Monday Mayhem – A Veteran’s Day short story

Veteran’s Day

Today, many offices are closed in observance of Veteran’s Day, so I thought I’d provide those lucky folks who get the day off a little reading material. Here’s a short story called SNAPSHOT that was published in the first episode of Fictionvale magazine.

Snapshot

I never told anyone I was the girl in the picture. There wasn’t any point. The kiss didn’t mean anything at all. He was just a fella cast adrift in the big city at a time when everyone wanted to hold their loved ones close. I was just the girl who was close at hand.

And I happened to be married at the time.

At least, I believed I was.

Sixteen months had passed since Joe ejected from his plane somewhere over France, and I had no idea if I’d ever get to kiss the man I loved again. The end of the war meant there was still a chance he’d come home to me. I hadn’t given up hope, but I had given up kissing for the duration.

Until that day.

I never forgot that stranger’s kiss. How could I? It was near perfection. The only thing that could have made it better was if the guy had turned out to be Joe. Either way, the man had some chops. I can still feel the scrape of five o’clock shadow against my chin and cheek and taste the whiskey on his lips. But it wasn’t sexual or even romantic. That brief, hard press of his mouth to mine was nothing more than a punctuation mark on a war that had seemed like it might turn into a life sentence. A potent cocktail of relief, jubilation, and frustration served up by a pair of warm, soft lips.

It was just what I needed to remind me that I was still alive.

That brave, crazy, possibly drunk man gave me a taste of light in the days when the darkness felt so thick and heavy I thought it might smother me. I was grateful for it at the time. I didn’t know that kiss had the power to change my life forever if I let it.

To be truthful, I didn’t appreciate the notoriety. Unlike these kids today with their computer videos and their need to expose themselves and their dirty laundry on television shows, I had no desire to have fifteen minutes of fame. I only wanted my husband back. The photograph caused a hubbub when it was first published, but most of us didn’t give it another thought. We had bigger worries. I saw it and knew right away it was me, but I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I remember one of my fellow nurses going on and on about how romantic it was, and how she wanted to be kissed like that. I also remember feeling a little smug that I could say I’d been kissed like that, but I didn’t say it out loud. It seemed silly to gloat over a kiss. And there were more important things to do than moon over a foolish picture.

It wasn’t until years later that people started calling it “iconic.” I’ve always thought it was embarrassing. After all, I was a married woman, and there I was kissing some strange man in the middle of the street. As good as that smooch was, my mother would have said it was unseemly, and she’d have been right. I’d only kissed one other man before that day, and God willing, I’d kiss the same one again.

Like most people at that time, I lived in fear of the Western Union delivery boy. Thank goodness my neighbor, Jackie, was nearby the day the telegram telling me Joe was missing arrived. I’ll never forget her hugging me tight and telling me the only thing missingand killedhad in common was a single I. I clung to that shoestring of hope long after the Western Union boy pedaled away.

Later, I told Joe that semantics kept me sane. Semantics and pure, blind pigheadedness. I was not about to accept anything less than the life I’d planned to have, and I’d vowed to spend my life with him. Until someone told me that wasn’t possible, I was sticking by my word. Joe used to tease me about my stubborn streak, but I liked to tell him it was my stubborn streak that brought him home.

And it did.

Sort of.

I sent a six-foot-two-inch Colgate football player off to war, but the man who returned to me was barely more than a shadow turned sideways. I told myself it didn’t matter. Joe was home. He was safe. He’d gain the weight back. The toes he’d lost to frostbite were a small price to pay. He would heal. Eventually. But being on American soil wasn’t anything like coming home.

The world had changed. I was very different from the naive young bride he’d left shivering on the railway platform. I’d swapped apartments with another nurse because her husband came home and she needed more room, while I, on the other hand, had far too much space for my own good. I’d lost weight while he was gone, though it wasn’t nearly as extreme as Joe’s loss of bulk. Still, by the time he made it home, the letterman’s sweater he’d left behind had patches where my elbows wore holes through the wool. But those things were easy to fix. The hard part was healing the wounds no amount of home cooking could soothe. Joe had seen and done things that left scars that ran far deeper than the marks on his skin, and I hadn’t the faintest idea how to piece our lives back together.

