Friday Fiction – Launch – Chapter 5

Hello and welcome to Friday Fiction! How many of you have an unpublished book tucked away in a folder and are wondering what to do with your story?

I have a few of those books, gathering computer dust. They are imperfect, full of plot holes but were very fun to write. If you’re finding Friday Fiction for the first time, I’ve recently posted small chapters of one of these books. The story is Launch and is about how people are forced to redefine themselves. After all, nothing stays the same, does it?

Today we meet Ted and Cindy Clarke’s son Brian. He’s recently graduated college and is on the brink of big changes.

I hope you will take a look and if you like the story, check out the links at the bottom of the post.


Launch – Chapter 5

Brian Clarke sat at the table next to his small galley kitchen.  He took the last swig of his beer and banged the bottle down, unintentionally, he would later say, on the table.  The noise echoed in the room when it’s first quiet and something loud invades the peace, and he heard a stir in the bedroom.  Good, he thought.  He got up, rinsed the bottle and dropped it in the recycle bin with reckless movements and grabbed another from the fridge.  Not knowing what to do with himself, but certainly not returning to the bedroom, Brian walked the short distance to the living area and sat down on the couch.

He grabbed the remote, took a sip from his beer and settled into a session of mindless TV.  Those were his expectations, at least.  He turned up the sound, a little too loud, he was later told, but he did it with satisfaction.  It was his apartment, after all.  If he wanted to get out of bed at 2:30 in the morning, drink beer and watch TV, he could do that.  He was paying rent to be able to do what he wanted.  It was the limping end of a Friday night, he’d worked all day, and he had the right.  Who cares that his girlfriend was in the bedroom, presumably asleep?

Denise Pagano had been Brian’s girlfriend since their sophomore year at Moravian.  They had met on the intramural soccer fields.  Brian had been warming up with his fraternity team when he’d noticed Denise with a group of girls.  They were laughing wildly at something unknown to him, a loud, exaggerated laughter and Brian had turned just in time to see Denise look away from her friends.  She had a broad smile on her face, the kind a person has at the height of laughter, at the recognition of a joke.  And she had locked her eyes on Brian just at that moment, before the laughter had begun to fade, so that she had shown him a secret and beautiful side of herself, without realizing it.

Brian took it in, gladly.  Denise had long black hair, wavy and thick.  It was pulled back in a messy ponytail, after a game of soccer, Brian presumed.  The girls, in shorts and matching team shirts, were walking off the field, heading his way.  He thought quickly of something to say.  Brian knew that it didn’t matter what you said exactly to a girl walking by, as long as it wasn’t rude or insulting, was somewhat clever and got her attention.  The trick was to get her to stop.  Brian was good at these greetings.  He’d developed this skill during high school, the grin and the witty comment, and he’d refined it somewhat during his first year at college.

“Who won?” he called to the group, hoping to catch Denise’s attention.

“We did, of course,” answered another girl, taking Brian in.  He smiled and looked at this girl.  Also nice, but he had been aiming for Denise.  His mind worked quickly.  He noticed an ice pack in Denise’s hand.  This was his opener.

He looked at Denise.  “Rough game?” he asked.  “No serious injuries, I hope.”

Denise smiled, “No, just a kick to the shin.”

“Well, good.  I don’t think they have trainers at these games,” he added.

“No,” she answered and then she smiled again.  She had stopped and was smiling at Brian.  His mind was working for something to say.

“Well, we’re up next,” he added, somewhat weakly, for although he had experience with these kinds of conversations, Denise’s smile and her dark, sparkly eyes were mixing him up.

He didn’t know this, he could only hope it, but Denise was taking Brian in just as much.  She liked his sandy brown hair, cut short in a buzz, but it had some style too.  She liked the way his brows framed his light brown eyes.  Or were they hazel or green?  She couldn’t tell exactly, in this light, for the sun seemed to be shining right on Brian’s face, like a sign from another force, locking her there in front of him.  She worried that she was gawking at him, looking foolish.

“Well, I hope you have a good game.  This was our last game before the playoffs.  Are you guys on the same schedule?”

Brian felt relieved.  She was interested.  By then the other girls were beginning to disperse.  But Denise stood with the first girl who had answered him.  They were both smiling.

“When does your game start?” she asked.

Brian grinned.  This was going well.  “Should be getting started any minute.  Do you girls want to stick around?”

Denise looked at her friend, sending a signal.  Brian knew girls liked to stick together in situations like this.  He knew Denise wasn’t going to stay unless her friend agreed.

“Sure, we can stay for a while.”

Signals sent and received.

“Great!” he answered.  Brian had a bit of an ego and even though this was just an intramural game, he had been a standout player in high school.  He had decided not to play in college, but he was competitive nonetheless.  He knew he was probably the best player on his frat team and now was his chance to show this girl.

“Well, I’ve got to go warm up.  My name’s Brian, by the way.”

“Hi, I’m Denise and this is Angie.”

They exchanged extra hellos and Brian turned to leave.  “Maybe I’ll see you two after the game?”

Denise smiled again.  “Maybe,” she answered.  And then, in an afterthought, “But I’m sure I’ll see you around otherwise.”

Thank you for reading.


Click on the chapter links to start from the beginning:

Launch – Chapter 1
Launch – Chapter 2 Part 1

Launch – Chapter 2 Part 2
Launch – Chapter 3
Launch – Chapter 4


Copyright © 2017 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Friday Fiction – Launch – Chapter 4

Hello and welcome to Friday Fiction! How many of you have an unpublished book tucked away in a folder and are wondering what to do with your story?

I have a few of those books, gathering computer dust. They are imperfect, full of plot holes but were very fun to write. If you’re finding Friday Fiction for the first time, I’ve recently posted small chapters of one of these books. The story is Launch and is about how people are forced to redefine themselves. After all, nothing stays the same, does it?

