Friday, July 19, 2024

Deadly Drafts - CH 10


Harris slammed the accelerator. His Ford Taurus bucked forward, laying a trail of blue smoke. His pulse raced in time with thrash metal on his radio. Guitars shredding scales like cheddar cheese, Harris struggled to keep a steady distance behind Arthur's Subaru. The persistent image of tall, graceful Arthur in an elephant costume kept nudging Harris' Taurus forward. Who holds back a jail-saving alibi? Always the scientist, the more Harris pondered this equation, the more it didn't balance.

Arthur followed his usual path home, his Subaru riding Bakersville's dips and valleys at a lazy cruise. Harris' Taurus, on the other hand, coughed and sputtered like Doc Holliday after a pack of darts. The car sighed burnt plastic, angry over being punished with such unusual exercise.

Each passing second loosened the vise squeezing Harris' heart. One song gave way to the next. Harris drummed along with the radio, fingers thumping the steering wheel, dangling keys substituted for various cymbals. Arthur soft-stopped the next intersection and rolled onto Main. The Overlook Apartment Complex lay a few miles ahead. Arthur would be home and showering in less than five minutes.

Sherlock Holmes' nasal voice echoed in Harris' mind: "Eliminate all possibilities." Harris cranked his Taurus into the automotive flotsam of Main Street, incognito among the stay-at-home SUV moms and Cadillac grannies. Through a gap between minivans, Harris spied Arthur's car, holding steady in the right lane, ready to turn into his apartment complex. Harris let out a long breath and ran a hand through greasy hair. A shower didn't sound so damn bad. If he turned around soon, he might still make it home for The Price is Right.

"Just being paranoid," Harris said to himself. "Too much excitement for one day."

Another song cut out, gave way to an overcaffeinated drivetime DJ. "That was 'Hellfire Mothersucker' by The Pirate Fire on Screaming Eagle 104.7," the radio growled. "What an absolute skull-melting track—awesome. It's so freakin' sweet it makes me feel funny in my pants. Yeaaaa!"

The Overlook's three blocky stories rose to Harris' right. Built in the postwar boom, the building had all the architectural intrigue of a soldier's high and tight. The road stretched wide to accommodate a right turn lane. Arthur's Subaru drifted into the turn lane, the green traffic light beckoning him home.

"Enjoy your shower, Kite" Harris said.

"Let's keep that ball-busting rock coming at you!" The radio voice screamed. "Who wants to go to the Hotel California? It's Henley and company on the Screaming Eagle 104.7."

Harris couldn't scrabble to the radio dial fast enough. Left hand stroking Bertha's wheel (what better name for an ancient Taurus than 'Bertha?'), Harris' right furiously turned the radio dial. Had his full attention been on the road, Harris would have seen the stop light turn yellow, and, as usual, gassed it through the intersection. Instead, Harris only looked up in time to see the red light. Bertha bucked and skidded to a stop in the right turn lane, dial safely tuned to 96.3—80's, 90's, now!

The only problem (admittedly, a Fermat's Last Theorem kind of problem) was Arthur veered from the turn lane and shot through the intersection. Away from his apartment.

"Sonofabitch!" The atmosphere condensed around Harris. He struggled for air, couldn't swallow. Sweat pricked cold needles at his hairline. He wrenched the wheel to wedge back into traffic, but the sweet old woman in the adjacent Caddy welcomed Harris' maneuver with a double bird. No combination of swears and honking could pry him from the turn lane.

Finally, red flipped to green. With Mrs. Bird-Flipper sputtering ahead, Harris merged back onto Main Street. Arthur's car, however, was nowhere in sight. Wherever he was going, it wasn't home.

"I fucking hate the Eagles," Harris muttered.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Deadly Drafts - CH 9


The kitchen door of the Adnan-Burke home pressure washed the grime and hurt and stress of the past twenty-four hours. Kavi entered her home a woman reborn, breath easy, limbs loose. Coffee was just mere moments away. The sight of her husband in the kitchen, likewise, blossomed warmth in her stomach.

James Byrne, having other ideas, greeted his wife's homecoming with the front page of the daily Bakersville Independent.

"Kavia Adnan!" His green eyes shimmered with hurt. "What the hell?" His anger-clenched jaw and messy bedhead stoked Kavi's fires. She looked down from his face, snatched delicious glimpses of his forearms, the tension in his shoulders. She could only imagine shoving James to the kitchen floor and ripping the shirt from his chest. Despite the 1970’s kitsch of linoleum, wood-paneling and Formica, Kavi's return gave the Adnan-Byrne kitchen the perfumed air of a honeymoon suite.

"Are you grinning?" James smacked the picture splashed across the front of the paper, showing his wife and two rando dudes in cuffs. "What is this?"

"Uh," Kavi took a breath, glad for the tangy air which no amount of bleach could scrub from her kitchen. She begged for a moment of focus but could only imagine the shirt pulled up from James's torso, his fingers desperate across her back. "It's been a fucking day and you're a sight for sore eyes. What was the question again?"

"I've been worried sick that my wife was being shanked in prison! I had to call off my 9 a.m. Shakespeare seminar to take the girls to school, and to top it all off, I have to find out from the newspaper that you're in some sort of writing group on Tuesday nights? You told me you update library servers!"

"Wait." A light filled Kavi's chest, threatening to over-inflate her ribcage, pop her like a water balloon of pure happiness. The pressure boiled off in an easy laugh. "You're angry about my writing group? You realize I was arrested, right?"

"Kavi." James folded arms across his chest. God damn...that chest. "How long have we been married?"

"Fourteen years."

"It was a rhetorical question, hun. We both know you wouldn't harm a fly."

Kavi pressed her body to James', took his face in her hands. Just to feel his skin, the warmth of his breath. She breathed deep his ineffable smell, smoke and salt and sweet at the same time.

"My god, I love you." Before he could retort, Kavi placed her lips to his, at first gentle, then firm to match the intensity of her emotion. James wrapped his arms around her, safe and sturdy, fingers tickling trails of goosebumps down her shoulders. She pushed James slightly, stared into his eyes. For a two-job household, especially one with overachieving teenage daughters, their schedules jammed tight with ballet and SAT prep and driver’s school, ‘two-parent, no kid’ time was literally fucking gold.

"Okay. I know we have a lot to talk about, but." Kavi’s eyes darted behind them to the darkened hallway, to the open bedroom door. "You know…the kids are at school…"

James kissed the hollow of Kavi's neck. "Because you were arrested and I had to call off work."

Kavi scraped her fingers up James' back, pulling desperately at the hem of his shirt. "Details, details."

"We're not done talking about this." James hefted Kavi into his arms, hands under her bottom. She wrapped her legs around him, desperate for the taste of his skin. Intertwined, they moved toward the bedroom but only made it to the living room sofa.

"I'm still upset you lied to me."

"Upset?" Kavi wiggled to get out of her pants. "Mmm. Use that."

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Book Bites: The Ends of the World

The Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past ApocalypsesThe Ends of the World: Supervolcanoes, Lethal Oceans, and the Search for Past Apocalypses by Peter Brannen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It takes skill to write a hopeful, entertaining book chronicling Earth’s extinction events. Even with a glut of specific geological jargon--Devonian, Orodivician, Cambrian--not to mention various fossils, the language never feels heavy. Brannen manages to convey the thesis of each extinction level event in simple yet engaging terms, putting each in perspective to our current warming planet. While one would expect talk of warming planets and extinction to be a massive downer, The Ends of the World keeps to the science and steers clear of doomsaying and despair. It’s a fascinating book, a kind of user guide to planet Earth, that leaves its reader, funny enough, on a hopeful note.

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