Tuesday, September 30, 2008

6 Random Things

I was tagged by The Dynamic Uno and by Magma.

So here's the rules for those I'll be tagging:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.

2. Post the rules on your blog.

3. Write six random things about yourself.

4. Tag sixish people at the end of your post.

5. Let each person know he or she has been tagged.

6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.


6 Random Things About Me

  • While almost everyone who knows me or has met me atleast once knows how much I love horses (or anything equine, for that matter), what most people don't know is that I have a bit of a side thing for dolphins :D My apartment is predominantly decorated with something horse-ish, while my bathroom houses nothing but things with dolphins/fish on it.
  • I am a huge fan of the old, classic, 80s cartoons: He-man and She-ra, Looney Toons, My Little Pony, The Jetsons - you can't beat some of them oldies!
  • I was born in San Franscisco but have never seen it, as we left when I was only 9 months old. We then lived in Guam for 3 years, and I remember nothing (such a shame). When I was four we moved to Maryland and a few years later my dad retired from the Navy, so my first memories are from Maryland. We lived there till I was about 19, then we moved to Northern Virginia. I now live in Central VA in my own little bitty lovely apartment :D
  • My hair grows insanely fast! The last time I got my hair cut really short was March 25, 2007. See here:
And see how it looks now:

That's, what, a year and a half later? *points to pic on the right* I like that one better...




  • Let's see ... oh! I got bit by a horse about, oh, 2 months ago. On my back right around the shoulder blade area. It wasn't too bad, as he didn't get the muscle, just a bunch of skin. It's pretty much healed up now, took about a month. The area that's healed over is reddish, and seems to be darkening a bit. I believe I will have a scar. Yay! (I'm weird, I know).
  • Last but not least! Huzzah! I've recently discovered a love for doing artwork. I've always sorta liked creating things, but a couple of months ago I joined deviantArt.com (my profile is paischaros.deviantart.com). I'm still learning, but it's lotsa fun!
So that's me!

The 6 people I'm tagging:

Melissa

Scott

Luke

Roh

Jason

Kale Charis

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's All About Us & The Fruit of My Lipstick by Shelley Adina



It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!





and her books:


It's All About Us: A Novel

FaithWords (May 12, 2008)


and


The Fruit of My Lipstick (All About Us Series, Book 2)

FaithWords (August 11, 2008)


Plus a Tiffany's Bracelet Giveaway! Go to Camy Tang's Blog and leave a comment on the Teen FIRST All About Us Tour and you will be placed into a drawing for a bracelet that looks similar to the picture below. But the winning FaithWords Tiffany's bracelet will be a double heart charm.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Shelley Adina is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She knows the value of a relationship with a gracious God and loving Christian friends, and she's inviting today's teenage girls to join her in these refreshingly honest books about real life as a Christian teen--with a little extra glitz thrown in for fun! In between books, Adina loves traveling, listening to and making music, and watching all kinds of movies.

It's All About Us is Book One in the All About Us Series. Book Two, The Fruit of my Lipstick came out in August 2008, and Book Three, Be Strong & Curvaceous, comes out in January 2009.

Visit the author's website.

It's All About Us: A Novel



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (May 12, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446177989
ISBN-13: 978-0446177986

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

SOME THINGS YOU just know without being told. Like, you passed the math final (or you didn't). Your boyfriend isn't into you anymore and wants to break up. Vanessa Talbot has decided that since you're the New Girl, you have a big bull's-eye on your forehead and your junior year is going to be just as miserable as she can make it.

Carly once told me she used to wish she were me. Ha! That first week at Spencer Academy, I wouldn't have wished my life on anyone.

My name is Lissa Evelyn Mansfield, and since everything seemed to happen to me this quarter, we decided I'd be the one to write it all down. Maybe you'll think I'm some kind of drama queen, but I swear this is the truth. Don't listen to Gillian and Carly—they weren't there for some of it, so probably when they read this, it'll be news to them, too.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. When it all started, I didn't even know them. All I knew was that I was starting my junior year at the Spencer Academy of San Francisco, this private boarding school for trust fund kids and the offspring of the hopelessly rich, and I totally did not want to be there.

I mean, picture it: You go from having fun and being popular in tenth grade at Pacific High in Santa Barbara, where you can hang out on State Street or join a drumming circle or surf whenever you feel like it with all your friends, to being absolutely nobody in this massive old mansion where rich kids go because their parents don't have time to take care of them.

Not that my parents are like that. My dad's a movie director, and he's home whenever his shooting schedule allows it. When he's not, sometimes he flies us out to cool places like Barbados or Hungary for a week so we can be on location together. You've probably heard of my dad. He directed that big pirate movie that Warner Brothers did a couple of years ago. That's how he got on the radar of some of the big A-list directors, so when George (hey, he asked me to call him that, so it's not like I'm dropping names) rang him up from Marin and suggested they do a movie together, of course he said yes. I can't imagine anybody saying no to George, but anyway, that's why we're in San Francisco for the next two years. Since Dad's going to be out at the Ranch or on location so much, and my sister, Jolie, is at UCLA (film school, what else—she's a daddy's girl and she admits it), and my mom's dividing her time among all of us, I had the choice of going to boarding school or having a live-in. Boarding school sounded fun in a Harry Potter kind of way, so I picked that.

Sigh. That was before I realized how lonely it is being the New Girl. Before the full effect of my breakup really hit. Before I knew about Vanessa Talbot, who I swear would make the perfect girlfriend for a warlock.

And speaking of witch . . .

"Melissa!"

Note: my name is not Melissa. But on the first day of classes, I'd made the mistake of correcting Vanessa, which meant that every time she saw me after that, she made a point of saying it wrong. The annoying part is that now people really think that's my name.

Vanessa, Emily Overton, and Dani Lavigne ("Yes, that Lavigne. Did I tell you she's my cousin?") are like this triad of terror at Spencer. Their parents are all fabulously wealthy—richer than my mom's family, even—and they never let you forget it. Vanessa and Dani have the genes to go with all that money, which means they look good in everything from designer dresses to street chic.

