should probably go now. I got a lot to do. I just wanted to fill you in.”

Evelyn has begun to eye the books in her basket, and she is anxious to open them. “I’m sure you’ll work things out,” she says to her daughter.

“Yeah, well. I’m a hero, right?”

“You’re a hero,” Evelyn says, in a flat, non-effusive tone that might be insulting to someone who is listening.

Their goodbyes exchanged, Evelyn turns off her phone. She doesn’t want any more interruptions. She wants to enjoy her latte and what is left of her scone. She wants to look through the books she brought with her to the coffee bar.

She has a few more hours of peace before she will have to go home.

* * *

to be continued on July 10th.

In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.