Friday Fiction – A Man and His Phone

Welcome to A Man and His Phone – a series of relationship mishaps!
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Chris smiled when he saw the text message. Thank goodness for technology! The thought surprised him. Hours earlier, he had been on his couch, completely content to watch the Sixers, drink his beer and ignore the phone across the room. And now, after a comedy show of meet-ups, first with the very interesting, yet-to-be-introduced Adrienne, and then with both Jane and Adrienne in his apartment stairwell, he’s found himself at a dance club, faking a call and pretend-talking, just to get his long-term girlfriend off his lap.

He looked over at Adrienne. The deafening music and heavy beat left no chance for conversation, but it didn’t matter. What a happy set of circumstances, he realized, all without much of his own doing. Back at his apartment building, after the fluster of hearing Jane and Adrienne trip over an outrageous explanation of why they were in his building, he found himself happily agreeing to go to Karma. Jane had been giddy over his willingness to go. A little too giddy, Chris thought, but whatever.

The beat shook the room and Chris took in the mob on the dance floor. What a bunch of crazies, he thought, grateful that he had so far escaped that pulsing hell.

Chris thought back and realized it had been genius of Adrienne to suggest they exchange contact info before they’d headed to Karma in two cars. “Jane will be driving,” Adrienne explained. You can text me if we get separated. Chris had dumbly agreed. It didn’t make complete sense since Jane obviously had his number and he’d also be busy driving. It was true he had never been to Karma, but he had a GPS like everyone else in the world. But it’s also a no brainer when an interesting woman suggests trading contact info. He hadn’t asked Adrienne for the rescue text, but she knew he needed it.

He was pretty sure he loved Jane, but when she jumped on his lap, there had been no time to think. He simply didn’t want her on his lap, on a ridiculously high stool, out in public. It broke all his PDA rules. If he’d paid attention since the stairwell, he would have noticed Jane’s ramped-up assertiveness, but Chris after all, was just Chris, a guy who wanted to watch a game on TV, but was instead out for a night of dancing.

Another look over at Adrienne and it occurred to Chris that she was seriously dressed for dancing and, like a race horse at the gate, was champing at the bit. She stood, moving to the beat, a little exaggerated, he thought. And for goodness sake, wasn’t she nursing a sore ankle from her fall in the stairwell? A panic set in. It wasn’t just that Chris didn’t like dancing. He knew he was no good at it. Since the incident at his high school homecoming dance, he’d simply refused to get out there with any woman.

Adrienne drained her drink. “Come on, Chris. Let’s get out there!” Before he could answer, she grabbed his hand and pulled. “Hop off that high chair of yours, it’s time to get some exercise.”

With Chris in tow, Adrienne continued to pull until they reached the edge of the dance floor. To Chris, it was the equivalent of the seconds before a cliff dive, something he’d only done once. But the memory of that sensation stayed with him whenever he faced an uncomfortable social situation. She gave him no time to think and soon they were surrounded by a sweaty mash of bodies.

Chris started to move. Thank goodness he’d been loosened up a bit by his last Yuengling. And what better inspiration than seeing Adrienne, clearly a pro, making it look so easy. First one move, then another, he took some chances, and let the beat sink into his body. Before long, Chris was Patrick Swayze, John Travolta and Kevin Bacon wrapped up in a twenty-something millennial on a dance floor in suburban New Jersey.

And that’s when it also occurred to Chris that the reason he was out there on the Karma dance floor was because he wanted to be, and it didn’t matter if he knew how to dance or was good at it, because no one could actually see him. That is, until the others on the floor noticed him, gave him the room that any dance sensation would need and stopped to watch the magic.

Chris pulled Adrienne close and looked out at the crowd taking them in. At the center stood Jane, wearing three shades of anger.

Thank you for reading.


Click here to catch up previous episodes of A Man and His Phone.

Copyright © 2019 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 – “A Man and His Phone” – Part 3

“A Man and His Phone” – Part 3

Welcome to Friday Fiction! If you stopped in the last two Fridays, you may have read Parts 1 and 2 of “A Man and His Phone.” If not, here’s a rundown of what’s happening:

Jane is in a twenty-something predicament. She has a sometimes boyfriend who likes his own space. But Jane wants more. Chris is in no hurry to change his life. He’s planted on his couch, drinking some beers and watching ESPN. Maybe he’ll go out, maybe he won’t. But he has no interest in making plans with Jane tonight. After a tense call with her, Chris has powered off his phone. Meanwhile, Jane is determined to make something happen. His phone may be off, but that’s not going to stop her.

Now you’re set – I hope you enjoy!