Vanessa's dark brown hair is cut so perfectly, it always falls into place when she moves. She has the kind of skin and dark eyes that might be from some Italian beauty somewhere in her family tree. Which, of course, means the camera loves her. It didn't take me long to figure out that there was likely to be a photographer or two somewhere on the grounds pretty much all the time, and nine times out of ten, Vanessa was the one they bagged. Her mom is minor royalty and the ex-wife of some U.N. Secretary or other, which means every time he gives a speech, a photographer shows up here. Believe me, seeing Vanessa in the halls at school and never knowing when she's going to pop out at me from the pages of Teen People or some society news Web site is just annoying. Can you say overexposed?

Anyway. Where was I? Dani has butterscotch-colored hair that she has highlighted at Biondi once a month, and big blue eyes that make her look way more innocent than she is. Emily is shorter and chunkier and could maybe be nice if you got her on her own, but she's not the kind that functions well outside of a clique.

Some people are born independent and some aren't. You should see Emily these days. All that money doesn't help her one bit out at the farm, where—

Okay, Gillian just told me I have to stop doing that. She says it's messing her up, like I'm telling her the ending when I'm supposed to be telling the beginning.

Not that it's all about her, okay? It's about us: me, Gillian, Carly, Shani, Mac . . . and God. But just to make Gillian happy, I'll skip to the part where I met her, and she (and you) can see what I really thought of her. Ha. Maybe that'll make her stop reading over my shoulder.

So as I was saying, there they were—Vanessa, Emily, and Dani—standing between me and the dining room doors. "What's up?" I said, walking up to them when I should have turned and settled for something out of the snack machine at the other end of the hall.

"She doesn't know." Emily poked Dani. "Maybe we shouldn't tell her."

I did a fast mental check. Plaid skirt—okay. Oxfords—no embarrassing toilet paper. White blouse—buttoned, no stains. Slate blue cardigan—clean. Hair—freshly brushed.

They couldn't be talking about me personally, in which case I didn't need to hear it. "Whatever." I pushed past them and took two steps down the hall.

"Don't you want to hear about your new roommate?" Vanessa asked.

Roommate? At that point I'd survived for five days, and the only good things about them were the crème brulée in the dining room and the blessed privacy of my own room. What fresh disaster was this?

Oops. I'd stopped in my tracks and tipped them off that (a) I didn't know, and (b) I wanted to know. And when Vanessa knows you want something, she'll do everything she can not to let you have it.

"I think we should tell her," Emily said. "It would be kinder to get it over with." "I'm sure I'll find out eventually." There, that sounded bored enough. "Byeee." "I hope you like Chinese!" Dani whooped at her own cleverness, and the three of them floated off down the hall.

So I thought, Great, maybe they're having dim sum today for lunch, though what that had to do with my new roommate I had no idea. At that point it hadn't really sunk in that conversation with those three is a dangerous thing.

That had been my first mistake the previous Wednesday, when classes had officially begun. Conversation, I mean. You know, normal civilized discourse with someone you think might be a friend. Like a total dummy, I'd actually thought this about Vanessa, who'd pulled newbie duty, walking me down the hall to show me where my first class was. It turned out to not be my first class, but the teacher was nice about steering me to the right room, where I was, of course, late.

That should've been my first clue.

My second clue was when Vanessa invited me to eat with them and Dani managed to spill her Coke all over my uniform skirt, which is, as I said, plaid and made of this easy-clean fake wool that people with sensitive skin can wear. She'd jumped up, all full of apologies, and handed me napkins and stuff, but the fact remained that I had to go upstairs and change and then figure out how the laundry service worked, which meant I was late for Biology, too.

On Thursday Dani apologized again, and Vanessa loaned me some of her Bumble and bumble shampoo ("You can't use Paul Mitchell on gorgeous hair like yours—people get that stuff at the drugstore now"), and I was dumb enough to think that maybe things were looking up. Because really, the shampoo was superb. My hair is blond and I wear it long, but before you go hating me for it, it's fine and thick, and the fog we have here in San Francisco makes it go all frizzy. And it's foggy a lot. So this shampoo made it just coo with pleasure.

You're probably asking yourself why I bothered trying to be friends with these girls. The harrowing truth was, I was used to being in the A-list group. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't fit in with the popular girls at Spencer, once I figured out who they were.

Lucky me—Vanessa made that so easy. And I was so lonely and out of my depth that even she was looking good. Her dad had once backed one of my dad's films, so there was that minimal connection.

Too bad it wasn't enough.

jolie.mansfield L, don't let them bug you. Some people are
threatened by anything new. It's a compliment
really.

LMansfield You always find the bright side. Gahh. Love you,
but not helping.

jolie.mansfield What can I do?

LMansfield I'd give absolutely anything to be back in S.B.

jolie.mansfield :(

LMansfield I want to hang with the kids from my youth group.
Not worry about anything but the SPF of my sun
block.

jolie.mansfield It'll get better. Promise. Heard from Mom?
LMansfield No. She's doing some fundraiser with Angelina.
She's pretty busy.

jolie.mansfield If you say so. Love you.



Copyright © 2008 by Shelley Adina


&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

The Fruit of My Lipstick (All About Us Series, Book 2)



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (August 11, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446177970
ISBN-13: 978-0446177979

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

chapter 1


Top Five Clues That He’s the One

1. He’s smart, which is why he’s dating you and not the queen of the snob mob.

2. He knows he’s hot, but he thinks you’re hotter.

3. He’d rather listen to you than to himself.

4. You’re in on his jokes—not the butt of them.

5. He always gives you the last cookie in the box.

THE NEW YEAR. . . when a young girl’s heart turns to new beginnings, weight loss, and a new term of chemistry!

Whew! Got that little squee out of my system. But you may as well know right now that science and music are what I do, and they tend to come up a lot in conversation. Sometimes my friends think this is good, like when I’m helping them cram for an exam. Sometimes they just think I’m a geek. But that’s okay. My name is Gillian Frances Jiao-Lan Chang, and since Lissa was brave enough to fall on her sword and spill what happened last fall, I guess I can’t do anything less.

I’m kidding about the sword. You know that, right?

Term was set to start on the first Wednesday in January, so I flew into SFO first class from JFK on Monday. I thought I’d packed pretty efficiently, but I still exceeded the weight limit by fifty pounds. It took some doing to get me and my bags into the limo, let me tell you. But I’d found last term that I couldn’t live without certain things, so they came with me. Like my sheet music and some more of my books. And warmer clothes.

