In the workings – a new novel by Willow May Jennings: Beggar King
This is the cover reveal – just received from my cover designer Melody Simmons of eBookindiecovers. Watch this spot for more info and extracts from the book – coming soon!
Why the Recession Is Good for Breaking Bad Habits
By Thomas O. Black
I have heard myself say it, and I hate myself for thinking it, but it bears repeating. This is how it got started.
My Grandmother Fischer took me shopping for a bandana like the one Grandpa Fischer wore to work. He was a fireman on the Katy Railroad. By the time Grandpa Fischer got interesting, he had become an engineer and I wanted to be just like him.
Grandmother took one bandana off the pile and made a tisking noise. She could make that disappointing noise without moving her disapproving lips.
“You can practically see right through the fabric.” She commented drily as her index finger jabbed the underside of the cloth accompanied by a lot more tisking. “They sure don’t make them like they use to,” Grandma said with a sigh. “No sir, I will give you one of Grandpa’s bandanas.” That was that. Grandma turned on her thrift store shoes and left the store in a flurry of tisking with a disappointed boy in her wake. It was bad enough to drive all the way to the store, and not get a brand new bandana, but to be given one that smelled like grandpa’s immigrant body was discouraging. It was hard to feel like a spoiled grandchild around Grandmother Fischer.
I digress, sorry.
If you heard people say, “it’s inevible, or, change is good for you,” then conventional wisdom is probably right.
The biggest changes in the every day items like; foodstuff, toiletries, and bad habits had to change.
Everyone is well aware how everything is affected by the recession. What better way to put a positive spin on things. Imagine dieting by consuming regular foods. Even better, buy junk food. Anything you open today will be sure to have less of it. [Note: Don’t forget your blogger is blind and judging amounts is very subjective.]
However, it doesn’t take a blind man to see, there is less food!]
It Great! The food industry has put everyone on a diet and we gobble it up mindlessly. There is less junk food to eat; because the industry is worried the profit is not high enough.
It is the same for the bad habits. Believe it or not, the cigarette industry is putting their smokers on a program of cutting down on tobacco. Aren’t they a good bunch of fellows? They have their smokers’ best interest at heart!
Yeah right. Nevertheless, the tobacco industry is cutting back on the leafy substance and charging five dollars for a pack.[Note: In Truth, it is taxes that has inflated the price.]
“Why I can remember a day, when I was not stealing them, I paid fifty cents a pack! Can you imagine why we had to steal them?”
Spooky huh? I sound just like my Grandmother. However, it should be noted that I doubt my grandmother ever stole anything, much less a pack of cigarettes.] .
Coffee has not escaped the claws of profit. I could drink a pound of coffee in around three weeks. Today? I’m lucky if the same priced coffee could keep me in caffeine for a week!
So, less coffee, less tobacco, and still worse? The recession cuts into our sports.
Guess who is dictating shorter time on the playing field for football and to a lesser degree, baseball. That’s right, television rules the airwaves, less time on the field means more time for commercials.
“Yes sir, it ain’t like it use to be.”
No truer words written by Thomas O. Black Friday 10:43 PM.
Post Script: You know I can’t leave it alone. A clever PR stunt by the company that makes Oreo cookies.
The bean counters had cut cost by putting out bite size Oreo cookies. However, had there been no clever advertising gimmick, the bite size cookie would resemble today’s recessed downsized version. Less double stuffing means less sugar for our diabetic bodies.
Like Jimmy Garcia said, “all silver linings have a little gray. Fifty shades of doing business while saving Americans from becoming obese. What a country!
In A Better Place
I am sure all two of you will be shocked at my returned to writing blogs. I am no less surprised to be writing, much less doing the blog.
I believe my muse got sick and tired of my excuses for not writing. As strange as it might sound, but my spirit guide scrambled my stereo system as well as messing with the television. I truly believe when an ex-girlfriend chased me down and she had visited me for the second time, did everything become possessed by a Djinn. I can still get the radio and baseball games, but nothing else. I swear, spooky huh?
Another couple of coincidence occurred this past week that is worth commenting.
Reunions came around in each circle. First, you know of the ex-girlfriend. After 17 years ago we were in college and fooling around. Another reunion with friends I had given up and never hanging again, and yet, I partied with them over the weekend, where I heard of another couple getting back together. Circle after circle.
Crazy right? So, what does it all mean? I don’t believe in coincidences, but how do I explain it.
