Sunday Bookends: Trying to choose what to read next, outhouse races, and a trip to the lake

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I ramble about what I’ve been reading, doing, watching, writing, and listening to.

What I/we’ve been Reading

I finished Dead Sea Conspiracy by Jerry B. Jenkins Friday and enjoyed it a lot more as I got into it. I’m still not a fan of dual timeline books but I like how this one tied the two timelines together.

I do recommend it, especially if you like speculative fiction.

I also finished the first novella in a set of novellas called The 80s Rom Com Club by a few different authors. The novellas are all light and fluffy romances about a group of women who have a club that watches old 80s movies together.  I’ll probably stretch them out and read one or two a week and read them in the evenings because they are light.

I want to start a mystery or suspense book this week so for my choices I have:

  •  What’s The Worst That Can Happen? by Donald Westlake,
  • The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz,
  • the next book in the Joe Pickett series that I don’t know the name of and am too lazy to look up,
  • or The Boomerang Clue by Agatha Christie, which I picked up at a book sale at the library in town.

Of course, by the time I post this, I could change my mind on all of my choices and choose something completely different. I’m really not sure at this point.

The Husband just finished The Identical by Scott Turrow and is reading The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, which I found at the aforementioned book sale the morning Rushdie was stabbed. I saw the books by him, commented to the librarian about the stabbing (she then in turn asked me if I knew David McCullough had died) and then The Husband texted and asked if I found any books by him there. Weird timing.

Little Miss and I are reading Ramona, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary.

The Boy is reading War of the Worlds whenever he isn’t playing video games so he should finish that book by 2025 at this point.

What’s Been Occurring

On Monday I was prepared for a relaxed day where I would do some housework, but otherwise hide inside from what promised to be a humid, muggy day.

Then a friend sent a message and asked if the kids and I would like to go with her family to the local lake and state park we had visited at the end of June. I wanted to say ‘no’, in some ways, because the Weather Service had issued a heat advisory, but I knew it would be good for us all to get out, so I agreed.

In the end, the weather turned out not to be very hot and the predicted afternoon storms never came, even though the clouds kept threatening it.’

The kids had a blast.

My anti-social teenager even jumped into the lake with all his clothes on right before we left.

On Wednesday, Little Miss developed a sore throat and later in the day a fever. By Friday it was almost gone and on Saturday it was all the way gone. I’m not really sure what that was about. Every three or four months she seems to get a couple of days where she gets a brief sore throat, a low-grade fever and the sniffles for about three days and then moves on. Usually, it happens with weather changes so spring and fall are the worst times for it. The weather did get cooler this week, but not until after her brief illness.

The weather got so cool this week, I started thinking about fall, which I thought I was looking forward to until I thought about the lovely green leaves all falling off and it getting cold and dreary. I do like weather where I can curl up under a blanket but I also like temperatures that are just right so we can do outside activities without sweating through our clothes.

While I was outside thinking about fall I also thought about how our backyard could be a filming sight for National Geographic. Not only do we have a big woodchuck living under our shed, but she’s apparently had babies because I saw a mini-version of her run across our yard the other day. Now, in addition to trapping her, we have to trap her babies. Fun times.

The boy found a half-eaten rabbit in our yard last weekend – as in something bit it in a half and left the head. Our dog loves to chase those rabbits but she only gets as far as her lead and never catches one. She hadn’t been out there long enough to do that kind of damage so we knew it wasn’t her.

Long story short, I asked our neighbors if they had had their game camera up this year and if they had seen what was in our yard that could do that. From a quick search on the ole’ interwebs, I learned that fox, coyote, and racoon will all rip a rabbit in half and sometimes not eat all of it. It’s possible we interrupted their supper when I let the dog out that night. The neighbor had not had their camera out but they put it out this week and it appears our culprit is a fox, which doesn’t surprise us since we heard one screaming outside our house in the spring.

Luckily this summer we have not seen the skunks we saw last year. The deer have been out some, but not as much, and I finally saw a couple squirrels, which is weird because we were commenting one day recently how we don’t see squirrels here in the more rural setting when we saw them all the time when we lived in a bigger town. So far we have not heard of the bear returning since it visited our neighbor at the end of the street. Yes, we consider the houses up and down the street our neighbors. *wink*

Last night (Saturday) was the annual Outhouse Races, which we attended as a family.

I wrote about the outhouse races last year.

They are held as a charity event for the local Lions Club.

What We watched/are Watching

Continuing the Summer of Paul this week I watched half of Cool Hand Luke yesterday. I hope to finish it later today or tomorrow.

I didn’t take the time to watch any of his other movies during the week since Little Miss was so clingy and in between her clinging I had to cook dinner and work some on my book and try to figure out reels on Instagram, which I finally gave up on.

I’ll have more thoughts about Cool Hand Luke and Rachel Rachel later in the week, but I will say that I didn’t like to see John Walton being treated so poorly in Cool Hand Luke. One of the men was portrayed by the same actor who played John Walton, the patriarch on The Waltons.

Wayne Rogers, who played McIntyre on Mash, was also in the movie, but of course I was watching it to see Mr. Blue Eyes himself.

The Boy and I watched Raising Arizona with Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunt Friday night. I had seen it years ago, but he had never seen it and really enjoyed it. Here is a trailer for those of you who haven’t seen it.

The Husband and I also watched another episode of Harry Wild with Jane Seymour. I didn’t enjoy that on as much as the first episode. Then we watched another Brokenwood Mysteries.

What I’m Writing

I have been adding quite a bit to Mercy’s Shore as more ideas for it are starting to flow.

This week on the blog I shared:


What I’m Listening To

I wish I could say I am listening to a lot of music, but I really haven’t been, other than Matthew West. I also listened to Matthew’s podcast last week.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 15

This is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, and after I edit and rewrite, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE. Let me know in the comments what you think.

Chapter 15

“So, the dude with Angie is her boyfriend.” Judi pushed a bite of cake into her mouth. “He’s a doctor.”

The cake was amazing. Judi hadn’t eaten cake in — well, she didn’t know how long. She’d always stayed away from cake to try to keep her figure. She couldn’t believe what she’d been missing. This had been her third piece since they’d gotten there.

She stared at the half-eaten piece for a few seconds, then laid the fork back down. Whoa. She was about trade one addiction for another. The sugar addiction wouldn’t kill her as fast as the alcohol might, but still. She pushed the plate away.

“Anyhow, that’s what Mark says. He’s a nice guy when you get to know him.” She wiped frosting off her upper lip with a napkin. “He hates you, though. We should probably duck out before Angie and the kid gets back before they give you another concussion.”

Ben pushed a hand back through his hair and sipped from the cup of coffee Leona had brought him earlier. A handful of guests were still lingering, helping Leona and Adam clean up. Judi had heard them agree they’d stay around until Amelia came back and opened her gifts. The mention of gifts reminded her of the stuffed bear Ben had shoved in the trunk a few miles back. They’d stopped at a toy store in town. He’d had no idea what to buy but Judi had grabbed the bear, shoved it at is his chest and declared bluntly, “Kids like stuffed things. Let’s go.”

“Should I go get that bear out of the trunk?”

Ben stared into the coffee cup for several moments then jerked his head up suddenly. “Huh? Oh. Yeah. That would be a good idea, I guess.” He sat back in the lounge chair he was sitting in and rubbed the back of his neck. “You know what? Let’s go get that and then let’s head out.” He looked at his watch. “It’s getting late and we’ve got a long drive back.”

Judi wanted to go back. Evan’s suggestion they get together when she got back to Spencer was at the forefront of her mind. Still, something tugged at her conscience and she decided not to agree as quickly as she usually would have.

