Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Like A Turtle--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, May 31

     My next-door neighbors of sixteen years put their house up for sale today. They bought a farm in Wisconsin a few years ago, built a house, and today the for-sale sign went up. I wanted to cry. As I stared at their sign from my window, Judy called and asked if I wanted her horse magazines. She’d been subscribing for years, hoping to get a horse once they moved. A few minutes later, Judy was on my front porch with a stack of “Horse and Rider.”
     “Dennis told me about JB,” Judy said solemnly as I opened the door.
     Judy’s husband and I had been gardening and I told Dennis that JB and I were divorcing.
     “I read your book,” she said. “You’ve been through a lot. Changed a lot.”
     “I have.”
     “When I was in my yard and JB was in yours, I’d wave and he’d duck his head like a turtle. He wouldn’t say anything.”
     “He did that to you? I’ve seen that move of his. Ugh. Please don’t take it personally. It’s just him.”
     “Sully and Sammy were running up and down your side of the fence barking at Ernie and Ernie was running with them. I like that Ernie gets exercise that way.”
     “I like it, too.”
     “Sully stepped on Sammy and made him cry. JB came flying out of the house with an angry look on his face and demanded, ‘What happened to my dog?’ like I kicked Sammy or something. I told JB Sully stepped on Sammy, and JB walked back into the house with his tail between his legs.”
     “Other people have been telling me JB’s wasn’t nice to them, too. I’m just glad he’s gone.” I gave Judy a tearful hug. “I’m sad you and Dennis are leaving. You’re wonderful neighbors.”
     My phone dinged as Judy was leaving.

     “How are you?” Golf Guy texted.

     I didn’t answer.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Eighteen Holes--"Thank You Ashley Madison"

