Author Archives: Jennifer Reed/ bookjunkiez

About Jennifer Reed/ bookjunkiez

My Niece and Nephew joke that I could open a used book store with all the books that I own. I love to read, that is my addiction. I can't go a week without going to a book store. I love watching CASTLE. I love to write stories and poetry. I also love my family, even though they make me crazy at times. I am a huge Donald Duck Fan.

Monet & Oscar Teaser Tuesday

 

Monet & Oscar cover

 

Historical Fiction

 

Date Published: March 11, 2021

Publisher: Giverny Books

A young WWI veteran searches for his French Impressionist father through encounters with Claude Monet and some of that movement’s key figures.

 

 

Excerpt

Oscar Bonhomme’s palms sweated as he crept from the warm kitchen filled with the spice-laden aroma of frying sausage mixed with the smell of aromatic, dark coffee into Monet’s yellow dining room.

He’d used what little money he had to purchase new work clothes for his first day on the job. He twisted his still-stiff brown woolen cap between his sweating fingers as he glanced at his reflection in the picture glass to see if his pale skin betrayed his months in the military hospital. Did his slight frame and frail stature look well enough for rigorous gardening work? No one would believe he was once tanned, muscular, and robust. Did his prematurely greying hair and the red circles around his eyes reveal the trials he had endured at the front? Although thirty-four, he felt and looked much older.

Oscar summoned his courage pulled from somewhere deep inside himself as he had done when climbing out of the trenches and facing the enemy. “Bonjour, Monsieur Monet.”

No movement. The newspaper Monet held did not lower. The first salvo had fallen short.

He fired off another. “Bonjour, Monsieur Monet.”

Still no response. Second salvo, off-target.

Perhaps Monet was hard of hearing. Oscar added more powder and fired the third shot as he shouted, “Bonjour, Monsieur Monet.”

The paper lowered to reveal piercing black eyes and a long white beard stained yellow with nicotine. Monet resembled the newspaper photos Oscar had seen of him—short, stocky, and with an intense gaze that seemed to miss nothing around him. His hands with translucent skin and heavily veined looked muscular and tanned, as befitted a painter who worked mostly outdoors.

Monet stared at Oscar as if trying to remember who was this invader of his dining room and disturber of his early morning coffee. He wore an English herringbone wool suit buttoned at the neck, with just an inch of white ruffled shirt cuffs showing at the sleeves.

At last, he spoke. “Who are you?”

He sounded irritated.

Oscar drew in his breath and squared his shoulders to make himself look the part before responding with, “I’m your new gardener, Monsieur.”

Monet frowned. “I don’t remember you. Who hired you? Why should I hire a gardener in the middle of the winter?”

Oscar stammered as he gathered enough breath to reply. “You… You did, Monsieur. Yesterday. At least, that’s what I was told.”

He gripped his newspaper tighter, shook his head, and frowned. “So, what are you doing in here? This isn’t the garden.”

Madame Blanche asked me to meet you here before dawn to carry your paintings for you.”

Humph!”

And with that, Monet raised the paper again, which left Oscar standing in the doorway, not knowing whether to stay or go.

Oscar stood twisting and untwisting his cap and wondering. Will he dismiss me, fall asleep, or will we start our day together? Could this cranky old man be his father? Probably not. But he might know him.

Since it was his first day on this new job, he remained to see what would happen next.

After one, two, three, four, five minutes with no response, he looked around the room. Yellow was the theme color. Even the chairs and light fixtures were Provence yellow, as his mother called it. Monet seemed obsessed with the color yellow and eating by the looks of the dining room with its multiple sets of dishes and an abundance of silverware.

The odd prints that hung on the walls disturbed him. They were most unusual and not yellow. He saw dozens of them depicting an assortment of Japanese people in native costumes through scenes of Japan. They reminded him of photos his Japanese friends in San Francisco had shown him. The prints featured plants and animals that he didn’t recognize.

Oscar scratched his head and thought, why would one of the world’s most famous Impressionist painters have these Japanese prints on his walls instead of his art or that of his colleagues?

Lying in the hospital, he had dreamed of what he would do when he was released. He never imagined he would work in one of the most famous gardens in France. This job was the start of his new life; he was excited and frightened to be here.