Today I’m posting part of a longer chapter in which one of my characters, Ted Clarke, is facing a work crisis at Spring Technologies. His programmer is MIA and he has a huge deadline. I hope you will take a look and if you like the story, check out the links at the bottom of the post.


Launch – Chapter 4

Ted was hours away from getting home.  His technical coding crisis had not gone away.  Steve Colby had taken the flash drive and loaded the demo on his laptop.  And not two minutes later, he had Ted back in the office.

“Dammit, Ted!  I wasn’t even going to look at this until tonight, after I’d gotten home and unwound a little.  But now it’s gone and ruined my whole weekend because I know you guys don’t have anywhere close to a solid demo for Haskell on Monday!  What the hell is going on?  We can’t give Haskell this – it’s a piece of garbage!”

Ted had almost escaped this explosion.  He was seconds away from leaving the office, but had stopped to talk to Wayne, who was still busy trying to write code, to make up for Anders being gone.  “I’ll be here at 8:00 tomorrow morning, Wayne.  Make sure the whole team is here.  We have to get this done.”

Wayne had been hunched over his computer, typing an unrecognizable sequence of keys.  His face was a blotchy mess and strings of black hair hung over his face.  An open bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos sat on his desk, with crumbs making a track to his keyboard.  Wayne looked up at Ted, took a swig of Mountain Dew and slammed it down on his desk.  He was past his limit, but didn’t know how to react.  Wayne had his own problems, his own obligations and staying late on Friday and being back at 8:00 am Saturday tipped that balance.  It wasn’t his fault that Anders had walked out and Wayne didn’t think he could fill the gap.

What Wayne didn’t see that night was his own chance to launch his mid-level career into something more.  All he saw was an infuriating trap of work. “Okay, Ted,” he’d answered.  After all, Ted was in this mess too.

Thank you for reading.


Click on the chapter links to start from the beginning:

Launch – Chapter 1
Launch – Chapter 2 Part 1

Launch – Chapter 2 Part 2
Launch – Chapter 3


Copyright © 2017 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Fiction – Launch – Chapter 3

Today I’m sharing Chapter 3 of Launch, an unpublished book I wrote a few years ago. A few weeks ago, we met Cindy Clarke and got a look at her life. She’s in the middle of a launch from stay-at-home mother to the working world. After meeting her husband Ted, we return to Cindy’s effort to redefine herself.

I hope you will take a look to see what happens and if you want to start at the beginning, click on the links at the bottom of this post

Thanks!


Launch – Chapter 3

It was four-thirty when Cindy walked into her house.  She felt an annoying flutter in her stomach.  Kevin and Katie were already home from school.  For years, she had planned her days around being home in time for the kids.  They needed her.  She’d cheer for them as they walked in the door.  “Hello!  How was school?”  Her afternoons had been chaos during those early years.  Kids blasting in, being loud, talking to her.  “Mommy, look what I did in school!”  She’d look at elementary school papers, crafts, smile, and congratulate their small selves.

And when only the older ones were in school, Katie and Kevin would be napping and the noise would wake them.  For years, endless years, frozen time, during the after school hour, the Clarke house had been a loud, exploding jumble of backpacks, lunch bags, homework folders, kids, shoes and crumpled art work.

Cindy loved seeing her kids come in that door.  It defined her, being home to greet them.  But she also knew what was on the other side of that momentary lift of seeing her children, home from their days out in the world, ready for nurturing, demanding attention.  Nurturing at that age was not all cuddles and sweet talk.  She could still do that with Katie and Kevin back then.  But for Teddy, Brian and Jessie, nurturing had become something else.  It was answering an explosion of questions.  “Mom, can I go over to Jack’s house to play basketball?”  “Mom, Teddy ate four cookies already.  That’s not fair!”  “Mommy, you said we were going to go out to Toys R Us after school today.  I want that new Barbie car.  Remember Mom?  Remember?” By then, Katie and Kevin would be awake from their naps, hanging on her, needing new diapers, asking for juice.

What followed was the marathon of getting dinner on the table.  Every action was interrupted.  So much physical work, movement, running up and down stairs, sending the older kids outside, but checking on them constantly (she couldn’t help herself), keeping Katie and Kevin occupied, usually with the TV, while she cooked.  All the while, watching the clock, waiting for Ted to come in so he could take over this insanity while she performed the miracle ritual of making dinner.  Cindy’s stomach would wind into tighter and tighter knots if Ted didn’t get home by a certain time.  She needed him.

And then, by the smallest measure of change, this period of time became something different.  Her kids grew.  They needed her less.  They talked less.  They became involved in their own lives.  She had still been there when they came in, greeted them in a cheerful “Hello!” but it was different.

Everything always changes.  Just when you master a certain phase in your life, the drivers shift.  What was once important disappears and it’s up to your confused self to figure out where you fit.  No one else seems to notice.  No one is there to tell you how things have changed.  It comes in pieces.  When your kids come in and say hi, then go up to their rooms, or engage themselves in PlayStation or their phones, then it’s up to you to redefine yourself.  No one is going to do it for you, but everyone expects you to handle the change, to make your new self happen.

Thank you for reading.


Click on the chapter links to start from the beginning:

Launch – Chapter 1
Launch – Chapter 2 Part 1
Launch – Chapter 2 Part 2


Copyright © 2017 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Friday Fiction – Launch – Chapter 2 Part 2

Today I’m sharing the second half of Chapter 2 of Launch, an unpublished book I wrote a few years ago. Two weeks ago, we met Cindy Clarke and got a look at her life. She’s in the middle of a launch from stay-at-home mother to the working world. Last week, we met her husband Ted and got to see how things look from his point of view. He has a big work crisis at Spring Technologies and it looks as though his top programmer, Anders, has skipped town before an important deadline.