“Shouldn’t we stay?” She shrugged a shoulder. “Just to see how Amelia is?”

Ben shook his head and sipped the coffee again. “No. I think we should go. I shouldn’t be here.”

“Sure you should. You’re her dad.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t know that, and I’ve never acted like a dad, so, no I shouldn’t be here. Plus, it looks like she’s got someone to be her dad anyhow.”

He had a point. Should she tell him he had a point? She pulled her lower lip between her teeth and watched him drinking the coffee and staring blankly at the back of the house.

Actually, both Jesus and Ellie would probably not point out to Ben that he was right about Amelia having a replacement dad. That definitely wouldn’t help his mood.

“Well, still, it would look bad if you just left and didn’t see how she was.”

Ben finished off the coffee. “I’m sure she’s going to be fine. It was just a bloody nose. I got them a ton when I was a kid.”

He said the words but his dipped brow, far-off stare, and hunched shoulders told Judi he didn’t believe it.

“Well, this party has been a bit of a bust, huh?” Adam laughed as he walked over to the table and sat next to Ben. “Angie just called, though, and Amelia seems to be doing fine. No broken bones. They’re heading home soon.”

Ben’s muscles visibly tensed at the word “they’re.”

Ben placed the cup on the table and rubbed a hand across his eyes. “We should be heading out too. We’ve got a long drive back.”

 “You’re welcome to stay the night,” Adam said, folding his hands in front of him as he leaned on the tabletop.  “We’ve got a pullout couch in the den and Angie can sleep in Amelia’s room tonight.”

Ben shook his head quickly. “No. Thank you, but I need to get back and rest up. I’ve got court Monday morning.”

Judi cleared her throat. “Actually, I could use a rest before we head out.”

Adam’s expression brightened as if he was glad he could help somehow. “Sure. You can crash in Angie’s room. It will be a little more private than the den and I’m sure she won’t mind.”

Ben’s expression darkened and he shot Judi a glance she knew meant he was not happy with her. It was true, though. She could use a nap before the drive back.

Manipulating situations was a talent of her’s and she was glad to be able to use it for good this time instead of bad. Stalling their departure would give Ben another chance to see Amelia and say goodbye and maybe give her the gift they’d brought. Leaving now would only leave him on a lower note than he’d been on when he’d arrived. Maybe they could redeem the trip if he and Amelia had another chance to bond. It might make him less grumpy at work on Monday too. Judi wasn’t completely without an ulterior — and self-serving — motive.

She followed Adam into the house. He paused in the kitchen to let Leona know Judi be laying down in Angie’s room and then led Judi up a flight of stairs leading from the dining room and down a narrow hallway with a large window at the end of it.

Adam pushed the door open to a room on the right and as Judi looked to her left, across the hall, she noticed a closed door with a unicorn picture taped to the outside. Turning her attention to Angie’s room, she took in the sunlight pouring in streams across a queen-sized bed with a cherry wood headboard and a comforter featuring pink roses against a white background spread across it. The room even smelled of roses. Clean, tidy, and picturesque. The whole scene made Judi want to roll her eyes. She might have if Adam hadn’t been there and also hadn’t interrupted her thoughts by letting her know where the upstairs bathroom was if she needed it and asking if she’d like an extra blanket from the hall closet.

She thanked him, declining the blanket, and when he’d left and shut the door, she tossed her purse on a chair next to an armoire, stretched her arms over her head while yawning, and looked around the room before flopping back onto the pile of pillows at the top of the bed.

“My-my, Angie Phillipi, you sure know how to live in style.”

She yawned again and rolled onto her side, intending to take the nap she’d said she needed. An open drawer in a desk across from the bed caught her attention briefly but she closed her eyes so she wouldn’t get up and go to look in it. She was turning over a new leaf, changing her ways. She wasn’t about to snoop in the drawers of a desk owned by a woman she barely knew.

When she reached over and laid her phone on a book by the bed the book and the phone fell. The book must have been closer to the edge than she realized. She leaned over and picked the book up and when she did a photograph fluttered to the floor.

“Great. Just trash Angie’s stuff, Judi,” she said to herself as she flipped the photograph over to slide it bask into the book.

Ben and Angie’s smiling faces looked up at her from the photograph and she paused, studying it. Ben’s arm was around Angie who had her body pressed into his side. They were definitely a couple whenever the photo was taken, not only because of Angie’s intimate posture but because of Ben’s hand resting on her thigh. Judi studied the photo for a moment then opened the book to lay the photo inside. Handwritten dates and journal entries made her realize the book was actually a journal. As much as she wanted to know what, if anything, Angie had written about Ben. She was going to stick to her personal promise to not pry into the private lives of others.

She pulled herself back into a comfortable position and closed her eyes, drifting off to sleep quicker than she normally did.

The sound of her phone ringing woke her. She answered it without thinking and without looking at the caller ID, her eyes still closed.

“Hey, gorgeous. I didn’t expect you to pick up when you saw my name.”

The voice sliced a chill through her and she sat up, her eyes popping open. She swallowed hard, wanting to slide her finger over the end call button but feeling as if she were in a daze. Her arms wouldn’t move, her mouth had gone dry, and an odd roar filled her ears.

“Speechless huh?” A sardonic laugh filtered loudly through the phone, causing her to flinch as she realized she’d bumped the speaker button.  “Yeah, well too bad you weren’t speechless when you lied to Seline about that night in my apartment.” Jeff’s cheerful timbre slid into a more mocking tone. “Funny how you didn’t mention to her how you were all over me all night in the bar and all those highballs you kicked back before you asked me to take you back to my place.”

Judi pulled the phone back and started to hit the end call button, noticing the tremor in her hand.

“You wanted it, Judi. You know it. I was only giving you what you wanted before you decided you weren’t going to let me have it. That’s how girls like you are. You beg for it all night long and when we finally give in, then you cry rape. That’s what sluts do, Judi. You know that right? You don’t want your family to know what a slut you are, do you?”

She gasped as the phone was snatched from her hand. She looked up to see Ben standing above her with her phone in his hand, anger flashing in his eyes. She couldn’t figure out where he’d come from or how she hadn’t heard the bedroom door open.

“Who is this?” he hissed at the phone.

“Who is this?” Jeff shot back. “Judi’s new boyfriend?”

“No. This is Judi’s lawyer, and it sounds to me like you’re trying to blackmail my client and I don’t appreciate that and neither will a judge when we — “

Jeff spat a curse word and the line went dead.

Judi hugged her arms around herself, suddenly aware her entire body had grown cold and she was trembling.

“You okay?”

She started to shake her head but changed her mind and nodded.

He lowered his voice and she noticed out of the corner of her eye that the bedroom door was open and she could see into the room across the hall. Amelia was sitting on a pink canopy bed with a doll, brushing its hair.

“Amelia is showing me her room but when I’m done, we need to talk about what just happened. Don’t tell me it was nothing. I don’t know who that guy was but he was threatening you. Is this related to that text you got from some Seline earlier?”

Judi’s head jerked up and her mouth dropped open. “Wha —”

Ben held his hand up and turned toward the doorway. “No. Don’t tell me now. Take a deep breath, calm down and we’ll talk when we get in the car.”

“How much did you hear?”

“Enough to know whoever that guy is he’s a piece of garbage.” He paused, his hand on the doorknob. His tone had softened. “Are you going to be okay for a few minutes?”

Judi nodded but didn’t speak. Ben studied her for a few moments, eyes narrowing, then stepped into the hallway and closed the door. She’d been afraid to speak. If she had, the wall might have fallen, the emotion might have spilled over, and she wouldn’t have been able to put the lid back on again.

