Linda Browning can write characters into the lives of readers. “No Wake” was featured in Mystery Times Ten 2013. A comedic mystery that runs two widowed heroines, Leslie and Belinda, triumphantly ragged. The two blunder into another mysterious adventure in “Daredevil”. Linda invites you to join her at lindabrowning.net. or email: email@example.com
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I recently came across a notebook written by yours truly when I was in the sixth grade at Pierson Elementary School in Flint, Michigan. This was prior to the high levels of lead in the water; therefore, I cannot attribute any of the following creatively written excerpts of my youthful knowledge of science and scientific-like stuff to poisoned water. Evidently I have always had a way with words. Enjoy the following topics and excerpts:
TOPIC: The Human Body. Partial excerpt from Linda’s term paper.
“Your body is like a machine because you move your arms and your legs and everything.”
TOPIC: What is digestion? Partial excerpt from Linda’s term paper.
“The food is chewed.”
TOPIC: The Human Eye. Partial excerpt from Linda’s term paper.
“Muscles in the eye help you to move your eyes.”
TOPIC: First Aid for Drowning. Partial excerpt from Linda’s term paper (and, my personal favorite).
“A drowned person usually looks dead.”
This kid obviously had a future in the world of words. It’s okay if you want to laugh; however, I got an A- on the notebook.
We followed all of the instructions. By the time we arrived at the appointed place at the appointed hospital, and at the appointed time, I was lugging around a folder stuffed with instructions. None of them said anything about bringing a pack animal.
My husband, Fred, had total knee surgery on February 8th. A lot of people offered to go along and sit with me whilst I awaited the surgical outcome; my daughter, best friends, church people, etc. I turned them all down. I was going to be fine. I learned why people have people sit with them. No one person can lug around all of the stuff. When we were taken to the getting-ready-for-surgery room, Fred shared the lugging-of-the-stuff. The getting-ready-for-surgery-room is the little dinky hospital room one is assigned prior to being wheeled into the bowels of the hospital for the actual surgical procedure. If you’ve ever had same-day-surgery, you should recognize the little, getting-ready-for-surgery room.
So…Fred is on the bed/gurney and I am now the holder-of-the-stuff. L.o.r.d.a.m.e.r.c.y, what were we thinking? Here is a partial tally of the stuff:
My winter parka that has seen too many winters.
Fred’s suede winter coat that makes him looks like a lumberjack.
An overnight bag with toiletries, some underwear, and the robe and slippers which the hospital staff INSISTED he HAD to have in his possession for walking the hallway during physical therapy sessions. NEVER USED EVEN ONCE. They left him in those stupid hospital gowns mooning fellow hallway walkers.
The clothes Fred had worn to the hospital and his clunky, athletic shoes.
A canvas tote bag filled with my reading material, an unfinished knitting project (didn’t touch it once…much like the robe and slippers), and the doctor and hospital paperwork that NOBODY EVER ASKED ME FOR EVEN THOUGH THEY INSISTED WE PRESENT UPON SHOWING UP AT THE APPOINTED DESTINATION AT THE APPOINTED TIME. I kept trying to give it to the desk people.
My purse; enough weight for any woman to heft.
The walker Fred had been stomping around with for the past couple of weeks whilst awaiting surgery. I realized that I was woefully unprepared to lug all of that stuff back down two long hallways to return to the waiting room. I envisioned the evening cleaning crew dragging my puny, exhausted body off to one side of the hallway and piling it there along with the scattered detritus of our stuff in order to buff the floors later that evening. I am, however, one resourceful woman. I took myself out to the nurses’ station and blathered something until a heavy set, blonde nurse finally looked up at me. “Do you have a cart or something that I can borrow for a few minutes? I have a load of stuff I need to cart back to the waiting room?”
She blinked. “No.”
“I can’t move all of this stuff by myself.”
She blinked again and observed, “Most people have at least one other person accompany them to the hospital.”
I was getting exasperated with this nurse’s lack of empathy for my plight. “I did. Unfortunately, the attendants wouldn’t let me pile all of this stuff on the gurney alongside my husband and take a circuitous route past the waiting room on the way to the surgical suite.”