Curiosity was getting the better of him as he walked around the long table, examining the prints. Each one seemed more colorful and stranger than the one before, and someone had labeled every one with the artist’s name. He made a note to ask Monsieur Monet about the prints. They must have been significant to him if they were hanging in his dining room. Undoubtedly, he would have dictated the decoration of this space, the essential room for entertaining.

Finally, Monet’s hand emerged to crush out his cigarette in his overflowing ashtray. He lowered his paper, rose from his chair, and shuffled to the door.

Are you coming?” he threw over his shoulder.

Caught off-guard while still staring at the prints, Oscar felt he was a puppy following its master and hurried through the door after him, down the steps to the garden, past the cart, and into the darkened studio.

Put these in the cart and follow me.”

About The Author

Joe Byrd

Joe Byrd’s BS in Journalism and MA in Communications degrees inspired him to become a pioneer in electronic publishing. As a McGraw-Hill editor, he developed one of the first computer publishing systems. In the rapidly developing PC software industry, he co-authored one of his two books using PC desktop publishing software, the first for a major publishing house. He developed the first technical support website in the software industry. In his fifty-year career, he published magazines, wrote research reports, and developed conferences in the US and Europe for the digital photography industry. He launched one of the first digital photography dot coms. This is his first novel.

 

 

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The Disposables Teaser Tuesday

 

The Disposables cover

 

The Obscurité de Floride Trilogy, Book 2

 

Suspense

Date Published: Jun 1, 2021

Publisher: Épouvantail Books, LLC

In the jungles of coastal Mexico, twelve-year-old Kazu Danser is on the run, his bloody past haunting and attempting to be his ruination. Hot on his heals is journalist Carson Staines, a deadly madman full of blood thirst and greed, determined to first chronicle Kazu’s criminal life – and then end it. Staines must nail him down, dead or alive; the boy being worth a huge payoff.

Making a perilous crossing of the border into the States, Kazu fights for his life, desperately heading east. Entering sunburnt Florida, he teams up with a gang of Floridian street urchins, known to the authorities as, “The disposables.”

With Staines not letting up on the chase, Kazu and the other youths go on the run, fighting for their lives.

Can the Disposables and Kazu survive?

What will they have to do to stop the murderous and resourceful monster mowing through them to get to his reward?

The second part of the book takes place in the shadows of Florida, where street urchins fights every day to survive, both bodily and in spirit. In contrast to the tropical beaches and teeming vacationers, the children will do anything necessary to keep their heads above the perilous deep waters.

Excerpt

 

Chapter One

Leaving the Hotel Or

In Mexico, there’s plenty of wet work for an innocent-looking boy with a 9mm. For the smart ones, there was a world of new clothes, game systems, and a bedroom door with a lock. For the smartest, there were bank accounts and dreams of living without blood-splattered shoes.

Kazu was on the run, his last job gone ugly, as in kicking-a-mound-of-fire-ants ugly. The twelve-year-old had escaped the Hotel Or with a policia dragnet reaching out to snag his heals.

Sitting forward in the driver’s seat so his boot toes could reach the pedals, he kept the speedometer buried past 140km per hour, racing down Federale 200, running south from Puerto Mita.

He had escaped the resort hotel with nothing more than his backpack and his life, taking advantage of the chaos by driving away at a forced, leisurely pace. In his rearview mirror, he watched a swarm of policia vehicles turn into the hotel road.

When the last policia truck with sweeping lights and siren swung into the hotel grounds, Kazu buried his boot toe on the accelerator.

The two-lane highway began its swaying turns through endless miles of green jungle and forests. Thirty kilometers along, he slowed up and rode in the draft of a six-wheel cargo truck, a gold tuna and ‘Fish de Jo y Maria’ painted on the rear steel door. Knowing he had to ditch the car, he stayed in the queue forming on the highway, a farm truck running behind.

Run it to empty,” he decided, leaning forward, the steering wheel inches from his chin.

He had paid cash for the stolen and re-plated Buick at the Or Petrol y Restaurante adjacent to the Hotel Or.

Get distance.” He wiped a skim of sweat from his brow and neck.

Federale 200 continued south for fifty clicks before heading eastward, away from the coast. The lush green jungle walls brushed along both sides, and over time formed tunnels of cooler but dank air of ripe rotting vegetation. He dropped all four windows, the air conditioning having died the week before.

When the fuel needle sank under the E, he drove the grass shoulder, letting the trucks and cars behind him pass. With the stretch of highway to his own, he turned the Buick from the road.