The Summer of Paul: The Rack, The Hustler, and A New Kind of Love

Last week I watched three Paul Newman movies as part of my Summer of Paul — The Rack, The Hustler, and  A New Kind of Love. The Summer of Paul is what I am calling my plan to watch as many Paul Newman movies as I can this summer.

The Rack:

Ooh boy. This one was a tough one to watch. This is a very early Paul Newman movie, (his third only in fact) and it was loosely based on a play by Rod Serling (Twilight Zone fame). His acting skills aren’t sharpened just yet, but that is not why it was difficult to watch. It was difficult because it splayed open PTSD from war in a way most movies of the time never did. It showcased what really happened to prisoners of war and stripped away the idea that war creates only unmarked heroes who fought and died for their country and suffered only from being away from their family.

This movie was a very raw depiction of patriotism run amok, how military brass thought they would punish men who collapsed under the heaviness of months and months, if not years of brutal mental and emotional torture and call them traitors, all the while not admitting their own culpability in the mental, emotional, and physical ruin of these men (and later women as well). I support and absolutely stand by our military but our country’s politicians and military leaders are often blind to the hollowed-out husks they abandon when they deny the impact war has on those who fight it on the ground level.

As much as this is a commentary on the effects of war it is also about the stoic relationship between many military leaders and their families and how they can emotionally shut themselves off because of their training.

A lot of the movie features the court room drama of Newman being court marshalled for supposedly collaborating with the enemy, which were the North Koreans at that time. There was one point I wanted to climb right through my computer and absolutely thrash the prosecuting attorney. It is such a brutal scene and I’m guessing many a modern military courtroom drama scene was crafted after it. It certainly stirred up emotion in me. Enough I could have screamed and my heart rate increased at the cruelty of what was being done to Newman’s characters but also what is done to our own soldiers.

The topic of PTSD from our veterans is close to my heart because not only were there two suicides by Vietnam vets within a very tiny area around my house when I was young, in a little grouping of houses of less than 100 people, but after a local soldier was killed in Iraq, many of the soldiers who returned after his death either killed themselves or suffered horrible PTSD. It infuriates me to hear the prosecutor in this film mocking Newman’s obvious mental trauma after being tortured.

Sadly, this film ended in an off way for me. This is a little bit of a spoiler but Newman pretty much says he missed being a magnificent person because he was too mentally week. Ick.

I felt like soldiers with PTSD were made to feel like they are wrong for their actions under duress, but then again, maybe that was the point of the writing of the film (since the film actually changed Serling’s television play quite a bit) — to show that many soldiers will apologize for their weakness under mental stress, instead of admitting it is an actual issue.

The movie is still a good one that makes you think, so I definitely recommend it. It’s also fun to watch Newman start to become the great actor he later became (though he definitely is not there in this one).

If you want to know more about the movie, how it was made, and Paul’s part in it, you can read this story on Roger Ebert’s Blog (https://www.rogerebert.com/streaming/on-the-rack-with-paul-newman-and-stewart-stern)

The Hustler:

This movie did not have as much action in it as I had hoped. I wanted more pool playing and less melodrama between Paul and the woman in the movie. I think the only reason I felt like I didn’t like this movie is because I was expecting something completely different.

Paul plays a professional hustling pool player who travels the country pretending he doesn’t know how to play pool and then swindles people out of their money. The 1986 film, The Color of Money, which stars Paul and Tom Cruise, was the sequel to this film. Yes, it is also on my list of Paul movies to watch this summer.

In the middle of the movie the woman Eddie (Paul’s character) is living with yells, “What else are we going to do?”

And I said I hoped Eddie would go back and play pool because we needed some more action in this movie already. I seriously thought the movie was more about playing pool than Eddie just being a huge jerk.

At one point Paul asks his girlfriend after they’ve spent most of the movie drinking away their days, “So, do you think I’m a loser?”

The Husband, The Boy, and I all said, “yes” at the same time.

I sort of feel like if a movie director needed someone to play a mopey, depressed and moody guy in the 1960s he said, “Call Newman. This role is for him.”

But then I see a movie like A New Kind of Love and realize that Paul could play light characters as well.

The Hustler is a good film, don’t get me wrong. It is well written and well-acted. It was just quite a bit darker than I realized and I would have liked more scenes with Jackie Gleason, who was nominated for an Oscar for the 15 minutes he was on screen out of the 2-hour and 16 minute movie.

A New Kind of Love:

A New Kind of Love was much lighter, but as a self-proclaimed prude, I was bothered by how flippantly sex was regarded by Paul’s character. I wondered when all the STDs would catch up with him if he’d been a real person and not a character in a movie.

Despite my prudish views, I did enjoy the movie overall.

Paul plays a reporter who is also a womanizer, which is always getting him in trouble. His latest fling causes him to be sent into exile in Paris where he meets Joan who is a fashion consultant visiting Paris from New York. Joan has no interest in love. She acts more like a man than a woman and when she first meets Paul, she hates him, of course. The movie takes some unexpected turns when Joan decides that love might be interesting after all when she gives herself a French makeover.

The movie was a nice distraction from the depression in the world.

Sadly, I think I might be sinking into more depression at some point when I watched From the Terrace and Rachel Rachel this weekend. But I get to stare at Paul’s blue eyes, so I guess it is worth it.

Have you seen any of these movies? If so, did you enjoy them?

Faithfully Thinking: When your soul feels dry

The earth has been parched, craving the rain for weeks now. The grass in our backyard is yellow and dead and hard under our bare feet.

The weather service says we’re not in a drought. I find it hard to believe, even though I know the designation has to do with water table levels and other such things. Our rivers and creeks are almost like rock beds.

Our farmers’ fields are dry and not growing.

Sometimes my soul feels the same way. Like there are days when I feel so dry, my insides being strangled by the vines withering in the hot rays of the sun.

Everything I try fails, falling on the dry, dead earth.

Each effort I make to improve our finances sputters to a start then runs out of air, out of gas, out of water, or success, or whatever you want to say.

It’s on days like that that I look for water to quench my thirst. Yes, only Jesus can really quench our deep, soul-level thirst but on the more surface level, I look for things like good books, good food, good people and they help me on a physical and mental level at least.

God never promised our lives would be easy but he promised He’d be there when they weren’t easy.

He never promised we wouldn’t go thirsty or our souls wouldn’t dry up in the heat of it all. What he did promise is that the well that provides his living water will never go dry.

How do you refill the well of your soul?

With things? With social media?

Or with better things like good books, good food, good people and ….?

Sunday Bookends: A variety of books, Paul Newman movies, and still busy weeks

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I ramble about what I’ve been reading, doing, watching, writing and listening to.


What I/we’ve been Reading

I finished Into the Flood by Milla Holt last week and hope to finish Dead Sea Conspiracy by Jerry B. Jenkins this week. I am not enjoying Jenkins’ book as much as I hoped I would, but I think part of it is because of his writing style, which I’m not used to.’

I’m taking little breaks from Jenkins’ book and in the evening, I am reading A Breath of French Air by H.E. Bates. This is part of the Pop Larkins series, which is a very weird series. It’s completely off the wall and quirky and must have been even more so when it was written in the 50s.

I’ve also decided to start The Screw Tape Letters by C.S. Lewis and read a couple of the letters a day to digest them.

I hope to start Mere Christianity before the end of August as well.

I hope to start The Terminal List by Jack Carr by the end of the week, but I’ll be honest that I am fairly certain this is not going to be my type of book. The Husband already read it and said it’s violent but good. He’s looking forward to watching the show on Amazon .


What’s Been Occurring

I thought this past week wasn’t going to be busy and it wasn’t too bad but I only had one day where I didn’t have somewhere to go or something to do.