Image: Wikimedia Commons

“Let’s do a drive-by,” she said. “I’ll pick you up in a half hour and we can drive over there and see if his car is still in the parking lot.”

Adrienne was usually game for this kind of thing, but tonight she had plans to go out dancing with the girls from the apartment across the hall. Now Jane was on the phone and obsessing over this Chris guy. Maybe Adrienne could get her to go out with them and forget about Chris.

“Jane, you know I like to spy as much as you do, but I’m going dancing at Karma tonight with Felicia and her roommate. You should come with us instead.”

Jane was in no mood for dancing. She was furious with Chris and wanted to make sure he was still in his apartment. Let him sit there and drink beer all night, but he’d better not go out. If he did, she was going to find out. What she’d do then, who knew? She would figure that out if she had to.

“Look, we can drive over there first and then maybe I’ll go to Karma with you. Or, I can take you there to meet your friends.”

Adrienne stalled. She had met someone last night at the dance club and wanted to get back there tonight to see if he’d show up. She was pretty sure he would, based on the dancing they’d done the night before.

“Jane, doesn’t Chris live practically in Philly? That’s an hour from here! Just come with us and forget about him.”

“No, I can’t. I need to know if he’s still in his apartment.”

“What good is that going to do? And how are you going to find that out? Doesn’t he live in a high-rise?”

“Well yes, but I know where he parks his car. We can drive to his apartment building, see if his car is there. If it is, maybe someone can buzz us in to get up to his floor. If I hear music and see a light under the door, then I’ll know for sure if he’s home.”

“Jane, that’s madness. Even I can see how stupid your plan is. What if his car isn’t there? What are you going to do then? And what if he went out and someone else drove? And even if he is there, what are you going to do? He could be getting ready to go out. You have no control over this.”

“Adrienne, he blew me off last week and said he was tired. But you saw him at Zadar’s. He certainly didn’t look tired there. And tonight he didn’t want to make plans. I need to know what’s happening. I’ll feel better if I know he’s just stewing in his apartment, alone. Please come with me. I promise I’ll make it up to you. It’s only seven right now. We have plenty of time to get down there and back before you go out.”

Just barely, thought Adrienne. She didn’t want anyone else moving in on this guy she’d met. But she had her share of obsessions, so she couldn’t really judge. Still, this sounded like a terrible idea and she was itching to find that guy. Things had gotten pretty intense with him…

“Okay, Jane. It’s a horrible idea, but okay. Come over now, we’ll drive to Pennsauken, see if Chris is there. And Jane, wear something hot, okay? Don’t show up at my door in jeans and sneakers because I’m dragging you Karma after this.”

Thank you for reading – come back next week for Part 4!

Click here to catch up with all the episodes of A Man and His Phone.


Copyright © 2018 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 – “A Man and His Phone” – Part 2

“A Man and His Phone”
Part 2

Image: Wikimedia Commons

His phone vibrated and this time he heard the sound. But Chris was so comfortable on his couch. The highlights from last night’s Sixers game were just coming on… (Read all of Part 1 here.)

Chris thought about answering. He knew it would be Jane. She sure was persistent. He should have just powered off his phone, but it was too late for that now. He liked Jane…a lot, but he was nowhere near ready for more. It was true that they had something. They grinned at each other nonstop when they were together, but once or twice a month of that was enough for him. Anything more would require a label, and work. Just thinking about it made his muscles tighten. He didn’t want to be a boyfriend and he most certainly did not want to discuss it with Jane tonight. Their meeting at Zadar’s had been a bad coincidence.

How many more times would she call if he didn’t answer now?

Chris got up with a groan and picked up his phone. Jane’s number displayed on the screen. He swiped to answer. “Yo”

“Hey, Chris, it’s me.”

“Hey. What’s up?”

“Not much. What are you up to?”

“Just relaxing, thinking about dinner.”

“Oh?” Was that an invitation? Jane wondered.

“Yeah, I can’t decide whether to get pizza or a hoagie.”

“Hmmmm. Tough decision.” She was trying to act casual, but her stomach was knotting. She hated that she was so uncomfortable talking to him now. If they only spent more time together, they would be more natural during these ordinary moments. She was more than willing. More was what she wanted. She took a breath.

“Hey, do you want to get together tonight? I could help you decide on the pizza or hoagie.” She knew this was lame, but it was all she had.

Pause. Chris was stuck. He didn’t know why he felt stuck. He didn’t know why he didn’t want to make plans. He just didn’t. When he felt trapped, even in the smallest things, he could not do anything except try to escape. He reasoned that if he truly felt a certain way, he shouldn’t fake being any different. It didn’t matter that Jane was a great person.