Foliage brushing the roof, the car bounced and jolted downhill. He worked the wheel as trees and rocks cracked the sides, undercarriage, and bumper. Thirty yards in, the car was invisible from the highway.

Kazu climbed out with his backpack shouldered. Hiking halfway back up the hill to a green and shaded clearing, he kneeled in the wet soil, where patchy sunlight had dried out the vegetation.

The heat and stagnant humidity were pushing down on him.

His skin was dank with sweat. Scooping up two handfuls of dirt and dust, he rubbed the front of his black t-shirt. Same with his Pirates baseball cap. He ground dirt and leaves into the front of his black shorts before standing up and looking himself over. The results had transformed him into an everyday, poor Mexican street urchin.

Pulling the cap low to shade his foreign, almond-shaped eyes, he climbed halfway back to the road through the brush and rocks.

Steal a pair of sunglasses,” he said, looking south, knowing he would come upon a village or city eventually.

Walking in the vegetation often high overhead, he paralleled the highway, standing still with his breath clenched when trucks or local buses went by.

He walked and climbed and crossed streams for the next two long hours. Sticky green vines repeatedly tried to grab and trip him up. The afternoon sun was lowering into the trees when he stopped. The highway sign up on the shoulder told him the town of Colomo was off to the east, and he headed that way.

Get a ride. Then a Pepsi with lots of ice,” he said, pushing through green clinging limbs and leaves. He was approaching a scatter of small and worn residences. When he came up upon the first few cinder-block houses, he took to the pavement, the heat from the crumbled pavement pressing into each step he took. He entered the first side street, seeing no one about, hearing only a dog barking and a radio blasting Mexican disco a few houses up.

His next ride was parked alongside a station wagon on the dirt patch of a front lawn. The house was still and the windows dark. After drinking from a garden hose, he circled to the passenger side of the Ford pickup resting on its dirt tires. He looked in before opening the door.

The keys were on the dash, the passenger side of the bench seat cluttered with food wrappers on top of newspapers. Before climbing in, he checked out the truck bed. A five-gallon can of petrol was bungee-strapped to the side. He gave it a shake, and it sloshed and felt heavy. Opening the toolbox behind the cab, he swiped a roll of Gorilla tape and from the clutter in the bed grabbed two cuttings from a fence post among the other scraps of wood and aluminum.

With blocks taped to the two pedals, he turned the key and dropped the transmission into reverse. A half-hour later, he was a good distance away, up Highway 54, heading north and east.

Icons and beads swung back and forth from the mirror. Mary Magdalena was glued to the dash. She had a bubble compass embedded in her belly.

Mary, right? Nice having someone to talk to,” he said, trying the windshield fluid knob.

It was empty.

Digging through the glove box, he pushed aside papers and food wrappers, coming up with a cashew tin full of green tobacco and some tissue papers. There was nothing to eat. He took out a sun-bleached folded map.

The miles rolled by, the road taking him through the outskirts of Guadalajara. The sun was low in the western sky when he passed through Zacatecas, where he braved a sleepy gas station to fill the tank, using forty of his one hundred ten dollars of cash. The soda icebox inside the station didn’t have Pepsi, so he bought two chilled bottles of strawberry Jarritos and two bags of chips.

Help me find a place to hide?” he asked Mary on the dash. “Somewhere with cell service and a shower?”

The bubble compass in her mid-section appeared to bob and nod encouragement.

Four hours later, he pulled off the road on the north side of Saltillo. A dusty driveway ran to a simple row motel. A large and tired man sat behind a desk in a bowling shirt, television running to his left, radio playing to the right. Before saying a word, Kazu took out fifty US dollars from his backpack and laid it out.

Una habitación para uno, por favor,” < A room for one, please> Kazu said.

The man didn’t even pause in renting a room to a short twelve-year-old boy. The entire fifty dollars was exchanged for a room key. Minutes later, Kazu parked the truck behind the motel instead of the parking lot and entered room six.

After locking and chaining the door, he got out of his black boots, stripped off his clothing, and took a long cold shower. He left the room one time to go out to the truck to pry the Mary Magdalena compass off the dash. After a dinner of chips and the second bottle of strawberry soda, he opened his backpack on the bed. Digging through his few belongings, he took out his old and battered gray Nokia flip phone.

He placed a single call to his former employer. Hitting voicemail as expected, he left a message.