I fed him and coddled him, using every bit of my famous stubbornness to hold on tight until he began to rebound in both body and mind. Like many women of my generation, I set aside my own ambitions and willingly handed the reins of our life back over to him. Day in and day out, I plumped his battered ego and massaged away his fears and worries. And I can honestly tell you I never gave that picture or the man in it a second thought.

Little by little, bit by bit, my Joe came back to me, complete with the slow, shy smile that made my heart turn somersaults. There’s no way to describe the pride and joy I felt when I watched him emerge from the shadow of death and stride right back into life like the conquering hero he was. There was also no way I’d risk shattering his fragile confidence. Not when we’d both worked so hard to rebuild it.

How could I tell my proud, quiet man that the woman he loved had made a fool of him on a national stage?

We were at a cocktail party the first time someone said I looked like the woman in the magazine. I remember feeling blindsided. My life was so different from the way things had been that day in Times Square it was hard for me to put two and two together. I remember I wore my hair up for the party even though Joe liked it down. I was nervous and anxious about making a good impression on his colleagues. My dress happened to be white. The man who’d made the observation let his eyes linger a too long on my hemline. I felt my husband stiffen beside me.

I laughed it off, telling the small knot of Joe’s curious coworkers that the guy I liked to kiss was a soldier and not a sailor. To my relief, Joe laughed too. Pride and admiration shone bright in his dark eyes as he slipped his arm around my waist and gave me a gentle squeeze.

He could never know. I’d make sure of it.

If you haven’t figured me out yet, I’ll clue you in on a secret—I’m a woman who always gets what she wants. I never said a word about the picture. In all honesty, I rarely ever thought about it. I didn’t have time. A year after his return, I was pregnant with our first child and feeling miserable twenty-three hours out of the day. Joe had landed a job with a life insurance company and was working his way up the ladder. We’d moved out to the suburbs.

Despite the rocky start, we had a very good life. Our three boys ran wild on a street where it was safe for them to ride their bicycles and play catch. I’m happy to say they grew into men as honorable and true as their father, even if my youngest did turn out to be a bit of a hippie. Joe mowed the lawn on Saturday mornings and took the trash to the curb on Tuesday evenings. I finally learned to cook something other than pot roast, and I volunteered two days a week at the Veterans’ Administration hospital. It was a perfectly ordinary, terribly predictable existence, which was just fine by us.

Every few years, some yahoos with a little grant money and too much time on their hands start waving that silly picture around and spouting cockamamy theories as to the identities of the kisser and the kissee. They make the talk show circuit, and a  passel of old guys and gals crawl out of the woodwork claiming they might be the ones the photographer captured in that clinch. I have no idea if one of the fellas might actually be the one who kissed me. I never wasted much time thinking about it. In truth, I couldn’t care less.

Joe and I shared thirty-seven more years before cancer took him from me far too soon. Day after day, I held his hand in mine as that horrid disease waged war on his body, but each time he opened his eyes, he somehow found the strength to give me a smile.

The night he died, I sat in that darkened hospital room with his gnarled fingers snug between mine. The whir and beep of machines measured our last moments together. His breaths grew impossibly shallow while my heart beat strong and relentless. His foot moved beneath the thin sheet. He turned his head and spoke his last request of me, tender and sweet.

“Kiss me.”

So I did. Desperate to mingle his last breaths with mine, I kissed the man I loved. Fat, hot tears streaked down my cheeks. They wet our lips and blessed his departure. The second I drew back, he slipped away from me, taking my heart with him.

That was the kiss that told the story of how the war was won. A simple brush of his lips against mine. A caress packed with the kind of innate goodness that can be never be thwarted by power-hungry madmen or even cancer.

If you ask me, that was the kiss that counted.

I just wish there’d been a photographer around to capture it.

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Monday Mayhem – Slowing My Scroll

We have rolled into September. How did that happen? With the change of the calendar page, I decided to make a change of my own. I am slowing my scroll.

What does that mean? It means I have removed all my social media apps from my phone.

Gasp!

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Like many people, I’ve been thinking about breaking the social media habit for a while now. Facebook is great for keeping up with family and old friends, but the recent political climate has tainted the fun as far as I am concerned.

