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You have made it all the way here, so you may as well sit down, take a minute to look around, and enjoy. What you will find, depends on the day and my mood. You just never can tell.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Love Sick Love, by D. A. Cairns - Blog Tour Stop



Happy Thanksgiving Week!  The holiday season is official upon us.  I intend to eat until my pants are uncomfortably tight and then sleep the afternoon away.  I love this season of food.  I don't care all that much about the presents, but the food?  Bring it on!  

So with the season of giving (and food) in mind, this week I'd like to welcome D. A. Cairns to my blog with his new release, Love Sick, Love.  He will be GIVING AWAY: one digital copy of this new book to one lucky commentor, so be sure to say hello and welcome David to my blog.  




Title: Love Sick Love
Author: D. A. Cairns
ISBN: 978-1-62420-340-4
Genre: Family Life / Marriage & Divorce
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4 (contains a scene of rape)
Buy at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


TAGLINE
Lovesick is a brutally honest and confronting story of love, sexual obsession and hope.


BLURB
Angus has battled an obsession with sex throughout his adult life. Although outwardly a model husband and father with a respectable life and a well-paying job, he has a shameful secret life which he has become highly skilled at hiding.

Cassy is married to Angus and has no idea about his secret life. In fact, with her own worries she has been pulling away from him, emotionally and physically which is making his behaviour worse. Although she does not know it, Cassy is fanning the flames of an inferno which threatens to destroy their marriage.

Lovesickness: the eternal bane of humanity, the inescapable affliction which we simultaneously crave and fear. For Angus and Cassy, already in the thirteenth year of their marriage, the painful journey to true happiness has only just began.
Lovesick is a brutally honest and confronting story of love, sexual obsession and hope.


EXCERPT
She seems agitated, and although I know she is a nervy, jittery type of character, I sense heightened tension on this occasion and naturally so. I feel it too. She’s watching me furtively as I return to her with a schooner of beer in my hand. I offer it to her, and she smiles. Her actions are quick but indecisive. As I settle, I detect reticence.

“Is everything okay?” I ask. “Is this spot all right?”

Her nodding head juxtaposes her words. “Maybe over there is better.”

As she scurries to the other side of the room, I follow, exploding with anticipation. She sits in one chair, then moves before I can join her, and I’m just about to sit down when she moves again.

“Are we playing musical chairs?”

The meaning of the question, and its allusion to childhood games eludes her, and by the time I have settled she’s moved again and is now sitting on a stool directly in front of me. Our knees almost touch, and she leans forward, wide eyed as though she has something exciting to say. I wait, but she retracts, averts her eyes, then quickly glances back to me.

“Talk to me,” I say. “What’s on your mind?”

I study her face and note her blemishes and the lines which quietly assert her maturity. She’s in her late thirties, thirty-eight maybe, but she looks younger. Her expression changes rapidly through numerous emotional displays, but I can’t read anything except uncertainty. She wants to speak, but either won’t or can’t.

“I want to be with you. You like me too, so there is nothing to stop us,” I say.

“Except you are married.”

There is no conviction in her tone. No reproach. It is a statement of fact, which is perhaps not as meaningless to her as it is to me.

“Okay,” I say, cautiously. I’m convinced if I play this right, I can seduce her and make her my secret lover. There is an element of moral ambivalence. “Let me explain why I am chasing you when I’m married.”

She looks away, and sips her beer. I have nearly finished, while her glass is nearly full. My head and heart are also beyond capacity, verging on chaotic inundation. I’m going to justify my adulterous intentions, or at least attempt to.

“My wife and I have been married for twenty years, and we’re friends. We get on well most of the time, but our marriage is really more like a business arrangement. We both work and have little time together. Time we do have is taken up with shopping, and cleaning and visiting, or arguing about money or our children. She’s unwell. Mentally. She’s been diagnosed with depression, but I think she’s bi polar as well. We’re often at odds over little things. She tends to be very negative and critical. She’s miserable actually, and at lot of the time she makes me miserable.”