Thursday, May 30

     I pulled into the parking lot of the Schaumburg Golf Club, opened the rear hatch, put my golf shoes on, and Paul pulled up behind me in a golf cart and said, “Throw your stuff on and let’s go.”
     “You already checked in?”
     “Yeah. I put it all on my credit card. Pay me sixty bucks later.”
     I threw my bag on the cart, strapped it in, hopped on, and Paul made a beeline to the starter. I needed to pee but figured I could hold it nine holes. The starter paired us up with two young guys, one who looked like John Hamm from “Mad Men.” Paul drove toward the first tee and the cart died. He flagged down the starter.
     “I’m going to the bathroom,” I told Paul.
     “Go, and make it fast,” he said.
     I ran to the clubhouse and back to the cart. Paul and the two young guys were waiting.
     “Sorry,” I said.
     We drove to the first tee. The two young guys whacked their balls down the fairway. Paul hit a bad shot. I unstrapped my bag, having only walked nine holes a few times, then realized I should leave my bag on the cart, put it back, and pulled out my driver.
     “Just so you know,” I shouted over my shoulder at the young guys, “I’m new. You’re probably going to hate playing with me. It’s okay if you want to ditch us.”
     I teed up my ball, took a few practice swings, heard a big crash, and Paul laughing. I nailed the ball about one-hundred-and-fifty yards down the fairway.
     “Nice shot,” the guy who looked like Hamm said.
     “Thanks,” I said, hopping in the cart.
     “Just so you know, you can’t just throw your bag on the cart,” Paul laughed.  “You need to strap it in. Your clubs just went flying.”
     Paul’s ball was the furthest from the hole. He made another bad shot. I grabbed my hybrid, lined up my feet, positioned myself, and took a few practice swings.
     “You got quite a system there,” Paul said.
      I nailed the ball and sent it flying straight down the fairway another hundred feet. I hopped in the cart.
     “You probably want to take fewer practice swings,” Paul said. “Move things along faster.”
     “Okay,” I said.
     The first hole was a par five. I sunk my ball in seven. On the third hole, Paul got his swing down and started crushing it. The two young guys and I started chatting.
     “I just graduated from college,” the one who didn’t look like Hamm said. “My friend graduated last year. We played on our high school golf team.”
     “What’s your degree in?”
     “Marketing. I start a sales job tomorrow. Not what I went to school for. What do you do?”
     “I’m a writer,” I said. “I had a book published a couple of years ago. I’m working on another.”
     “Well, you’d never know you just started playing golf,” he said. “You’re playing really well.”
     “Really. You’re doing good.”
     “I’m a writer, too,” Hamm said. “I cover high school sports for "The Daily Herald" part time. I have a sales job, too.”
     “A stringer,” I said.
     “Yeah. Do you have any advice for me to get ahead, make money in the writing business?”
     “Ha. Wish I did. I started out as a journalist. The business is all different now. Create a name for yourself, an identity, write well. That’s all I got.”
     We finished the eighth hole and I climbed into the cart and whacked my head hard on the roof.
     “Duck,” Paul laughed.
     “I’m not used to wearing a hat. Can’t see above the visor.”
     “We’re letting these guys play through on the ninth,” Paul said. “They just told me, ‘Uh, we have an appointment so we have to hurry the last nine.’”
     “I’m surprised they stuck with us this long. They waited for me a lot.”
     “Yeah, they did,” Paul laughed.
     The two guys teed off and waved good-bye.
     Paul and I smacked our balls down the fairway, hopped in the cart, and stopped near my ball. I grabbed my three wood, took a few steps away from the ball, lined up my feet, and started to take a practice swing. Paul began laughing.
     “If you weren’t you in that short little skirt, those guys would have wanted to fucking kill you,” he said. “You have no idea. You have no fucking clue. Before you hit every ball, you line up your feet, get your stance just right, practice your swing a few times. Any other person out here, anyone, and they’d have been screaming, ‘Hit the fucking ball! Hit it! Hit it now you fucker! What the fuck is your problem?’ But, no, they’re just standing there smiling and being nice.”
     I started laughing so hard I crossed my legs to stop from peeing myself.
     “I’m serious,” Paul laughed. “You’ve been getting away with murder.”
     “Now you're making me take even longer,” I laughed.
     “Seriously, you have to start walking up to the ball and just hitting it. Maybe take one practice swing and hit it. Some courses have clocks at each tee. They let you know on the score card how much time you’re allowed on each hole.”
     We finished nine and Paul parked the cart by the snack shack. “You want a hotdog?”
     “No,” I said, stuffing a handful of raw almonds into my mouth. “But I’ll hit the bathroom.”
     Four men in their seventies whizzed by in two carts and shot me big grins.
     “I think they like me,” I told Paul.
     “They were playing behind us,” he said. “They should be wanting to fucking kill you.”
     The last nine holes, my arms were tired, my shots weren’t good, I hit without lining up and taking practice swings, and picked up my ball a lot to be quicker.
     “See,” Paul said. “You can hit well without taking all that time.”
     “Uh, now the ball’s not going where I want it to.”
     We were on the fairway a good distance from the green. I smacked my ball onto the green and Paul smashed his into the trees. We hopped into the cart to look for it.
     “Well hell,” Paul drawled in his best hillbilly accent. “I shore don’t know what happened to that there ball.”
     “Hell, baby, it’s just ‘cause you’s so strong,” I drawled.
     It took Paul two shots to get out from under the trees and he wound up in the rough on the edge of the fairway.
     “C’mon Baby!” I rebel yelled from the green. “C’mon up here with me Baby. Hit one for Mama. Hit a nice one up here for Mama!”
     Paul’s shoulders were shaking with laughter. He shook his head and whacked his ball onto the green. Two men in a cart behind Paul were gawking at me like WTF?
     When Blake got home, I told him about my golfing.
     “See,” he laughed. “I kept telling you but you wouldn’t believe me. You do this.” He lined up his feet and bent over. “Then it looks like you’re going to take a couple of practice swings but you don’t. You’d do a few wrist breaks.” He flicked his wrists a few times.
     I doubled over laughing. “Oh my God.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Dynamite--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, May 29

     The wheels are in motion for a mortgage in my name. Yippee! The bank sent an appraiser over, then I went to hit golf balls where Golf Guy teaches. I’m sick of playing the powerless female. The one waiting for the man to make all the moves so I can respond. I was groomed to behave that way. I’ve done it all my life. I feel like a ninny letting Golf Guy string me along, decide how this goes. We're going to move forward or he needs to go.