And Twitter… Oh, I have such a love/hate relationship with Twitter. I used to love it. There are some things I love still.

Every Sunday night, a bunch of romance writers have a weekly chat on a variety of topics. It’s been an excellent place to get to know other authors, and for us to share a little of the angst that comes with being a writer. And trust me, there’s a lot of angst.

But along with all that good stuff comes a sort of gang mentality. Twitter is very us against them. And the pile-on… It can get ugly.

True, social media has given each of us a platform. We can share our every thought, opinion, or memorable meal. But should we?

I agree, some of it is good and fun. However, I find much of it draining.  For that reason, I’ve been finding ways to limit my time using it.

Ironically, I learned about Scroll Free September from an article my niece shared. Still, I X’ing out of all those apps.

I’m mostly over my fear of missing out. Probably because I’m pretty sure I won’t be missing much that would do me any good. At least, nothing I need to know about while standing in line at Walgreen’s.

I can always take a look when I’m on the computer.

It’s a holiday!

So, happy Labor Day, my friends.

I hope this day of rest is the perfect reward for all of your hard work.

Put your phone down.

Go out and play.

If you need me, you can reach me the old fashioned way…maggiewells1@gmail.com

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Monday Mayhem – A Grateful Nation

A grateful nation

Today, a grateful nation remembers all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in order to defend and protect our country. I think we can all agree that there are many, many things wrong with they way things are in our country, but there are also many, many things that are right about being an American.

Today, I will honor those men and women by focusing on the things I love about America. We can all go back to arguing about what’s wrong tomorrow.

America – Hell yeah! or 10 Things Maggie is grateful for:

1) Hot dogs. I love them. I particularly love them charred on the grill with charred buns. If I had to request one last meal, I would ask for two all-beef hot dogs burnt to a crisp and served on over-toasted buns, Lays BBQ potato chips, a Diet Coke, and some Toll House cookies. Proving that I am the most American of American girls.

2) Opinions. I’ve got ’em, you’ve got ’em, and we’ve got the right to air them. The good, the bad, and the Potter-inspired.

Protest

3) S’mores. Need I say s’more?

s'more

4) Ice. We have it, we love it, we have opinions on the subject (see #2). This is a picture of pellet ice, aka ‘the good ice’. We have all the good ice anyone could want, and we aren’t afraid to use it.

the good ice

5) We smile a lot. I’m told other cultures find Americans a tad too friendly. I find this is a flaw I can live with.

6) The Chicago Cubs. Okay, maybe not all Americans love the Cubs, but the really friendly ones with the good ice and charred hot dogs do. Just my opinion.

Cubs Win - Fans holding W signs

7) Optimism. Say what you want about all that’s wrong, but we still believe everything can be fixed. One day, we may even agree on how. That’s how optimistic I am.

8) The freedom to be/do anything you want to be or do. Even if it makes no damn sense. People forget this is not an option in many parts of the world. Go. Be. Do. It’s never too late. Hey, look at this – I’m an author! And I didn’t write my first book until after the age of 40.

maggie wells author

9) The pursuit of happiness. Americans excel at this one. Sometimes, it may be viewed as self-indulgent, but I think chasing happiness is a good thing. It leads us to doing things that can be good for us, like yoga, meditation, journaling, or petting plastic flamingos whilst drinking ice-cold American beer.

high life

10) Americans. Those everyday people who show their teeth and believe they hold the winning lottery ticket. The ones toasting marshmallows with their grandkids, or sassing the color commentators when the game isn’t going their team’s way.  Those hot dog loving, ice chomping, obnoxiously opinionated, optimists who believe the American dream is not dead.

A grateful nation thanks you.

For making it possible for us to enjoy these simple things. We promise to keep tackling the tough ones. Rest in peace.

 

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Monday Mayhem – The High Life

Happy Labo(u)r Day, you working stiffs (I added the U for the Canadians)! I have spent most of my long weekend not laboring, and I have to tell you, I’m pretty good at it.

Fodder and I ran away to Hot Springs for a night. This is the closest you will ever see me come to touching an actual bird. As always, the can Miller High Life is a homage to my grandmother, for whom I am named.

I’ve been thinking about my grandma a lot this weekend. She’s been gone since I was in college, but occasionally, flashes of memory pop up. This weekend, I found myself thinking about her hands.