What it has forced me to do is return to writing and blogging.
Another strange happening occurred. My Aunt Virnnie called and that led to me e-mailing an old friend whose bridge I burned a long time ago. And still another burnt bridge looms ahead.
Am I to reconstruct old wounds? Repair the bridges that I left burning?
It was easier to walk away then to put out the fire that destroyed the friendships?
So much is being revealed to me, I feel a bit overwhelmed.
Well, it is all pretty weird and I thought I would put it out there. Do with it what you will, but if any one of you knows the answer, please get back.
Like Roy Rogers was fond of saying, “Happy Trails”
If Murder Was legal for twenty-four hours, what would you do and who would you do it to?
Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m thinking of murder instead of editing the current manuscript.
This concept was not mine, but it is tantalizing all the same.
Obviously, murder is a sin and one of the Ten Commandments. Thou shall not kill, an yet, the act is committed every minute of the day.
So, what if it was legal to kill someone in the United States? As much as the concept is intriguing, it also, scares the hell out of me. It is at this point you consider who might want to kill you.
The fact that I am still alive and no one has tried to murder me, says what?
• No one hates me so much as to want to kill me? Overall, I do not know anyone who hates me that much. Now, there might be some ex-girlfriends who might entertain the idea in the heat of the moment. I cannot think of anyone else who I have screwed over enough to wish me dead.
• *The odds of being shot is getting greater every day. This is due in part to the forward thinking of our state legislature, who thought it was necessary to permit handguns in bars and churches.
• What is wrong with that picture?
• Bars are notorious for drunken brawls, now add guns to the scenario and there will be bloodshed.
• What about churches? Why would anyone need to pack heat in a place of worship? I can understand if I was a Muslim Shiites and needed to murder the Sunnis. They need guns to kill one another. [Personal note: I think we should give them all the guns they want and let them shoot themselves.]
• Can you imagine the toll of life would be with our children? Teenagers with their moods and a handgun? Murder is committed by children all ready, but to legalize it, there would be a blood bath at every high school.
• Do I need to figure what the criminals would do with such a loophole?
• It would have to be a loophole, what civilization would allow such a concept to happen, and yet, if governments had no control…? Can you imagine the African governments that are unstable now? In 24 hours, new governments could materialize and for a year rule.
• No doubt, chaos would reign.
• Funny note: I used stars to list items and bullets materialized instead and only five days from Halloween. Spooky, huh?
• I cannot think of anyone I would want to murder. There might be a exception; like my little brother, but I would feel bad…for about five minutes. He’s a real brat even at fifty years. As entertaining as that notion is, it would be against my nature. We all know how Cain and Able worked it out.
• So, legalized murder is not such a great conception after all.
Ever been in a strange mood and wrote about it?
When my Muse feels expansive, there is conductivity. Then there are days when I feel like a refugee in a rowboat without paddles in a dead calm of desires, lost dreams, and wishful thinking. It is those days when feeling funky that I write. Here is a good example of where my imagination ran away with me.
This is a work in progress.
I Am Dead. The Life of a Living Corpse
Thomas O. Black
He comes from the grave. His body is the home of worms and filth. No life in his life, no warmth of his skin, no beating of his breast. His soul is as empty and dark as the night sky. He laughs at the sword, he spits at the arrow. They will not harm his flesh. For eternity, he will walk the earth, smelling the sweet blood of the living, feasting on the bones of the Damned. Beware, for he is the living death. Obscured Hindu text, cir. 1000BCE
I know what you are going to say, but the proof is staring at me from the cracked mirror. It is through these psychopathic doe-like eyes that see the morbid fascination of a corpse not breathing.
The deep seeded orbs surrounded by dark rings of fatigue are also, tinted with the greenish hue. Beyond that, I have the complexion of a bottom feeder found in an underground cavern. The black ponytailed hair extenuates the image of a Gothic corpse.
I tried to smile, but only managed a grimace. I pulled off my bottom lip which revealed no enlarged canines. So, at least, I am not a blood sucker and that may be my only redeeming virtue.
The image in the cracked mirror blew out a sigh and watched its reflection winced at what he knew to be bad breath. Conventional wisdom will tell you that rotting flesh can put a wrinkle in anyone’s day, and I automatically reached for the bottle of Scope.
The reflected image burst into laughter. Anyone could hear the bitterness. My body just reacted to a sigh. I have no breath, nor do I have the ability to smell, but my facial features still retained the muscle memory.