Chris tried to think of something clever to remove the tension between them because his charm usually worked with her. But tonight he had nothing. “Well, my internal pizza/hoagie debate might take a while. I don’t know if tonight’s a good night.”

Jane should have taken this as a definite “no,” but still she pursued. She could feel a sticky sweat under her arms. She had to see him, had to make sure that things were right between them.

“How about if I bring you a pizza? Then you won’t have to worry about deciding.”

Chris thought he had gotten away. When they were both in good moods, their conversations together were playful, but tonight there was only fake lightness. This moment was a bad sign. Jane should have seen that.

She saw her mistake, but could not help herself. She had noticed a change in him at Zadar’s and she was anxious when he hadn’t called. She had to call and now she couldn’t help but push the point.

“Well, Darling, I think I’m just going to hang around here for dinner tonight. And I might go into Philly later.”

The ‘Darling’ part did not charm Jane this time. She snapped.

“Okay, Chris, but I need to know. Were you ever planning on calling me?”

“I don’t know. I might have…”

“Might have? Doesn’t that say something about us?” Jane took a second to think about what else she would say. She hadn’t planned on talking about this, but now she felt she had no choice.

“Chris, I wanted to see you tonight and you clearly have no interest. So please tell me what’s going on with you. I thought things were going well between us, but when I saw you at Zadar’s, you wanted to get away from me fast.”

Now Chris was beginning to sweat. And to think he had just been living the life, drinking beer and watching ESPN, the night wide open, just as he wanted. Now he was being summoned for the relationship talk. The rehashing of events. The analysis of feelings. He was in a corner and there was only one way out. Straight through, no matter the casualties.

“Jane, I can’t change who I am. Why can’t you understand that when I feel like getting together with you, I do? And we have a great time when we’re together. Don’t we?” The words sounded stale. They were, in fact. He’d used them before.

“That’s a little too casual for me, Chris. I need more than that. We’ve been together all this time and still you dole out your attention to me in small bits. If you don’t want more than that, then we have a problem.”

“Jane, all I want to do is get off the phone. I don’t want to talk about anything. I only want to sit on the couch and have a few beers. Then, like I told you, I will probably get some dinner maybe I’ll go into the city. But maybe I won’t. I don’t want to be pressured into seeing you or anyone for that matter. I’m always going to be this way. I will never change and you shouldn’t want to change me. I like spending time with you. You know that, but not now.”

Jane should have known it wouldn’t go well. She’d called him up, tried to force plans on him, and then picked a fight with him. She had made her point. It was out there now. She’d lost.

“Okay, Chris. Fine. I’ll see you. Bye.”

Chris ended the call, powered off his cell phone and threw it on the kitchen table with too much force for an expensive piece of technology. He watched it fly across the surface and hoped it would fall off the end. It slid and spun and instead, slammed against the biography he was going to read next, The Secret Life of Houdini.

Jane stood in her own apartment, furious at herself. She gripped her iPhone. She would keep it close, with the sound turned on. Chris could call her back. She wanted to be ready.

“What am I doing? I’m a fool,” she thought. But then she had an idea…

Click here to catch up with all the episodes of A Man and His Phone.

Thank you for reading.


Copyright © 2018 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 – “A Man and His Phone” Part 1

“A Man and His Phone”
Part 1

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Chris sat in his apartment reading. It was Saturday. Music was on. Playing loudly. He was reading a book about the Civil War. He liked to listen to loud music when he read. It was the perfect atmosphere for him and always had been. It did not distract him. It allowed him to escape into a different world. He was relaxed. It was getting to be time for dinner, but he was in no hurry, would figure that out later.

His cell phone was on the kitchen table. During the day, he would occasionally check for missed calls. He didn’t like running to a ringing phone so the sound was always off. He’d set it to vibrate. But he rarely paid attention to it and he almost never made calls. Now it vibrated as he sat across the room, at a safe distance. This time he just didn’t hear it. He continued to read and listen to music.

Jane had been trying to call him. She didn’t have a good reason, but she wanted to talk to him. She wanted to feel reassured that everything was good between them. She had not seen him or talked to him since the night at Club Zadar’s. They’d had plans that night but he’d blown her off, saying he was tired and then there he was, out with friends, flirting with women at the bar. She had given him a few days and still had not heard from him. When Jane felt uneasy, she jumped from one thing to the next. She could not focus until that one thing was settled.