I hope you will take a look to see what happens and if you want to start at the beginning, click on the links at the bottom of this post. We begin as Ted’s boss, Steve, catches Ted in the office before he has a chance to sneak out.

Thanks!


Launch – Chapter 2 – Part 2

“Hey Steve!”  Ted smiled the broad smile that went with his greatest asset.  No need to show the boss that your department is crumbling.  “Just working hard, that’s all.  What’s up?”

“Well I just wanted to check in with you and make sure your team is all set for Monday.  How’s the demo going?  We want to make sure it’s all up and running for our meeting.”  Steven was an intense boss.  The kind of boss he’d had for his entire career.  Always asking how it was going, but never in a social way.  Always wanting to know just how long it would be before the next project would be finished.  It was part of the job, being accountable to your boss.  Ted accepted that and he usually met those deadlines on time.  It would be a small miracle if his team would be meeting Monday’s deadline.

“It’s all good, Steve.  The team’s working out a few glitches but we should be ready to go for the meeting.”  What a ridiculous lie!  Ted looked straight into Steve’s eyes when he said this, hoping to work some magic with his boss, hoping Steve wouldn’t detect the nervous twitch pulsing out of control under Ted’s eye.

Steve’s eyes drew into Ted’s face, in that way he had in looking for the true story underneath the spin.  His brows tightened in an intense focus.  “Well, can I see what you’ve got so far?  It would change the mood of my weekend if I could go home knowing what I’ll be showing Haskell and his group on Monday.”

Shit. Stay calm.  Think about how to answer.  “Let me talk to Wayne, see what he’s got for you to look at today.”

Steve’s focus didn’t let up.  “Where’s Anders?”

“I sent him out on an errand, to pick up the new Ethernet cables for next week.  He should be back late this afternoon.”  Ted hoped this quick lie would buy him time, but he worried.

“Hmm, well okay.  I’ll be here until 5:30, so send it up to me when you get it, okay Ted?”  Steve detected a problem.  He was certain something was up, but he wanted no part of it.  He wanted the demo and the less he knew about the problem the better.  It wasn’t up to him to solve the problems of the IT Department.  He’d joyfully shed himself of those worries when he’d been promoted to VP.  Let Ted sweat it out, whatever it was.  But Ted better damn well have a demo up in his office at 5:30, he was sure he made himself clear.

Ted and the IT team had an emergency meeting.  The department patched together a demo, but Ted knew it wasn’t what Steve wanted.  But maybe it was enough to buy him some time over the weekend.  They needed Anders.  Part of their program was missing and he was the key.  Ted couldn’t imagine why Anders had left, but he felt sure they were on their own.

“Here you go, Steve.”  Ted handed him a flash drive.  “It’s still a little rough, but it will give you an idea of what Haskell will see on Monday.”  Ted had groaned at the thought of working all weekend, but he knew he’d have his entire team, minus Anders, in the office for as long as it took, piecing together the parts that were hanging.

“Well, okay, thanks Ted.  I’ll look at it in a few minutes.”  Ted looked at the clock, hoping he could get out of there before Steve saw just how rough the demo was.  It wasn’t a tactic he liked, but he knew he was going to have to buy some time and he wasn’t going to get anywhere having to explain the situation to Steven Colby.  He had a feeling Steve didn’t want to know anyway.

Ted took a breath.  “Great!”  He didn’t know why he was saying great.  It was his instinct.  A small celebration for producing something for his boss, something he’d done countless times.  “I’ll have my team in here tomorrow, working out the kinks, Steve.”

“Okay, make sure you get Anders to run it a few times after everyone’s finished.  I want him to check it out thoroughly.  You know what they’re like over at Haskell.  We need to be sure it’s seamless.  They’re doing us a favor by coming here on Monday, so we’d better make sure everything works.”

“No problem, Steve.  I understand.  I’ll make sure it works.”

“I know where to find you if it doesn’t!”  Ted knew that Steve was only partly joking.  It was part of the corporate culture at Spring Technologies.  Even if it was outdated and cliché, the threat still held strong.

Thank you for reading.


Click on the chapter links to start from the beginning:

Launch – Chapter 1
Launch – Chapter 2 Part 1


Copyright © 2017 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Friday Fiction – Launch – Chapter 2 Part 1

Today I’m sharing the first half of Chapter 2 of Launch, an unpublished book I wrote a few years ago. Last week we met Cindy Clarke and got a look at her life. She’s in the middle of a launch from stay-at-home mother to the working world.

Meantime, her husband Ted is facing a huge work problem at his high-pressure job at Spring Technologies.


Launch – Chapter 2 – Part 1

Ted Clarke was running late.  You could say it was a habit of Ted’s, being late.  Today he was late leaving work, late getting onto the Expressway, late running an errand.  Why does it even matter?  He’d asked his wife this question countless times.  The times when he’d arrive home and receive a frosty greeting.  Years ago, he guessed it did matter because Cindy was depending on him back then.  In the earlier days he could count on taking charge of five children almost as soon as he walked into the door, so that Cindy could finish making dinner.  Every day, a nine hours a day, full of people wanting a piece of him, sandwiched between a grueling hour-long commute into Philadelphia.  Then arriving home to a gaggle of children, pulling on him, jumping, telling him things, and competing for his attention.  So much floor time back then, giving rides on his back, holding babies, playing dolls and cars.  When he thought of it now, he was proud to say he’d done that, but he wasn’t exactly nostalgic.  Those were hard days, exhausting days, full days of work and what seemed to him a full-time shift as soon as he got home.

Cindy was young back then and she could handle a house full of kids.  That was her job and he’d always resented it a little that she needed him so much.  She seemed to get through the rest of the day without him, why not just an hour more so he could unwind a little and have a nice dinner?

Ted wasn’t exactly sexist.  He was just used to having things be a certain way and when you married and had your wife have her fifth baby just as your oldest was turning ten, it was already certain that your home life was going to be busy and crazy and loud.  So maybe sometimes he was a little late getting home because he knew what was there and what was expected of him.  And what he wanted was for someone to anticipate what he needed as he walked into that door.