The memory rooted me back into the current reality. What was left of my body that could still feel, relaxed.
I am still a non-breathing corpse. There is a distinction between zombies and the Undead. The mythology of the living dead defines ghouls as the flesh-eaters, while they can be held under mind control, until their hunger overpowers the control. Their appetites can include fellow cannibals. And this is why I live on the outskirts of society; with no one near, I have nothing to fear, right?
Does that make me a conscientious zombie? It doesn’t matter.
Regardless, I still felt dead.
As a precaution, I live where there is no frontage, or logging roads. With no access roads leading to my property, the public are mostly safe from my constant cravings.
I try to avoid indulging in alcoholic beverages as a remedy for the pain; simply because excess makes me wish I was truly dead.
If I am dead, then I should not be having this introspection. Metaphorically, I am breathing, but otherwise I am clinically damned.
What was revolting in my mirrored reflection was the fascination with the rotting flesh. You would not have thought putrid flesh could gross out a soldier of fortune, but the flaw in my character sees it as morbid eroticism. Being a scab picker keeps me anchored to the last of my humanity. No less so, when half your nose falls off because you pulled off the flesh with bated breath. That thought depressed the hell out of me. My fingers fidgeted to get at the flaying flesh.
The military doctors diagnosed me with Leprosy. The officer in charge congratulated me for a job well done from across the room. With sleight of hand, the paperwork for my discharge was expedited with unheard of expedience. I felt like one of India’s Untouchables when the corporal slid my discharge papers over the desk and stepped back. What I really wanted to do was to spit my contaminated saliva over the corporal’s contemptuous pimpled face, but swallowed my anger like a bitter pill. I worried that they could revoke my discharge in exchange for Leavenworth.
It was not any better on the other side of the fence. The civilian doctors who had not wet themselves, or ran away screaming; could not decide which flesh-eating bacteria, was wasting away my body.
Despite my dysfunctional corpse, there remains a constant desire to feed.
I am contrary to what Nature intended. I live without breath, I crave without satisfaction, I have no beating heart, and yet, I feel compulsion. My self imposed exile shielded society from my constant cravings, in truth; it spares my agony over the living blood of the innocent. I googled my symptoms and found that a zombie will seemingly appear “… hypnotized, bereft of consciousness and self-awareness. However, I am to be ambulant and responsive to external stimuli.
Scientists speculate that the philosophical zombie is perceived as a hypothetical being that is indistinguishable from a normal person, except for the lack of conscious experience. It is thought that a Western zombie does not have the experience, thus can not suffer for it is a subjective experience. Nevertheless, I am contrary to the theory that zombies are impervious to pain. I retain consciousness and thus, I still can feel.
I hate zombies, or rather ghouls. So it stands to reason that I hate who I have become.
Technically, I am not a true zombie. What I mean is that I was infected by the virus Solanum. I was bitten by an immature zombie before I killed the child. Yes, I killed a child, but she was infected and I live with that nightmare every night. It was justified homicide, but try to explain that to my soul. I relive the incident every time I see a normal human child. I am not a bad person at least that is what I continued to tell myself.
The way I understand it; so long as I eat cow brains, I can maintain a relatively normal life, that of a zombie. I try to fool myself in believing that I am not a green-eyed limping freak, but I have several of the characteristics of the living dead despite my illusions. I have the limp, I consume raw flesh, and occasionally, I moan. The difference is I do not eat human flesh. It is a small comfort.
I could lead a relatively normal life, if I could rid my dreams of the recurring nightmares and consume calf brains.
I have the limp, and so, I take on the image of a guimp. Needless to say, I avoid going out into public.
Like I said before, I was infected, but for some reason that only God knows and is not saying, I was spared the full effect. I promise you it was not a mercy, I swear to God I had died a human on that battlefield and resurrected as Lazarus.
Like the full fledged zombies, I am cursed to live the life of the Dead. When the V A doctors informed me I was suffering from post traumatic stress, the only thing I could say was “Duh”.
However, an Indian doctor, dot not feather, suggested I keep a journal. He said he had actually studied necromancy while completing his graduate work in New Delhi. He said the Hindu religion had documented zombies as early as a thousand years before Christ. The doctor wanted a sample of my blood, but when I informed him I had no blood, he despaired and slapped his forehead. The little brown man was a nice guy, so I ripped off a piece of my rotting flesh. After recovering from a dead faint, the little man thanked me profusely and hurried away as fast as his little legs could carry him.
