The Exchange

Part 2

Maggie rushed through the front door of the Thrifty Purchase. “Hello? Hello, I’m back!”
The clerk greeted her with a grim expression. “Maggie, I’m afraid I have some rather terrible news.”
“Oh no.” Maggie shook her head, dreading his next words.
“One of the grandkids was an understudy for a part in the Nutcracker. I left the shop in the care of my helper and drove with the wife to Raleigh to catch the matinee. I wanted to get there and back before dark. My eyes aren’t so good in the dark anymore. You understand?”
Maggie gave a single nod. “But about my camera?”
“Well you see, I was getting to that. My helper sold it.”
“No. Oh, please tell me he didn’t.”
“I’m afraid so. I’m sorry, Maggie. I feel rotten about it.” The clerk sighed, the lines at the corners of his eyes and mouth deepening.
“Do you know who bought it? Maybe I could-”
“Sorry,” the clerk interrupted and shrugged, spreading his arms, palms facing out. “The person paid cash so there’s no way of knowing who bought it.”
Maggie blinked back tears. “I understand.” She turned to leave but something in the display case caught her eye. She stepped forward to take a closer look.
“Is that a record player?”
“The phonograph? Oh yes. It came in last weekend. Are you interested?”
Maggie peered at the item behind the glass. “Could I see it, please?” She watched the clerk retrieve the object and, with careful movements, place it on the counter. Lifting the lid Maggie saw a faded pencil scrawl that read: Sam, I love you forever. Maggie.
But why would Sam sell his record player? Was he short on cash? He hadn’t mentioned any financial trouble to her.
“Maggie? Hello?” The clerk waved his hand in front of her face.
Maggie blinked. “Hmm? Oh, could I buy this? Please?”
“Yes indeed. I guess you’re giving this to the same friend that’s getting the record?” The clerk waggled his eyebrows.
Any other time Maggie would have chuckled at his Groucho Marx impersonation. Today she replied with a slight nod and wan smile.
“Are you taking this now or would you like my helper to deliver it?” The clerk patted the top of the case.
Maggie tucked the receipt into a pocket on her messenger bag and replied, “I’ll carry it, thanks. I’m just a couple of streets over.”

When Maggie returned home she hid the record player in the bottom of her closet, where she knew Sam wouldn’t see it. She didn’t expect he would be in her bedroom, much less her closet. This was not the time of year to take any chances.
Harvey began barking and Maggie rushed out to answer the door. There stood Sam with a pizza box in one hand and a brown bag in the other. Upon seeing the box, Harvey danced on his hind legs.
“Harvey, we do not beg.” Maggie reprimanded the golden retriever then stepped aside so Sam could enter. “Salmagundi Pete’s?”
Sam grinned. “Is this okay? Mrs. Rutherford loaded me up on restaurant coupons.”
“It’s better than okay.” Maggie chuckled. “That’s our favorite! Right, Harvey? Do we like Pete’s pizza?” Harvey barked and leaped around his owner in circles. “Okay then, go get in your chair for dinner.”
Upon her command, Harvey made a beeline to the living room where he pounced, cat-like into his chair.
“He’s awesome, Maggie,” Sam said, a note of awe in his voice. “No matter how many times I see him respond to your commands, it will still amaze me.”
“You amaze me,” she murmured, kissing Sam’s cheek.
He grinned, revealing one dimple. “Oh yeah? Because I respond to your commands?”
“Yeah, and because you used your masculine wiles getting pizza coupons out of Mrs. Rutherford.” She stepped back and giggled. “Who else came to see you today?”
Sam scoffed. “It’s not my fault women in this town share a book fetish.”
“More like a librarian fetish.”
“Too bad, so sad because I have a photographer fetish.” He gave an exaggerated wink that caused Maggie to blush.
“Well, right now I have a pizza fetish so c’mon.” She beckoned Sam into the living room where a small plastic tub held half a dozen bottles of root beer on ice. Two place settings occupied either end of the coffee table.
Sam set the pizza down between the place settings and put the bag next to the drinks. He took out pizza dough in the shape of a biscuit and handed it to Maggie.
“Ooh, Harvey. Sam got your favorite – garlic bones!” She held it in the air and tossed it across the room to Harvey, who caught it in his mouth. He settled in the chair and gnawed on the treat with a series of happy sighs.
Maggie and Sam sat on the floor on either side of the table. She handed the television remote to Sam.
“What’s this?” He asked, his eyes wide.
“I picked last week. This week it’s your turn.”
“Ooh, I wonder who shot Liberty Valance.” Sam cackled.
Maggie stared at him. “Really? You’d make me watch that again?”
“Nah. We’re going to watch the Man from Laramie.”
“What’s that? Am I going to hate it?”
“You’ll love it. It stars your favorite actor, Jimmy Stewart.” Sam grinned.
Maggie snorted. “That’s how you got me to watch the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

…to be continued

The Exchange

The Exchange
A Treasure Pines Christmas Short

Maggie stood at the counter of the Thrifty Purchase, holding firmly to her vintage Yashica Mat. She gave the clerk a nervous smile.