You say California and everyone thinks L.A. The reality of San Francisco in the winter is that it’s cold, whether the sun is shining or the fog is stealing in through the Golden Gate and blanketing the bay. A perfect excuse for a trip to Barney’s to get Vera Wang’s tulip-hem black wool coat, right?

I thought so, too.

Dorm, sweet dorm. I staggered through the door of the room I share with Lissa Mansfield. It’s up to us to get our stuff into our rooms, so here’s where it pays to be on the rowing team, I guess. Biceps are good for hauling bulging Louis Vuittons up marble staircases. But I am so not the athletic type. I leave that to John, the youngest of my three older brothers. He’s been into gymnastics since he was, like, four, and he’s training hard to make the U.S. Olympic team. I haven’t seen him since I was fourteen—he trains with a coach out in Arizona.

My oldest brother, Richard, is twenty-six and works for my dad at the bank, and the second oldest, Darren—the one I’m closest to—is graduating next spring from Harvard and going straight into medical school after that.

Yeah, we’re a family of overachievers. Don’t hate me, okay?

I heard a thump in the hall outside and got the door open just in time to come face-to-face with a huge piece of striped fiberglass with three fins.

I stood aside to let Lissa into the room with her surfboard. She was practically bowed at the knees with the weight of the duffel slung over her shoulder, and another duffel with a big O’Neill logo waited outside. I grabbed it and swung it onto her bed.

“Welcome back, girlfriend!”

She stood the board against the wall, let the duffel drop to the floor with a thud that probably shook the chandelier in the room below us, and pulled me into a hug.

“I am so glad to see you!” Her perfect Nordic face lit up with happiness. “How was your Christmas—the parts you didn’t tell me about on e-mail?”

“The usual. Too many family parties. Mom and Nai-Nai made way too much food, two of my brothers fought over the remote like they were ten years old, my dad and oldest brother bailed to go back to work early, and, oh, Nai-Nai wanted to know at least twice a day why I didn’t have a boyfriend.” I considered the chaos we’d just made of our pristine room. “The typical Chang holiday. What about you? Did Scotland improve after the first couple of days?”

“It was fre-e-e-e-zing.” She slipped off her coat and tam. “And I don’t just mean rainy-freezing. I mean sleet-and-icicles freezing. The first time I wore my high-heeled Louboutin boots, I nearly broke my ankle. As it was, I landed flat on my butt in the middle of the Royal Mile. Totally embarrassing.”

“What’s a Royal Mile? Princesses by the square foot?”

“This big broad avenue that goes through the old part of Edinburgh toward the queen’s castle. Good shopping. Restaurants. Tourists. Ice.” She unzipped the duffel and began pulling things out of it. “Dad was away a lot at the locations for this movie. Sometimes I went with him, and sometimes I hung out with this really adorable guy who was supposed to be somebody’s production assistant but who wound up being my guide the whole time.”

“It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.”

“I made it worth his while.” She flashed me a wicked grin, but behind it I saw something else. Pain, and memory. “So.” She spread her hands. “What’s new around here?”

I shrugged. “I just walked in myself a few minutes ago. You probably passed the limo leaving. But if what you really want to know is whether the webcam incident is over and done with, I don’t know yet.”

She turned away, but not before I saw her flush pink and then blink really fast, like her contacts had just been flooded. “Let’s hope so.”

“You made it through last term.” I tried to be encouraging. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?”

“It made one thing stronger.” She pulled a cashmere scarf out of the duffel and stroked it as though it were a kitten. “I never prayed so hard in my life. Especially during finals week, remember? When those two idiots seriously thought they could force me into that storage closet and get away with it?”

“Before we left, I heard the short one was going to be on crutches for six weeks.” I grinned at her. Fact of the day: Surfers are pretty good athletes. Don’t mess with them. “Maybe it should be, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes your relationship with God stronger.’”

“That I’ll agree with. Do you know if Carly’s here yet?”

“Her dad was driving her up in time for supper, so she should be calling any second.”

Sure enough, within a few minutes, someone knocked. “That’s gotta be her.” I jumped for the door and swung it open.

“Hey, chicas!” Carly hugged me and then Lissa. “Did you miss me?”

“Like chips miss guacamole.” Lissa grinned at her. “Good break?”

She grimaced, her soft brown eyes a little sad. Clearly Christmas break isn’t what it’s cracked up to be in anybody’s world.

“Dad had to go straighten out some computer chip thing in Singapore, so Antony and I got shipped off to Veracruz. It was great to see my mom and the grandparents, but you know . . .” Her voice trailed away.

“What?” I asked. “Did you have a fight?” That’s what happens at our house.

“No.” She sighed, then lifted her head to look at both of us. “I think my mom has a boyfriend.”

“Ewww,” Lissa and I said together, with identical grimaces.

“I always kind of hoped my mom and dad would figure it out, you know? And get back together. But it looks like that’s not going to happen.”

I hugged her again. “I’m sorry, Carly. That stinks.”

“Yeah.” She straightened up, and my arm slid from her shoulders. “So, enough about me. What about you guys?”

With a quick recap, we put her in the picture. “So do you have something going with this Scottish guy?” Carly asked Lissa.

Lissa shook her head, a curtain of blonde hair falling to partially hide her face—a trick I’ve never quite been able to master, even though my hair hangs past my shoulders. But it’s so thick and coarse, it never does what I want on the best of days. It has to be beaten into submission by a professional.

“I think I liked his accent most of all,” she said. “I could just sit there and listen to him talk all day. In fact, I did. What he doesn’t know about murders and wars and Edinburgh Castle and Lord This and Earl That would probably fit in my lip gloss tube.”

I contrasted walking the cold streets of Edinburgh, listening to some guy drone on about history, with fighting with my brothers. Do we girls know how to have fun, or what? “Better you than me.”

“I’d have loved it,” Carly said. “Can you imagine walking through a castle with your own private tour guide? Especially if he’s cute. It doesn’t get better than that.”

“Um, okay.” Lissa gave her a sideways glance. “Miss A-plus in History.”

“Really?” I had A-pluses in AP Chem and Math, but with anything less in those subjects, I wouldn’t have been able to face my father at Christmas. As it was, he had a fit over my B in History, and the only reason I managed to achieve an A-minus in English was because of a certain person with the initials L. M.