Ted thought about those years as he sat in traffic.  Running late was still a habit, but why?  His kids were hardly going to charge at him now.  Only his younger son and daughter were still at home, teenagers.  The rest of the gaggle was out in the world.  His oldest two, Teddy and Brian were out of college and working.  Jessie was a junior at University of Delaware.  If Katie and Kevin were even home, they were usually up in their rooms, or planted on the couch, deep in their own worlds, managing their lives through their phones.

Cindy didn’t exactly need him to help the way she did years ago, but she still bristled when he came in late.  It was the one thing she could never change about her husband.  And somehow, Ted, after fitting into every other expectation, after adjusting his life to accommodate the needs of these six other people, Ted held onto the one piece of himself that he could still control, whether he knew it or not.

It was almost 7:00 when Ted pulled into his driveway.  Work had been extra grueling that week.  He’d advanced up the ladder at Spring Technologies, but it hadn’t changed the climate of his job.  Always busy, always some kind of problem, always a race to find a solution.  Early that Friday, one of his best programmers had simply walked out the door and presumably quit with no explanation.  It wasn’t until after lunch that people began to question where Anders was, and where the code he’d been working on was.  It was part of a series of code the whole IT team had been working on, as part of a new accounting program for a client, due next week.  Without Anders, by far the most brilliant programmer in the department, they would not reach their deadline.

Ted had spent the greater part of the afternoon trying to locate Anders, and then slowly realizing that they would most likely be on their own in trying to finish the code.  Ted had never been a programmer and had become manager and then Director of IT because of his managing capabilities, not his technical skills.  He was secretly panicking over the problem because he knew he couldn’t personally step in and fix the problem.  It was up to some unknown hero and because of that he felt powerless.  He’d dodged the early calls from the VP of Operations, Steven Colby, but by the end of the day, Colby was at the door to his office.

“Ted, you’ve been hard to track down – where have you been?”

Ted looked up from his desk and quickly assumed his look of control.  He’d been promoted in good part because of his confident and easy air.  People latched onto this look, because it made them feel good.  If Ted has a handle on it, then it’s all good, no need to worry.  This look had served him well, and as he advanced in his career, he started to realize it was his own greatest asset.  But Ted knew that the look could only carry him so far and this business with Anders walking out was a big problem…

Thank you for reading.


Copyright © 2017 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

 

Friday Fiction – Launch – Chapter 1

Hello – I hope you’ll take a look at an excerpt from a book that has been hiding in my creative files for a few years. Because we all have a book in us, don’t we?


Launch – Chapter 1

Cindy Clarke walked through the glass doors and stopped, blinded by the change of light. So bright outside and such a shock to suddenly see nothing but spots as her eyes adjusted to the indoors. She had forgotten her damn sunglasses at the house and had squinted her way through the drive to Marshall Technology. When she could see around her, she looked at the directory. She was sure she needed the second floor, but she’d better check.  What if it was the third floor? Did she have enough time to make that mistake and get there in time?

Second floor. She waited at the elevator, feeling on display for not taking the stairs. The wait seemed unbearably long and she was sure anyone who saw her would laugh at her, think she was lazy for not taking the stairs. But Cindy was somehow off-balance that day and didn’t even want to open the stairwell door and experience the echo of someone else’s feet as they clomped up the waffle-textured rubber stairs, giving her the inexplicable feel of going to class years ago, when she was young and confident but no longer so.

As the elevator doors opened, she stared out stupidly, her eyes widening as if they were in charge of making the next decision. “Left or right?” she wondered. She had been alone in the elevator and she wondered if it looked worse to hesitate inside the elevator or to exit and then stop and look like a lost fool in front of people she might have to impress. “Just go,” she told herself, feeling somehow stronger at the thought of motion.

“So, what can you tell me about yourself that would convince me to hire you?”  It couldn’t possibly be right that the woman across the desk from her would be a decision-maker. She looked so young. Cindy calculated. This woman was probably twenty years younger than Cindy. Her future was in these manicured, professional, unspotted and confident hands.

“Well, I haven’t worked in quite a while, as you can see,” Cindy started. She felt sweat trickling down her back. “But I’m a good typist, and good on the phone.” Were these skills even necessary anymore? Cindy wondered.

Ms. Doyle, looked at her with a plastered face. She was all confidence, but new on the job. She had been interviewing candidates for an administrative assistant and had somehow pictured mentoring someone just out of college, someone she could feel naturally superior to, by the timeline of growth. But the candidates she’d seen so far were not young. They were all older women.  For goodness sakes – they were all mothers! Did she want a mother working alongside her, running office errands? She had pictured going out to lunch with a young protégé, telling her what the world was like, maybe sharing a few details about her romantic life. She imagined giving sage advice to some young newbie. No, you must not call him! Wait, don’t chase.

Cindy was all nerves and sweat. Ms. Doyle would definitely have the upper hand.

“How are you on computers, Mrs. Clarke?”

Cindy tried to focus. She wanted this job. She knew she could do the work. It wasn’t that long ago when she worked in an office, was it? How different could it be? She felt fairly up-to-date with technology. Her children laughed at her but she could work email, she had an iPhone, was on Facebook. She took a leap.

“I’m okay at the computer,” she answered. Stupid answer, where’s your confidence? She took another leap, imagined herself just out of college.

“Look, I’m not a young college girl. I know that. But I’m going to take a chance here. I need a job. I want to work and I think I can do this. You’re much younger than I am, and that is strange to me. Maybe to you, too. I’ll be honest.  We have a computer at home and I use it for email and social media, but I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life being a mother, not learning technology. There have to be some skills I’ve learned along the way that apply to a modern office. I’m not applying for an executive’s job, here. I just want a chance to work.”