With the painful realization I’m slandering the woman I love—or perhaps once loved— and have committed to spending the rest of my life with, I pause and take a mouthful of beer. Lying too, with frightening ease. Cassy isn’t sick and we haven’t been married for twenty years; not even close. Chao-xing’s watching me intently, fascinated I suspect. I don’t want to speak ill of my wife. Actually, I don’t want to talk about her at all, but some of this is necessary so Chao-xing will understand where I’m coming from, and not think badly of me. Adultery is a bad thing to do, but I’m not a bad person. I blame circumstances. Years of neglect and sexual frustration. I blame my wife though I would never say that out loud. I don’t want to blame her but am less inclined to blame myself. The uncomfortable truth is I can’t help myself. I’m out of control, but rationalization is a better option than accepting the facts.

“I need some fun and excitement and I need sex.”
Chao-xing is typically unruffled by my directness, but she moves seats again, shifting to my right where she reclines as though tired. She’s staring at me, examining me, interrogating me with her eyes.


AUTHOR BIO
Heavy metal lover and cricket tragic, D.A. Cairns lives in Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, where he works as an English language teacher and writes stories in his very limited spare time. He has had over fifty short stories published (but who’s counting, right?) He blogs at Square Pegs http://dacairns.blogspot.com.au and has authored four novels, Devolution, Loathe Your Neighbor, Ashmore Grief, and A Muddy Red River which is also available from Rogue Phoenix Press.


KEYWORDS
love sick love, lovesickness, sexual addiction, obsession, divorce


SOCIAL LIINKS
Website URL:           http://dacairns.weebly.com
Twitter handle: @da_cairns

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Blog Tour - North of the Azores by Ruth Danes



Morning readers and friends of the page.  Welcome to a new post and blog tour stop for the book, North of the Azores, a new release by author, Ruth Danes.  As per-usual, with all the stops that I host for books, Ruth will give a digital copy of North of the Azores to one randomly drawn commenter.



Title: North of the Azores
Author: Ruth Danes
ISBN: 978-1-62420-336-7
Genre: Historical Fiction
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4
Buy at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


TAGLINE
A young princess is forced to choose a new life in an unfamiliar world where she finds adventure, friendship and love.


BLURB
The year is 1780 and the Devil’s Isles, a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, have recently been conquered by Britain after a brief war. The inhabitants of the Devil’s Isles practice magic and both human and animal sacrifice. Nebula, a young princess from the islands, struggles with this and is beginning to question what she has been taught.

Aware of a plot to kill everyone on the islands, Nebula defects to the British side where she takes on a new identity and a new life. Under the name Adeliza, she works in England as a maid for a Dr Moon. Only two men know her real identity; the kind-hearted doctor and the seemingly terrifying Mr Lastman.


EXCERPT
I slept well and when I awoke I felt very weak but no longer ill. The doctor was present when I opened my eyes. He examined me, asked me some questions and gave me something to drink. Mr Lastman knocked and entered the room. Both men sat in front of me.

“Well, young lady, you are one of the lucky few who will be able to say you wore red lace and rubies and survived but we will have the truth now, if you please. Who are you?”

I looked at their solemn faces. There was no way I could lie anymore. I ran my tongue over my teeth to moisten my terror-dried mouth.

“My name is Nebula, I am a low princess from the Devil’s Isles and I am the last of the House of Beaumarch. I was given that name when the High Queen called me to her court when I was seven years old. I was born Adeliza and I turned thirteen in May.

“Every Islander knew about the plot to blow everything up on the night before the treaty was signed. I didn’t want to take part so I swam to the Mermaid and told all. I dressed as a boy, a boy from the streets of Arx, because I heard women are not well treated on ships and I needed to be disguised before I left land. I also recognised some of the men and knew they might have recognised me if I was dressed as a low princess.”
There was silence. I hung my head, my stomach churning and my palms sweating.

At last the doctor spoke. His voice was like granite.