Carly shrugged. “I like history. I like knowing what happened where, and who it happened to, and what they were wearing. Not that I’ve ever been anywhere very much, except Texas and Mexico.”

“You’d definitely have liked Alasdair, then,” Lissa said. “He knows all about what happened to whom. But the worst was having to go for tea at some freezing old stone castle that Dad was using for a set. I thought I’d lose my toes from frostbite.”

“Somebody lives in the castle?” Carly looked fascinated. “Who?”

“Some earl.” Lissa looked into the distance as she flipped through the PDA in her head. Then she blinked. “The Earl and Countess of Strathcairn.”

“Cool!”

“Very. Forty degrees, tops. He said he had a daughter about our age, but I never met her. She heard we were coming and took off on her horse.”

“Mo guai nuer,” I said. “Rude much?”

Lissa shrugged. “Alasdair knew the family. He said Lady Lindsay does what she wants, and clearly she didn’t want to meet us. Not that I cared. I was too busy having hypothermia. I’ve never been so glad to see the inside of a hotel room in my life. I’d have put my feet in my mug of tea if I could have.”

“Well, cold or not, I still think it’s cool that you met an earl,” Carly said. “And I can’t wait to see your dad’s movie.”

“Filming starts in February, so Dad won’t be around much. But Mom’s big charity gig for the Babies of Somalia went off just before Christmas and was a huge success, so she’ll be around a bit more.” She paused. “Until she finds something else to get involved in.”

“Did you meet Angelina?” I asked. Lissa’s life fascinated me. To her, movie stars are her dad’s coworkers, like the brokers and venture capitalists who come to the bank are my dad’s coworkers. But Dad doesn’t work with people who look like Orlando and Angelina, that’s for sure.

“Yes, I met her. She apologized for flaking on me for the Benefactors’ Day Ball. Not that I blame her. It all turned out okay in the end.”

“Except for your career as Vanessa Talbot’s BFF.”

Lissa snorted. “Yeah. Except that.”

None of us mentioned what else had crashed and burned in flames after the infamous webcam incident—her relationship with the most popular guy in school, Callum McCloud. I had a feeling that that was a scab we just didn’t need to pick at.

“You don’t need Vanessa Talbot,” Carly said firmly. “You have us.”

We exchanged a grin. “She’s right,” I said. “This term, it’s totally all about us.”

“Thank goodness for that,” she said. “Come on. Let’s go eat. I’m starving.”


RStapleton I heard from a mutual friend that you take care of people at midterm time.

Source10 What friend?

RStapleton Loyola.

Source10 Been known to happen.

RStapleton How much?

Source10 1K. Math, sciences, geography only.

RStapleton I hate numbers.

Source10 IM me the day before to confirm.

RStapleton OK. Who are you?

RStapleton You there?


BY NOON THE next day, I’d hustled down to the student print shop in the basement and printed the notices I’d laid out on my Mac. I tacked them on the bulletin boards in the common rooms and classroom corridors on all four floors.


Christian prayer circle every Tuesday night 7:00 p.m., Room 216 Bring your Bible and a friend!


“Nice work,” Lissa told me when I found her and Carly in the dining room. “Love the salmon pink paper. But school hasn’t officially started yet. We probably won’t get a very good turnout if the first one’s tonight.”

“Maybe not.” I bit into a succulent California roll and savored the tart, thin seaweed wrapper around the rice, avocado, and shrimp. I had to hand it to Dining Services. Their food was amazing. “But even if it’s just the three of us, I can’t think of a better way to start off the term, can you?”

Lissa didn’t reply. The color faded from her face and she concentrated on her square ceramic plate of sushi as though it were her last meal. Carly swallowed a bite of makizushi with an audible gulp as it went down whole. Slowly, casually, I reached for the pepper shaker and glanced over my shoulder.

“If it isn’t the holy trinity,” Vanessa drawled, plastered against Brett Loyola’s arm and standing so close behind us, neither Carly nor I could move. “Going to multiply the rice and fish for us?”

“Nice to see you, too, Vanessa,” Lissa said coolly. “Been reading your Bible, I see.”

“Hi, Brett,” Carly managed, her voice about six notes higher than usual as she craned to look up at him.

He looked at her, puzzled, as if he’d seen her before somewhere but couldn’t place where, and gave her a vague smile. “Hey.”

I rolled my eyes. Like we hadn’t spent an entire term in History together. Like Carly didn’t light up like a Christmas tree every time she passed a paper to him, or maneuvered her way into a study group that had him in it. Honestly. I don’t know how that guy got past the entrance requirements.

Oh, wait. Silly me. Daddy probably made a nice big donation to the athletics department, and they waved Brett through Admissions with a grateful smile.

“Have any of you seen Callum?” Vanessa inquired sweetly. “I’m dying to see him. I hear he spent Christmas skiing at their place in Vail with his sisters and his new girlfriend. No parents.”

“He’s a day student.” I glanced at Lissa to see how she was taking this, but she’d leaned over to the table behind her to snag a bunch of napkins. “Why would he be eating here?”

“To see all his friends, of course. I guess that’s why you haven’t seen him.”

“Neither have you, if you’re asking where he is.” Poor Vanessa. I hope she’s never on a debating team. It could get humiliating.

But what she lacked in logic she made up for in venom. She ignored me and gushed, “I love your outfit, Lissa. I’m sure Callum would, too. That is, if he were still speaking to you.”

I barely restrained myself from giving Vanessa an elbow in the stomach. But Lissa had come a long way since her ugly breakup with a guy who didn’t deserve her. Vanessa had no idea who she was dealing with—Lissa with an army of angels at her back was a scary thing.

She pinned Vanessa with a stare as cold as fresh snow.

“You mean you haven’t told him yet that you made that video?” She shook her head. “Naughty Vanessa, lying to your friends like that.” A big smile and a meaningful glance at Brett. “But then, they’re probably used to it.”

Vanessa opened her mouth to say something scathing, when a tall, lanky guy elbowed past her to put his sushi dishes on the table next to mine. Six feet of sheer brilliance, with blue eyes and brown hair cropped short so he didn’t have to deal with it. A mind so sharp, he put even the overachievers here in the shade—but in spite of that, a guy who’d started coming to prayer circle last term. Who could fluster me with a look, and wipe my brain completely blank with just a smile.