“Are you sure about this?” One of the clerk’s eyebrows raised higher than the other.

“Yes. I’m sure.” Maggie nodded, the eager motion contrasting with the hesitation in her voice. She gulped and rushed to add, “I’d like to trade this camera for that album.”

The clerk retrieved the item in question and smiled at Maggie. When she didn’t immediately react, he nodded at the object in her hands. Maggie set the camera down, pried her fingers away and pulled her hands back so they lie palms-down on the counter.

“This album is a real treasure. You don’t often see Beatles’ vinyl in its original packaging,” the clerk chatted.

“It’s for my boyfriend. He’s really going to love it. And you don’t think anyone would buy the camera before next Wednesday?”

“Not too many camera aficionados in a town this size, Maggie. You’re not looking to re-purchase your own camera are you?”

“Um, yeah. Is that okay?”

The clerk shrugged. “It’s fine by me, but why didn’t you just ask your grandmother if you needed extra money for the holiday?”

“I know she’d be happy to help me, but this is something I wanted to do on my own.” Maggie shuffled.

“And you didn’t want to pawn it, I gather.”

“No, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that.” Maggie gave a little shudder at the thought of going to the pawn shop.

The clerk gave her a knowing smile. “I see. This isn’t for your brother then?”

Maggie shook her head. “No, it’s not for Ben.”

“I wouldn’t have taken him for a Beatles fan anyway,” the clerk remarked as he finished ringing up the sale.

Maggie declined the complimentary gift wrapping, signed the slip, and left the shop with the album in a paper bag tucked under her arm. When she returned to the apartment over her photography studio, she went straight to her room and slid the package into a drawer of sweaters.

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That evening Sam came over with tacos from Baja Market and they kept up their tradition of sitting on the floor and eating at the coffee table while streaming a movie through a monthly subscription service. Last week Sam picked The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a western starring John Wayne and James Stewart. This week was Maggie’s turn to pick.

“What movie are we watching?” Sam asked, setting out the food. He took a rawhide from a separate bag and handed it to Harvey Wallbanger, Maggie’s golden retriever. The dog took the treat in his mouth and went to the corner of the room where he climbed into his chair.

Maggie settled on the floor next to Sam with a grin. She leaned up to kiss his cheek. “You’ll see.”

The image of church bells faded onto the screen. The sound of their tolling filled the room but soon gave way to the tinkling of sleigh bells.

“Ugh. It’s a Wonderful Life, again? No way.” Sam shook his head, his eyebrows forming a single line across his forehead.

Maggie’s grin broadened. “Oh yes.”

“But this will be the third time we’ve seen Clarence earn his wings since Thanksgiving.”

“Sorry not sorry, Sam. I’ve watched Liberty Valance rob that stagecoach how many times now?”

Sam rolled his eyes as he leaned over to kiss Maggie on the forehead. “Okay, you win.”

To be continued next week….

Tis the Season or a Christmas Plea

Years ago when my boys, who are now 19 and 18, were barely out of diapers, I needed a meaningful gift for my mother-in-law. My budget was at a “what can we make from things we already have” level of low for gifts that year. I’m pretty sure that was the year the boys got sock puppets from Santa.

The materials in my craft drawer included items for scrapbooking and sewing. Because we had a Costco membership, I also had an overabundance of photos of the boys.

*DING*

I decided to make a calendar with photos of the boys. It would cost nothing but my time – and I had plenty of it. Needless to say, my boys’ doting grandmother was over the moon and about the time of the following Thanksgiving, she started dropping not-so-subtle hints that she’d really like another calendar.

And so became an annual tradition. She loves these calendars so much, that I’ve learned to order well in advance to avoid anything that would delay delivery.

So you can imagine my shock when yesterday at lunch I realized I hadn’t ordered the calendar. Not only had I not ordered it, but I also had yet to begun gathering pictures of her grandchildren, which now include my husband’s sister’s kids as well.

Crap.

After weighing the options between Snapfish and Shutterfly, I went with the former as it was the last day for a hefty promotional discount. Close to ten hours of Facebook stalking, surreptitious downloading, and clever graphic designing later, I clicked the button to submit my order.

 

The calendar is due to arrive less than 48 hours of exchanging presents with her. Please excuse me while I enter a state of perpetual prayer that this calendar arrives on time. I don’t think I could bear the look of disappointment if anything would cause her to think I didn’t follow through this year.

Are you done your holiday shopping? Are you waiting to make one mad dash to the mall on Christmas Eve? Are you somewhere in between? Let’s chat in the comments!