“When you inhabited the Devil’s Isles, you and your ilk were responsible for the death and torture of many good, honest men and indeed, many good, honest women too. We all know the female royalty of that accursed race openly controlled everything that took place in that godforsaken land.

“As Gowther, you did indeed save many lives but your real motive was to save yourself, was it not? You could kill but you never had the courage to endure what you have inflicted on others. You also made an attempt to seriously injure Mr Lastman, and no, I do not want to hear it. You have repeated yourself many times stating you only wanted to escape and never meant to do any harm but you cannot be so stupid as to realize a face full of boiling soup is excruciatingly painful at best and deadly at worst. Besides, you should never have tried to escape in the first place. We all trusted you not to and you broke our trust.

“Finally, you wandered about the Mermaid when you knew you were ill, aye, maybe you did not know quite what ailed you, but you must have felt very ill for a good few hours before we saw your rash. The rash is never the first symptom of red lace and rubies. You knowingly spread that sickness and in doing so, you defied your captain, whose word is law on this ship, for a second time. It is impossible to know for sure but you can never clearly square the question with your conscience of would more men have been spared if you had obeyed your captain and reported your sickness immediately. Or was that part of your plan? A last attempt at causing mayhem and taking a few souls before being dispatched to Bristol and then to hell?”

Here he paused. I did not dare speak, I could only shake my head, trying desperately not to give way to the tears and the hysteria which were rising inside me.

The doctor resumed speaking in the same cold, hard voice.

“The orders that we received at Westmarnoch are clear. As soon as we dock at Bristol, you are to be handed over to the commissioners there, after which you are to be kept safe until you are hanged with as much pomp as possible in the heart of the city. We have docked at Bristol, with just over half of the men that set sail from here two years ago, and we will be released from quarantine tomorrow.

“Look at me, Adeliza.”

I forced myself to meet his gaze. His eyes were unforgiving but his voice had softened somewhat.
“That will not be your fate if you obey Mr Lastman and me.”

My heart seemed to stop and my face expressed the astonishment that my tongue could not. I scarcely dared believe my ears.

“Neither of us agree that anyone should be executed for who they are as opposed to what they have done. You have indeed committed many crimes but none that should be punished by death.

“Neither of us trust you, nor do we like you, but we are willing to save you.

“As you already know I am a doctor and a magistrate in a large village, a few days ride from Bristol, called Swanford. I am a bachelor but also a very busy man. On my return, I will take on two apprentice physicians and I will need a maid to help the man and woman who have been my servants for more than twenty years.
“If you swear to obey both Mr Lastman and me on anything and everything, I will take you back to Swanford with me to join my household as that maid. I will treat you as I have always treated my servants, with kindness but also with firmness. You will receive board and lodging along with anything else absolutely necessary until you are at least seventeen, at which point I may consider paying you wages. My word will be law and you will obey the upper servants, Mr and Mrs Dottey, as you will obey me. You will treat the apprentices with every respect and courtesy, as indeed you will treat everyone else with whom you come into contact.

“You will only ever speak, read and write English. You will make no attempt to escape your new life nor will you ever speak of your past life. We will think of some story and stick with it.

“You will stay within my household until you turn one-and-twenty. After this point you are free to leave my service if I believe you to be harmless. If you give any reason to cause either of us any worry, you will regret it. Neither of us are disposed to be merciful twice and you might remember the order for your execution stands until you die.”

I fell to my knees in gratitude and disbelief.

“Sir, I don’t know what to say… Thank you, thank you very, very much. I will be your maid and I will do whatever you say.”

The doctor nodded, satisfied but not softened. Mr Lastman snorted.

“I’ll believe you if you keep your word for the next eight years. Here.” He handed me a comb. “You might as well tackle the knots in your hair before you start your new life.”

I thanked him inarticulately but from the depths of my heart for his kindness as I took the comb but his coldness soon stopped my tongue. With a heavy heart, I realized nothing I could then say or do would change either man’s opinion of me and it was on their opinion of me and my behavior my life rested.