My grandparents were already in their seventies when I was born, so in my mind, Grandma’s hands were already a map of blue veins under paper-thin skin. Her knuckles were swollen with arthritis, and she always wore a dark blue star sapphire ring that spun on her pinkie finger.

When you walked into their living room, there was a good chance you’d find Lawrence Welk on the TV, a can of Miller High Life (the champagne of beers) on the side table, and an embroidery hoop on her lap.

This was Margaret Carbery, in her natural habitat.

My grandmother had both cataracts and glaucoma. The bit in Sixteen Candles where Molly Ringwald’s character complains about being felt up by her grandmother?

Yeah…All the time. Our conversations usually started like this:

“Margaret Mary? Is that you?” *grope-grope-grope* “Well, it’s not Jimmy, Grandma.”

By the end of her life, she had little vision left, but more often then not, you would still find her sitting in her chair under the light with the tiffany-esque shade, embroidering pillowcases. She gave them to people as gifts. In our house, they weren’t kept as heirlooms. We used them every day. I don’t think I rested my head on a pillow that wasn’t enrobed in a case hand-stiched by my grandmother until I was in my twenties. I have a couple of sets stashed away:

 

I don’t have many pictures of my grandmother. Even fewer have been scanned into the computer, but she is still fresh in my mind. If you need a visual, here’s a photo of her (the lady in white with the big old star sapphire on her pinkie) dancing a hula with Don Ho at the Polynesian Palace:

That’s what we Margarets do. We live the high life.

Rest well today, my friends, for tomorrow we are back to laboring!

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Monday Mayhem – First Christmas

I confess, I am writing this post way early. You see, this past weekend was my first Christmas of the season. As I type this, I’m plotting and planning for the 9 hour ride to see my family. Chaos will ensue on Saturday, then we drive back Sunday. I figure I probably won’t have the energy to post when I get home, so here I am, writing like it’s Monday on a Thursday night.

How’s your December going?

Mine has been incredibly busy. Major changes at the day job this month and next month will keep me hopping. I’m also doing the behind the scenes stuff for the Play Dates series starting next fall, and one day hope to actually finish the book I started writing in November.

Oh! And I re-released Long Distance Love! Look at this gorgeous cover. If you haven’t read Jack and Ellie’s story, you need to. Grab your copy today!

Amazon ~ Apple~ B&N ~ Smashwords

Other bright spots this week included some quality time with a dog and her chicken:

And my friend, Kendra, gave me a Tribble!

Okay, it’s just one of those puffy keychains, but I like to think it’s a Tribble. What’s bright and shiny in your world this week?

 

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Monday Mayhem – Eeep! It’s December!

Yeah, so super fast post because it has been a super crazy week and I am super tired. I’ve been keeping up with my #31brightspots, though I admit some days have been a little darker than others. Here are a few highlights:

Long, frustrating day at work, but I came home to this

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Tacos make everything a little better.

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Truth.

Lolled in my warm bed with a hot book on this cold morning. Now, lunch with my girls.

Best way to spend a Saturday morning, in my opinion.

And the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon is with my Diamond State Romance Author pals. Here’s a picture of me and Brinda Berry. I may or may not have been squeezing her knee under the table. A lady never tells.

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And Sunday was spent preparing for Christmas. The house is decorated outside and in. Any my little angel helped his doting granddad put his Great-grandma Willene’s angel atop the tree.

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As I type this, we’re just home from attending a living Christmas tree concert and ready to collapse. That was my jam-packed week. What happened in yours?

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Monday Mayhem – Affairs of the Heart

unnamed

Like contemporary romance? I’m participating in the Affairs of the Heart Valentine’s giveaway February 8 – 15th, and we’ll be giving away tons of awesome books and a Kindle! This includes my book, GOING DEEP!

Enter today and tell all of your romance loving things!

It was migraine week in Magsland, which means very little got done. I did, however, finish Chapter Seven of RANSOMED HEART. That puts me at the 1/3 point. I’ve discovered a lot about my characters that I didn’t know before. That means, I’ll be spending a good chunk of this week tearing apart what I have, tightening the story arc, and exploring some of that uncharted territory.