Lucas Hayes.

“Hey, Vanessa, Brett.”

My jaw sagged in surprise, and I snapped it shut on my mouthful of rice, hoping he hadn’t seen. Since when was the king of the science geeks on speaking terms with the popular crowd?

To add to the astonishment, the two of them stepped back, as if to give him some space. “Yo, Einstein.” Brett grinned and they shook hands.

“Hi, Lucas.” Vanessa glanced from him to me to our dishes sitting next to each other. “I didn’t know you were friends with these people.”

He shrugged. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”

“That could change. Why don’t you come and sit with us?” she asked. Brett looked longingly at the sushi bar and tugged on her arm. She ignored him. “We’re much more fun. We don’t sing hymns and save souls.”

“So I’ve heard. Did you make it into Trig?”

“Of course.” She tossed her gleaming sheet of hair over one shoulder. “Thanks to you.”

I couldn’t keep quiet another second. “You tutored her?” I asked him, trying not to squeak.

He picked up a piece of California roll and popped it in his mouth, nodding. “All last term.” He glanced at Vanessa. “Contrary to popular opinion, she isn’t all looks.”

Oh, gack. Way TMI. Vanessa smiled as though she’d won this and all other possible arguments now and in the future, world without end, amen. “Come on, Lucas. Hold our table for us while Brett and I get our food. I want to talk to you about something anyway.”

He shrugged and picked up his dishes while she and Brett swanned away. “See you at prayer circle,” he said to me. “I saw the signs. Same time and place, right?”

I could only nod as he headed for the table in the middle of the big window looking out on the quad. The one no one else dared to sit at, in case they risked the derision and social ostracism that would follow.

The empty seat on my right seemed even emptier. How could he do that? How could he just dump us and then say he’d see us at prayer circle? Shouldn’t he want to eat with the people he prayed with?

“It’s okay, Gillian,” Carly whispered. “At least he’s coming.”

“And Vanessa isn’t,” Lissa put in with satisfaction.

“I’m not so sure I want him to, now,” I said. I looked at my sushi and my stomach sort of lurched. Ugh. I pushed it away.

And here I’d been feeling so superior to Carly and her unrequited yen for Brett. I was just as bad, and this proved it. What else could explain this sick feeling in my middle?

Two hours later, while Lissa, Carly, and I shoved aside the canvases and whatnot that had accumulated in Room 216 over the break, making enough room for half a dozen people to sit, I’d almost talked myself into not caring whether Lucas came or not.

And then he stepped through the door and I realized my body was more honest than my brain. I sucked in a breath and my heart began to pound.

Oh, yeah. You so don’t care.

Travis, who must have arrived during dinner, trickled in behind him, and then Shani Hanna, who moved with the confidence of an Arabian queen, arrived with a couple of sophomores I didn’t know. Her hair, tinted bronze and caught up at the crown of her head, tumbled to her shoulders in corkscrew curls. I fingered my own arrow-straight mop that wouldn’t hold a curl if you threatened it with death.

Okay, stop feeling sorry for yourself, would you? Enough is enough.

“Hey, everyone, thanks for coming,” I said brightly, getting to my feet. “I’m Gillian Chang. Why don’t the newbies introduce themselves, and then we’ll get started?”

The sophomores told us their names, and I found out Travis’s last name was Fanshaw. And the dots connected. Of course he’d been assigned as Lucas’s roommate—he’s like this Chemistry genius. If it weren’t for Lucas, he’d be the king of the science geeks. Sometimes science people have a hard time reconciling scientific method with faith. If they were here at prayer circle, maybe Travis and Lucas were among the lucky few who figured science was a form of worship, of marveling at the amazement that is creation. I mean, if Lucas was one of those guys who got a kick out of arguing with the Earth Sciences prof, I wouldn’t even be able to date him.

Not that there was any possibility of that.

As our prayers went up one by one, quietly from people like Carly and brash and uncomfortably from people like Travis and the sophomores, I wished that dating was the kind of thing I could pray about.

But I don’t think God has my social life on His to-do list.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2008 by Shelley Adina

This article is used with the permission of Hachette Book Group and Shelley Adina. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Summer the Wind Whispered My Name by Don Locke



It is time for the FIRST Blog Tour! On the FIRST day of every month we feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!






The feature author is:



and his book:


The Summer the Wind Whispered My Name
NavPress Publishing Group (August 2008)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Don Locke is an illustrator and graphic artist for NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno and has worked as a freelance writer and illustrator for more than thirty years. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Susan. The Summer the Wind Whispered My Name, prequel to The Reluctant Journey of David Connors, is Don's second novel.



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 355 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (August 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1600061532
ISBN-13: 978-1600061530

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Preface

Until recently my early childhood memories weren’t readily available for recollection. Call it a defective hard drive. They remained a mystery and a void—a midwestern landscape of never-ending pitch-blackness where I brushed up against people and objects but could never assign them faces or names, much less attach feelings to our brief encounters.

But through a miraculous act of divine grace, I found my way back home to discover the child I’d forgotten, the boy I’d abandoned supposedly for the good of us both. There he sat beneath an oak tree patiently awaiting my return, as if I’d simply taken a day-long fishing trip. This reunion of spirits has transformed me into someone both wiser and more innocent, leaving me to feel both old and young.

And with this new gift of recollection, my memories turn to that boy and to the summer of 1960, when the winds of change blew across our rooftops and through the screen doors, turning the simple, manageable world of my suburban neighborhood into something unfamiliar, something uncomfortable. Those same winds blew my father and me apart.


One

Route 666

With a gentle shake of my shoulders, a kiss on my cheek, and the words It’s time whispered by my mom, I woke at five thirty in the morning to prepare for my newspaper route. Careful not to wake my older brother, Bobby, snoozing across the room, I slipped out of bed and stumbled my way into the hallway and toward the bathroom, led only by the dim glow of the nightlight and a familiarity with the route.

There on the bathroom floor, as usual, my mother had laid my clothes out in the shape of my body, my underwear layered on top. You’re probably wondering why she did this. It could have been that she severely underestimated my intelligence and displayed my clothes in this fashion in case there was any doubt on my part as to which articles of clothing went where on my body. She didn’t want to face the public humiliation brought on by her son walking out of the house wearing his Fruit of the Loom undies over his head. Or maybe her work was simply the result of a sense of humor that I missed completely. Either way, I never asked.