Evidently this woman had no empathy and no sense of humor whatsoever. She simply shrugged and went back to her charting…or whatever she had been doing before I had approached. She could have been working the word jumble in the newspaper for all I knew. I made one more attempt in the form of a clever plea for mercy. “Perhaps there is a spare donkey somewhere that you could scare up for me?”
This heartless woman was now completely ignoring me. I, however, am one resourceful woman and refused to be deterred. On my way back to the getting-ready-for-surgery room, I swiped an office chair from the hallway. It had been setting in front of some kind of monitor-like machine of some kind. As there was an identical station alongside it with an identical office chair setting before it, I rationalized the theft as being barely noticeable. I triumphantly wheeled my prize back to the getting-ready-for-surgery room and piled it full with all of our stuff; topping off the pile with Fred’s walker. Fred asked, “Where did you get that chair?”
I looked my husband straight in the eye and announced, “I stole it from the hallway. The nurses around here have no compassion at all. I requested a cart or a donkey or something, but the lady out there simply ignored me.”
Around that time two nurses crowded into the little dinky getting-ready-for-surgery room. They had blood pressure gizmos and an I.V. pole with a bag of clear liquid swinging from it. These two nice ladies had evidently attended a different nursing school than the dispassionate witch at the nurses’ station. After they had completed their getting-ready nursing chores and had Fred all blood pressured and hooked up to the I.V., they both looked over at me where I sat beside the stacked office chair. One of them asked, “Where did you get that chair?”
I looked her straight in the eye and announced, “I stole it from the hallway. I requested a cart or a donkey or something, but the lady out there at the nurses’ station simply ignored me. I’ll bring it back.”
“They won’t let you borrow that chair.”
“Too late,” I quipped, “I’ve already got it.”
The other nurse said, “Most people bring someone else along for companionship…and to help them carry all of the accumulated stuff.”
I said, “Don’t start with me. It’s already been a long day and the surgery hasn’t even started yet.”
These two nurses turned out to be what nurses everywhere are supposed to be; compassionate AND resourceful. They wheeled in a wide wheelchair that would have easily accommodated three people and proceeded to help me transfer all of our crap from the office chair to the wheelchair. The walker balanced atop the pile, one of the ladies said, “There, you can keep the wheelchair with you until your husband is assigned a regular room. Unless someone from Three East accosts you and demands the immediate return of the wheelchair, you should be good to go.”
I spent three hours in the waiting room sitting beside my trophy chair like a proud bag lady. Not a single person ever challenged my ownership. I am one resourceful woman.
I have officially joined the ranks of the self-published. When I say that I self-published, I really, really, really self-published. Well, the amazon.com people helped; but, other than that, I did it all myself. Which is why there are some glitches here and there. So what? The story is still there, and I’m still proud of the story.
Read past the editing goofs, chapter and page break screw-ups, and this is a good book.
By the way, it is available at amazon.com in the kindle version. When I get enough nerve, I will get a printed version. That is when I will enlist the aid of some professional help to fix the editing goofs, chapter and page break screw-ups, and whatever. This is also when I will create a dedication, thank you page, and include information about the historic town of Rugby, TN on which the fictional town of Bigby is based.
http://www.amazon.com (I would give you the entire link, but I don’t know how to do that…so just go to the regular website and type in my name to order the book. Please.)
This is the story that wouldn’t leave me alone and prompted my husband to gift me with a laptop. I like knowing that all of the people I have been throughout my life are still milling about within my soul.
I was attacked by my eyeball. There is always something going haywire within my pitiful little body. This episode came out of nowhere and smacked me right in the eyeball. My right eyeball.
I have arachnophobia; also known as every black thing which lurks in my peripheral vision is either a spider or a ninja. Spider first. Ninja second. Well, clowns are one of my phobias, but they aren’t usually shrouded in black. I spent two days yelping in fear and slapping at spiders/ninjas which did not exist. On the third day, a wiggly black mass of crap swept across my entire right eye-viewing-ball. I have a new phobia. Black-crap-in-my-eyeball phobia. My husband was out grocery shopping at the time this black, crappy mass wove its demonic way through my entire right eyeball. My husband carries no cell phone. He has his own share of phobias; one of which is that somebody may try to call him and then he’d have to try to figure out how to answer the dang cell phone. So, he doesn’t carry one. Problem solved. I started calling neighbors and snared one to drive me up to the local ophthalmologist and set me out in front of the office.