Jane wanted to be settled, as in married with a couple kids. She envied that life. But she was so far from having any kind of life besides a working one. She could not imagine how she could get there. At twenty-five, with nothing going on, she was beginning to realize that she had a long way to go.

She checked her phone. Nothing, no call, no text. What was she thinking? Chris never texted. She knew he hated being tied to a device, but she could always hope. And he occasionally surprised her by doing something out of character. He had emailed her now and again and she loved reading them. She clung to that idea. Maybe Chris had sent her one. Nothing. Late Saturday afternoon, almost night. She had no plans. She thought about calling friends, decided against it. She decided to wait. “Maybe Chris is busy right now, but he’s getting ready to call me as soon as he’s finished whatever it is he’s doing,” Jane thought. She knew how ridiculous that sounded, even in her head. She didn’t care. She continued with this exercise. “It’s 5:30. He’s probably waiting until 6:00 to call me. I’ll wait until then. If he’s sent me an email, I’ll call him. Maybe he’ll call me while I’m checking my email. Then I won’t have to call him. If he hasn’t sent me an email, I’ll decide at 6:00 whether I’ll call him or not.”

Chris was oblivious to this. He had no idea that Jane even thought this way. He would probably be horrified to know it. He was sitting in his apartment, reading his book, listening to music. He was thinking about nothing else except the words he was reading. He was not thinking about what he would do after he finished reading. He didn’t even know how long he would be reading. When he finished, would probably think about dinner. Maybe after that, he would think about what he might do that night.

When Chris did stop reading, he got up and turned off the music. He looked at the clock. 6:17. Then he grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator and headed back to the living room. Seeing his cell on the table, though, he stopped and picked it up. He pressed the home button and saw that he had two missed calls. Jane.

Jane. “She’s probably already made plans by now,” he thought. “If she calls again, I’ll see if she wants to do something.” He put the cell back on the table, then sat on his couch and took a drink from his beer. He would have been more comfortable had he not checked his phone and seen that Jane had called. He had not planned on calling her, but maybe he would have. Now he would not. He finished his beer and got up for another one. When he sat down this time, he turned on the television. Flipping through the stations, he settled on ESPN.

His phone vibrated and this time he heard the sound. But Chris was so comfortable on his couch. The highlights from last night’s Sixers game were just coming on…

Click here to read all the episodes of A Man and His Phone.

Thank you for reading.


Copyright © 2018 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 – Future So Bright

“Future So Bright”

“I’m twenty-seven,” she answered. Jane was at the age of confidence. Twenty-seven was a good age to be. She had already accomplished a great deal for her age. She had finished her education, was well-paid in her job.

And she felt strong and, if not beautiful, pretty good-looking, above average at least, she reasoned. She worked out. She was a runner, specifically, but also took aerobics classes at a gym. Her clothes fit her well and she felt good about the choice she had made that night: her favorite black top and tapered pants, flat shoes that came to a sharp point at the toe. Jane was not a trendy dresser, but she paid attention to the styles and allowed herself these shoes with the points. She liked having a certain surprise factor in her ensembles, something a person might not notice at first or second glance, but would be pleased to see upon further inspection.

So she didn’t mind when someone asked her how old she was because she wanted to tell people, “Yes, look at me, over here!”

And she didn’t mind revealing her age on this night because she had already figured that the man she was talking to was probably the same age. In fact, he was twenty-eight, which he told her once he knew her age. “Well, that’s good,” she thought. “I wouldn’t want to be older.”

He smiled at her as she looked at him, and she smiled too. It was natural. She liked him already. He was dark and mysterious looking. She looked across the room for her friend.

“Want to dance?” he asked her.

He didn’t know this, but Jane loved to dance. He had no idea what he was in for…

Thank you for reading!


Copyright © 2018 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.

Short story review from Best American Short Stories 1994: “Hammam” by Carol Anshaw

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom. Short reviews of short fiction. This selection comes from the 1994 edition of The Best American Short Stories, edited by Tobias Wolff.

“Hammam”
by
Carol Anshaw

Rating: 5 out of 5.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading short fiction so much is because of the way authors make the reader jump right into a story and then a little bit later, jump back out. “Hammam” is a good example of this technique and I’m left wondering what will become of the three characters Carol Anshaw has sketched for me.

Carmen has been dating Rob for a few months and now she’s on a trip to Paris with him. Rob, a troubleshooter for a chain of hair salons, is on the trip to check on the Paris franchises. Accompanying them is Heather, Rob’s passive-aggressive and closed-up teenage daughter, who is taking time off from school because of an “ailment” that Carmen suspects is an eating disorder.