Immediately after the army discharged me as quietly as possible, I contracted with a company that ran black operations. The president of the company was a former ranger and tasked me with hunting down Abbdullah with extreme prejudice.
The lessons learned from that fateful night taught me how to kill the living dead. Bullets were only good when head shots were possible. Only in close combat, head shots were the exceptions. My weapon of choice was the machete. As long as I kept the edge sharpened, I could limp away. The trick is to decapitate, or smash the skull. You cannot chop off a limb and expect the zombie to go off and die.
Ironically, slicing off limbs will only increase the number of moving parts. Any and all dismembered parts will continue to crawl after you! If they have no legs, they will use whatever is left them. Even if you chop off their heads, they still can bite.
After a year and a hundred zombies, I finally caught up with Abbdullah in a cave in the Hindi Kush.
Unfortunately, he slipped the noose. When the contract was not renewed, because Abdullah Za’queb Yasser was no longer a person of interest, I quit. The Presidential Hit List grew exponentially with more lucrative targets, so I became an independent. I learned to live with the nightmares and my need to resolve my obsessive hatred for Abdullah Za’queb Yasser, as if that would ever be easy.
Remember watching Jeremiah Johnson? Particularly the part where the Indians, feathers not dots, would attack him time after time? Well, I was living that life, but with zombies. And the very first attack nearly killed me.
I am not so thick headed to believe Abbdullah will not hold a grudge, what I had failed to take into account was his determination to satisfy that grudge.
Most of his zombie’s assassins sent to kill me were Indians, dots not feathers. It is not difficult to put them down. They give themselves away by their incessant moaning, a sure sign of encroaching ghouls. With their slow and ceaseless gate, they make for easy targets.
The thing about zombies is they do not need support. They will not need morale boosts and will not panic. They will not suffer from fatigue, poor leadership, desertion, or even outright mutiny. It would be easy enough just to run away. I am not proud, I will admit it; I have run away.
My momma taught me it is better to walk away, then to find out I cannot fight every bully. However, running away does not resolve the problem, but only forestalls the inevitable. This translates into more innocent people becoming infected, thus, more zombies. It is a never ending cycle.
My name is Walker Telman. I hunt Zombies and this is my story.
See? I told you it was strange. What it feels like to be a zombie or just a half breed. To make it even weirder, my zombie is romantically in love with a human!
Let me hear what you think, regardless of whether or not it’s positive, negative, or just indifferent.
When a writer is not writing, he reads.
I’m a member of Bard, a Library of Congress program for the Blind. We can download just about anything. [Note: But not everything.]
I read this book, I forget the name, but it claimed that if one followed these four agreements, Life would be a breeze. Okay, that is my word not the author’s.
I know what you are thinking. Another wanna be spiritualist. It is thought they are as bad as born again Christians with their need to witness to the uninformed.
Wait. This is nothing like that. It is the simple Truths. This is what he had to say.
Make your word impeccable.
Don’t take anything personal.
Make no assumptions.
Most of all do your best.
Would not the world be a better place if everyone followed those simple rules?
I will admit, it is not as easy as it might sound. For one thing, making no assumptions is a lot harder to do.
I can personally testify that taxis are never on time, even when they say so. And when they do not show up, you get impatient and start cursing all taxi drivers. I have finally learned that Taxis will come when they come and there is not one damn thing I can do about it, except, to accept it. The trick is to call them long before you need to be anywhere. The same goes for the pizza delivery guy.
[Notice how I compared pizza to Life’s simple truths?]
Now, I can raddle along on my soapbox, but I will spare you the BS. All I would ask of you guys is to think about it. What could it hurt?
How hard is it to keep your word, or ignore someone projecting negativity, or never assume what you are told is the truth [sic], but the best part is just to do your best? No one could ever complain about you not trying.
SO, spread the Word. Tell one friend about these agreements and have them tell one of their friends. Would it not be cool if it went viral?
Storm and Quake
Storm and the Quake
I survived the ice storm, but only by the grace of God. Never before had I ever suffered like I did during the three days ending on Valentine’s Day.
One always hears about others who suffer during storms, but it never seems to happen to you. It is easy to think little of what is happening to others, but when it happens to you, it is different. You can appreciate the trauma when the storm strikes your world.