Cindy’s heart was pounding. She was shocked at what she was saying. Where was it coming from?

Ms. Doyle’s face had changed. It had taken on a mixed appearance. Half condescension, half childish need. Maybe this was someone she could use.

“Well, the job requires knowledge of Word and Excel. Do you know those programs, Mrs. Clarke?”

“I know Word a little bit. We have it at home. I haven’t been on Excel much, but I’m sure I could learn it.”

It was Ms. Doyle’s third week as Assistant Director of Marketing at Marshall Tech. She had won the job and, besides having an office, she was given the one new perk of having an administrative assistant. She’d never had someone helping her. She’d had to do that all on her own. Her own boss, Jenny Sorano, had said to her, “Get an assistant, Kendra. Line up some interviews, find someone you can work with and get working.”

So Kendra Doyle posted the job description and had been interviewing for a week. She looked at Cindy Clarke and then she thought about all the work that was piling up in her office. She could only program her phone to voicemail for so long. And she didn’t want to waste her time sorting through the hundreds of emails that were filling up her inbox. She thought about some of the other candidates she’d interviewed. They all looked the same to her, in fact, there wasn’t much that distinguished one over the other. It exhausted her to think about choosing one of these women over another. So in an irrational fit, invisible to anyone who was looking, and certainly unnoticed because no one was watching, Kendra Doyle looked closely at Cindy Clarke and made the decision right away.

She organized the papers on her desk, lifted them and banged them into formation. “Okay, let’s do this. We usually give a test on Word and Excel, to check on skills and accuracy. Why don’t you take the weekend to practice at home? Make sure you know how to create documents, work with files, move things around. Learn some Excel, how to enter numbers, sort, edit cells. Then come back on Monday and I’ll give you the test. We’ll see how you do, okay?”

The feeling of being given a break had not quite settled on Cindy, but she thought she saw some hope in this offer. She wondered what it could possibly be that would have made Ms. Kendra Doyle, all confidence and authority, all youth and power, what would have caused her to look at Cindy Clarke and think she could do this job.

Cindy was all rubber, but she mustered up a decent response. “I’m a good learner, Ms. Doyle. I’ll come back on Monday and take the test.”

“Please, call me Kendra.” And Kendra, having thrown Cindy Clarke a bone, softened a bit. She stood, signaling the end of the interview. Cindy stood and felt the sweat on the backs of her legs and she suddenly remembered those hot final days of elementary school, when the Formica seats glued themselves to all the girls and made a strange wet, sticky sound when they stood, like a Band-Aid being ripped off.

Cindy walked through the lobby doors and was again blinded by the change in lighting.  She wondered how her family would react. She hadn’t even told her husband, Ted, that she was looking for a job. And now she had an assignment to learn Word and Excel, not a job yet, but something told her she would get it.

She hadn’t exactly liked Kendra Doyle. Kendra was older than her own two daughters, very polished, but also much rougher than Jessie and Katie. She couldn’t help but think in a motherly way.  That was how she had been programmed. She wondered what kind of mother Kendra had.

Thank you for reading.


Copyright © 2017 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Books and stories with strong, influential, or missing father figures

Image: Pixaby

Fatherhood is a powerful theme in literature and what better day to look at some of the strong, influential or missing father figures in these titles:


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A story full of great characters, including Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a young blind girl in Paris, whose entire world revolves around her father. This Pulitzer Prize winning story embraces important themes, and a plot that’s a wonderful mix of reality and fairytale. Set during World War II in the walled coastal city of Saint Malo, France. Check it out – one of my all-time favorite books!


Billy Bathgate by E. L. Doctorow

Billy Bathgate is a fifteen-year-old boy from the Bronx who becomes a protégé of the notorious Dutch Schultz, a hot-head New York mobster who made his money during the 1930s running beer and controlling the numbers racket. Published in 1989, this book won both the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. The 1991 movie stars Dustin Hoffman, Nicole Kidman, Loren Dean, Bruce Willis, Steven Hill and Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire).


Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

This novella, a little over one hundred pages, is really a character sketch of Holly Golightly and her search for a father figure. If you have only seen the movie starring Audrey Hepburn, read the book to get a better understanding of what Holly is all about. For the record, Truman Capote was not happy with the movie version. He wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part of Holly, and was dissatisfied with all aspects of the film.


I Refuse by Per Petterson

A grim story about a lost friendship between Tommy Berggren and his boyhood friend Jim.   It begins when, after thirty-five years, the two meet unexpectedly on a bridge near Oslo, Norway.

Petterson’s narration then jumps back to 1962 when Tommy is thirteen. His mother has abandoned them and the father regularly beats Tommy and his three younger sisters.  Everything changes when Tommy takes a bat to their father.  On their own, the children are sure they can manage.  But the siblings are separated when town officials send them to be raised in different homes.


Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Historical novel about the charismatic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, his creative style and innovative designs and his failed marriage to Catherine Tobin, whom he deserted (along with six children) to continue an affair with Mameh Cheney, the wife of a client. He created many amazing houses, but his personal life was a mess.


Onion John by Joseph Krumgold

Everything changes the year Andy Rusch turns twelve.  Until then, being a kid was easy in the 1950s.  And in the small New Jersey town of Serenity, baseball, friends, school and helping out in his dad’s hardware store fill Andy’s days.  Then one day, he befriends the town’s hermit, Onion John.

Mr. Rusch has big plans for Andy, including college at MIT and he doesn’t approve of the friendship.  He wants Andy to get out of Serenity and be the first man on the moon. Andy wants to please his father, but whose dream is it?


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

There is no stronger father figure than Atticus Finch. Set in 1935, in the fictional town of Macomb, Alabama, Harper Lee writes of people and family, of prejudice against blacks, of judgment and justice, of lost innocence, and of heroes.