Before Rob leaves for a meeting, he asks Carmen to spend the afternoon with Heather. “Don’t make it look as though we’ve talked, as though you’re chaperoning. Just…if you could pretend to be interested. Whatever it is.” Carmen groans to herself, knowing they won’t be going to the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, that Heather will be choosing something different and edgy from her Hip Pocket Guide to Paris.

Heather picks a hammam, a Turkish steam bath, “probably the worst idea…out of all the terrible ideas in her guidebook” and Carmen, who is painfully modest, wonders how she will manage with just a small towel in a bath full of strangers.

Something different happens, however. Carmen’s apprehension fades when she sees Heather’s shockingly bony frame which has been hidden under a defensive arrangement of black leather and jeans. As they move through the sauna rooms, Carmen watches Heather disappear in the steam and for a few moments they are lost from the world in the depths of the hammam. A strange connection between them results, something Carmen views as a beginning.

It’s a loose bond that seems forgotten at dinner, however, where Heather’s food issues are most obvious. An awkward conflict results and Rob must take sides. Despite Rob’s efforts to keep the three of them together, the dinner and the story end with a big question mark.

Anshaw provides just enough character details to leave them on the edge of a situation and now it’s up to the reader to finish the story. I like that!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Candidate by Tracy Ewens

Candidate_cover5Candidate
by
Tracy Ewens

Rating:

Politics are tough and public image is everything for United States Senator Patrick Malendar of California. He’s up for re-election and his young Republican opponent is giving him a run for his money. To secure his seat, Malendar has hired Bracknell and Stevens to handle his PR campaign. But the big problem is what to do about Malendar’s errant son, Grady, a shameless playboy whose carousing is frequent fodder for the scandal-hungry media. Malendar knows his son is the key to the young demographic and he’s determined to whip Grady’s image into shape. Anything to help the vote. That’s his motto.

Meet Kate Galloway. She’s a rising star at Bracknell and Stevens and her boss knows she’s the solution to the Grady problem. But while Kate may be the best one for the job, she comes with a lot of romantic baggage and taming a wild playboy may be more than she can handle. It doesn’t help that Grady is a knock-down gorgeous charmer with ice-blue eyes, and as Ewens writes, “trouble in a linen shirt.” (What a great line!) Kate has a low tolerance for womanizers, and despite being divorced for two years, she’s still raw and shaky under her professional armor.

What a story setting! Romantic sparks fly from the get-go in Tracy Ewens’ latest modern romance. Ewens has taken Grady’s character from Premiere and put him in this wonderful story about a guy with a privileged past and a hard-working, but vulnerable Ivy Leaguer from a family of cops.

The attraction between Grady and Kate is undeniable, but, besides the required professional image, there are many personal barriers to their romance. Kate needs to let down her guard and move on with her life. It’s been two years since she left her cheating husband and she hasn’t even unpacked the boxes in her apartment! And Grady has his own issues. An unacknowledged rift between him and his father may be at the root of Grady’s reckless behavior. In addition, when Kate runs a background check she discovers some mysterious doings. Does this information point to the real Grady?

The story revolves around the senator’s campaign and it includes a full calendar of public appearances, during which Kate and Grady get to know each other. Their romance isn’t in fate’s hands, however. They will have to work to reach each other. Whether that’s possible waits to be seen.

I loved this story! It’s full of fun, tantalizing banter and romantic tension and lots of ups and downs. But Candidate isn’t all eye candy and fluff. Ewens tackles many serious subjects, including the price of public life, the damaging effects of family secrets, friendship, marriage and infidelity. While chance can set the stage, the key to love and happiness is making the right choices.

Here are a some of my favorite things about Candidate:

  • Characters from Premiere make brief appearances and there are fun references to that storyline, but Candidate stands on its own and can be read independently.
  • Great lines and some well-placed zingers invite readers to remember their own crazy highs and lows of the dating world.
  • References to technology and social media are well-placed and make Candidate a realistic and modern story.
  • Terrific descriptive scenes are easy to picture and follow. I can just imagine the Malendar’s backyard carnival and taste the cotton candy.
  • A very moving chapter segment on Kate’s failed marriage makes the emotions of Candidate real.

A lot happens during the campaign and many details still hang after the election. Not to worry. Ewens finishes with a fantastic resolution that will not disappoint romantic readers. If you’re looking for a classy romance with substance, Candidate is a great choice!

I received an ARC to review Candidate, which will be released on June 23, 2015.

I also enjoyed reading Tracy Ewens’ first two books, Catalina Kiss and Premiere!

I also enjoyed reading Tracy's first love story!  Premiere_cover4

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!