Mine was a full-service mom whose selfless measures of accommodation put the men of Texaco to shame. The fact that she would inconvenience herself by waking me when an alarm clock would suffice, or lay out my clothes when I was capable of doing so myself, might sound a bit odd to you, but believe me, it was only the tip of the indulgent iceberg. This was a woman who would cut the crust off my PB&J sandwich at my request, set my toothbrush out every night with a wad of Colgate laying atop the bristles, and who would often put me to sleep at night with a song, a prayer, and a back scratch. In the wintertime, when the wind chill off Lake Erie made the hundred-yard trek down to the corner to catch the school bus feel like Admiral Perry’s excursion, Mom would actually lay my clothes out on top of the floor heater before I woke up so that my body would be adequately preheated before stepping outside to face the Ohio cold. From my perspective my room was self-cleaning; toys, sports equipment, and clothes discarded onto the floor all found their way back to the toy box, closet, or dresser. I never encountered a dish that I had to clean or trash I had to empty or a piece of clothing I had to wash or iron or fold or put away.

I finished dressing, entered the kitchen, and there on the maroon Formica table, in predictable fashion, sat my glass of milk and chocolate long john patiently waiting for me to consume them. My mother, a chocoholic long before the word was coined, had a sweet tooth that she’d handed down to her children. She believed that a heavy dusting of white processed sugar on oatmeal, cream of wheat, or grapefruit was crucial energy fuel for starting one’s day. Only earlier that year I’d been shocked to learn from my third grade teacher, Mrs. Mercer, that chocolate was not, in fact, a member of any of the four major food groups.

Wearing a milk mustache and buzzing from my sugar rush, I walked outside to where the stack of Tribunes—dropped off in my driveway earlier by the news truck—were waiting for me to fold them.

More often than I ever cared to hear it, my dad would point out, “It’s the early bird that catches the worm.” But for me it was really those early morning summer hours themselves that provided the reward. Sitting there on our cement front step beneath a forty-watt porch light, rolling a stack of Tribunes, I was keenly aware that bodies were still strewn out across beds in every house in the neighborhood, lying lost in their dreamland slumber while I was already experiencing the day. There would be time enough for the sounds of wooden screen doors slamming shut, the hissing of sprinklers on Bermuda lawns, and the songs of robins competing with those of Elvis emanating from transistor radios everywhere. But for now there was a stillness about my neighborhood that seemed to actually slow time down, where even the old willow in our front yard stood like one more giant dozing on his feet, his long arms hanging lifeless at his sides, and where the occasional shooting star streaking across the black sky was a confiding moment belonging only to the morning and me.

From the porch step I could detect the subtle, pale peach glow rise behind the Finnegan’s house across the street. I stretched a rubber band open across the top of my knuckles, spread my fingers apart, and slid it down over the length of the rolled paper to hold it in place. Seventy-six times I’d repeat this act almost unconsciously. There was something about the crisp, cool morning air that seemed to contain a magical element that when breathed in set me to daydreaming. So that’s just what I did . . . I sent my homemade bottle rocket blasting above the trees and watched as the red and white bobber at the end of my fishing pole suddenly got sucked down below the surface of the water at Crystal Lake, and with my Little League team’s game on the line, I could hear the crack of my bat as I smacked a liner over the third baseman’s head to drive in the go-ahead run. Granted, most kids would daydream bigger—their rockets sailed to the moon or Mars, and their fish, blue marlins at least, were hooked off Bermuda in their yachts, and their hits were certainly grand slams in the bottom of the ninth to win the World Series for the Reds—but my dad always suggested that a dream should have its feet planted firmly enough in reality to actually have a chance to come true one day, or there wasn’t much point in conjuring up the dream in the first place. Dreaming too big would only lead to a lifetime scattered with the remnants of disappointments and heartbreak.

And I believed him. Why not? I was young and his shadow fell across me with weight and substance and truth. He was my hero. But in some ways, I suppose, he was too much like my other heroes: Frank Robinson, Ricky Nelson, Maverick. I looked up to them because of their accomplishments or their image, not because of who they really were. I didn’t really know who they were outside of that. Such was the case with my dad. He was a great athlete in his younger years, had a drawer full of medals for track and field, swimming, baseball, basketball, and a bunch from the army to prove it.

It was my dad who had managed to pull the strings that allowed me to have a paper route in the first place. I remember reading the pride in his eyes earlier in the spring when he first told me I got the job. His voice rose and fell within a wider range than usual as he explained how I would now be serving a valuable purpose in society by being directly responsible for informing people of local, national, and even international events. My dad made it sound important—an act of responsibility, being this cog in the wheel of life, the great mandala. And it made me feel important, better defining my place in the universe. In a firm handshake with my dad, I promised I wouldn’t let him down.

Finishing up folding and banding the last paper, I knew I was running a little late because Spencer, the bullmastiff next door, had already begun to bark in anticipation of my arrival. Checking the Bulova wristwatch that my dad had given me as a gift the morning of my first route confirmed it. I proceeded to cram forty newspapers into my greasy white canvas pouch and loop the straps over my bike handles. Riding my self-painted, fluorescent green Country Road–brand bike handed down from my brother, I would deliver these papers mostly to my immediate neighborhood and swing back around to pick up the final thirty-six.

I picked the olive green army hat up off the step. Though most boys my age wore baseball caps, I was seldom seen without the hat my dad wore in World War II. Slapping it down onto my head, I hopped onto my bike, turned on the headlight, and was off down my driveway, turning left on the sidewalk that ran along the front of our corner property on Willowcreek Road.

I rode around to where our street dead-ended, curving into Briarbrook. Our eccentric young neighbors, the Springfields, lived next door in a house they’d painted black. Mr. and Mrs. Springfield chose to raise a devil dog named Spencer rather than experiencing the joy of parenthood. Approaching the corner of their white picket fence on my bike, I could see the strong, determined, shadowy figure of that demon dashing back and forth along the picket fence, snarling and barking at me loudly enough to wake the whole neighborhood. As was my custom, I didn’t dare slow down while I heaved the rolled-up newspaper over his enormous head into their yard. Spencer sprinted over to the paper and pounced on it, immediately tearing it to shreds—a daily reenactment. The couple insisted that I do this every day, as they were attempting to teach Spencer to fetch the morning paper, bring it around to the back of the house where he was supposed to enter by way of the doggy door, and gently place the newspaper in one piece on the kitchen table so it would be there to peruse when they woke for breakfast.