Author Bio
Ruth Danes has enjoyed history and fiction since childhood and has travelled widely within three continents. These interests and experiences were the inspiration for the Life on Another Island series which is set in a world where many characters unexpectedly start new lives in foreign, sometimes seemingly hostile, lands.
Ruth currently lives in the heart of England and works in administration. Writing novels forms her secret life.

KEYWORDS
Alternative history; historical thrillers; 18th century historical fiction; historical romances


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Power Club - Blog Tour Stop






Welcome to the blog tour stop of Greg Gildersleeve, with his new release, The Power Club.  As with most of the blog tours I host, Greg will be giving one digital copy of his new book, The Power Club to one randomly drawn commenter.  So as usual, please show Greg some love. 

One quick note, in order to qualify, you must comment on the blogs along his tour.  Sadly, an email won't do it.  Sorry for any inconvenience.  If you have any issues trying to comment on my blog, please let me know.  I will help you out.  Happy Reading!

So, without further ado:




Title: The Power Club
Author: Greg Gildersleeve
ISBN Ebook: 978-1-62420-359-6
ISBN POD: 978-1547113569
Genre: Mid-Grade, Sci-Fi Adventure
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
Buy at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


TAGLINE
Some kids play piano. Some kids make hook shots. Some create darkness…or teleport…or fly. Damon has what ordinary kids want: a power. Ords have what he wants: freedom.


BLURB
Some kids play piano. Some kids make hook shots.

Some create darkness…or teleport…or fly.

Damon has what ordinary kids want: a power. Ords have what he wants: freedom.

If he joins a “special club,” he can use his powers more freely. But getting into a club isn’t easy, and joining one is just the beginning.


EXCERPT
Two agonizing days passed before Damon’s leg healed enough that he could walk into the Evanses’ backyard. He approached carefully.

“HEYDAMON.” Vee’s words ran together as he sped by. Damon looked left and right. He barely caught a glimpse of the super-fast kid.

“Glad ya made it.” Danner’s voice boomed from overhead. Damon looked up to see Danner towering at a height of fifteen feet.

Kyle waved to him from across the yard and turned to Denise—yes, Denise was there, after all. So was another girl. Ali Reeves lived up the street. She possessed one of the most coveted powers in the district: the ability to fly. Ali gracefully swooped above Danner’s head. He reached out to grab her with his massive hands, but she flitted higher, out of his reach.

Her long brown hair flowed over her face, partly masking an exhilarated smile. “You can’t catch me,” she teased.

“I can if I grow bigger,” Danner boomed, “but I wanna give ya a fair chance.”

“Oh, you’re so sweet.” She swooped down between his arms, mussed his hair, and took off again.

“Hey, Danner—catch me!” Vee ran circles around Danner’s tree trunk-size legs. Danner ignored him.

Damon, unsure what to do, walked over to Kyle, who called, “Hey, Denise. What am I going to do next?”

The blonde girl stood several feet away near the stoop of the back porch. Her arms were folded as if she were bored by it all, but when Kyle called her name, her face lit up. Then her eyes glazed over, and she did something Damon did not expect. She raised her arms to the sky.
...fft.

A football appeared in the air several feet above Denise and dropped into her arms. She held up the football and laughed nervously as if catching it were a great achievement.

“Where’d the football come from?” Damon asked.

“My room,” said Kyle, finally turning to acknowledge him. “I can now teleport things without seeing them if I know where they are.”

“Cool,” Damon replied. Everyone knew powers got stronger as kids grew up. “But how did Denise know what you were going to do?”

Kyle leaned closer. “Can you keep a secret—” He stopped himself and rolled his eyes at his own mistake. “Of course you can. You’re one of us now. Denise can see the future.”

A light turned on somewhere in the attic of Damon’s memory. The jar of peaches! Denise didn’t make him drop it. She predicted he would drop it. Damon felt badly for misjudging her. Trying to cover his embarrassment, he joked, “I wonder if she can see how I’ll do on my math test tomorrow.”