Spotify for the Holidays

“Are you on Spotify?”

It’s something friends have asked me a lot over the past few years. Most recently, fellow author MK Rath told me I needed to sign up. Although outwardly I protested, inwardly I thought the idea of a playlist for my main character sounded pretty good.

How would her music tastes differ from mine? What if I discovered our preferences were wildly different? Could I handle it?

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Then a few days ago the Gilmore Girls page on Facebook announced they had a playlist of shows featured in the series. Oh. My. Glitter. Were they kidding? They weren’t. I signed up and it took about half a song before I was won over.

After a day and a half or so of listening to the Gilmore Girls playlist, I branched out to another popular category – Christmas. Spoiler alert – I’m one of those annoying people who can listen to Christmas music all year long!the-postman-always-dies-twice

Then finally it happened. I started a playlist for my book. Right now it has about a dozen songs, but it’s growing. Each song has a meaning and, as I go back through the book, even though I know it’s a bad idea to quote lyrics without permission from the appropriate people, I plan to mention the artists, if not the song titles.

Click this link and it will take you to the playlist.:

https://play.spotify.com/user/authorbeckymuth/playlist/4i5DH1m5OaYDyVou8OKyY2

And in the meantime, check out the list of songs:

  • Saturday in the Park by Chicago
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles
  • Crazy for You by Madonna
  • Fools Gold by Grant-Lee Phillips
  • I Love My Dog by Cat Stevens
  • Sailing by Christopher Cross
  • Salty Dog by Johnny Cash
  • Carolina In My Mind by James Taylor
  • You’re My Best Friend by Queen
  • Maggie May by Rod Stewart
  • Hallelujah by Neil Diamond
  • The Coffee Song by Frank Sinatra

If you don’t have Spotify, then it’s as easy as clicking the button to sync it with your Facebook page.

Do you Spotify? Have you made playlists for book characters – yours or otherwise? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Chicken Dinner

Early evening yesterday I finally clocked into NaNoWriMo with a word count of 50,101.

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My first successful project was a collection of short stories. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS DIES TWICE is my first successful crappy first draft of a cozy mystery.

Writing this book while dealing with all the nastiness November, 2016 dished out proved something I already knew but still had serious doubts about, which is –

I’m a writer, darn it!

And I do have what it takes to persevere. One way or another, I anticipate having this book out in 2017.

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My full-time writing career started on January 2, 2012, which means I’m coming up on my five year anniversary. I’ve never continuously held down any other job in my life for this length of time.

In other words, I’ve found what I want to be what I grow up, and it is super awesome.

Here are my NaNoWriMo stats for anyone interested.

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Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? How did you do? Let’s talk in the comments!

NaNoWriMo Update

Here are the top five worst things that happened to me since November 1, 2016, in no particular order.

  1. being subjected to a terrifying national election
  2. being bullied by someone using an anonymous Facebook profile
  3. being verbally attacked in the chat box of a Words with Friends game because of my #ImWithHer profile picture
  4. being signed up for a wide range of spam email lists without my knowledge or consent
  5. being asked by client to write about a topic that hit on points made by the bully that caused such severe emotional trauma that I became physically ill

Here is the best one.

  1. 2o, 159 words so far

No matter how much negativity life throws at me, I’m still writing. If you’re experiencing negativity right now and want someone to listen, please leave a comment or send me a private message on Facebook.

#LoveTrumpsHate

Why You Need a Writing Group

If you want to be a writer, then you have to join a writing group.

This is something I preach to writers all the time. I’ve heard other writers preach it.  Before I co-founded one writing group and joined several others, I had it preached to me.

Networking with other writers helped improve both the quality and the quantity of my writing. My fellow writers commiserate with me when I get rejected and cheer for me when I have good news. These people are part of my tribe.

But it wasn’t until last week that I realized the true benefits of these groups.

You see, after the results of last week’s election, I was a little depressed. Okay, fine. I was a LOT depressed. My NaNoWriMo progress took a huge hit, as you can see from the chart below.
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Ouch, right?

But look what happened this past Monday (the green arrow above) when I met up with the teen writers at my local community center. It was my first time leaving the house since the election.  The enthusiasm and fearlessness of these kids is inspiring. (Added bonus – we like a lot of the same music groups.)

And then yesterday when I met up with writers from both the Mountain Scribes (my local group) and the Eastern Panhandle Wrimos (the local NaNoWriMo group). You see what happened (the blue arrow above) there?

So if you’re not in a writing group, then I highly recommend it. There’s something about meeting up with your tribe that will recharge your batteries, stick you just a little outside your comfort zone, and toughen your skin when it comes to getting those reviews and critiques.

Are you in writing group? How’s your NaNoWriMo going? Let’s talk in the comments!