On Monday we had gymnastics. On Tuesday Little Miss had a friend over and then we drove her friend to the little girl’s first soccer practice. The girls played in the sprinkler and on the slip n slide during the day and after practice, they played on the playground.

Wednesday was my mom’s birthday so we went to their house for lunch with her and my dad and my brother, who drove 90 minutes from his house to see her. We swam some but not as long as we wanted to because of some crazy wasps that I couldn’t even drown in the pool. I tried to drown one and it climbed the handle of the skimmer underwater. I think it was from hell.

My dad made a cake out of watermelon for my mom since she doesn’t eat cake anymore and we did our best to sing Happy Birthday but we were all out of tune which kept cracking my mom and dad up. We started again and it got worse and then fell apart at the end too because we all said a different name – either “Mom,” “Grandma” or my dad, who said “sweetheart.”

That’s okay, though, she still had fun and said it was a wonderful day.

On Friday the whole family went grocery shopping together since The Husband took the day off and surprisingly grocery shopping was not easier with him there because he wants to get there and get it done and I like to take my time and check out what I want to buy before I buy it. We’ve decided we might grocery shop separately in the future.

My dad has been giving us the surplus from his garden, especially squash, zucchini, and kale. We have been enjoying that with meals, usually stir-fried, but last night I finally fried some.

What We watched/are Watching

I am continuing my Summer of Paul, which is what I am calling my summer since I am watching a bunch of Paul Newman movies for fun. I will write more about the movies I watched last week in a post later this week, but will share in this post that I watched The Rack, The Hustler, and A New Kind of Love (which was another movie with him and his wife Joan) this past week.

Previously this summer I watched Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Long Hot Summer, Paris Blues, and Sweet Bird of Youth.

Other Paul Newman movies I watched in the past were Exodus and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

I told my mom we were watching The Hustler last night and suggested she and I watch it today when I go over for lunch. She said, “Oh that’s the one in black and white, isn’t it? We can’t see Paul’s eyes in that one.”

And she’s right…I did miss the blue of Paul’s eyes in the movie but you can still tell they are blue and they are beautiful.

She and I might have to watch a different Paul Newman movie together today instead, not just because we can’t see his blue eyes but because it was the most depressing movie of his I watched so far and my least favorite.

This week I hope to watch Rachel Rachel, with Paul’s wife Joan (I don’t believe this will be a happy one either. It’s about a woman battling depression. She won a Golden Globe for it.), which he directed, Hud, and maybe Cool Hand Luke. I also have From the Terrace lined up. So far I am not able to find a lot of these latest movies for free so I am renting them all on Amazon.

This week I also watched a few episodes of The Manor Born, a British sitcom from the 70s.The Husband also made me suffer through an episode of the old show Hardcastle and McCormick.


What I’m Writing

I will be working on Mercy’s Shore this week and hope to set aside time each day so I can write about 1,000 words a day.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 14

I shared a chapter from this story yesterday to make up for missing last week.

This is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, and after I edit and rewrite, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE. Let me know in the comments what you think.

Chapter 14

Ben felt like he was going to throw up and it wasn’t only because of the gas station hot dog he’d eaten a half an hour before.

Parked in front of a cozy stone farmhouse surrounded almost entirely by flat land and corn fields , he narrowed his eyes and chewed on his lower lip, tapping the side of his finger against his chin.

“Let’s forget it.”

Judi laughed at his words and finished applying her make up. “After driving four hours, which included sitting for almost two, eating garbage food and being used as your therapist? I think not.”

Evan had said he’d run into Angie’s brothers somewhere in Spencer, something Ben been able to avoid for the last couple of years since he’d moved back to the area. He wondered if they’d be there today and if they were, he wondered if he’d get out of this party alive. The pair owned and ran their own construction business and were about as big in the shoulders as Jason Tanner. Together they could have made up half of the defensive line of a NFL team. He was actually surprised they hadn’t killed him already.

“I’m not really well liked in there, Judi.” His palms were actually sweating. Nausea gripped him and he had a sudden urge to drop his head between his knees and gasp in a few mouthfuls of air. “This could really end badly.”

“Her parents wanted you here, right?”

Ben nodded slowly, his eyes on the front door, drifting across the yard lined with cars, two of them large, black pickups he knew were Dan and Mark Philippi’s. His gaze lingered on the back of the truck and he wondered if that’s where they’d throw his body before they drove somewhere remote to dispose of it.

“Yeah, they did want me here, but actually being here is another story.”

Judi laughed, a carefree laugh which grated on his nerves even more. “It’ll be fine and if it isn’t, then at least it will be entertaining for me.” She winked and slid on a pair of sunglasses. “Come on, big Mr. Attorney. You can handle this. It’s not like it’s any worse than a murder trial.”

Ben took a deep breath and opened the door. “My clients aren’t usually murders, but thanks.”

Each step he took up the sidewalk was like walking knee deep in mud. He’d only seen photographs of Amelia. For all he knew she might run away screaming from him. He looked at the stone underneath him and knew Adam had crafted this sidewalk like he had the one at their old house back in Spencer. The man was a craftsman through and through, whether it was with stone or wood.

He stopped at the door and Judi stepped next to him. The gold door hanger glinted in the sun as he shoved his hands in his pockets.

“That’s not how you knock on a door,” Judi said reaching up and slamming the knocker twice.

“I’m absolutely regretting agreeing to this,” he told her as footsteps broke through the muffled sounds of children’s giggles and squeals and adult laughter.

The person he’d hoped would be standing on the other side of the door when it opened was not who appeared and he visibly flinched, stepping back in anticipation of Mark Philippi’s fist hitting his face. The smile Mark had been wearing immediately slipped as dark brows furrowed and the rugged jawline clenched.

Ben expected the door to be slammed in his face and it might have if Judi hadn’t leaned into the doorway. “Hey! Is this the right place for a party? Also, do you have a little girls’ room because I could really use one.”

Judi’s appearance seemed to throw Mark off his game almost as much as seeing Ben standing at his parents’ door. “Uh. Yeah. Sure.”

Judi didn’t wait for Ben to make the first move. She stepped past him and m Mark, looking up at the latter  on the way by. “Oh, you’re a tall one, aren’t you?” She lifted her sunglasses for a minute, looked Mark up and down and winked. “Do you work as a bouncer? You’ve got to with those shoulders.”

Mark’s expression faded to an unreadable mask, but one eyebrow lifted. “The bathroom is down this hall. First door on the left.”

Judi didn’t miss a beat. She placed the sunglasses on top of her head and kept smiling. “Awesome. Thank you so much.”

Her departure left Ben standing with a stone faced Mark still holding the front door open before the tension was finally cut by Adam appearing from behind Mark, almost as if by magic. “Ben!” He stuck his hand out. “You made it! What a great surprise!”

Ben accepted the handshake and Adam shook it firmly. “Come on in. You must be exhausted. That’s a long drive.”

Adam gently pulled Ben forward, forcing him to step around Mark who was now scowling down at him like a Sumo wrestler who’d just been told he wasn’t getting any dinner.

“How was your drive?” Adam asked as he released Ben’s hand outside the living room entrance.

“Okay, but we did break down about an hour from here. I apologize that it made us late.”

“No worries at all.” Adam smiled and motioned toward the hallway Judi had walked down. “Things are just getting started. Everyone is in the backyard with the piñata and bouncy house.” He laughed and held his hand up toward his mouth like he was letting Ben in on a secret. “Yes, we went a little over board and splurged for the bouncy house, but she only turns four once. And it was a good deal.”

