March 27, 2014

The Universe is a Very Strange Place

First scene from sequel to The Universe is a Very Big Place.
Still in rough draft format, just wanted people to know I'm working on it :)

     Spring Ryan Smith strolled confidently into the lobby of Parenting Plus, her long blond hair tied back in a sleek pony tail, a brown leather brief case under her arm. Upon entering the building she immediately noticed that something was different about the place she had worked at the last ten years; namely that it was empty.
“Is today a holiday?” she wondered aloud, checking the calendar on her smart phone. When it came up empty she asked her digital, personal assistant. “Miri, is today a holiday?”
“Today is only a holiday if you are a resident of Eastern Yemen,” Miri replied back.
Spring looked around once more, noting that not only were her co-workers AWOL, some of the office furniture had disappeared as well. Chairs mostly, a few staplers. A computer or two.
Panic spread through her as she considered the possibilities. The first thing that came to mind was that the end times had come, just as her mother Lanie had predicted, and she had been left behind. “I should have paid more attention to those men who came to my door wearing suits,” she said, recalling the incident that had happened just last week. They were trying to tell her about ‘the good news’ but all she could think about was that she were missing a rerun of Lost and she had never figured out what was happening the first time she watched it.
She inhaled and exhaled rapidly, wondering if she were equipped to fight off people looking for food. Then she remembered her empty pantry. She would be one of those people looking for food.
She fanned herself with her free hand, until she was able to think rationally. She had driven through a coffee shop on her way to work and the place was full. If Armageddon had come, it wasn’t the the prideful who had been left behind, it was the coffee drinkers.
“Hello?” she called, checking offices up and down the short corridor. “Anyone here?”
The rooms were empty and there was not a soul in sight.
“Hello?” she called again, wondering if she’d missed an office retreat. Her mind had been scattered lately, with thoughts of her twins returning from Hawaii with their father, and her husband’s addiction to video games. It wasn’t inconceivable that she had forgotten something.
A woman’s voice at the far end of the hall called to her and Spring strode quickly in that direction. She pushed open a door to see the Vice President of Parenting Plus, a gray haired woman of her mother’s age named Matilda. She stood behind her desk, packing up cardboard boxes. “What are you doing here? Didn’t they call you?”
“Um, maybe.” Spring had spent the weekend trying to entice her husband John away from his game controller. That included a home made dinner, a new nightie, and a phone on silence. The only thing she had gotten from her efforts was a quickie, a kiss on the cheek, and an announcement that the new War Gods of Ashria game would be out Tuesday at midnight and they needed to spend the evening in line to secure a copy.
“We’re jumping ship,” Matilda said, taping up one box and opening another. “We lost our lease.”
“Oh. Where are we moving? I saw a great office space downtown that would work if we haven't picked one out yet.”
    Matilda adjusted her glasses and stared at Spring, expressionless. “We lost funding too. The recession’s hit us all. The good news is that we may be able to draw unemployment for a while."
“What?” Spring plopped down into the last remaining office chair, dropping her briefcase. “I don’t understand.”
“Havnt you been keeping up with anything? At least three other social service agencies have shut their doors in the last six months. Parenting is out. Obesity prevention is in.”
Truth was, Spring had heard the rumors but the likelihood of the place closing down seemed as far fetched as her wearing skinny jeans. “What am I going to do?” she asked, pulling the band out of her hair and chewing on the ends. “Its not like there are loads of jobs for social workers in Sedona.”
“Hell, Spring, I don’t know. That husband of yours does okay for himself, right? Take some time off, get a hobby, volunteer. Find a life.”
“A life?”
“A life. It’s what people do when they aren’t working. I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”
Matilda slammed her last box closed and piled three into her arms. She walked out of the office and down the dark hall, Spring following closely behind.
“What will you do?” Spring asked when they got to the front door. She wanted to hug the woman, her last link to the agency, but she knew from experience Matilda wasn’t the hugging kind.
“I had three years ‘til my pension kicked in.” She shook her head, her gray hair hardly moving. “I hear The Burger Ranch is hiring.” She pursed her lips together an pushed through the door, not bothering to lock it behind her.“You think you have everything figured out and then boom, the rug’s pulled out from under you.”
“The Universe…” Spring said.
“The Universe?”
“Yes. Like my mother says, it's a very strange place.”

March 5, 2014

The Universe is a Very Big Place - Lanie Moves In

Short excerpt from The Universe is a Very Big Place

Lanie wandered around the kitchen, arms raised in homage to some god or another. Her black muumuu with its bright purple flowers and her neon red hair gave her a clown-like appearance.

"How can anyone not notice her?" Sam said, turning to face the woman. By the way Lanie’s fleshy body undulated beneath her dress, Spring could tell that Chloe had been feeding her well....

"Don’t mind me," said Lanie, picking up the serving bowl filled with Sam’s special mousse. She ran her finger along the inside rim and put it to her mouth. "Yuck. Who the hell eats coffee pudding? I’m a coffee drinker and I don’t even eat this shit." Lanie set the bowl down and retreated towards the living room. Six o’clock meant that it was time for her medication and The Wheel of Fortune.

"How long?" Sam asked as Lanie flopped into his recliner.

"Not that long. Just until she’s done with menopause."

"Menopause?" Sam’s voice trembled. "Doesn’t that take years? Why can’t she get her own place?"

"Apparently the carnival didn’t provide a very good retirement package. But she did offer to give you free Tarot Card readings for life."

Sam’s eyes narrowed as Lanie flipped through the channels. "Can she predict if I will be found guilty in an upcoming murder trial?"

They watched as Lanie sat in the living room, one hand on the remote control, the other fanning herself. "Oh, Lordy," she grunted. "Why the hell did you pick Arizona to settle in? Arizona is too fuckin’ hot. I’m old. I might die."

"Only if we’re lucky," Sam said.

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