Lamento tu mala suerte en el Hotel. Necesito un trabajo. Cerca de la frontera.” < Sorry about your bad luck at the hotel. I need a job. Near the border.> After a second cool-down shower, he took out pens, pencils, and pastels and his current image-novel. With his pad of hard bond drawing paper leaning on his raised knees, he drew and shaded until his eyes began to close involuntarily and his chin bobbed on his chest.

Waking an hour before dawn as usual, he pulled on his clothes and took a third shower since arriving, rubbing out the dirt stains. Checking his Nokia, he saw he had no new messages.

With his backpack on his shoulder, he walked up the street to a market.

In the parking lot of the local Supermercado , a combination hardware and grocery store, he watched a thin and very short man push a shopping bag into the rear basket on the back of a motorbike. As the man started the bike, Kazu studied each movement of his hands and shoes on the throttle, clutch, and gears. The man toed the shifter into second gear as he sped away up the road.

Finding shade under a dusty tree, Kazu sat and waited. An hour passed before he saw what he needed. A man rolled in on a seriously old Honda 90 trail bike, once red and white, then different hues of oil stains and dirt. The rider got off, leaving the keys, and did a cowboy walk into the market. A dust devil also spun into the parking lot, a brown whirlwind crossing right to left. Corralled by the gap between two farm trucks, it spiraled slowly to death.

Kazu stood and crossed to the spinning residue, not bothering to wipe the dust from his dirty face, eyes on the key.

After scanning the cars and trucks and the store’s doorway, he climbed onto a dirt bike for the very first time. Minutes later, he was running up the highway in the slow lane, the wind cooling his skin even as the sun blasted down.

About the Author

Greg Jolley

Greg Jolley earned a Master of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco and lives in the very small town of Ormond Beach, Florida. When not writing, he researches historical crime, primarily those of the 1800s. Or goes surfing.

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An Unwitting Trickster Blitz

 

An Unwitting Trickster cover

 

Young Adult Fantasy / Mythology

 

Date Published: 06-08-2021

Immortal Trickster, Luke, is starting a fresh life in a new-to-him seventeen-year-old body. With yet another lifespan stretched out in front of him, he’s questioning what purpose his endless compulsion to play tricks serves.

Agnar, a Thor look-alike claiming to be his adoptive brother from the planet Asperian, appears to declare Luke has been away from home too long. One problem. Luke doesn’t remember Agnar or living on another planet.

With more questions than answers, Luke cautiously agrees to accompany his “brother” back to Asperian, but the travel portal rejects him, leaving him behind to continue his mundane life of trickery. When interplanetary soldiers show up intent on killing him, he’s forced into hiding and his list of unanswered questions grows.

Will Luke remain trapped on Earth forever, pulling meaningless pranks? Or will he finally figure out his true purpose?

About the Author

Award winning Kai Strand, author of the action packed Super Villain Academy series, is often found exploring hiking trails and snapping pictures of waterfalls in her Oregon hometown. Mother of four, Kai uses her life experiences to connect with young readers. With middle grade works such as Save the Lemmings, The Weaver Tale series, and The Concord Chronicles series, and emotional YA adventures like Finding Thor, I Am Me, and Worth the Effort, Kai has written compelling stories that tweens, teens, and their parents love.

Kai has given numerous presentations in classrooms, to writer groups, and at workshops about her work and the writing process. She loves interacting with teens and gaining their insight on their latest reads as well as what they would like to see in future stories.

To find out more about Kai, please visit Kaistrand.com.

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Aslan Running Joy Tour

Aslan Running Joy banner
 


Young Adult Contemporary (General and Christian markets)

Publisher: CrossLink Publishing

Date Published: June 1st, 2021

First choices out. Second choices in.

It’s been that way since dialysis left fourteen-year-old Krissy disabled. Her limitations went from none to a ton, and now they stand in the way of her dream—to compete in dog agility with her new sheltie pup, Aslan.

She’s seen videos of agility handlers sprinting, spinning, and twisting as they race with their dogs through the intricate obstacle courses. It’s a beautiful sport. Like dance. Like art.

And surely impossible for someone like her.

Her suspicions are confirmed when an agility instructor says Krissy’s inability to run will keep her and Aslan from successfully competing against other lightning-fast agility teams and suggests Krissy choose a less physically demanding, second-choice dog sport.

Second choices—once again.

