Excerpt from Roll with the Punches
Marian poured tea. “So who else wrote something this week?”
“Not me.” Jackie nudged me. “But Rhonda, back to your new long-lunch hottie. How big is his bat? Can I use him for my next hero? Pitcher, catcher, pirate or man about town?”
Yvette smiled up from my book. “Our little Rhonda’s a pirate’s treasure?”
I had to endure patronizing from Yvette now? “Look, there is no he.” I looked to James for support, but the traitor was cozily reading my book over Yvette’s shoulder. I narrowed my eyes at Jackie. “Hey. Has anyone tried the new George Bonner and Jackie Shawn Memorial Tollway yet?”
Grins all around.
I sighed. “Okay. Fine. My long lunches have all been spent in Sports of Call, looking for ska-sheets.”
Crap. I’d almost said skates. I was skirting disaster here. This group knew James played street hockey and roller hockey. What they didn’t know was that I had recently run across my old inline skates from high school, when Harley and I had practiced speed skating against my brothers, who had competed statewide. We’d been good. Now, I’d started doing some outdoor skating practice to fight flab, and it was a blast, just wicked fun. It would be even more fun when James and I went rollerblading at Venice Beach, my dream date. But Venice Beach was a drive. The roller rink was closer, so at Sports of Call, I’d just splurged on a gorgeous new pair of quad roller skates, which were slower but maneuvered better for indoor skating. If this bunch found out about my skating practice or my new skates, they’d kid both James and me to death and surely wreck my chances with him.
“Yeah, sheets,” I said, decisively.
“Sheets for him? Scarlet silk or black satin?” Jackie drawled, mistaking my blush for an admission of guilt.
“Us library nerds sleep on parchment,” I said. “Uh. Care to read some pages, George?”
“Rhonda, you don’t go to Sports of Call for sheets,” Marian said.
I checked my watch. “Look, if no one else wrote anything new, I’ll see ya.” I rose and started to push past Jackie, who blocked my way.
“But you might go there to visit a boyfriend,” Jackie trilled. “Is he that guy at the ski counter? Or a mountain climber? No. I know. A surfer. Smoking hot in a Speedo with washboard abs. With your lifesaving skills, Rhonda, you could administer CPR daily.”
George sang under his breath, “Help me, Rhonda.”
Jackie chimed in. “Help, help me …”
“Rhonda!” they all yelled at the tops of their lungs. My lips could have pressed pennies as the whole group broke into a bawdy Beach Boys cacophony, even James joining in, completely off-key. Only Yvette stayed mum, frown lines deepening in her forehead as she kept reading my magnum opus.
Oh, to hell with my short skirt. I hoisted a knee to crawl right over Jackie just as Yvette broke in, in piercing tones. “Excuse me! Sit down, Rhonda! This is exactly why this group needs a leader.”
The group ignored her, singing even louder.
Yvette yelled, “Has anyone read the new Reynard Jackson book, Memory Wars?”
Jackson was a reclusive genius who had rocketed to the bestseller list three years before, with four new titles out per year since then. His whereabouts were a state secret. His work was slick, predictable, shallow, uneven, and unaccountably beloved by millions of readers.
I sat down and squinched my eyes shut. If I didn’t look at the group, maybe they’d all stop bawling at me to get her out of their hearts.
Over their cackles and bawls, Yvette shrilled, “People! This is disturbing. I read constantly for my job, but this is really bad.” She pointed at my manuscript like it was rat droppings.
“Could we get a muzzle for her?” I said to Jackie, who elbowed me hard.
The room sullenly quieted down. This woman was such a wet blanket.
Yvette smiled in triumph. “You see, I’ve already read this exact story. Last week. In a published work. The chubby strawberry-blond main character here?” She held up my manuscript. “Well, Reynard Jackson’s latest protagonist is a chubby strawberry-blond—”
“Oh, strawberry-blond characters are a dime a dozen,” George said, still feeling his oats. “And Rhonda always writes ’em chubby … Takes one to know—Ouch!”
Marian of the steel-toed pumps smiled.
Yvette slammed my manuscript down on the table. “But wait. Jackson’s strawberry-blonde neuroscientist, Dr. Amelia Steele, discovers a memory serum that will cure not only her great aunt’s Alzheimer’s, but also her handsome, shell-shocked army captain with amnesia who can only be saved by knowing the truth about his dark past.”
I looked up, my stomach sinking.
She went on. “Dr. Steele and Captain Russell Bonner work against an evil drug company, Sinbad Pharmaceuticals. It sells expensive anti-Alzheimer’s drugs and will stop at nothing to keep Dr. Steele’s permanent cure for the disease off the market. The heroes nearly get killed in the process of saving old people’s memories everywhere.”
Silence in the room.
Jackie looked sick. “Oh, my God. If you change the names, that’s Rhonda’s book!”
Amy Gettinger, once a part-time community college ESL instructor, lives and writes in her dream house in Orange County, California underneath a eucalyptus windrow full of parrots and crows with her husband and her two piteous poodles. For fun, she walks the beach cliff path at Laguna Beach. She also writes and produces Reader’s Theater plays for nonagenarians in a local assisted living facility. Her blog Raucous Eucalyptus, Piteous Poodles, is at amygettinger.com.
Her book is available on Amazon.