DIAGNOSIS: Retinal tearing with some bleeding and something about viscous fluid having been interrupted. This likely happened sometime around the rending of my eyeball.
CAUSE FOR RENDERED EYEBALL: Unknown.
INTERVENTION: Laser surgery in Nashville, Tennessee.
The surgical preparation involved a woman squirting a bunch of goop in my eyeball and the male surgeon lurking above me with this contraption on his head that made him look like a Praying Mantis going on a spelunking adventure. He drilled this intense light into my eyeball telling me to look up and to the left. I told him I couldn’t look at anything because I COULDN’T SEE ANYTHING…INCLUDING THE BLACK CRAP…BECAUSE HE WAS BLASTING ME WITH THE WATTAGE OF THE SUN. He wasn’t impressed with my way with words. “Just look up and to your left until I tell you to stop.”
The good news is that the black crap is gone and I’m pretty much back to normal. Until my left arm suddenly falls off for no good reason at all. Don’t laugh. With me…it could happen.
WORD TO THE WISE: Don’t point lasers at airplanes. You could put somebody’s eye out with one of those things.
The following is an excerpt from my short story, “Parlor Game”. My story about a haunted Ouija board was selected as second place winner in Mystery Times 2015 by Buddhapuss Ink. The short story collection is now available for order at http://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Times-2015.
“I awoke clawing and gasping for air. Scrubbing both eyes with fists, I stood and took unsteady steps towards the bathroom. My bare feet slopped across wet carpeting. After turning on the bedside lamp, I realized I had knocked over the water glass I keep next to the bed. The almost emptied glass laid on its side…water plopping to the carpet. I made my way to the bathroom with the intention of washing my face and getting a towel to mop up the water. Turning on the bathroom light I leaned heavily against the vanity and faced myself in the mirror.
She stood behind me. She was a couple of inches taller than me and really skinny. She had very long dark hair; parted down the middle like the singer, Cher, when she was with Sonny. She wore cut-off blue jeans frayed at the hem and a pink and white striped short sleeved blouse. Her lips were rimmed with shiny pink lip gloss. There was a feathery whisper of movement against my hair as I watched her arm float over my shoulder. Her short nails were painted to match her lip gloss. She touched a finger to her mirrored self; Peter Pan trying to capture his shadow. There was no malevolence in this apparition…only an abundance of wanting. She met my eyes for only the briefest of moments. Her lips formed a weary, weak smile.
The only face in the mirror was my own. Sophie Mathews was gone. Sinking to the cool ceramic tile I hugged my knees and wept for this incomplete young woman. I accepted Sophie’s ghostly visit without question. She was real.”
When my neighbor found out my husband and I were going to attend the annual Thanksgiving dinner at our church for two bucks apiece and a dish to pass, she asked what dish I planned to take. My annual dish is always scalloped potatoes. She asked, “Homemade?” I was quick, “Oh, yes. My great grandmother Crocker’s recipe.”
She knows me well, so she laughed. My crazy brain filled in the following back story:
Grandmother Crocker was in a hurry. She had promised to bring a dish to pass at the church potluck and didn’t have much time to come up with something. Chores were never ending on the farm. Potatoes were plentiful that year. So, she sliced a bunch up real quickly and threw them in an iron kettle she had inherited from her great grandmother. Tossing in whatever she had lying around, she shoved the whole mess into the wood-fueled oven. Later on she was hard-pressed to recall the exact contents; butter, milk, a hunk of cheese, and little green herbs that floated around throughout the dish. Grandmother Crocker’s potato dish was a big hit at the church. Everyone in the little town of Scallop, Scandinavia hounded her for the recipe. Blessed with an inherited dogged determination, Grandmother Betty was eventually able to duplicate the recipe.
I’ve shown the recipe here for your convenience.
(This is a pure work of fiction, of course. Do not ask me for money. I did not inherit anything from the Betty Crocker family.) p.s. No, I don’t know whether they had iron kettles or used wood-fueled ovens two hundred years ago in Scandinavia. I said this was a work of fiction.