Young Scout Finch gives an insider’s view into the complicated relationships that exist between blacks and whites, between the poor and the poorer, and between the educated, the illiterate and the ignorant. Forget how Atticus is portrayed in Go Set a Watchman. That book should never have been published. It’s obvious to me that Harper Lee was trying out, and revising characterizations in what is clearly a rough draft for To Kill a Mockingbird. Read my full opinion of Watchman here.


The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Is there a god in a world that is nearly destroyed and left covered in gray ash, dotted with wanderers and hunted by people who stop at nothing to survive? How does a father keep hope alive in his young son, except to say that they are the “good guys”, the ones who carry the fire? “This is what the good guys do,” he tells him. “They keep trying. They don’t give up.”


“The Year of Getting to Know Us” by Ethan Canin

A great short story about an adult son who visits his dying father in the hospital. Lenny, now middle-aged, forces himself to tell his father not to worry, that he loves him and that his father did all right by him. These words are met with the type of shut-down that plagued his small family during his childhood: “Don’t talk about things you know nothing about.”


When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Nathan and Flora McCann have no children. That was their arrangement. But when Nathan goes duck hunting and finds an abandoned baby boy in the woods, his life changes in unimaginable ways. “I want to adopt that boy,” says Nathan, but his wife does not want a child…

I enjoyed this book very much, which takes many unpredictable turns. The author does a great job highlighting the contrast between bad choices and the need to be loved.


What books can you add to the list?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Friday Fiction – Random chapter from an unfinished book – Jeff and Allie part two

Friday Fiction

Hello all!  Written long ago and gathering dust, here’s another random chapter from an unfinished book…


JEFF AND ALLIE


Part one began like this:

“I’ll be right there, hang on a minute!” Jeff’s head pounded.  He was thinking about what lay ahead of him.  A long drive, a hard discussion and a longer drive back.  He was shocked to find himself in this position because he had always been so careful about staying detached.  Now he was in it.

Click here to read the rest..


…and here comes part two:

Silently, Allie moved through the living room back to the kitchen.  She took comfort in small tasks and began to empty the dishwasher.  First the spoons, then the knives, then the forks.  Out of the basket and into the drawer.  How many hours before he’d be back?  How many hours to fill?  Next came the dishes, first the small ones, then the dinner plates.  Bottom rack finished, she started on the top rack.  Then, clearing the table, rinsing the dirty dishes, she placed them in the empty dishwasher.  While she worked, no answers came to her, only the sounds of a kitchen being put into order.  That was a small comfort.

If she had seen herself, she would have noticed that her face was tight, that she was chewing on the inside of her lip.  She would have seen that her hair had come loose.  If she looked closer, she would have noticed the bitten fingernails, a new habit of hers.

Wiping the table and the counters, she was making progress, controlling what she could.  She thought about the rest of her day.

The phone rang and she turned, watched it, turned again and walked away.  “Let someone think I’m busy,” she thought.  She went upstairs and forced herself through the morning rituals, shower, clothes, hair, make-up.

“Well, you look great!”  That was what her friends said to her once, after a break-up years ago.  It was funny to her and they all had laughed.   She looked at herself in the mirror.  Well, not great, but not falling apart.  No one would stare.

She used to have her girlfriends to lean on.  They would call each other and decipher their relationships.  “If he hasn’t called by Wednesday, you’d better make your own plans.”  They had a whole set of rules to apply when they were younger, acting older.  They were easy rules, and they made the process fun.  Ten years later, none of those rules applied.

Allied turned away from the bathroom mirror, turned off the light and went downstairs.  She checked her phone – no message.  She sat down on the couch.  Alone and silent.  She thought about Jeff and where he was going.  She hadn’t asked him, but she knew he was going to her.

The phone rang again and this time she jumped.  She felt a pounding in her chest and stared.  Her stomach churned.  She wondered if the same person was calling again.  “Don’t answer it,” she told herself.  After the fourth ring, the machine picked up.  This time, Allie walked over to the phone and watched.  After a moment, she checked for a message.  No message.

Jeff and Allie had been together for three years.  Not married, but living together.  They were in the stage of being an established young couple, working on their future together.  They had talked about getting married, but they were not engaged.  Jeff loved Allie and was happy.  Allie, too, loved Jeff and like many young women, was looking into the future and planning out their life together.  She didn’t share this part with Jeff because, at thirty, she already knew not to push.  She knew that much, but little else.  She knew not to put pressure on him, but she didn’t understand that he might never want to marry her.

Jeff was not having an affair, but he was close.  He had met Linnea three months ago and they became fast friends.  He let that happen because their friendship was so fun and easy.  At the time, Allie was busy with school and he simply filled his time away from her by seeing Linnea.  At first he didn’t even think about it.  He wasn’t doing anything wrong.  His conscience was clear.  Linnea didn’t seem like a threat.

When children find new playmates, they don’t think about their old friends.  They’re just happy to have another friend.  They are too young to understand anything more and are oblivious to another playmate’s jealousy.  Jeff was young in his thinking.  He didn’t hide his new friendship and early on he introduced Allie to Linnea.  And Jeff, too, was oblivious to Allie’s reaction.

Linnea was a nice person, but she was not naïve.  She was aggressive and confident in everything she did.  She had seen Jeff at a park and approached him, spoken to him.  She liked that he was sitting there reading a book.  Allie’s name didn’t come up the day he met Linnea.  All they were talking about was books.  They didn’t like the same books, but they had fun talking.  Linnea was good at conversation and Jeff was taken in by how effortless they were together.  It was one of those instant connections that his sister Jocelyn knew well.  Jeff might have noticed Linnea’s face and her eyes, but he was busy enjoying their conversation.

Jeff was the kind of person who observed a lot and kept his thoughts to himself.  He didn’t share his thoughts easily and Allie was used to this detachment.  To her friends, she called him “a man of few words.”  They had shared plenty of moments of closeness and honesty and that was enough for Allie to hold onto.