Theirs was one of only two houses in the neighborhood that were fenced in, a practice uncommon in the suburbs because it implied a lack of hospitality. Even a small hedge along a property line could be interpreted as stand-offish. The Springfields’ choice of house color wasn’t helpful in dispelling this notion. And yet it was a good thing that they chose to enclose their property because we were all quite certain that if Spencer ever escaped his yard, he would systematically devour every neighborhood kid, one by one. The strange thing was that the picket fence couldn’t have been more than three feet high, low enough for even a miniature poodle to clear—so why hadn’t Spencer taken the leap? Could it be that he was just biding his time, waiting for the right moment to jump that hurdle? So I was thankful for the Springfields’ ineptitude when it came to dog training because it allowed me to buffer Spencer’s appetite, knowing that whenever he did decide to make his move, I would most likely be the first course on the menu.

The neighborhood houses on my route were primarily ranch style, third-little-pig variety, and always on my left. On my left so that I could grab a paper out of my bag and heave it across my body, allowing for more mustard on my throw and more accuracy than if I had to sling it backhand off to my right side. This technique also helped build up strength in my pitching arm. I always aimed directly toward the middle of the driveway instead of anywhere near the porch, which could, as I’d learned, be treacherous territory. An irate Mrs. Messerschmitt from Sleepy Hollow Road once dropped by my house, screaming, “You’ve murdered my children! You’ve murdered my children!” Apparently I’d made an errant toss that tore the blooming heads right off her precious pansies and injured a few hapless marigolds. From that day on I shot for the middle of the driveway, making sure no neighbors’ flowers ever suffered a similar fate at my hands.

I passed my friend Mouse Miller’s house, crossed the street, and headed down the other side of Briarbrook, past Allison Hoffman’s house—our resident divorcée. All my friends still had their two original parents and family intact, which made Mrs. Hoffman’s status a bit of an oddity. Maybe it was the polio scare that people my parents’ age had had to live through that appeared to make them wary of any abnormality in another human being. It wasn’t just being exposed to the drug addicts or the murderers that concerned them, but contact with any fringe members of society: the divorcées and the widowers, the fifty-year-old bachelors, people with weird hairdos or who wore clothing not found in the Sears catalogue. People with facial hair were especially to be avoided.

You didn’t want to be a nonconformist in 1960. Though nearly a decade had passed, effects of the McCarthy hearings had left some Americans with lingering suspicions that their neighbor might be a Red or something worse. So everyone did their best to just fit in. There was an unspoken fear that whatever social dysfunction people possessed was contagious by mere association with them. I had a feeling my mom believed this to be the case with Allison Hoffman—that all my mother had to do was engage in a five-minute conversation with any divorced woman, and a week or so later, my dad would come home from work and out of the blue announce, “Honey, I want a divorce.”

Likely in her late twenties, Mrs. Hoffman was attractive enough to be a movie star or at least a fashion model—she was that pretty. She taught at a junior high school across town, but for extra cash would tutor kids in her spare time. Despite her discriminating attitude toward Mrs. Hoffman, my mother was forced to hire her as a tutor for my sixteen-year-old brother for two sessions a week, seeing as Bobby could never quite grasp the concept of dangling participles and such. Still, whenever she mentioned Mrs. Hoffman’s name, my mom always found a way to justify setting her Christian beliefs aside, calling her that woman, as in, “just stay away from that woman.” Mom must have skipped over the part in the Bible where Jesus healed the lepers. Anyway, Mrs. Hoffman seemed nice enough to me when I’d see her gardening in her yard or when I’d have to collect newspaper money from her; a wave and smile were guaranteed.

I delivered papers down Briarbrook, passed my friend Sheena’s house on the cul-de-sac, and went back down to Willowcreek, where I rolled past the Jensens’ vacant house. The For Sale sign had been stuck in the lawn out front since the beginning of spring. I’d seen few people even stop by to look at the charming, white frame house I remember as having great curb appeal. Every kid on the block was rooting for a family with at least a dozen kids to move in to provide some fresh blood.

A half a block later, I turned the corner and was about to toss the paper down Mr. Melzer’s drive when I spotted the old man lying under his porch light, sprawled out on the veranda, his blue overall-covered legs awkwardly dangling down the front steps of his farm house. I immediately stood up on my bike, slammed on the brakes, fish-tailed a streak of rubber on the sidewalk, dumped the bike, and rushed up to his motionless body. “Mr. Melzer! Mr. Melzer!” Certain he was dead, I kept shouting at him like he was only asleep or deaf. “Mr. Melzer!” I was afraid to touch him to see if he was alive.

The only dead body I had touched up till then was my great-uncle Frank’s at his wake, and it was not a particularly pleasant experience. I was five years old when my mom led me up to the big shiny casket where I peered over the top to see the man lying inside. Standing on my tiptoes, I stared at Frank’s clay-colored face, which I believed looked too grumpy, too dull. While alive and kicking, my uncle was an animated man with ruddy cheeks who spoke and reacted with passion and humor, but the expression he wore while lying in that box was one that I’d never seen on his face before. I was quite sure that if he’d been able to gaze in the mirror at his dead self with that stupid, frozen pouting mouth looking back at him, he would have been humiliated and embarrassed as all get out. And so, while no one watched, I started poking and prodding at his surprisingly pliable mouth, trying to reshape his smile into something more natural, more familiar, like the expression he’d worn recalling the time he drove up to frigid Green Bay in a blizzard to watch his beloved Browns topple Bart Starr and the Green Bay Packers. Or the one he’d displayed while telling us what a thrill it was to meet Betty Grable at a USO function during the war, or the grin that always appeared on his face right after he’d take a swig of a cold beer on a hot summer day. It was a look of satisfaction that I was after, and was pretty sure I could pull it off. Those hours of turning shapeless Play-Doh into little doggies and snowmen had prepared me for this moment.