Ben took Adam’s appearance in. Short cropped brown hair with flecks of gray in it now, maybe thinner than before but good-colored complexion. His brown eyes sparkled with excitement and he seemed well. Maybe he wasn’t sick. Maybe it was Leona. Or maybe it was Angie. Or —

“Ben!” Leona’s voice from behind him turned him from Angie’s father to a petite woman in her mid-50s with graying honey blond hair cropped along her jaw line.

Leona held her arms out to him and embraced him before he could respond. The parents of the woman he’d abandoned four years ago were certainly being very welcoming and he wasn’t sure how to take it.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” Leona said with a warm smile. “We didn’t think you were going to be able to make it. I thought you weren’t allowed to drive yet.”

“Oh, I’m not yet, but —”

Once again Judi had horrible timing. She came down the hall with a broad smile and stood next to him. He gestured briefly at Judi. “But my secretary nicely offered to drive me.”

“Hello.” Judi smiled and waved at Adam and Leona whose smiles faded briefly then returned. She waved again at Mark who managed a faint smile. “So nice to meet you.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you too,” Adam said. “Thank you for driving Ben down.”

 Leona’s smile was as warm as before as she motioned toward the hall. “You both must be starving. We have plenty of food in the backyard.” She looked at her son. “Mark, why don’t you and your dad walk Judi out and grab her something to drink.”

Mark kept his gaze on Ben for a few seconds then looked at his mother and smiled a smile Ben knew was forced. “Sure. I’d be glad to.”

When Adam and Mark led Judi to the backyard, Leona turned toward Ben and he felt the knot in his stomach return. “Leona, listen, it was really nice of you and Adam to invite me and to want me here, but Angie —”

Leona held up her hand. “Didn’t want you here. I know. We are going against her wishes but we felt it was time for you to get to know your daughter more.” She laid her hand against Ben’s shoulder. “Will you come into the living room with me for a moment?”

Ben followed the woman who had once been like a mother-in-law to him into a cozy room with white walls, blue flowers on white couches and chairs, and a high-backed recliner that he imagined was Adam’s. Along one wall was a floor to ceiling bookcase which he immediately envied. A television sat inside a cubby in the wall of the bookcase, which in addition to being filled with books was also lined with various frames full of photographs of a bright-eyed, blond haired little girl, some with Adam and Leona, one with a laughing Angie. He couldn’t remember the last time he saw her laugh. She probably laughed a lot now that she didn’t have to deal with his various issues.

He also couldn’t remember when he’d last seen Angie in person. Probably when Amelia was a year old and he’d run into them when he was home for a visit around Christmas and her family was preparing to sell and move to Lancaster. It had been in a small farm store the Tanner’s ran and he’d been picking up milk his mom had asked for. Amelia and Leona had been picking up sweet potatoes and various baked goods.

He’d ducked behind tall rows of canned vegetables and fruits like a coward while they passed by. His gaze had fallen to Angie first, his chest aching at how beautiful she was, then had drifted to the baby propped against her hip, full and pouting lips, wide eyes that looked so much like his own, and Angie’s blond hair. In that moment he’d felt like the scum of the earth and left the store without the milk, lying to his mom and telling her they were out.

He looked at the photos again. Amelia on a swing at a playground, on the back of a pony, in a pool, in Angie’s arms. His chest ached like that day in the store. What was he even doing here? He kept thinking of a song from the early 90s where the singer called himself a creep and lamented he didn’t belong here —wherever here was. Ben felt the same way. He was a creep who didn’t belong in this house.

“I know this is awkward for you.” Leona’s voice brought him back to the present and turned him around. “It’s awkward for us too. We didn’t even know if you wanted anything to do with Amelia, but we had to take a chance. We really felt like —I mean, I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but we felt like God was leading us to reach out to you. Adam and I truly feel Amelia’s father should be a part of her life.”

He kept his hands in his pockets and nodded his head slowly, looking at the photos again briefly before he moved his gaze to Leona’s. “I don’t mind you saying that, Leona, but this isn’t what Angie wants.”

“Is it what you want?”

“What do you mean?”

“To be a part of Amelia’s life.”

Ben scratched rubbed a hand against the back of his head, scratched there. “Listen, I —”

“Mom, we’re getting ready to open presents, where are —” Angie’s expression as she came around the corner and saw Ben standing there switched quickly from shocked to annoyed within five seconds flat. Her smooth jawline tightened and her lips pressed into a thin line. One hand flew to her hip as she gestured toward him with the other hand. “What’s he doing here?”

Leona cleared her throat. “Your father and I invited him.”

“I know, but I told him I didn’t want him here.” Angie was mainly looking at her mother, occasionally casting looks Ben’s way, as if he could see them but couldn’t hear them.

“We invited him again and —”

“Decided not to tell me he was coming.”

“No, that’s not it, he had a concussion and couldn’t drive so we didn’t think he was coming. His secretary drove him here.”

Angie rolled her eyes. “I knew that girl looked familiar. Judi Lambert.” She scoffed. “Secretary. Yeah right. Nice try.”

She still wasn’t looking at Ben.

“Angie, honey, we’re not trying to cause any issues, we just felt Ben should see his daughter before the move.”

Ben cocked an eyebrow and looked between the two women. “The move?”

Leona turned her head to face him. “We’re moving back to Spencer Valley. Adam’s mother is very ill and we’re going back to take care of her. Adam also wants to move his furniture business there to run it with his brother.”

“Oh,” Ben said.

“He doesn’t need to know about the move because he’s not involved in it,” Angie snapped.

Leona left out a heavy sigh. “We didn’t want him to be shocked if he saw us, or you, around.”

Pink flushed along Angie’s cheekbones. “So call and tell him. He didn’t need to be told in person.”

Ben rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger, the muscles along his neck and shoulder tensing. “Yeah, okay, well thanks for talking about me like I’m not in the room. That’s been fun, but I’m more than willing to —”

“Maybe I’m talking about you like you’re not in the room because you aren’t supposed to be in the room.” Angie’s words snapped his sentence off and left him with a sick feeling in his stomach. Her voice dripped with absolute vitriol.

Leona stepped forward between them and held up her hands, palms out. “Okay. Truce. There was some miscommunication. Your father and I invited him again and we didn’t tell you because we thought he wasn’t coming. Now he is here, and I think he should be allowed to meet Amelia. With your permission.”

Angie folded her arms across her chest. “No. I’m not giving you my permission. I don’t want him here.” She looked at Ben. “Oh, sorry. I don’t want you to feel left out so I’ll tell you.” She pointed toward the front door. “I don’t want you here. You and your so-called secretary need to leave.”

“Angie, please —”

“Mom! She doesn’t even know him. What do you think I’m going to do walk out there and tell her I got her a daddy for her birthday?”

“No, I don’t think that, Angela. We don’t have to tell her who he is right now. Just that he’s a friend of yours —”

“Of mine?”

“Fine, of your father’s and mine.”

“Hi.” Ben waved slowly, wishing he had taken painkillers before he walked in. “Can I have a say in any of this?”

Angie’s eyes flashed with anger. “You haven’t for the last four years so why should you now?”

Leona tipped her head back and let out an exasperated sigh. “Angela…”

“It’s true, Mom. Where has he been? He sends money. That’s it.”

“At least I do that,” Ben mumbled. “Not to mention, you made it very clear more than once that you didn’t want me around.”

The muscle in Angie’s neck that always jumped when she was angry was bouncing over time. Ben knew he should be focused on what she was saying, but instead he was remembering when he used to kiss that neck, smoothing the muscle, and her, into submission.

Before Angie could respond — and Ben did wonder what she had been about to say — a small figure bounced into the living room wearing a purple tutu and a hot pink shirt with a white kitten on it. She turned her body toward Ben and placed her hands on her hips, striking a pose right out of her mother’s playbook.