But meeting Linnea threw Jeff off balance and caused him to withdraw even more when he was with Allie.  And it caused a logjam of feelings he could not clear.  Allie noticed and worried to herself what it might mean.

The phone rang again.  This time she answered…

Thank you for reading.

Friday Fiction – Random chapter from an unfinished book – Jeff and Allie

Friday Fiction

Hello all!  Written long ago and gathering dust, here’s another random chapter from an unfinished book…


JEFF AND ALLIE

“I’ll be right there, hang on a minute!” Jeff’s head pounded.  He was thinking about what lay ahead of him.  A long drive, a hard discussion and a longer drive back.  He was shocked to find himself in this position because he had always been so careful about staying detached.  Now he was in it.

He walked into the kitchen.  “Here,” she said, handing him the phone.  He tried to figure out her mood by the tone of that one word.  It was his way.  Don’t ask a lot of questions, just try to get what’s going on by the clues you get.  Sometimes it was fun, a game he played.

He reached out for the phone.  Their hands did not touch.

“Hello?”

“No, I know”

“About a half-hour”

“Yes”

“Bye”

He thought Allie looked tired and he tried to think of what to say.  If nothing came to him, he usually said nothing.  He wasn’t the kind to fill an awkward silence.  Nothing came to him, so he left the room and went upstairs.

She had been waiting for him to say something to her.  She wanted to hear him talk to her.  She desperately wanted to know what was going on in his head.  Whenever she asked him, his response was the same, “I don’t know.”  Even when the barriers were down, he didn’t know.

“One thing at a time!”  That was what his mother had always said when she was too busy to do more.  The problem was that she always said it.  As a child, he began to realize it was her way of saying she didn’t want to do something.  He adapted the phrase to his own needs, by saying it to himself.  If there was something difficult in front of him, he put it off with that thought.

Allie guessed that she had a half-hour before he left.  She knew not to ask.  She had come to accept his way and played it the same with him.  “He’s just not a talker,” she had always reasoned.

She was right.  They had a history together and that made them a couple.  “We’re living in West Chester,” she told her friends.  “We have a townhouse together.”  To Allie, the basic facts made a statement about themselves as a couple, established, committed.  She felt proud telling people where they lived, even if it was just a rental.  When they went out to buy something for their house, she felt good, as if they were putting in one more brick in their future.

Most of the time, Jeff didn’t like to think a lot about how he felt.  He went through his everyday life without much analysis, without thoughts of the future.  He was always very busy at work and when he was finished for the day, he wanted to relax, just live.  Today, it was the right plan to say little.  One thing at a time.  Jeff knew he couldn’t talk to Allie today.  He wasn’t sure what he was going to do.  He looked up as she entered the living room.

Jeff didn’t like to talk about their status as a couple, thought it unnecessary.  He cared for Allie, very much.  Of course he loved her, they were sharing a townhouse.  But he was always the type of person to lean inward and when something heavy was on his mind, he retreated to himself.  He didn’t think it was useful or wise to pull someone else through the process of his thoughts, especially if they might be upsetting, particularly if he reached a different conclusion in the end.  In his view, it was only important to share his final thoughts.  To Allie’s credit, she never pushed Jeff.  She understood that part of him and tried to believe that she respected him for the way he was.  Jeff recognized that Allie held back the questions, giving him room, and he appreciated the effort.  Still, he always felt like Allie was ready to burst with questions, statements and promises he simply didn’t want to hear.  In that way, Jeff did not think Allie was right for him.

As he was getting ready to leave, he thought about where he was going, to Linnea.  She had called Jeff last night on his cell phone as he was headed home. He had agreed to meet her today.  Jeff told Allie he had to go out.  “First I meet Linnea, then I figure out the rest,” he said to himself.

Allie heard him come downstairs into the living room.  She had thought of something to say and now she was taking her last chance.  She wanted to ask him where he was going and when he’d be back, but she knew she could not.

“Keep it simple,” she told herself.  When she saw him, she saw that his face was carefully composed, revealing nothing.  Her face was soft and vulnerable.  Jeff noticed.  He liked her face and he always noticed the details, but he couldn’t respond with words.  “She looks beautiful,” he thought.  If Allie had understood him more, she would have known that was how he felt.  That was his reasoning and maybe it was true.

Allie took a breath.  He looked at her, wondering what she would say.  He wanted to leave without talking.

“We need laundry detergent,” her voice cracked.  Can you get some?”

He was relieved.  “Sure.”

“Bye.”

The door closed and that was all he had said.

Thank you for reading.

Friday Fiction – Random chapter from an unfinished book – Alex

Friday Fiction

Hello all!  Written long ago and gathering dust, here’s a random chapter from an unfinished book…


The music was loud.  Driving the route to his house, his home, his family, he was surrounded by it, lost in the sound of the music.  He was the car.  The road so familiar to him, the turns he had made for years on his way home.  He didn’t even have to think, just to be.  It was a wonderful feeling.

It was dark.  The weather was fine, clear and crisp, the air still and the moon shone.  The roads were dry.  There was no traffic.  It was 7:00 pm.  He would be home in fifteen minutes.  Home to Jocelyn, their children.  They would catch up with each other.  He would feel her arms wrap around him, see her smile.  He would ask about Danna, tell them all about the email he got from her.  The boys would tell him their latest news, his little girl hers.  Her stories about Kindergarten, her friends.  She might show him a picture.

Alex made the turns.  He listened to the music.  The song was great.  Everything was perfect.  A split second later, the scene would change.  His hand slipped and his car took on a different path, off the road.  His body suddenly changed.  Sharp electric signals raced from his heart to his fingertips, to his toes, his brain.  His car careened off-course.  The music was blaring.  The ride was bumpy, horribly different from the moment before.  He couldn’t concentrate.  He had no time.  He saw the tree, but he couldn’t process the thought.  It was an impossible moment, only seconds before the impact ahead.