I saw a wasp skulking around on our deck. It was one of those lanky, black things with the long droopy legs. They slog through the hot, thick air in a predatory shrug. Back and forth…back and forth…looking for…you. I raced for my wasp and hornet spray, crept onto the deck, aimed just ahead of where I anticipated his next lurking shrug, and blasted a stream of toxic, wasp killing poison. I missed. I prepared for my second assault. The can went “pssstthurssh.” It was empty. By now the wasp was not happy. I threw down my weapon and ran for the safety of the house.
I did the only sensible thing. I drove to the Dollar General Store. Those people who stock that store understand me. They make sure to have my phobias well covered. Not only did they have a full shelf of wasp and hornet spray but each can bragged about how there was 25% more wasp killing poison in each can. I rearmed with three cans and returned to take down the demonic intruder. When I returned home, there were three more of those creepy things flying some kind of reconnaissance mission across our deck. I watched from behind the kitchen door and thought I detected a pattern. They had erected a wasp fortress somewhere close by. I did the next sensible thing. I waited for my husband to come home and sent him in search of said fortress armed with enough ammunition to wipe wasp DNA from the planet.
I really hate those things. They strike the same terror in my heart as did those flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz. I couldn’t sleep for three nights after watching that movie as a kid. My husband is well aware of my wasp phobia (which is a close second to my spider phobia) and my less-than-effective attempts to shoot down the darned things in mid-flight. Once when we were barbecuing I shrieked when a wasp appeared in front of the grill. I let fire with my handy can of wasp spray. It wasn’t my best moment. It was a gas grill. There was this humongous whoosh of flame. My husband and I dove for cover expecting a big BLOOEY that never came. The whoosh of flame quickly died down without catastrophe.
The steaks were well done. I’m pretty sure I got him.
Funny excerpt from No Wake, first place winner: “I found a dead body once. I was working in home health and went to see Mrs. Weatherford…I whoo-hooed my way through the house into the bedroom. There she was. Mrs. Weatherford was on the bed facing me. Eyes wide open, with blood trickling out one corner of her mouth. I got out of there. I called the office on my cell phone—which back in those days was the size of a small suitcase. I spoke with one of the nurses. She asked me, “Are you sure she’s dead?”
“Yes, she’s dead.”
“Did you take her pulse?”
“Then, how do you know she is dead?”
“Look,” I said, “she’s either dead, or she has the best poker face that I’ve ever seen.”
A bright light came on again in the woods and stayed on for a couple of minutes. We stood huddled together for several minutes in silence until we heard thumping and dragging sounds that made my teeth hurt. Loud human grunts accompanied the dragging sounds. I saw a humpbacked silhouette approaching the truck slowly through the headlight beams.
I am scheduled for outpatient neurosurgery. Yesterday I completed preadmission paperwork and endured an interview with an enthusiastic male nurse. We were getting along well until he mentioned my acrylic fingernails.
Him: Those will have to come off for the surgery.
Me: Not gonna happen.
Him: It is a requirement of the (whatever-the-professional-name-of-people-who-monitor–oxygen-levels-during-surgery) person; of course, he did use the professional name of such a person, but I was no longer listening. The monitoring device checks your oxygen levels during surgery. It is clipped to one of your fingernails. The device cannot read the levels through acrylic.
Me: I have ten unpolished, non-acrylic festooned toenails. The monitoring person has my permission to use any one of my toenails he/she wishes.
Him: I’m sorry; but, it could be a “deal breaker” as to whether or not the surgery will be allowed to take place.
The following hypothetical scenario went across my brain in a nanosecond: I’m racing down I40 being pursued by a news helicopter; a reporter intent on an exclusive interview about the release of book two in the Leslie & Belinda Mystery series (Shanghaied). The helicopter veers out of control and SMASH-O…CRASH-O! I am pulled from the wreckage and zoomed to a trauma center (in another helicopter) for EMERGENCY…RIGHT NOW…HURRY-UP neck surgery. There I am…in the trauma surgical suite and the whatever-the-professional-name-of -people-who-monitor–oxygen-levels-during-surgery person shakes his/her head sadly, “Unfortunately, we will have to allow this beautiful woman to die…because she has acrylic fingernails and my thingy device won’t work through acrylic.”
Right. Like they don’t have a plan B. If this were a true scenario, I would prefer to go to heaven with my French manicured acrylic fingernails intact. For me, this is a “deal breaker”.
(FYI. I did remove the acrylic fingernail on my left little finger. It was traumatic. They’re just going to have to “deal” with it.)