“A big fat F!” Denise yelled from the stoop.

Damon felt exposed. “She heard me?”

“Or she predicted you were going to say it.” Kyle smirked. “Don’t listen to half of what she says. She sometimes jokes about predicting our futures.” He reached out to Denise and clapped his hands.
She raised the football to throw it. “I predict Damon’s going to catch this one.” A blur rushed behind her and the football disappeared from her hand. “VEE!” she bellowed. “Give it back.”

“Stopmeifyoucan.” The voice came from everywhere, some syllables from halfway across the yard, others hitting Damon in the face. Twice the blur rushed right in front of him, nearly blowing him off his feet.

“Vee, stop it!” Denise shouted. “You’re getting carried away.”

The backyard spanned an area large enough to allow Vee to run around the perimeter, creating what appeared to be a blurry fence, boxing everyone in. He darted between Kyle and Damon, zoomed behind Denise, and circled Danner’s massive legs, creating a powerful wind which assaulted everyone from all sides.

The wind pushed Ali higher and higher. “Help me! Her arms and legs flailed about in the air.

Danner grew another five feet and reached out his hand. Ali grabbed his giant fingers and thumb and held on for dear life as he guided her back to the ground.

Still, Vee did not slow down.

“He’ll tire himself out eventually,” Kyle shouted over the wind storm.

Damon remembered something he’d learned in science class. “Won’t he burn himself?” he shouted back. “The friction—”

“He’s got a speed aura. Almost nothing can hurt him while he’s running.”

Another light went on in Damon’s brain. He knew how he could both impress the others and join in the fun. The timing would have to be just right. He carefully studied every object in the backyard and noted Vee’s pattern. At just the right moment, he exhaled.


Author Bio


Greg Gildersleeve grew up in the northwestern corner of Missouri, where comic books and science fiction caught his eye at an early age. In addition to writing, Greg teaches writing at an online university, and won the 2013 Publication Award at Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS. He earned a bachelor's degree in English from Missouri Western State University and a master's in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His work has appeared in Show & Tell, Teenagers From the Future, The Teaching Professor, Faculty Focus, and the Grantham Blog. He lives in the Kansas City area, where he hangs around too many coffee shops, listens to classic and modern rock, and daydreams a lot.


KEYWORDS
super-powers, super-heroes, super-hero teams, mid-grade fiction


SOCIAL LINKS
Website URL: powerclubheroes.com
Blog URL: greggildersleeve.com

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Blacktop, by Terry Lloyd Vinson - Blog Tour Stop



This week, I'd like to welcome author, Terry Lloyd Vinson to my blog with his new release, BLACKTOP.  Please note, that Terry will give a digital copy of Blacktop to one randomly drawn commenter on his blog tour.  If you are in to Sci-fi Horror/Thrillers, maybe you should check out this book.  




Title: Blacktop
Author: Terry Lloyd Vinson
ISBN: 978-1-62420-330-5
Genre: Horror
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 3


TAGLINE
Atop a dark, desolate stretch of blood-spattered West Texas asphalt, the road to survival will require the ultimate sacrifice. 


BLURB
Blacktop is a terror-filled road-trip atop the dark, isolated back-roads of West Texas. Equal parts action/thriller and sci-fi/horror whodunit, it guides readers through a shock-filled maze, beginning with the hijacking of a commercial bus and concluding with a furious battle royale pitting the ultimate in extraterrestrial evil versus the few survivors of that initial abduction.


