It’s here! It’s available! It sees the light of day!
My mystery book _Forever 11:59_ is in print!
Here is the prologue:
The price of gasoline at the Shell station was $3.38 per gallon.
That’s as good as it’s going to get, I figured, and I signaled for a right hand turn into the filling station. My Chevy truck turned to the right, just as I wanted it to, and my twenty-two foot home on wheels followed it. I pulled up in front of one of the two gas pumps and cut the engine. Before I could even reach for the door handle, a voice said through my open window, “Fill her up, ma’am?”
The ‘ma’am’ didn’t sit too well with me. I’m twenty-nine years old, which is not old enough to be ma’amed!
“Yeah, thanks,” I told the young attendant. He didn’t look like he was nineteen years old, soaking wet. “Both tanks.”
“Sure, thang, ma’am,” he said, “right away.”
I sighed at the second ma’am, but he had already turned his back to me.
I got out of the truck to stretch my legs. I had spent the night in Missouri, and I left in the small hours before dawn. It had been a long drive. Thank goodness for coffee and thermoses.
So, this is Autumn, Kansas, population 950, I thought. Oh, I’d heard about the place. I’d listened to Dad’s stories about his family as he was growing up. He didn’t actually grow up here, but my late grandfather did. There wasn’t much to look at, but maybe there was more to the town somewhere else. From where I was standing I could see a tiny post office, a small grocery store, and a sign on a storefront that read Jakes. It gave no clue as to the type of business. I saw one beauty shop. Then there was the Shell station, which I could see had a series of shelves for movie rentals. There was a small brick building. I squinted hard at the small sign. It read ‘City Hall’. There looked to be some empty storefronts along the street. That was it. There were no more stores in sight. There were no more businesses in sight. And there was no traffic in sight. Here, you didn’t need to look both ways before crossing the street, because you could hear any vehicle moving from four blocks in either direction.
“Arkansas plates, huh?”
I turned at the sound of the young attendant’s voice.
“You new around here?” he asked.
“What brings you to Autumn, ma’am?”
I stifled the urge to box his ears and start shouting epithets about my age. “I’m here visiting relatives,” I said, false sweetness dripping from my voice. I looked him straight in the eyes. Then I gave him a whisper of a little smile. This is what we women call mild flirtation.
“Harummph,” cough, cough, cough. “Uh,….pretty nice weather we’re having…for April…aren’t we?” His blush started at the vee of his shirt and slowly rose. My eyes held his eyes.
When his blush was about up to his eyebrows, I let him off the hook. “Gorgeous, just gorgeous,” I said.
He nodded and looked away.
I continued my survey of the town, at least the part I could see. I’d see the other half later.
Standing on tiptoe, I looked down the street for Aunt Edna’s house, but I couldn’t see it. I knew it was on Main Street, and was therefore blocked from view by the other buildings.
I was in Autumn for Aunt Edna’s eightieth birthday celebration. She’d invited me back in January. This was April, and I wasn’t about to miss it. She said she was inviting every relative that she had, and I’m sure most of the town would show up, too.
“Uh, harumpph, uh, ma’am?”
Not again, I thought.
“That…that’ll be $94.64.”
Mentally I shook my head. Oh, Carter, give him another chance, I thought to myself.
Slowly I reached down to the front pocket of my jeans. Slowly I pulled my hand out, as I did, I lifted my chest. I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head. Strike one, I thought.
Slowly, I peeled off five twenties. Then I got in the truck and slammed the door. I stuck my left hand out the window and tucked the twenties in his shirt pocket, then I pulled the flap of his pocket down and patted it flat.
He stared at me and his jaw fell open. Strike two, I thought. Then with my index finger, I gently raised his jaw and put my finger to his lips.
“Uh—hm, uh, ma’am?” he stammered.
“Strike three,” I said.
I cranked the truck and put it in gear. I pulled out and he hollered something. I chuckled. At least he had the grace to stop after ‘thank you’.