     “I’m going to hit balls where you teach. Say hi if you can,” I texted Golf Guy.

     I drove to the club, opened the back of my Tahoe, put my golf shoes on, and carried my clubs to the ball vending machine. The balls rumbled into a basket and a golf cart pulled up to the shelter. The sun was in my eyes, but I could make out a guy with a crew cut smiling at me. I pulled the ear buds out of my ears and gave a little wave.
     “Hi,” the guy said.
     “Hey,” I said walking closer and realizing it was Golf Guy. “I didn’t recognize you with your hair gone.” Golf Guy had long hair before.
     “It was time,” he said, pulling the cap off his head. “Feel it.”
     I ran my hand over the top of his head. “Always liked the feel of a crew cut.”
     Golf Guy looked over his shoulder. A couple of women in a golf cart were driving up. “They’re so needy,” he said. “I told them to wait but they had to come over. I gotta play nine holes with them.”
     “You better go then,” I said.
     “Text me and let me know how you hit.”
     “Okay.” I put my ear buds in, walked away, and hit badly.

     “Hope tomorrow is better,” I texted Golf Guy. “I’m playing 18 for the first time. Nice seeing you.”

     “Good to see you as well.”

     That was it. Dude’s gotta go.
     Tom and I ate dinner then checked his grades online. He had a D in social studies. I clicked on the D and a list of missing homework assignments popped up. The last one was a big project worth huge points.
     “What is this?” I asked.
     “That was a project I was supposed to do with a partner, but he did a bad job,” Tom said.
     “What do you mean he did a bad job?”
     “He just copied some stuff out of a book and pretended he did it.”
     “So he plagiarized.”
     “And you contributed nothing.”
     “You let him do everything and he wound up plagiarizing.”
     Tom swallowed and shrugged.
     “What is wrong with you?” I screamed. “If you’d done well on this you’d have a good grade. This is a fun class. Your teacher is voted ‘best teacher’ every year. Blake loved him.”
     Tom gave me a vacant Napoleon Dynamite stare from his favorite movie, “Napoleon Dynamite.” The slack-jawed, droopy-eyed, nobody-is-home expression, I wanted to slap it off his face. Another of Tom’s idols is Nathan Barnett, a balding, frizzy-haired, jackass who does stupid stunts on YouTube. Tom has been creating and posting videos like Barnett’s. I yanked the cable connecting the computer to the Internet.
     “You’re done watching Barnett! You want to be a guy my age who acts like guys your age?”
     “I don’t care,” Tom shrugged. “Yeah. I think it’s cool to be like Nathan Barnett. I want to be like him. Bad grades don’t bother me.”
     I shoved Tom’s shoulder. I actually growled like an animal. I made myself walk away before I did something I’d regret. I was going to take Tom out to watch the Hawks/Redwings game after he finished his homework, but I stalked out alone.
     I drove to a local bar. It was full. There was an open spot near the waitress stand and I grabbed an empty stool from a table and sat at the bar. I put my purse, club soda, and money on the bar in a wide semi-circle in front of me setting a boundary I wanted no one crossing. I watched the game and came up with a list of chores to occupy Tom’s summer hours. Pick up dog poop, clean the basement, clean the garage, weed. He’d have no time for his slacker heroes. A bartender walked up.
     “Are you okay?” he asked. He was in his early twenties. His face showed concern.
     “Yeah,” I said. I felt tears coming on. I choked them back and forced a smile. “I’m fine.”
     “Okay,” he said.
     I breathed deeply. My throat tightened. I hated what was going on with Tom. I hated Golf Guy. I hated JB. I bought a pack of cigarettes on my way home and smoked a couple. I’d given up smoking years ago, even though I bummed  one or two cigarettes a year. I looked at my phone and there were no texts from Golf Guy. I hated that I checked.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Demented--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Tuesday, May 28

     I had a conference call with two women from the Kabbalah Center about doing their social media. Funny I volunteered for that. I dislike doing social media.

