Before I was published, I wrote one super-short extemporaneous story every week, based on a word or phrase chosen at random. Each was written quickly, with minimal revisions, to force myself to stop self-editing and just write (probably something I should start doing again).
I thought I’d share a couple of the stories that have a hint of intrigue. Enjoy!
The agent in the crisp gray suit slapped a picture onto the hood of Dustin’s truck. A bloody body lay in a tangle in the dirt, partially covered by a blanket. “This was Arnaldo Jimenez. He was 15.”
Dustin tore his eyes from the photograph and pressed on his stomach. Oh, God, he was going to throw up on the man’s shiny black shoes. Saliva filled his mouth and he covered his lips with his palm. The hot, dry air swirled around him as he took a deep breath and waited for his gut to unclench.
After he graduated he was going to move somewhere cool and humid and never come back to the desert again. Assuming he didn’t get thrown in jail.
“I didn’t know,” Dustin finally whispered, feeling lame. He should have known where the gun would go, or at least suspected it. If a kid asks you to buy beer, he’s under age. If a man asks you to buy a gun for him, he’s a criminal.
But it hadn’t been a man. It had been the hot girl from his Physics lecture.
Dustin rubbed his eyes. He would not cry. “She told me she wouldn’t pass the background check because she’d been arrested for possession of meth. Supposedly it was her brother’s, but it was found in her car. She wouldn’t flip on him, so she took the rap.”
Agent Fernandez held out another photo. “Is this her?”
Dustin’s heart sank and he nodded. Silky brown hair and lean curves mocked him. Every guy in class wanted her. He’d thought he had a chance. Fool. “She said it was for protection. That there had been some break-ins in her neighborhood.”
“Victoria Arenas-Thomas.” Fernandez shook his head. “She’s got a lot more than meth possession on her record. If it makes you feel any better, you’re not the first schmuck she’s suckered.”
Oh, right. Dustin felt so much better now. His stomach heaved and he doubled over, but he managed not to puke. His sneakers mocked him as images of the dead boy overlay the cracked asphalt of the student parking lot.
That’s when the anger kicked in. The bitch had used him and now a boy was dead at the hands of the cartel thugs that held Sonora and the rest of Mexico hostage. He couldn’t change the outcome, but he could try to prevent it from happening again.
He took a deep breath and stood to face the agent. “What can I do to help?”
Fernandez stared at him for a beat. “How are your acting skills, kid?”
Dustin thought back to his starring role in Central High’s production of Death by Chocolate. “A lot better than my taste in women.”
The agent’s lip twitched. “All right then. Give me a minute.” He pulled out a phone and walked a few steps away.
The hot sun beat on Dustin’s neck and he wiped his brow as students streamed into the parking lot from the nearby engineering building. Until three minutes ago, he’d been as innocent and naive as they were. The moron his dad always said he was.
But, maybe, just maybe, he’d do something right for a change.
Mike rushed home from work, eating his drive-thru burger and fries in the car, napkin tucked in his collar to protect his tie and crisp white shirt. In his rush to get out of the house this morning, he’d left his briefcase in the hall. With the Harlowe presentation in it.
He swerved into his driveway and hit the brakes in surprise. Why was Karen’s car there? Had she forgotten something too? She’d already been long gone when he woke up.
Suspicion stirred at the back of his mind. Just enough that he closed the car door quietly, and entered the house through the side door into the kitchen. He swung the door shut, careful not to make a sound. For a full minute, he stood in silence, listening.
From the back of the house—the master bedroom—he heard muffled noises. His heart rate kicked up a notch and he squeezed his hands into fists. He marched down the hall. If she was… He couldn’t even think about it, but he’d have to kill her.
With a deep breath, he flung open the bedroom door.
Karen scrambled away from the man lying naked beneath her. “Mike!” She hid behind a sheet, her face white with shock and fear.
Mike slumped back against the wall, his pulse pounding in his head. Thank God. She hadn’t found the safe.
His secret was still secure.
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Originally posted on DIANA BELCHASE:
Wouldn’t it be great if we could do away with dating and failed relationships merely by doing a DNA cheek swab? It sounds simple and pain free, doesn’t it? In our cells lurk genetic markers that just might indicate who is an ideal spouse and who is an utter cad.
My guest today, Peter Schattner, is an award-winning scientist, educator and writer with 30 years experience in molecular biology, genetics, biomedical instrumentation and physics. He is the author of numerous research articles, scientific reviews and a textbook. Sex, Love and DNA is his first book for nonscientists. In his post below, Peter will explain a bit about research being done in this field and whether single people everywhere need to run out to take a DNA test.
Peter Schattner: How much would you pay to discover find out your partner’s genetic predisposition to kindness or to marital fidelity?
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The year is only two months old and already I found myself in Books-A-Million making an impulse purchase. London journalist Paula Hawkins’s 2015 debut blockbuster and New York Times #1 bestseller THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN grabbed me from the moment I stepped up to the display of current bestsellers vying for attention.
Maybe it was the arresting cover (designed by Gretchen Achilles) that had me pulling the book off the shelf to get a closer look even though I have nine books on my must-read-before-I-buy-anything-else list. Or the cover quote by Tess Gerritsen: “So thrilling and tense and wildly unpredictable.” Wow!
Or maybe it was the title. The Girl on the Train. For a whole year back in my mid-twenties, I was a girl on a train, commuting from my home in Connecticut to my job in New York City. Paula Hawkins stated in an NPR interview that the idea for the book came from her own experience commuting by train to London during her college years.
Or maybe it was the book description inside the jacket.
THERE SHE SITS, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. WHAT SHE SEES, GAZING OUT THE WINDOW, WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING.
Pretty intriguing, right? I’m sure you can understand why I had my wallet out in a flash to buy the book. I hurried home and immersed myself in the dark, twisty tale that unfolds in a series of mornings and evenings that coincide with the rhythm of the train commuter during that stretch of time when she is the outsider, the daytripper, the person watching the action like a theater-goer at a live performance.
The unreliable narrator of the novel is nobody’s Valentine. Alone, divorced, and unemployed, Rachel spends her days commuting to London to pass the time. On the train, she cracks open a can (or two) of gin and tonic and spins stories about a young couple who live in a house along the tracks. She imagines their perfect, golden life, a fairy tale of love and devotion that comforts her. Until she discovers that the young wife has disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Did Rachel see something from the train that will help the police solve the case? Or is she an unreliable witness who will cause more harm than good? You won’t stop turning the pages until you find out.
Fun fact: The Girl on the Train is not the author’s only book. Paula Hawkins previously published three chick lit books under the pseudonym Amy Silver. So if you are looking for a happier read for Valentines Day, you might be able to get your hands on one of her paperback titles: Confessions of a Reluctant Recessionista, All I Want for Christmas, and One Minute to Midnight.
What was the last impulse buy you made at the bookstore?
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The Kennedy Connection–Maureen
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