After a mere twenty seconds of my molding handiwork, I had successfully managed to remove my uncle’s grim, lifeless expression. Unfortunately I had replaced it with a hideous-looking full-on smile, his teeth beaming like the Joker from the Batman comics. Before I could step back for a more objective look, my Aunt Doris let out a little shriek behind me; an older gentleman gasped, which brought my brother over, and he let out a howl of laughter, all followed by a flurry of activity that included some heated discussion among relatives, the casket’s being closed, and my mother’s hauling me out of the room by my earlobe.

But you probably don’t really care much about my Uncle Frank. You’re wondering about Mr. Melzer and if he’s a character who has kicked the bucket before you even got to know him or know if you like him. You will like him. I did. “Mr. Melzer!” I gave him a good poke in the arm. Nothing . . . then another one.

The fact is I was surprised when Mr. Melzer began to move. First his head turned . . . then his arm wiggled . . . then he rose, propping himself up onto an elbow, attempting to regain his bearings.

“Mr. Melzer?”

“What?” He looked around, glassy-eyed, still groggy. “Davy?”

I suddenly felt dizzy and nearly fell down beside him on the porch. “Yeah, it’s me.”

“I must have dozed off. Guess the farmer in me still wants to wake with the dawn, but the old man, well, he knows better.” He looked my way. “You’re white as a sheet—you okay, boy?”

Actually I was feeling pretty nauseated. “Yeah, I’m okay. I just thought . . .”

“What? You thought what?”

“Well, when I saw you lying there . . . I just thought . . .”

“That I was dead?” I nodded. “Well, no, no, I can see where that might be upsetting for you. Come to think of it, it’s a little upsetting to me. Not that I’m not prepared to meet my maker, mind you. Or to see Margaret again.” He leaned heavily on his right arm, got himself upright, and adjusted his suspenders. “The fact is . . . I do miss the old gal. The way she’d know to take my hand when it needed holdin’. Or how she could make a room feel comfortable just by her sitting in it, breathing the same air. Heck, I even miss her lousy coffee. And I hope, after these two years apart, she might have forgotten what a pain in the rear I could be, and she might have the occasion to miss me a bit, too.”

Until that moment, I hadn’t considered the possibility of the dead missing the living. Sometimes when he wasn’t even trying to, Mr. Melzer made me think. And it always surprised me how often he would just say anything that came into his head. He never edited himself like most adults. He was like a kid in that respect, but more interesting.

“You believe in heaven?” I asked Mr. Melzer.

“Rather counting on it. How ’bout you?”

“My mom says that when we go to heaven we’ll be greeted by angels with golden wings.”

“Really? Angels, huh?”

“And she says that they’ll sing a beautiful song written especially for us.”

“Really? Your mother’s an interesting woman, Davy. But I could go for that—I could. Long as they’re not sitting around on clouds playing harps. Don’t care for harp music one bit. Pretty sure it was the Marx Brothers that soured me on that instrument.”

“How so?”

“Well, those Marx Brothers, in every movie they made they’d be running around, being zany as the dickens, and then Harpo—the one who never spoke a lick, the one with the fuzzy blond hair—always honking his horn and chasing some skinny, pretty gal around. Anyway, in the middle of all their high jinks, Harpo would come across some giant harp just conveniently lying around somewhere, and he’d feel obliged to stop all the antics to play some sappy tune that just about put you to sleep. I could never recover. Turned me sour on the harp, he did. I’m more of a horn man, myself. Give me a saxophone or trumpet and I’m happy. And I’m not particularly opposed to a fiddle either. But harps—I say round ’em up and burn ’em all. Melt ’em down and turn them into something practical . . . something that can’t make a sound . . . that’s what I say.”

See, I told you he’d pretty much say anything. I don’t think that Mr. Melzer had many people to listen to him. And just having a bunch of thoughts roaming around in his head wasn’t enough. I think Mr. Melzer chattered a lot so that he wouldn’t lose himself, so he could remember who he was.

“Yeah, well, anyway, I figure I’ll go home when it’s my time,” he continued. “Just hope it can wait for the harvest, seeing as there’s no one else to bring in the corn when it’s time.”

As far back as I could remember, Mr. Melzer used to drag this little red wagon around the neighborhood on August evenings, stacked to the limit with ears of corn. And he’d go door to door and hand out corn to everybody like he was some kind of an agricultural Santa.

“Do you know I used to have fields of corn as far as the eye can see . . . way beyond the rooftops over there?”

I did know this, but I never tired of the enthusiasm with which he told it, so I didn’t stop him. About ten years before, Mr. Melzer had sold off all but a few acres of his farmland to a contractor, resulting in what became my neighborhood.

“I still get a thrill when I shuck that first ear of corn of the harvest, and see that ripe golden row of kernels smiling back at me. Hot, sweet corn, lightly salted with butter dripping down all over it . . . mmm. Nothing better. Don’t nearly have the teeth for it anymore. You eat yours across or up and down?”

“Across.”

“Me too. Only way to eat corn. Tastes better across. When I see somebody munching on an ear like this”—the old man rolled the imaginary ear of corn in front of his imaginary teeth chomping down—“I just want to slap him upside the head.”

I was starting to run very late, and he noticed me fidgeting.

“Oh, yeah, here I am blabbering away, and you got a job to do.”

“I’ll get your paper.” I ran back to my bike lying on the sidewalk.

“So I see nobody’s bought the Jensen place yet,” he yelled out to me.

I grabbed a newspaper that had spilled out of my bag onto the sidewalk, and rushed back to Mr. Melzer. “Not yet. Whoever does, hope they have kids.” I handed the old man the newspaper.

“Listen, I’m sorry I scared you,” he said.

“It’s okay.” I looked over at a pile of unopened newspapers on the porch by the door. “Mind if I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“How come you never read the paper?”

“Oh, don’t know. At some point I guess you grow tired of bad news. Besides, these days all the news I need is right here in the neighborhood.”

“So why do you still order the paper?”

The old man smiled. “Well, the way I see it, if I didn’t order the paper, I’d miss out on these splendid little chats with you, now wouldn’t I?”

I told you you’d like him. I grinned. “I’m glad you’re not dead, Mr. Melzer.”

“Likewise,” he said, shooting a wink my way. When I turned around to walk back to my bike, I heard the rolled up newspaper hit the top of the pile.