And on top of all that, Krissy is pretty sure she doesn’t even like her own dog.

EXCERPT

Chapter 1

Whickery Gone

May: Six Weeks Old

The butt end. The butt end was the last thing she would see of her beautiful, spirited Whickery. Why did that somehow feel like payback?

Krissy leaned against the dirty white post-and-rail fence, her thin arms resting on the top rail as Whickery’s thick chestnut tail cleared the back of the horse trailer. Two dust-covered stable hands dressed in the usual cowboy hats and boots closed the trailer’s door, locking away the mare and all the dreams she represented. One of the men slapped an open palm against the closed door—as if that somehow tested its integrity—and the two climbed into the cab of their battered baby-blue pickup. The engine sputtered to life, and the truck with its attached one-horse trailer crunched a dirge across the gravel drive as it pulled Whickery away from the stables.

Krissy’s eyes burned. She blinked hard, refusing tears. No way would she show weakness in front of Mom. Besides, tears would be a distortion of the truth. She wouldn’t be crying because Whickery had been sold. If tears came, they would come because deep inside—where even she didn’t like to snoop around much—she was glad. And that felt very, very wrong.

The trailer turned west onto the highway and disappeared. And with that, Whickery was gone. There would be no more trips to the decaying stables at the edge of the suburbs. No more acting as if she enjoyed riding round and round the sandy, boring, and way-too-small horse arena. No more hot days grooming an animal weighing a thousand pounds. 

No more pretending she wasn’t afraid of her own horse.

Mom put her arm over Krissy’s shoulders. “I’m sorry, honey. I know this is hard.” Krissy pushed off the fence and stomped toward the car. Keys rattled as Mom hoisted her purse and followed.

After sliding into the passenger seat of the silver Avalon, Krissy slammed the door shut. Mom would figure her anger was prompted by grief over losing Whickery. That was okay. That made sense. But the truth? The truth festered in fear caused by her own abnormal and inescapable body.

Posture stiff, Mom lowered herself into the car and after starting it, drove away from the stables—for the last time. Krissy didn’t look back. She knew what the rows of stalls with their peeling white paint and beautiful equine occupants looked like. It had seemed like a princess’s castle when her parents took her there for the first time to meet her new horse. A year later, the stables had lost their royal luster. Now, she saw it for what it truly was—two rows of deteriorating horse stalls with a miniscule outdoor arena. She was glad to see the last of it.

After a couple minutes driving southeast on the Northwest Expressway, the suburbs of Oklahoma City began to crowd the scenery. Soon, they passed strip malls with familiar storefronts: Kohl’s, Walmart, PetSmart, Target. These big-box stores were packed cheek to jowl beside multiple car dealerships, their latest models sparkling in the early summer sun.

Mom broke the tense silence. “We didn’t want to do this. If I had my way, you’d still have her, but your dad and I agree with your doctor. If you fell off Whickery the wrong way, you could damage your new kidney. Then where would we be?”

Krissy stared out the passenger window, teeth clenched against suppressed anger—and guilt.

“I know owning a horse was your dream since you first rode Molly. How old were you?” 

Krissy said nothing, wanting to forget the whole owning-a-horse thing had ever happened. 

Mom answered for her. “Six, I think. I’m so very sorry this had to happen, but there’s no other option.”

It was a rare show of sympathy from Mom, but Krissy refused to respond. Sympathy from others had annoyed her more than anything else all through her dialysis treatments and subsequent kidney transplant. Why that enraged her so much, she couldn’t say, but call her brave or a trooper, and she’d be gone—if not physically, then at least emotionally.

She fiddled with her seat belt, trying to get it to lie without pressure over her lower abdomen and the pink scar from her transplant surgery hidden beneath her shorts. As the car turned onto Rockwell Avenue, the old Warr Acres Cemetery appeared out of nowhere. Messing with her seat belt, Krissy almost missed it. She gasped a shallow, hasty breath just before reaching the first corner of the graveyard. 

Her eyes widened as the car in front of them slowed for no apparent reason. An irrational dread gripped her; she hadn’t inhaled enough air to make it to the cemetery entrance at this speed. Moments later her lungs began to burn. She fought against the desire to push on the Avalon’s dash in a useless attempt to make the traffic move faster so the car could reach the cemetery’s entrance. Only then could she release the small gulp of air and take a deep, refreshing breath. 