Her eyebrows dipped. “And who are you?”

Her little voice demanded an answer.  She had his blue eyes and his nose and the way she was scowling at him right now he had a feeling she had a bit of his temper in her too. He only hoped she learned how to manage it better than he had.

“Uh, I’m Ben,” he said hesitantly, unable to look away from her even as he felt Angie’s eyes boring into the side of his head.

The brow relaxed. “Hey, Ben, I’m Amelia. Are you here for my party?”

“Uh. Yeah. I am.”

Her eyes dropped to his foot, still wrapped in a boot, though smaller than it had been three months ago. She poked a finger in her mouth and slid it out again then pointed down. “What happened to your foot? Do you have a booboo?”

He nodded slowly. “Yes actually. It’s broken.”

“Did you fall?” She looked up at him and blinked a few times. For a moment  he almost lost himself in those eyes, spiraling down into racing thoughts of all the years of her life he’d missed, all the firsts and milestones — first words, first steps, books read before bed . . .

Her little hand reached out and in seconds her tiny fingers had curled around two of his. She tugged him forward. “Come see the backyard. It’s pink for my birthday.”

“Amelia, honey. You don’t even know —”

Angie left the final word hanging in the air. Ben looked over his shoulder and saw her lips parted, her eyes focused on his, and then the quick intake of breath as she dropped her gaze to the floor. She was right, though. Amelia didn’t even know him.

He dutifully followed his daughter, though, with Angie and Leona close behind. How could he say no to this little girl whose fingers were so soft against his, whose eyes had met his and still decided he should come see her birthday party.

They passed through a cozy, bright kitchen that smelled of fresh lemons and something else sweet that made his stomach growl. Squinting in the bright sunlight as they stepped through the patio doors made his head pound. He reached for his sunglasses, to cut down on the glare.

When his eyes adjusted behind the darkened lenses, he wished he’d still been blinded by the light. Mark’s hard stare had been joined by an equally hard stare from his brother Dan, both of them standing like two burly security guards by a table full of food, their arms folded across their broad chests. Judi was sitting at a small table with a group of young children, sipping from a pink paper cup with a unicorn on the side.

Amelia was right. The backyard had indeed been decorated in pink, with pink streamers hanging down from the ceiling on an erected white tent, pink tablecloths on the tables, pink balloons tacked to a back fence and along the streamers. Even the bouncy house was a pink unicorn castle with pink flags on top.

“Come on.” She tugged him toward the small table where Judi was sitting. “You can sit with me. I’m the birthday girl.”

Ben looked over his shoulder at Angie standing on the patio, watching him closely. Sitting down with his little girl might make her eyes flash even more with anger but refusing to do so might also break a little heart. He made himself comfortable on a preschool sized chair next to Judi show smirked at him as she lifted her cup and took a sip.

“Fruit punch with sherbert,” Judi told him with a grin.

Amelia sat on her chair and lifted a silver plastic tiara off the table, placing it on her head.  “So, Ben, are you friends with my mommy?”

Ben swallowed hard. “Um…”

He glanced at Angie who had stepped into the backyard, sitting a few feet away at an adult sized table with her parents and some other people he didn’t recognize. They must have been the parents of the other children running around. Angie was watching him but everyone else had gone back to eating and chatting.

He had no idea if she could hear him or not. “I know your mommy. Knew. I mean I knew your mommy.”

Beads of sweat dotted his forehead. Knew her mother was a definite understatement.

Amelia studied him in a way that made him feel like she could see right through him for several seconds. Then she abruptly pulled her gaze away and scooped her finger in a glob of icing, sticking the finger in her mouth.

“I like ponies,” she said when she pulled the finger out with a pop. “Do you like ponies?”

What was the rule about lying to children? It wasn’t that he didn’t like ponies, but he also didn’t exactly like them. Still, her bright blue eyes were boring into him the same way his bored into a witness on the stand.

“I like them okay.”

There. It wasn’t a lie. A very lawyer-like answer and totally acceptable.

“Do you like cake?”

Actually, he liked pie more but she clearly liked cake and he didn’t hate cake so, “Sure do.”

She lightly touched her fingers to her tiara. “Do you like my tiara? My grampy gave it to me.”

His throat thickened with emotion. He wondered what she’d been told about her other grandparents, or if they ever mentioned them. His father would love to give Amelia gifts like tiaras and purple tutus. He hated he was the reason his parents didn’t have that opportunity.

“I love it,” he choked out.

Her smile sent his senses spinning. Wow. He’d missed out on so much by staying away.

She sighed, propped her chin in her hand for a few seconds, then stood up quickly. “Imma gonna get you cake. It’s a party. You need cake at a party.”

She headed toward the table with the cake. He watched as a little girl ran to her with a ball. Amelia was quickly distracted and ran to a clear space in the yard to toss the ball with the girl and a few other children.

“She’s adorable,” Judi whispered. “And she’s way too friendly to take after you.” She winked at him. “I’m going to get some more of that amazing potato salad Leona made. Want anything?”

He shook his head. “No. I feel like I’m going to throw up.”

She patted his shoulder as she stood. “Suit yourself. Just don’t puke in my purse while I’m gone.”

Her seat wasn’t empty long. This time it was Dan Phillipi’s turn to glare at him. Mark must have tagged him in.

Dan sat backwards on the little chair and leaned toward Ben across the table. “What are you doing here, Oliver.”

Ben folded his arms on the top of the table and leaned forward even though he really wanted to lean backward. Very backward. “Your parents asked me to come.”

Dan’s voice was hard. “You’ve been asked to be involved in your child’s life before and you never have. What was different about this time?”

Ben kept his eyes on Dan’s, trying to act like he wasn’t intimidated by the man, but also realizing he had no idea how to answer that question. If he told him he’d been worried about someone in the family being sick, Dan would call it a garbage. If he told him his doctor had said he’d been very lucky not to die in that car accident, then Dan would probably laugh and say he wish Ben had died.

Luckily he didn’t have to answer because everyone’s attention was drawn to a cry of pain from the gaggle of children and then a wail that sliced into Ben’s headache. Angie flew up from her chair, knocking it over as she turned around and darted across the yard, her parents close behind. Ben’s heartrate increased as other parents stood and looked on anxiously. Dan stood and followed his sister, briefly forgetting about his interrogation of Ben.

Ben stood and walked slowly toward the chaos, his knees trembling when he saw Angie holding a crying Amelia, blood pouring from the little girl’s nose and running into her mouth. He wanted to lunge forward, take her in his arms, wipe the blood off and find out what happened, but it wasn’t his place. It was Angie’s place and she was already doing what needed to be done.

Someone bumped his arm, pushing past him and rushed toward Amelia and Angie. Ben watched a man with short, wavy reddish blond hair kneel beside Angie, who was now on her knees with Amelia in her arms.

“What happened?” the man asked.

“The ball hit her face,” a little boy said as the parents looked on.

The man touched Amelia under the chin and tipped her face upward. He studied her as tears streamed down her face. “It’s coming from her nose and it doesn’t look broken but there’s a lot of swelling.”

“Should we take her to the hospital?” Angie asked, her worried gaze focused on the man’s face, clearly looking to him for guidance.

The man pondered Amelia’s blood-stained face for a few moments before answering. “It might be good to get it x-rayed. Yeah. Just as a precaution. I’ll drive us.”

Drive us? Ben studied the scene before him with a stern expression. Who was this guy who straightened from his stooped position, holding his daughter?

“Hey, kid, don’t worry. We’ll have you fixed up in no time,” the man said, smiling at Amelia. He glanced over at Angie as she stood. “Let’s get a wet cloth and clean some of this blood off so I can see how bad it actually is.”