EXCERPT
The commotion, and alien sounds reverberating from same, drew me, beckoned me back to the open door, so much so that by the time I stood on the bottom step looking out, I couldn’t recall even a trace of the actual movement that got me there. I might have considered, before better judgment kicked blatant stupidity’s ass, venturing out to obtain a better visual not so obscured by the latest in torrential downpours. In retrospect, it wasn’t at all necessary. I’d seen plenty, more than enough, to fuel a lifetime of couch-trip counseling sessions. To describe it in the layman is damn near impossible, the closest I’ve managed is to say it was a scene written by Sid and Marty Krofft, storyboarded by H.R. Giger and directed by David Cronenberg. Sometime during the duration of what had begun as my private voyeur session, I’d felt but utterly ignored the presence of others peering over my shoulder from the higher steps. There were startled gasps, muttered curses and assorted grunts and groans that proceeded the turning of the Beast’s engine and subsequent revving, a few of which might’ve even been my own. This was due to...

From no more than five or six yards away, Blake Carver’s limp form was being slung and swung about like a rag doll on a stick, the stick in question being the right arm of Deputy Olive-Oil, AKA Grimes, the fingers of the attached hand clenching and unclenching in a furious attempt to free itself from the once future king of porn’s thoroughly hollowed-out skull. As Stony’s lifeless corpse flopped and floundered, at one point spinning in a complete circle, head over heels and back a total of three times like a roulette wheel constructed of flesh and bone, the good deputy struggled mightily to free that wrecking ball disguised as a fist from the backside of his mutilated noggin.

It was, bat-shit crazy as it sounds, like watching a disgruntled angler try to free a snarled fishhook from the catch of a lifetime, as in ‘the one that got away’. Only, poor Stony hadn’t been so lucky. In his haste to avoid death, Blake had apparently ran smack dab into the King Kong of right hooks. Bony build aside, it seemed the good Deputy possessed some seriously hazardous punching power. As disturbing as watching Blake’s faceless husk being flung and jostled about was, it was no better than a child’s boo-scare compared to his killer’s verbal frustration in being unable to free her submerged appendage. Frustration and something else; a wail of pure agony I could only equate with the highest order of regret.

Head tilted back, her mouth was pulled so wide I swear I could’ve chunked a regulation-sized basketball inside, the klaxon-like shriek that escaped was no more human or animal than the pulsating, orange-glow eyes or forked tongue, three, I swear I counted three separate prongs that accompanied its ear-splitting concerto. One final, ferocious jerk Grimes had paused to strategically plant the back of a booted foot at the corpse’s lower back for leverage sent the body sailing overhead, spinning into the distance with arms and legs failing and giving the temporarily illusion of life. The ruin that had been Blake Carver landed with a loud crash atop the Deputy’s parked cruiser, what little that had remained intact above his shoulders bursting apart like a rotted Jack-O-Lantern while splintering the windshield dead center.

Call me a cracked egg, no denying it at this stage, but my initial thought at seeing Stony’s headless corpse splayed across that powder-blue hood was that the adult industry’s loss was gonna be decent society’s gain. Cruel I know, but apparently my subconscious was large and in-charge and not at all in the mood to mince words. As for that aforementioned hodgepodge of gasps and groans only partially overheard from over my shoulder, what little dialogue was identifiable went something like

“Sweet Jesus, did she just…boss, w-what the fu…” cried Wesley Muncie.

“As I’d stated most vehemently, old friend, this very second is the time to vamoose,” replied Malcom Gentry, seemingly on the verge of hysteria-driven tears.





AUTHOR BIO:



Born and raised in Northern Alabama, Terry Lloyd Vinson is an Air Force veteran and former corrections officer who is the author of over a dozen published novels. Having previously resided in five states and overseas, he currently homesteads in Nashville with his wife Liza and their canine pal, Dexter.


KEYWORDS
Road-trip, horror, Texas, back-roads, flood, apocalyptic landscapes


SOCIAL LIINKS
Blog URL:
Twitter handle: @Tagsmaniac

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Welcome to another week with an opportunity to win free books!  This week I have author Christopher T. Werkman, on my blog with his new release, titled:  Girlfriending.  He will be giving away:  A Digital Copy of Girlfriending to one of the many commentors along his blog tour.  So, comment, say hello, you could just win a free book.  