Krissy’s face was hot and her cheeks puffed out as they finally crept by the gates. Gasping as if surfacing from a dive, she filled her lungs with the car’s chilled air. Judging the distance to the end of the cemetery, she did a quick accounting of the car’s speed and her oxygen inventory and determined that this time she could make it on one breath.

Years ago, her father had taught her this game. “Everyone, take a deep breath,” he’d say as they approached a graveyard in the family car. Krissy and her older brother, Peter, would gasp in air. The rules were firm: you held your breath until you passed the cemetery, with one exception—you could breathe at any entrance. This entrance rule meant it was usually a breeze to make it past most graveyards, unless you forgot and didn’t get a lungful of air before you reached its border. The consequences of the game were, however, harsh. If you breathed anywhere alongside a cemetery other than the entrances, you’d be the next person buried there.

It was a pretty gruesome game to play with little kids, and at fourteen she should be too old for such superstition. Yet, with her history, what if? If a person could cheat death, shouldn’t they try? Determined, she held her breath to the border of the cemetery where Mom, used to the game and ignoring Krissy’s gasps, changed lanes and passed the loitering car that had caused all the breathing drama in the first place. Exhaling, Krissy left the dead behind.

The uncomfortable silence with Mom, who’d surrendered to Krissy’s lack of communication, continued until the car rolled into the driveway of their home, a two-story red-brick colonial. The garage door opener began its grinding work, and the summer sun disappeared as the comparative dark of their clean multi-car garage swallowed the Avalon.

Krissy closed the car door and sulked into the house, making a beeline for the fridge. The kitchen’s cheery yellow-and-cranberry wallpaper clashed brutally with her vicious mood. Peter sat at the granite-topped kitchen table, wrapping overgrip tape around the handle of his tennis racket. He glanced up at Mom, who walked in behind Krissy, and their brief visual exchange must have tipped him off because he went straight back to work without saying a word. This nonverbal communication heightened Krissy’s temper as she yanked a Diet Coke from the fridge and turned her back on her family and the irksome kitchen. She marched through the dining room, wheeled toward the staircase, and climbed to the bedrooms above.  

After reaching her room, she slammed her door, creating a loud, satisfying crack. The Diet Coke whispered its familiar hiss as she opened it, and, leaning against the door, she looked around.

Hers was the smallest room in the house. Decorated in a puerile purple she’d chosen as a seven-year-old, it felt dated and held many of the usual trappings of a kid—a dresser, a nightstand, a bed that was made up only because it was a requirement for her weekly allowance, and a desk crowned with an old computer. In the corner stood a painted bookshelf filled not with books, but with her Breyer model horse collection. The glossy plastic representations of equine perfection were frozen in various poses. She’d spent hours as a child playing with those miniature toy horses, dreaming of the intense and special bond she might someday develop with a real horse. 

She’d been so naive—even stupid. Because of those delusions, Whickery had been sold. A living, breathing animal had been in her care, and she’d failed her.

Krissy pulled her eyes away from the Breyer collection and tried to avoid glancing at the multiple horse posters tacked over the purple-striped wallpaper. After placing the bottle of Diet Coke on the nightstand, she threw herself on her bed and rolled to give her back to the bedroom horses.  

In this position, she faced the small corner devoted to her other passion. Well, her only passion, now that horses weren’t her thing. She propped her head on her elbow and examined the magazine and computer-printed photos of collies and shelties. The collies stood tall and regal with their long flowing coats, but the shelties ran, flying over white jumps and weaving through white poles. 

Horses and dogs. It had always been horses and dogs.

Unable to look anywhere in her room where one or the other wasn’t staring accusations at her, she lay back on her pillow and shut her eyes. Whickery appeared in her mind, the trailer’s door locking her away. Krissy opened her eyes, banishing the image. She closed her eyes once more, fighting to recall a happier memory. For a moment, she relaxed as she daydreamed about the pond near Grandma’s house on a warm summer’s day. 

Suddenly, the pond was gone, and Whickery’s left front hoof weighed heavily in her right hand, while her left held a metal hoof pick. In agonizing slow motion, the sharp pick carved through the accumulated debris pressed into the hoof. It crunched as it ground its way, and she smelled the sour manure, mud, and keratin released from the hoof’s crevice. Her mind screamed in horror as the pick hung up on a small piece of gravel and slipped. It plowed into her right wrist, half an inch below the artery just beneath her skin that had been surgically lifted for dialysis.