Angie nodded and Ben saw the tears in her eyes. The man laid a hand on Angie’s back, leaned down and kissed her mouth. “Don’t worry, okay? She’s going to be fine.”

Angie nodded again but a tear rolled down her cheek and dripped off her chin. She followed the man closely as he headed toward the patio and into the house. Watching them, Ben felt even more like an outsider than he had in the living room. Apparently, those three were a family. A family he wasn’t a part of.

Fiction Thursday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 13

Because I missed posting a chapter last Friday for Fiction Friday, I am posting an extra chapter today.

This is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, and after I edit and rewrite, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE. Let me know in the comments what you think.

Chapter 13

Judi leaned back on her hands as she watched the man climb down from the cab of the truck. Pulling her lower lip between her front teeth, she was torn between checking him out and letting worry clutch at her as he turned and slid his sunglasses off. Scenes from movies she’d watched late at night when she couldn’t sleep flashed through her mind, but were quickly replaced by the striking figure in front of her.

The tall, dark-haired, and rugged man strolled toward her with confidence, wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a gray t-shirt that fit nicely across his broad shoulders and clearly well-toned torso.

“It really is you,” he said as he came close, a broad smile flicking a spark of energy across her skin. “Judi Lambert. What in the world are you doing out here?”

He knew her, that was clear. Studying the dimple on one cheek, bright green eyes framed by fairly long dark eyelashes, she was having a hard time placing him, though. As much as she wanted to.

Her confusion was clearly evident on her face.

He laughed. “You have no idea who I am, do you?”

By now Ben had stepped out of the car and was standing next to her with a dipped brow and a tight jaw, watching the man walk toward them.

Judi shook her head and slid off the hood. “Um, no. Should I?”

The man stopped, placed his hands at his waist, and flashed a smile that made Judi involuntarily giggle. “Yeah. You should. You were one of the best make-out sessions I ever had in high school.”

Judi bit her lower lip again. She hadn’t had many make-out sessions in high school, and she knew this wasn’t the person she’d gone even further with. If she made out with this guy she’d definitely —

No way. It couldn’t be. “Oh wow. Evan? Evan McGee?”

Evan winked and shaped his thumb and index finger like a gun and pointed it at her as another rich laugh escaped. “The one and only.” He pulled the trigger on the finger gun, grinning.

“What in the world are you doing in the middle of nowhere?” she asked, immediately self-conscious of her hair, which she was sure was a mess. She dragged a hand through it and then across it, hoping to smooth away any stray strands.

“I could easily ask you two the same thing,” Evan said, glancing at Ben. “Oh, sorry. Are you Judi’s boyfriend?”

Ben shook his head and folded his arms across his chest. He wasn’t smiling. “No. I’m Ben Oliver. We went to school together.”

Evan’s face registered recognition. “Ben! Oh wow! Of course! It’s been years.” He stuck his hand out toward Ben and the two men shook hands briefly. “Sorry I didn’t recognize you.”

Judi smoothed her hands down her skirt, hoping it looked less disheveled than it felt. She smirked and tilted her head toward Ben. “He’s my boss now.”

Evan’s eyebrows raised. “Oh yeah? You went to law school, right?”

Ben nodded and slid his hands into the front pockets of his jeans, looking a little more relaxed than he had a few minutes earlier. “Yeah. Opened an office in Burkett a year ago.” In fact, Judi had never seen him look so casual. Almost as if he’d finally unclenched a little.

Ben glanced at her and back and Evan. “So, not to break up this reunion or anything but what in the world are you doing out here?”

“I drive long distance for a trucking company now and have a delivery in a town a couple miles from here,” Evan said. “I saw Judi when I drove by. I didn’t think there was any way it was actually her, though.” He grinned again and let his eyes slide down Judi’s legs. “I mean, she had the same legs, but I still wasn’t sure.” He shrugged a shoulder and looked back at Ben. “It takes a lot to turn one of these rigs around but I found a place so I could see if she — well, both of you needed some help.”

Judi twisted a strand of hair around her finger and bent her ankle back and forth. “It’s such a small world, isn’t it? And we do need help. My car croaked and the only mechanic around said it would take him 45 minutes to get here.”

Evan nodded toward the car. “Let me take a look before you spend a bunch of money. Maybe it’s an easy fix.” He glanced over his shoulder as he leaned down to pop the hood. “What are you guys doing this far south anyhow?”

“We’re headed to Lancaster to see —” Judi paused, not sure how much of Ben’s personal life she should share. She slid her gaze quickly to Ben who was watching her with an unreadable expression.

Evan filled in the blank. “Angie.”

Ben transferred his attention from Judi to Evan.

“Yeah,” Judi said. “How’d you know?”

Evan had opened the hood and propped it open and was looking at the engine. “I just took a guess. I heard she’d moved to Lancaster with her parents. I bumped into her brothers a few months ago on a visit back to Spencer.” He leaned over the engine and unscrewed a cap. “I didn’t think you two were together anymore.”

Ben cleared his throat. “We’re not.”

Evan turned and winced. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to assume.” He held his hands up, palms out. “None of my business.”

Ben nodded curtly. “It’s fine.”

It was time to change the conversation. Judi stepped closer to Evan. “So where are you headed after this delivery?”

Evan unscrewed another cap and pulled out a stick Judi figured she should know the purpose of but didn’t. “Back to Spencer for a visit actually.”

Judi could smell a musky cologne or aftershave coming off Evan. “How long will you be staying?”

“About a month. I’ve been working non-stop for about two years straight, so my boss said I needed to take some of my vacation time.” He leaned back and wiped his hands on a rag. “Mom’s been asking me to come home for a visit for a while now, so I figured I’d finally grant her wish.” He nodded toward the car. “I’m going to slide underneath to double check but I think this might be a simple fix.”

Judi watched him lay on his back under the front of the car, biting her lower lip as his shirt pulled up and revealed a hint of toned skin.

“Looks like you’re out of coolant,” he said after a few minutes.

Judi pursed her lips. “Oh. What’s coolant?”

“It keeps the car cool,” Ben quipped.

Judi rolled her eyes. “Thanks.” She turned her attention back to Evan. “So how do we get coolant?”

“Actually, I have some. It’s in the back of my cab.” He jerked his head toward his truck and smiled at Judi. “I’ll be right back.”

Judi folded her arms behind her and shot a smile right back at him. “I’ll be right here.”

“Of course he has some in his truck,” Ben mumbled, loud enough so only Judi heard it as Evan walked away.

 She elbowed him in the side as she walked past him to stand on the other side of the car and watch Evan. She ignored the gagging noise that came from Ben.

Ben cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”

“You are excused to wherever would like to be excused to.”

“Uh no – I mean you’re obviously ogling Evan. So —”

“Uh. Yeah, I am.” She turned and fanned herself with her hand. “Because he’s hot. Like seriously hot.” A soft growl came from her throat. “I don’t remember him being this hot when I knew him in high school.”

Ben rolled his eyes again. “Good grief. I don’t care if he’s hot or cold as long as he can get us moving again.”

Twenty minutes later, Evan had the car started and Ben shook his hand as he asked for directions back to the highway. Evan reached his hand out to Judi next and held it longer than he had Ben’s. Much longer, rubbing the top of it with his thumb. “Well, Judi Lambert, promise me you’ll look me up when you get back to Spencer, okay?”

The way his green eyes sparkled should have been a crime. “I’ll definitely be sure to do that.”

He let her hand go and held up his hand. “Hold on.” When he came back from the truck he was holding his phone. “Let me get your number so I can call you sometime.”