I was without power for two and a half days. I should have gone to the grocery store, but I thought I could sit it out. I was wrong.
Fortunately, I had the makings for sandwiches and salads. I had even had a heater, but it lasted only a day and a half.
It is amazing how much we take electrical power for granted. No computer, no phones, or central heat. I could do nothing, but hibernate like a bear. I had my talking books, but that only lasted until the batteries died away.
I was told my area looked like a war zone. Many trees were down as a result of the ice. That is one experience I will never forget.
The second event happened on Valentine’s Day. The earthquake occurred at 10:23 pm. They say it was 4.1 on the scales. I will admit I was scared. Never before had I felt the earth shutter. I live down wind of the local airport and thought a plane had crashed and the resulting explosion rumbled over my home. It came slowly until it sounded like a train plowing into my house. It rattled house ware and was soon passed.
I wonder how many lovers thought the earth moved when they kissed their lovers. A spiritual moment. No doubt, there will be a lot of babies in nine months.
I told a friend from Oklahoma, but she commented that they have earthquakes all the time. I thanked her for splashing cold water on my story.
I can not help but think how there might be portentous in the unusual occurrence with the ice storm and the quake. An ill omen? I shrug it off as nonsense, but nevertheless, an experience I thought worthy of writing about and sharing.
I pray this is not the beginning of an eventful season.
A Memorial of Mom
Death is inevitable. It puts finality to a life.
My Mom’s life ended in the light of God’s love.
How do I know this? It was like she came alive the last day of her life as if you knew. It reminded me of a final ember flaring before dying away.
Mom was bi-polar, which means she had good days and bad. Meanwhile, the medicine used to treat bi-polar drugged the woman who was our mother.
On my birthday, as I later learned, my Mother informed her high school girlfriend that she needed to talk to the child who gave her great deal of pain fifty-five years ago. For the first time in the last fifty-five years has she ever called me on my birthday?
It was the greatest birthday gift I had ever received. She was fluid and aware. Momma was herself like I remembered. We actually talked for more than the usually small talk of the weather, how she was feeling, and whether or not she needed anything.
It was like finding a long lost relative, Mom was back, but like that burning ember, Mom passed away the very next morning.
Of course, I was her favorite. I keep that light under a basket, for my biological siblings would not understand and probably resent it.
It is now my belief that I’m more like my Mother and a Fischer.
The Fischers are from Prague and I’m third generation Bohemian.
I have attended many funerals, but none has effected me as much as Momma’s. Obviously, she was the closest to me and meant the world to me, so the loss was great. I have never really had to deal with grief like I done lately.
You always hear how some people deal with their losses, but until you lose someone you love can you truly understand.
I had felt removed from the loss of others; only now, can I truly feel what the emotion really means. It really sucks!
Nevertheless, all mentioned above is a part of life. We learn to live with it and move on.
I envy Mom now. She is home with God and I’m feeling homesick. But I still have a purpose to serve, or is a story to write; in any case, it gives me renewed hope in the life everlasting.
Hope springs eternal.
10th January 2014
Perhaps I Was Premature
Yes, I will admit it now, I may have been wrong. It doesn’t happen very often, but there it is.
My writing career, as it is, may not be shipwrecked. My cover girl has surfaced and still loves me, whew, but she continues to make a point.
She seems to think that there are more writers than readers. Subsequently, one cannot see the books for the forest. Pre-Amazon, books were less abundant or maybe, available? Maybe it was because back in the day, there were people who actually read books instead of sitting in front of the idiot box[the television] or now days, the computer.
Granted, there were always those who never read, but because of our busy schedules, who has time to read?
Could it be that some of us who don’t have a life are more incline to read to escape the realities of our own humdrum lives? Since computers seem to have isolated our communities, reading should be on the rise.
It’s because of the accessibility of Amazon that more and more writers are putting their stuff out there.
For those of us who can’t pay attention, much less the overpriced editors, cover designs, and funds to publicize our wares, it’s no wonder nobody is buying what I have to say.
The point my cover girl was making was I should quit trying to write and read. Contrary to her business that needs writers to purchase her designs, or maybe in spite of her suggestions, I will continue to write regardless of anyone actually reading my stuff.
Am I making sense? If so, share these thoughts. If not, please enlighten me, because it’s no fun being in the dark sic.