Krissy’s eyes snapped open, her stomach lurching. Although safe in her bed, she clutched her right wrist with her left hand. With her left palm, she could feel the buzzing rhythm of the right wrist’s artery racing. She hadn’t realized she’d been breathing hard until that comforting beat, which proved all was well with the vein, calmed her, and her panting breaths slowed.

That day in the barn seven months ago had been petrifying. The surgically raised artery in her wrist was called a fistula. Before her transplant, nurses had inserted needles into the large veins created by the fistula to pull her blood into a dialysis machine, which filtered toxins from her blood, taking the place of her failed kidneys. Injure the fistula badly enough, and she could have ruptured the artery and bled to death. Even a lesser injury could have prevented her from being hooked to the dialysis machine, meaning more procedures, more needles, and more pain. A lot more pain.

After the pick had slipped, she’d dropped Whickery’s hoof and pressed her right wrist against her ear to listen for the healthy whooshing sound of the blood in the fistula. Except for the cold wind whipping through the barn’s corridor, silence reigned.

Leaving Whickery tied, she’d frantically run to the tack room, closed the door to block the wind’s obscuring howl, and raised her wrist to her ear to try to hear again. Unaccustomed tears sprang to her eyes, and panic raised bile to her throat. For several seconds, there was no sound. Shifting her wrist back and forth by her ear, she tried to find the vital whoosh. Then, a faint, rhythmic rushing sound vibrated in the hush. At that point, adrenaline had sent her heartbeat racing, making the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh gallop. She’d inhaled deep breaths, trying to control both her heartrate and her tears. 

For ten minutes, she’d sat alone in the dark tack room, left hand on her wrist, making sure the steady vibration remained and examining the fistula’s scar for any signs of bruising or injury.

She’d survived, but the whole thing had rocked her. And the truth she’d been denying began to scream. She was afraid. Afraid of Whickery’s size, of her hooves, of being crushed, of hurting herself, of losing her fistula, of more pain. More hospitals. More dialysis. 

Now, as she lay in the bed holding her wrist in memory, a shiver ran along her spine. 

Her tongue stuck to the roof of her tacky mouth. She reached for the pop and took a few gulps. Rolling to her right side, Krissy placed her wrist under the pillow and listened to the soothing whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. Eyes closed to the room filled with horses and dogs, her heartbeat relaxed, and the Diet Coke leaned precariously in the loosened grip of her left hand. Minutes later, she slept.

She dreamed of maddened horses being herded by snarling shelties.

About the Author

Kristin Kaldahl


Kristin Kaldahl is an agility instructor, national-level agility competitor, and dog agility blogger with twenty years in the sport. Her dogs have earned eight agility championships and have qualified for the AKC Agility National Championship twelve times. In addition, Kaldahl is a semi-finalist in the 2018 Genesis Awards in the YA category, an award-winning former journalist, and a long-term kidney transplant survivor. #ownvoices

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A love story with hard edges

Date Published: Jun 7, 2021

Publisher: SE

 

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Words on Paper From the depths of tragedy it might well be that anything is possible. A moving story based on a real life tragedy where the struggle to survive saps almost every last ounce of energy; a tragedy that divides even further people who otherwise might never have met. However aside from all the pain it might well be that anything is possible. It is easy to forget that in life sometimes two minuses make a plus. Emma and Will have nothing in common other than a mutual tragedy and a pain they share from a different perspective. Anything is possible but the fates are fickle and their lives are on hold. Whilst they try to cope Will’s best friend Ben and his girlfriend Karen have been invited to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, a chance for Will to join them and break free, at the same time as Emma’s job takes her two hundred miles in the opposite direction. Not the remotest chance of any sort of relationship…but who knows; anything is possible. There is a rocky road that can lead from tragedy to happiness.

About the Author

 

Michael Ross

Born and raised in Bristol, England. I spent my adult life in business, the majority of that time marketing cars. I eventually owned the largest Saab specialist in the world, before a divorce put an end to that part of my life. This led me to leave Bristol to live halfway up a mountain in the Welsh Valleys, start a part time six year English Literature course at Bristol University, and attend creative writing classes in Cardiff. My interest in English literature flourished and I have won several prizes for my short stories. My first book, ‘Twenty Short Stories – Settling a score,” reached No 1 in the Short Stories Best Sellers.

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