After she’d given him her number, she thanked him and slid in behind the steering wheel. Evan looked over his shoulder as he walked back to his truck and waved one more time at her, then climbed inside. She smiled at him, waving back as he started the truck and she started the car. When she looked away from Evan, she met Ben’s amused expression.

“Are you two done with your cute meet or whatever they call it in romance novels?”

Judi rolled her eyes and shifted the car into gear. “I don’t know what it’s called in romance novels, but yes, I guess we are done saying goodbye as people tend to do when they are parting ways.” She adjusted her rearview and side mirrors. “How would you know about what is in a romance novel anyhow? I doubt you have a romantic bone in your body.”

Ben scoffed. “I know about those novels. My little sister reads them all the time. Angie did too. They’re ridiculous. About as ridiculous as you fawning all over Evan. Now come on. Let’s get going before you break us down again somewhere.”

Judi gave him a mock salute as she pulled out onto the road. “Yes, sir, Captain Oliver.”

“You’re not as funny as you think, you know.”

Judi winked. “Luckily I don’t think I’m that funny.”

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye as he scrolled through his phone. Maybe Ben would be doing some ogling of his own soon. Ogling his old flame Angie, who Judi was going to try her best to make his current and future flame. She needed a challenge, something to distract herself from the past that seemed to be trying to catch up to her.

Wednesday Hodgepodge

This is a weekly feature hosted by This Side of the Pond.

1. Do you have a sister? Tell us something about her. If you don’t have a sister, tell us about a friend who has been like a sister. Or tell us about a sister-in-law if you have one who is extra special. 

I do not have a sister, at least on this side of heaven. My mom had a baby in between my brother and I who did not make it. Her name was Faith Leanne. My mom had toxemia, which is now called preeclampsia and the baby had to be taken early by c-section. This was in the early 70s when they didn’t know as much about how to help premature babies. She died when she was about two days old and is buried in a tiny cemetery behind a church down the road from my parents’ house. Every year on her birthday, June 28, my parents go to her grave and place flowers there.

2. Resister, assister, insister, persister…choose one and explain how it relates to you and your life lately. 

This is a bit of a tough one because I am sometimes all of these. I guess right now I am struggling because I can’t be the assister I would like to be. I would like to assist in helping pay our bills right now but I can’t. I don’t have a full or part-time job and the side jobs I’m trying to do aren’t helping at all. In fact, they are costing me money at this point. I have to pay for a variety of services to self-publish my books and I have to have camera equipment to take the photographs I submit for stock photography.

I can’t say for sure I’ve been able to recoup either of those costs so far. Once in awhile I get enough money from stock photography to help cover one bill or put back in the pot for mortgage. I am hoping that this year I can find more ways to support the family, although my husband says my teaching the kids (they are homeschooled), cooking meals, etc. is even more important. Poor many is probably delirious from working too much.

3. Share a favorite song, book, movie, or television program that features sisters.

Sisters from White Christmas is what comes to mind first for me.

And then when Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye do it later in the movie.

4. August 3rd is national watermelon day…are you a fan? Do you like watermelon-flavored candy? Besides eating the melon as is, do you have a good recipe made with watermelon? 

August 3 is also my mom’s birthday and she loves watermelon so that is a good combination.

I love watermelon but sadly it has not tasted as good this summer. I have some lingering effects from when I had Covid last year and it appears that watermelon is among the things that do not taste right anymore, sadly.

It doesn’t taste rancid like peanut butter did for a very long time, but it doesn’t taste…. Right. I don’t know how to explain it other than it tastes like some sort of melon, but not sweet at all. I do like watermelon-flavored candies but I have to be careful because I am allergic to corn and corn syrup is in most candies (and every other processed food).

I do not have any good watermelon recipes. I just like it plain or added to a fruit salad.

5. ‘Tis August…what are three things you’re looking forward to this month? 

I am looking forward to this month being slower than previous months, honestly. My husband has restaurants he wants to take me to and places he says we need to go and if he wants to pick one day a week to do that, I am fine, but July was crazy busy. My head was spinning. I need more days in August to just sit, sip tea, and read a good book before school starts on August 31.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Yesterday I made myself a cup of herbal tea with some tea I’ve been waiting for. I made it with just the right amount of honey but then I had to leave to take my daughter’s friend to soccer practice. I had intended to take the tea with me but forgot it at home. I thought about that cup of tea the entire 20-minute drive to that practice. This morning I made another cup of tea, but it was nowhere near as good because I hadn’t washed the soap well enough out of my cup.

Summer of Paul: Sweet Bird of Youth

I decided about a month ago that I would start watching Paul Newman movies for fun this summer. I started with Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, at the suggestion of Erin at Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs, and then stumbled on to a list of Paul Newman movies on a movie site to sort of guide me.

I have a lot of catching up to do on this list and hope to get to as many of them as possible through August. So far this summer, I have watched Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Long Hot Summer, Paris Blues, and Sweet Bird of Youth. In the past, I have watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Exodus.

Up this week will be The Rack and The Hustler. The Husband wants me to watch The Hustler with him this weekend.

Before the summer ends, I hope to get to:

Cool Hand Luke (which I watched once many years ago),

Somebody Up There Likes Me

Rachel Rachel (which he directed and stars his wife Joan)

The Color of Money

Hud

Nobody’s Fool

The Sting

The Verdict

And the documentary series about him and his wife, Joan Woodward:

The Last Movie Stars

The documentary is on HBO Max, but I will have to get a subscription to watch it because we were sharing a subscription with someone, and they got rid of their subscription. We will see what can be done, but, man, a subscription to HBO Max is expensive now! Maybe they will have a sale.

I have digressed quite a bit here because I had planned for this post to be about Sweet Bird of Youth, which I watched a couple of weeks ago. This is yet another movie that Paul was in that was based on a Tennessee Williams play. I didn’t realize that Paul had been in more than one movie based on Williams’ plays until I started watching his movies this summer.

I had never heard of Sweet Bird of Youth before and for a movie made in 1962, it was quite dark and heavy and also seemed ahead of its time somehow. The acting was absolutely stellar all the way around. The overall story was gritty and raw, focusing on some serious issues, at least one of which I don’t want to share because it will be a spoiler. A couple of the issues I can mention are alcoholism, drug (pot) use, promiscuity, domestic abuse, power-hungry politicians, greed, and nepotism.

Paul’s shirt was off quite a few times in this movie, which wasn’t a bad thing to me but did drive my son nuts because every time he walked in the room, there was a shirtless Paul Newman.

“Just go back to watching your movie with that shirtless guy,” he told me one day to avoid discussing his need to eat healthier food (or maybe it was about his need to clean his room. I lose track of our discussions now that he is a teenager).

In addition to Paul, the movie starred Ed Begley (wow. His performance made me want to reach through the screen and slap him! Dang!), Shirley Knight (she was stunning and so perfect in that part), Rip Torn (didn’t even recognize him, he was so young), Geraldine Page, and Madeline Sherwood.

Here is a small description of the movie I found online: “After unsuccessfully trying his luck in Hollywood, charming gigolo Chance Wayne (Paul Newman) wanders back to his hometown, accompanied by Alexandra Del Lago (Geraldine Page), a movie star on the wane. Chance quickly falls back into his old rut — he’s still smitten with his former sweetheart, Heavenly Finley (Shirley Knight), but her thuggish brother (Rip Torn) and her crooked politician father (Ed Begley) both hate him. When Alexandra leaves town, Chance is left with little more than trouble.”

I do recommend the movie, but I will warn you that it is not a happy Paul and some of the topics are a bit uncomfortable. I am not giving rankings to the movies I am watching but if I was, I’d give this one a five out of five.