No one could imagine that he was in the crisis of his life. Countless thoughts and images went flying through his brain, too many to process.  Thoughts of things he did long ago, things he hadn’t done yet, wanted to do.  Things.  His old house, his elementary school, a dime he once saw shining in the sun.  Water dripping from a faucet.  Faces raced past his vision, all kinds of faces, faces he had known and loved, then strange faces, people he had only known for minutes some only seen for seconds, people on buses, people walking past him.  Then voices, his mother, children playing, Jocelyn laughing.  This rush of places and people and sounds was strange and horrible to him.  Fear gripped him.

Alex didn’t remember turning the wheel.  He didn’t remember that action or why he turned out and not in.  His mind and body were overtaken by this intense struggle.  There was no one around him to witness these extreme efforts.  His own home only a few miles away.  His wife, his children couldn’t know he was fighting for that.

The car changed its course.  Still off-road, it sped past the tree.  Seconds later, a new problem, his car racing down the embankment tipping on uneven terrain, wild bumps and violent shaking, loud, unfamiliar noises.  Alex was captive, strapped in, like a rider on a roller coaster.  He tried to steer, to control his car.  Nothing was working.  The ditch came fast.  His car slammed down into it.

He didn’t remember the airbag, how it inflated and saved his head from breaking on the dashboard.  Seconds later, he opened his eyes and saw the damage, could not move, could not think, could only sob with the thought of all he almost lost.

Alex stayed there and sobbed, stunned at what had just happened.  He cried and screamed, knowing of nothing else to do.  The fear and strain and the danger of the previous moments flooded out of him.  He could not control his body.  He could only stay there and cry.

And then he stopped, sat there, looked around him.  As he moved, he yelled in pain.  His whole body hurt, his arms and legs, his neck, his back.  His stomach churned.  He managed to move his seat back enough to unbuckle himself.

He looked around him and thought.  For the first time since his car went off the road, he had the time to think.  It was an unbelievable luxury!  A strange euphoria washed over him.  He started to laugh.  Then he was consumed in laughter.  He laughed with joy, then at the irony of suddenly having all this time to think and laugh.  He laughed hysterically until he became exhausted, then Alex slept.

When he woke he was disoriented.  He couldn’t make sense of his surroundings, how he hurt, what time it was.  He managed to reach into his pocket for his cell phone.  He turned it on and checked the time.  11:00 pm.  He didn’t know what that meant.  Was he late?  Was he on time?  Where exactly was he?

He dialed the number he had been dialing for twenty years.  Twenty years of laughter and love and of memories too wonderful to speak of.

Jocelyn was at home.  Worry was the only thing she could do.  Her children upstairs or in bed, she sat alone, staring out the window, sick with fear.  She had kept busy with the boys and her daughter for most of the night.  Alex wasn’t always on time, she reasoned.  He would certainly be home soon.  Once the house was quiet, however, she began to panic.  She did not know what to do with the panic, how to manage it.  Time passed so slowly!  All she wanted was to hear him pull into the driveway, open the car door and walk to the door.  Those were the sounds she begged to hear.

She thought about praying.  “What good would it do?”  She didn’t know.   She kept willing him to come home.  “Come on, Alex, come home.”  She looked at the clock.  10:30 pm.  This was much later than he ever was.  She wondered why he hadn’t called.  She had called his cell but only got voicemail.  She tried again, same result.

Jocelyn got up and walked into the kitchen.  She tried to think of something to do to make the time pass more quickly.  She thought to empty the dishwasher, but it was still running.  Then she thought about the kids’ lunches for tomorrow.  Deciding that making them tonight would keep her occupied, she opened the fridge and pulled out the cold cuts and lettuce, then some apples and peppers to slice.  She grabbed rolls out of the freezer and set them on the counter to defrost.  It was 10:45 pm.

At 11:00 pm, Jocelyn was well into making the lunches when the phone rang.  Her heart jumped as she ran across the kitchen to the phone.

“Hello?”

“Oh Jocelyn, I’m so glad you’re there!  It’s me.”

“Alex!  Where are you?  Are you alright?”

“I’m here, here in my car.  My car, it went off the road.  I’m sitting here down in a ditch in my car.”

“God Alex!  Are you hurt?”

“I think I’m okay.  I don’t know.  I have all-over pain.  I haven’t moved from my seat.   I guess I probably have some bruises, but I think I’m okay.  I’m so glad to hear your voice, dear.  You’re so dear.  I love you Jocelyn.  God, I don’t know what happened.  One minute I was on the road and the next thing I knew I was about to hit a tree.  Then I turned the wheel and went down into this ditch.  I’m stuck here and I think I’m going to need help getting out.”

“I think I should call an ambulance.  I’m calling an ambulance, Alex.  You need to get checked out.  You don’t know if you’re not seriously hurt.  You could be hurt and not know it.  Is your car badly damaged?”

“I don’t know.  I think I’m okay.  Don’t call an ambulance, Jocelyn.  Just come get me.  Then we’ll get a tow truck to pull out the car.”

“No, but what if you’re really hurt?  What if we get home and you’re hurt and you need a doctor?  Alex, I don’t want to take any chances.  I don’t care about the car.  I care about getting you checked out.”

“Jocelyn…”

“No!  Don’t argue with me.  I’m not taking any chances.  I’m calling an ambulance.  Tell me where you are.”

“Okay dear.  I think I’m okay.  I hurt a little.  I know my thinking isn’t clear.  I guess you’re right.  I’m here on 412, probably five miles from our house.”

“I’m going to call an ambulance, then I’m coming to you, Alex.  Stay right there.  Don’t move.  The ambulance will be there soon.  Don’t move.  I love you.  Stay there Alex.”

Thank you for reading.