My Last Blog
I am afraid my career as a independent writer has ended before it had a chance to begin. It had been one of my dream to put my name into print. Like any dream, I realized it would take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. I understand to become a true craftsman of my art required a minimum of twenty years to hone my skill as a writer.
The problem is that I am blind and like Stella in Streetcar Named Desire, “I relied on the kindness of strangers.” The bane of my existence is that I need help in publishing my stories. The more I depend on people to help me, the less they are dependable. It’s a fact, I am a card carrying member of the Starving Artist Society and I could never afford to pay for editors or cover designers.
Subsequently, the only way I could get published was to beg, borrow, or steal my way into the publishing world as a independent author.
I suppose I have gone to the well one too many times, and the well of kindness has dried up.
As a result, my cover girl no longer returns my calls and my copy editor continues to push my edits on the Beggar King further and further back.
I should be grateful for having gotten as far as I have, but my skill as a writer still had a way to go. I was realistic enough not to believe my writing could support me, but still the joy of publishing another novel was reward in itself. I knew I worked with the catch 22. I would spend more to get published than I could ever expect to make it into the black, but after all, it was a dream I wanted to see to the end.
I will continue to write regardless of whether or not my stories get into print. It still remains a good avenue for escape, not to mention, it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble. And who knows, I might win the lottery and do like James Patterson and buy my way into the publishing world.
The Best laid Plans
I know it will break some hearts, but unfortunately, I won’t make my first anniversary. In fact, it has already come and gone without reissuing of Hostage Of The Heart and The beggar King.
Circumstances beyond my control has prevented me from celebrating my first year publishing. A small milestone I admit, but such is Life.
Anyway, The Beggar King will be worth the wait. Here is an unedited portion of the story just to wet your whistle.
Thelma Louise Walker was stymied the very heartbeat she stepped through the airliner’s doorway. She paused at the top of the stairs fumbling in her shoulder bag for her sunglasses. Never before had she felt so much humidity in her short life. Kolkata was tropical and she was soaked with perspiration. Her cotton blouse clung to her slim body like a second skin by the time she had descended down the stairs.
She could feel the tarmac give under her thin sole shoes.
She was not sure what she was expecting from Kolkata, but all of this lush tropical jungle was beyond her imagination. She had a difficult time distinguishing where the jungle with its green foliage ended and the Kolkata’s old colonial buildings covered in mold and mildew began. The humidity was almost liquid. She thought she could almost swallow a lungful. The Dum Dum terminal building was air conditioned and she felt immediate relief.
Thelma went through customs and immigration without any problems. She hesitated as she stood at the doorways leading back outside into Kolkata’s withering heat.
The crush of people leaving the terminal building flushed Thelma out of her reluctance. She was quickly left stranded as the tide of humanity ebbed away into the congested sea of Kolkata.
She was engulfed in a wave of noise, pollution, and chaos. The streets were crowded with cars, cattle, motorized and hand pulled rickshaws. She noticed how the rickshaw waanas run bare-chested and bare-footed through the dirty streets. The smog held a miasma of rot much like the humidity held water. She recognized some of the odors from living on a farm, but most of the smells Thelma decided she did not want to know.
The city revealed its humanity in the rawest terms. One city block held modern skyscrapers, while derelict tenements slummed next door.
Another tide of humanity rushed towards her. Dozens of scantily clad children all cried out for alms. She was overwhelmed. They pulled at her clothing. They tried to relieve her of her luggage. Her smile was forced as she tried to hang onto her possessions.
Thelma looked over the sea of brown faces. They were wearing rags that barely covered their malnourished bodies. Compassion filled her heart as she dug into her pocket for loose change. She flung the coins to one side as she grabbed her luggage and hurried in the other direction.
The ploy worked for a few moments. Another wave of beggars surrounded her before she reached the taxi stand.
Thelma turned to see a man holding a squirming child in one hand and her wallet in the other.
“That’s my wallet,” she shouted over the constant drone of desperate children.
“Yes ma’am,” the stranger shouted back. “You ought to be more careful with your belongings. You were pinched.”
Thelma could not help, but notice the man was rather good-looking in a kind of sinister way. She figured he stood six foot with sandy brown hair. The tropical sun tanned his skin to a rich mahogany. His clothing was well tailored and loose fitting like a Bohemian.
“You really should be more careful,” he said in a condescending tone when Thelma snatched back her wallet.
“Thank you sir,” she said politely. “But I must insist you release the child.”
“But Madame,” he sputtered.