     “Hi,” Golf Guy texted.


     “How are you?”

     “Good. Watching Sully freak out.”

     “Cause of the storm?”

     “Yep. He’s a baby. How’s Happy?”

     Golf Guy sent me a video of his dog running around his backyard. “She’s in my lap shaking cause of the thunder.”

     “Sammy, my Toy Fox Terrier, saw Happy’s video and started barking at her.”

     “ :) ”

     “Uh, Sammy just took a dump on my floor.”


     “Maybe Happy scared the shit out of him.”

     “That was funny for you.”

     “Want to see something else funny? Tom sent this video to a bully. The bully tattled and the school principal sent me a letter.” I sent Golf Guy the YouTube video “You Suck” by Scary Dave. “I made Tom show me the video. I started laughing. I tried not to, but I couldn’t help it. I’m demented.”

     “Me, too.”

     “Then watch it.”

     Why do I keep texting with Golf Guy? Because  I'm a bit attracted to him and if he takes me out I'll feel desirable? My self esteem is that shot?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Lifelike Animals--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, May 27

     It was a cold and rainy Memorial Day.
     “Want to go to the archery range?” I asked Tom.
     Tom grabbed his bow and set up his station at the range. He began shooting lifelike animals made of foam: black bear, wolf, turkey, deer.

     “You having a good weekend?” I texted Golf Guy.

     “Yes, just got done playing our golf club in Kenosha with my partner and a couple of friends. Was fun but cold and rainy. How are you? Just drove by Libertyville. Waved to you.”

     “Really? Did you pass me driving?”

     “I was kidding. I was driving south.”

     “I was driving north. I’m at the archery range with Tom.”

     “That archery thing is awesome.”

     “Bought Tom a compound bow for Christmas and it’s a good size for me, too.”

     “That’s actually sexy.”

     “I’m not very good at it yet. You shoot?”

     “No. I grew up duck hunting.”

     “That’s a wet sport. Still do it?”

     “Not for a few years.”

     Tom and I took turns shooting then left to have dinner and watch the Blackhawks play the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I texted Blake to meet us at the sports bar.

     “How was shooting?” Golf Guy texted. “Are you watching the Blackhawks?”

     “Shot pretty well. Eating pizza and watching the game with my boys. I want the Hawks to win bad. But if they lose, I’ll cheer for Detroit, my second favorite team. It makes my sons angry. Haha.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Stones--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, May 26

     Serena flagged me over at a recovery meeting this morning and asked me to speak at a meeting she chairs on Saturday nights.
     “I think you should date my brother, Ronny,” she said. “He’s cute and rich. John told Ronny he should go out with you. John thinks your hot (John is Serena’s son). I think you and Ronny would really like each other. I just don’t want him to be your transition guy.”
     “Bring him on,” I laughed.
     Tony Bling-Bling, who was eavesdropping nearby and had just chaired the meeting we were at, inched over and said, “I’d like you to speak at this meeting the end of June. Will you?”
     “Sure,” I said.
     “I want to promote it, improve attendance.” Tony had recently taken the meeting over from Playboy Pete and attendance was down.
    I picked up Ruby in the evening and we drove to Buddy Guy’s Legends. Rumor has it the Rolling Stones, who are in town, are playing there tonight. Ruby, an FBI agent who'd gotten the tip from her office, swore me to secrecy.
     “Anything going on with the golf pro?” Ruby asked.
     “I don’t know,” I said. “All we do is text. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. A friend of mine wants to fix me up with her brother. She said he’s really good looking and rich.”
     “I want to be fixed up with him,” Ruby said. “Lucky.”
     We got to the club and a tall, young, handsome dude working the door looked me up and down. “Did we used to be together in a past life?” he asked me.
     “Quite possibly,” I laughed, flattered.
     We sat down with Ruby’s FBI friends at a large table next to the stage and ate dinner.  A bluesy jazz trio was playing.