Title: Girlfriending
Author: Christopher T. Werkman
ISBN: 978-1-62420-327-5
Genre: Short Stories
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4
Where to Buy: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

  
TAGLINE
Girlfriending is a collection of funny, sad, and occasionally bizarre stories of characters beginning, ending, or finding a way through some type of romantic relationship.


BLURB
A detective known for bold courage on the job deals with mental and physical abuse by his trophy wife. A woman strives to overcome the PTSD she brought from battlefields in Iraq so she can become a loving partner. In the title story, a socially dysfunctional man “girlfriends” women he “meets” in obituaries. From liaisons that are real, to those that are imaginary or somewhere between, Christopher T. Werkman skillfully creates characters beginning, ending, or finding a way through some type of romantic relationship. 

Girlfriending, Werkman’s collection of short stories, will fascinate, amuse, and astonish. Many of the stories are published in literary magazines and anthologies, but most appear only in this collection. His novel, Difficult Lies, was published in 2015.


EXCERPT
The bottle danced an erratic jig. Otis saw it floating near the stern of Bubble Watcher as Andre backed the fifty-five footer into its mooring slip. Otis decided prop wash caused the motion, but even after Andre shut down the grumbling diesels, the clear-glass beer bottle continued to jiggle, bottom-end-up. While other divers off-loaded their gear, Otis watched the bottle continue to wiggle and bob amongst the Styrofoam cups, plastic bags and other harbor flotsam. He realized there had to be a creature hooked on a line tied to the bottle’s neck, engaged in an unending struggle for freedom. The work of bored teens, he figured. Bait the hook and toss it in the ocean—a floating gallows. Otis grabbed the gaff, climbed out of the cockpit and shuffled along the narrow deck-space between the cabin and the gunwale, hoping the bottle would come within reach.

“What’s up?” Andre called down from the flying bridge.

“Not sure,” Otis shouted back. He could snag anything inside ten or twelve feet, but the bottle was out of range. It submerged, then popped to the surface again. Whatever the line held was too small, or weakened, to take it under for long. “C’mere,” Otis hissed, in his raspy whisper. Instead, the bottle moved closer to the algae-coated jetty, green as ripe spinach. Just as Otis decided to get off the boat and try to recover the bottle from the pier’s walkway, it made a break for open water, giving Bubble Watcher wide berth.

Diving in to swim after it was Otis’ only option. He noticed a tampon applicator floating in the coffee-with-cream colored shore-water. A mile or so out to sea, he could count the planks in Bubble Watcher’s hull from a depth of a hundred feet, but in the marina, all manner of waste found its way into the water. Not only that, he had no idea what was hooked on the line. Getting bitten or being speared on the dorsal of a panicky fish was even less appetizing than a leap into the murky water. So, the bottle skittered away, leaving Otis as angry at his own inaction as he was with whoever set the trap.

He jumped down onto the main deck, stowed the gaff and picked up his gear. He dove the summer-warmed ocean in his swim trunks and a tee-shirt. Since Andre, the owner, supplied him with a tank and regulator, he had only to off-load his buoyancy vest, weight belt, mask, fins and snorkel.

Andre climbed down from the bridge and tilted his head toward the jetty. “No treasure?”

Otis hoisted his equipment onto the pier, then glanced in the direction the bottle took. He wanted to tell Andre about the bottle, but the words hung in his throat. “Nah, turned out to be nothing.”

“How was the dive?”

“Spec-tacular. One of those little gals and I found a sea turtle with a wad of fishing line tangled around her flippers. We cut it loose, and she followed us around for most of our dive.” His smiled. “Neat.”

“That ‘little gal,’ the tall drink of water you surfaced with?” When Otis nodded, Andre did a once-around to make sure she wasn’t nearby. “Man, Otie. I was you, I’d be on her like spar varnish.”

Otis winked. “She probably already has a grandpa.” He stepped up onto the stern, then to the pier. “Same time tomorrow morning?”

“Sure. Eleven spots reserved. Probably some walk-ins. Castin’ off at ten sharp.”