“Don’t but me mister,” she retorted. “He is only a little boy. This time he interrupted her.
“Madame, you don’t understand,” he complained.
“There is no harm done, “she countered. “Now, let him go.”
The man shrugged and released his hold on the child. The little boy scampered back into the milling crowd of begging children.
Thelma turned to the taxis and began to haggle with a driver.
She turned to look over her shoulder. The man slouched where he stood. He wore a wide brimmed hat and kept his hands in his pockets.
“My name is Michael Clarence and I have been tasked to assist you in locating your husband.”
”You’re with the Embassy?” She said as she gave the man another look.
“Yes ma’am,” he replied crisply. “And rickshaws are a cheaper way to travel.”
Michael reached down to take her luggage. “If you will permit me, I’ll show you how to survive Kolkata,” the embassy man suggested with a bow.
Thelma wondered at the suddenness of his formality. She was a farm girl and she knew manure when she stepped in it.
Immediately, Thelma grew suspicious and grabbed for her luggage.
Michael looked up with some surprise and annoyance. She imagined few women could resist his charms. She had no doubt; he was not use to being told no.
However, Thelma was not immune to his charm. She was well aware of her weakness for a good-looking man. Those pearly whites were such a contrast to his tan, she found herself staring and feeling the warmth of his radiance.
Thelma felt like a country girl fresh off the turnip wagon. She was momentarily vulnerable and intimidated. She was tired from the long trip and did not have the strength to argue. She released control of her luggage. She still had doubts of ever finding Ernie and for the first time, felt the stirring of hopelessness creep into her consciousness. Thelma held her shoulder bag against her chest.
Michael took her elbow and guided her pass the taxi stand and to a line of rickshaws. She watched as he spoke the local dialect like a native speaker. He and the rickshaw driver seemed to have agreed on the price. Michael handed the young man her luggage and helped Thelma climb aboard. He turned to her with a small grin.
“It’s almost free,” he whispered in her ear as they settled into the hand pulled rickshaw. “It helps to speak the local dialect.”
The streets of Kolkata were no less crowded than its sidewalks. In fact, Thelma had a terrible time trying to distinguish between where the street started and the sidewalk ended. There were people everywhere. They seemed to be a force of nature. Motorized rickshaws, Ambassador Taxis, and other vehicles were in the minority, for the majority of the congestion was pedestrians with their worldly possessions, or produce for the bazaar. The cacophony of noise contrasted greatly to her rural life in Pope County, Nebraska. Like night and day, she thought to herself as their rickshaw found every pothole. The jostling pushed Thelma up against her escort.
There was really no room in the backseat and she resigned to their bodies touching. Michael did not seem to notice. Despite the heat and the sticky fetid air, she felt a little tingle by the contact. She tried ignoring the sensations by sniffing the air. The polluting exhaust of the passing vehicles did little to distract her from feeling his hard body.
Thelma Louise! She scolded herself. You’re a married woman and you are here to find your husband. Her conscious chided her. Thelma thought the little voice inside her head sounded a lot like her mother. Just like a little girl, she rationalize what harm was there to lean against a man since she was all alone in a foreign country. It seemed justified and it silenced her little voice. Besides, it has been over a year since she been with a man; much less with her husband.
She was raised on good Christian values, but she had a rebel in her that got her into more trouble and fun. Her momma would have a conniption fit if she knew her only child accepted a ride from a complete stranger. She smiled at that thought. Her momma was always having fits when it came to her daughter.
“I took the liberty of registering you in a hostel,” the man from the American Embassy said. I hope you don’t mind.”
Thelma did mind. She was an independent woman and it pinched her pride to have a man do for her. However, right now; she allowed it to slide. She had jet lag tugging at her biological clock.
“Fine,” she said. “I’m too tired to fight about it.
Michael gave the rickshaw driver directions. The young man pulled the rickshaw down a side street and the noise level lowered considerably. They halted in front of a rundown building.
“It’s not the Holiday Inn,” Michael said defensively as he gave Thelma a side glance. “But it’s clean, cheap, and it’s relatively safe.”
She studied the man, she had only just met and she found she could trust him; to a point. Before she could say anything, Michael clambered down and lifted her only suitcase to the sidewalk.
“I’m sure it wil be fine,” she agreed. His assumptions and manipulations had graded on her feminism, but since the jet lag had a firm grip on her body; she had to admit, she would have never found such a place on her own.