     “How was your day?” Golf Guy texted.

     “Golf Guy just texted me,” I told Ruby. “Is it okay if I tell him and invite him?”
Ruby leaned over and asked one of her friends. The friend nodded. “Just tell him not to go on social media with it,” Ruby said.

     “I’m at Buddy Guy’s,” I texted. “Rumor has it the Stones are playing here tonight!”

     “Where is that? And really?”

     “700 Wabash. Come if you want. Don’t know for sure, but my friend got the tip.”

     “That would be amazing if they play.”

     “I know.”

     No yes or no from Golf Guy. Dangle Brenda. Maybe I’ll text you last minute to hit golf balls when I'm bored.
     The jazz trio wrapped up and Ruby checked with an agent who had the Stone’s schedule. The agent said the Stones had just gone out to dinner and if they played, it would be after the second band. The second band went on.

     “Well?” Golf Guy texted.

     “They’re supposed to go on around ten if they play,” I said. “I’ll send a picture if they do.”

     “Send me a picture of you in the meantime.”

     I leaned over to Ruby. “He wants me to send him a picture of me.”
     “Well send him one. Here, I’ll take it.”
     “I want you in it, too,” I said. “I feel weird sending a picture of me.”
     “I hate myself in pictures.”
     “You’re a hottie. Shut up. He’ll think, ‘Who’s her friend?’”
     Ruby asked one of her friends to take a picture of us.
     “See,” I said, showing Ruby the picture. “You look great.”
     “I guess,” she moaned.
     I sent the picture.

     “You look pretty,” Golf Guy texted.

     Ruby leaned over. “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t have a good feeling about this. I don’t think they’re coming. It’ll be late. They’re old.”
     “Don’t they live in LA where it’s two hours behind?” I asked. “I don’t think they keep day hours.”
     Ruby checked with her Stones source. The Stones had finished dinner and were on their way to Buddy Guy’s. The bar was packed. We were definitely not the only people who’d heard the rumor. Suddenly, the singer stopped her set, spoke with a couple of guys, then started back up again. She sang a long time.
     “They’re not coming,” Ruby said.
     Half an hour later, the set ended, the lights went on, and the bouncers told everyone to leave.

     “Mick?” Golf Guy texted.

     “Nope. Bummer.”

     “Hopefully it was fun.”

     “Saw two bands that weren’t the Stones.”

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Happy Place--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, May 25

     I hopped on BlackJack, hit the trail, and my text alert went off.

     “You should come over and hit balls,” Golf Guy suggested.

     I photographed the trail between BlackJack’s ears and sent it. “On BlackJack,” I texted. “How long will you be there?”

     “Nice, five.”

     “I just got home,” I texted later. “Probably won’t get there today. If there’s another good day, let me know.”

     “Okay. How was riding?”

     “Great. Rode alone. Jack gets competitive, racy, tries to run other horses off the trail when we’re with others. He’s a pistol. How was teaching?”

     “Sounds like he is full of energy, like you.”

     “He’s taught me a lot. There’s a global meditation tonight from nine to ten. My friend is coming over and we’re going to do yoga and meditate.”

     “Nice. Find your happy place.”

     "What are you doing?"

     "Just chillin'."

     No future date. Golf Guy, please go away.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Texting Dance--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, May 24

     Tom got out of school early for teachers’ institute and the boys and I played golf.

     “Did you hit balls today?” Golf Guy texted.

     “Yes! Just got home from nine holes with my boys. I hit well. It’s because of you. You’re awesome. Did you have a good day?”

     “That’s great. Nice job! I’m good. Have my boys tonight. We went out to dinner and now watching silly TV.”

     I’ve been praying, meditating, and scanning the Zohar for Angie, Paul, and Tanya to find their soulmates. I’ve now added Golf Guy to the list. Golf Guy only wants to text with me, and I don’t want to do this weird texting dance anymore. It’s messing with my head.