“I’ll fill the tanks and have everything good to go.” Otis picked up his gear, walked into the dusty gravel parking lot and discovered the girl they were talking about was parked next to his car. Her shiny red SUV wore New York plates. She was toweling off her robin’s-egg blue aluminum tank. A large woman with olive skin and long raven hair, she was fleshy, but athletic. He judged her to be in her thirties, and imagined she might look at home on a soccer field or a basketball court.

“Hey, Otis.” Her smile came on like high beams. “I really enjoyed the dive. That poor turtle seemed so happy when we cut off the fish line.”

“Yeah, glad we ran across her. Damned monofilament line is ruining the ocean.” The jittering bottle did an encore in his memory as he opened his car’s trunk and laid his gear inside. He almost mentioned it, but as he turned to face her, she stooped to remove the regulator from her tank. Instead, Otis watched the top of her Day-Glo pink swimsuit strain to contain her breasts.

She stood and gave him a knowing look. “I bet you’d like one of these.” She stowed the regulator in the back of her car, and pulled two cans of beer from a cooler.

“There’s the way to my heart, girl. Thanks.”

“What makes you think I’d want your heart?”

“You wouldn’t.” He opened the can and took a sip. “It’s old and worn out, just like the rest of me.”

She laughed hard. “I work with guys half your age who will never be in the shape you’re in.”

“Then they have my sympathy. And what is it you do up there in…?”

“Schenectady. Marketing.”

Otis grinned. “Convincing people to buy what they don’t know they need?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Sometimes. Or what they bought from me a year ago isn’t as good as what I have to sell them today. Companies though, not people.” She closed the SUV’s back hatch and leaned against it, her reflection on the window doubling her beauty. She explained she was a refugee from the dot com collapse of the late nineties and she’d sold software for six years. “The company is moving into a new building in late August, so I bumped my vacation up a few weeks. I get a corner office with a great view of a park, and I need to be there to make sure it’s arranged the way I want.”

“Well, if you have to work, it sounds like you’ve got a great situation.”

“Have to work.” Her laugh rolled. “That’s right, you said you retired. What did you do before you became a dive bum?”

“Michigan State Patrol. Was a trooper for thirty-two years. My wife, Jayne, died a few years back after ten rounds with breast cancer. Right after that, I had a bout with the big C myself.”

For the first time, a serious expression cleared away the woman’s smile. Her dark eyes brimmed with concern, making her even lovelier. “Oh, Otis.” She touched his arm lightly. “You’re okay now?”

“Seem to be. Had surgery and some radiation.” Radiation scared him, especially because he believed radiation exposure from traffic radar caused the cancer in the first place. When the course of treatment ended, he was declared clear of disease, but lacked confidence in his body. To his way of thinking, nurturing cells bent on his destruction amounted to treason. As a trooper, he relied on his body to safeguard his life. Its dalliance with cancer shook him to his core. On the way home from his final radiation treatment, he saw a mid-sixties Pontiac GTO gleaming beneath the wind-tickled plastic flags on a used car lot. Half an hour later, he was writing the chain-smoking salesman a check. The car took Otis back to the time when he was young, strong and healthy. At another level, the control he exerted over such a powerful machine transposed into a feeling of mastery over his body. Otis liked to think of the GTO as an outgrowth of his psyche, although the reverse was probably closer to the truth. “But, yeah,” he told her. “I’ve been clear since.”

“And you had it…where? Do you mind my asking?”

Otis shrugged. “Not if you don’t mind me telling you. My testicles. They took the right one. Managed to save the left.” He raised his eyebrows, amplifying his grin. “Easier to cross my legs, now.”

Dark as she was with a tan compounding her complexion, her blush ripened. “I’m sorry” She laughed. “I deserved that.”

Otis shook his head. “No. You really didn’t. I should watch my manners. I’m the one who’s sorry.”


AUTHOR:
Christopher T. Werkman




Keywords: short stories, romance, humour, bizarre, sad
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Twitter : @Chwerks