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I’ll also be ordering a big tin of Garrett’s Mix for my beloved. How about you? Making big plans for hearts and flowers day?

 

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Monday Mayhem – The last of 2015

I know I said I’d post my 2015 happiness list this week, but I forgot I’d be doing the holiday travel thing and I might end up with more good things to add to the jar, so I think I’ll save that for the first post of 2016.

I’m hoping your holidays have been fabulous so far, and I wish you nothing but health and happiness in the new year!

2015 has been the most fantastic roller coaster ride. Here are a few random photos I’ve posted through the year. Thank you so much for coming along with me!

xoxo

Mags

KaysonChipssign2 GG and Colin bar Rush1shoulders IMG_0980 IMG_1026 BeBe (2) sara pbpie IMG_1283 - Copy Me & Tim FullSizeRender(1) xmas1 DSRA2015 IMG_1440

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Monday Mayhem – Welcome to the world

It’s that time of year again…those crazy few weeks when ‘I have revisions’, ‘this book is going to galley’, and ‘I need to write this proposal’ are not counted as valid excuses for avoiding the world and all around me.

I do have revisions to do, and a book going to galley, and the first few pages of a proposal started, but those things count for nothing when this needs to be done:

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xmas1

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I also need to attend to some shopping and baking. Somewhere out there, some poor, unsuspecting Christmas tree is out there just waiting to be dragged home and dressed up in a decades-old collection of mismatched ornaments.

The revisions, galley, and proposal will have to take a backseat for a few weeks. The holidays are upon us, and I have a candy apple red KitchenAid that needs to be christened.

mixie

To all my friends who celebrate Hanukkah, I wish you the happiest of holidays.

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The rest of you…well, on your marks, get set, GO!

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Monday Mayhem – NoMoWriMo!

Well, this is it. The last day of NaNoWriMo for 2015. I’m happy to announce that I verified my word count yesterday and have completed my seventh challenge!

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

Also, in the course of NaNoing, I FINALLY typed ‘The End’ on the first draft of LOVE AND ROCKETS!

the end

Every year, I tell myself I won’t do it again. Who needs the worry? The stress? The sore wrists and fingers? Then, every year, I sign in, sign up, and get going again. Unlike the first time I did it, I know now that what I have at the end of NaNoWriMo is far from being ready to go out into the world. Thirty days and nights of literary abandon is great for writing, but doesn’t make for good reading.

Trust me on this.

For this reason, I have deemed December has become EditThisCrapMo. There are three stages to this process.

1) Distance. I can’t look at this book anymore. I can’t think about it. I just need to put it out of my mind and play with some other idea for a while. Believe me, it’s for the best that these characters and I go to our separate corners for a while.

2) Clarity. There are two parts to this one. The first part is acknowledging that a good portion of what I churned out in November is crap. But, even better, is coming to the realization that the majority of it is not-quite-crap. Crap gets cut, but I can work with not quite crap.

3) Reading like a reader. I think this is the most important step for any author. I read through the entire steaming pile before I make any drastic decisions. What might look like a dangling plot line at first glance, might be transformed into an additional layer of conflict, or a set up for future series installments. Reading like a reader means I have to look at the hot mess of a novel a whole before I tear it to shreds.

This is what I’ll be doing this month.

And shopping. Picking out a tree, decorating, and going to holiday parties. I’m also hoping to catch a few of my holiday favorites, now that I’m not in full-on writing frenzy. I always look for Holiday Inn, Going My Way, and the original Miracle on 34th Street when I’m cruising the listings.

Oh! The Grinch. Boris Karloff, not Jim Carrey. And, I love the one with Heat Miser and Snow Miser. Of course, it’s not Christmas until Lucy and I extort a few nickels from the mister.

lucy

Oh, and the baking! My 17 year-old stand mixer is moaning and groaning. The knobs have all cracked and been super glued. The plastic coating on my flat beater is worn through. I think I need this sexy beast as an early Christmas gift, don’t you?

KitchenAid_Artisan_Candy_Apple_Red_Stand_Mixer-sixhundred

Looking for a quick and easy recipe for the office party? Try these Magic Cookie Bars. Even my coconut-hating hubby eats these tasty tidbits.

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What’s your plan of attack for the holiday season? Got any yummy recipes you want to share?

 

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