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The One about Jeff Gordon

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Most people probably don’t know that I have any interest in sports at all.

Sports that I actually play myself are limited to only bowling and mini golf. I like to ice skate, but not competitively. And I am not very good at any of those things. I consider it a successful bowling game if I break 100. Mini golf as well. ;-P

The only professional sports I have ever cared about were ice hockey and NASCAR. My interest in both grew around 1993/1994.

My love of hockey grew from my asbestos friend being the spokesmodel for our nearby ECHL team, the Toledo Storm. You can read more about that here: http://imnotstalkingyou.com/2013/04/16/how-i-came-to-be-a-vancouver-canucks-fan/

My love of NASCAR grew from liking to watch cars crash. And also a new driver by the name of Jeff Gordon.

As we were not a household with any males (even the dog was a female), we really didn’t watch that many sporting events. Not even the Superbowl. If not for the kids at school, I never even would have known when that took place. (And I think that I would have preferred that.)

But we would usually watch the Indianapolis 500, because, c’mon, who hasn’t heard of that? But if there is a wreck, the Indy cars just disintegrate. Where is the fun in that? Now a stock car, they take on damage, get duct-taped up, and keep running laps.

The Michigan International Speedway actually resides in the same county I do. One year (1993, I looked it up) Ricky Rudd’s Tide car was supposed to be at our local Walmart. I think we went to look at it. Anyway, that car was already ingrained in our brains when we watched the race that weekend. (Michigan races used to always be on one of the broadcast networks. Not the case anymore.) We rooted for Ricky Rudd. His orange car was pretty and easy to spot during the race. And he actually frickin’ won the race! My mom and I even went to my grandma’s high rise old person apartment building in Adrian to watch the race trucks (now we know the correct terminology is “haulers”) come down M-52 through town.

Also, notable in the race, was another car with a pretty paint job that was very eye catching: the #24 DuPont Chevy, driven by rookie Jeff Gordon. He finished second.

Jeff Gordon show car

Jeff Gordon show car

Shortly after that, we were lucky enough to get cable, so then we could watch the NASCAR races on ESPN as well. Soon that evolved into watching three hours of pre-race shows on Sunday before the three hour race itself. For several years, I could lay in my bed and recognize the voice of which NASCAR Winston Cup driver was being interviewed on TV in the living room. And that is not as easy as you may think, as they almost all have southern accents.

Except Jeff Gordon.

Young Jeff Gordon

Young Jeff Gordon

His accent has always been way crazy. North Carolina, by way of Pittsboro, Indiana (more on this later) and Vallejo, California.

I soon developed a crush on Jeff Gordon, which only intensified after he lost his wannabe mustache and mullet. My mom and I always gave credit to his new wife Brooke for “grooming” him, although NASCAR, realizing his potential appeal to the masses, may have had something to do with that as well.

I would later meet someone (a cousin-in-law) who actually was at Jeff & Brooke’s wedding. He had been dating a sorority sister of Brooke’s at the time.

My mom and I watched almost every Winston Cup race every weekend for a several years. We rode the rise of popularity of NASCAR, along with that of Gordon. We would watch as Dale Earnhardt would be limping around the track after a crash, accumulating laps with a crippled race car, getting lapped by the field. But every time Jeff Gordon showed up in the rear view mirror, Earnhardt raced him as if it was the final lap.

See, in Winston Cup, there is one King, and that is Richard Petty. He won 7 Winston Cup championships.

There is one Intimidator. That is Dale Earnhardt. He won 7 championships too.

I have read where Earnhardt affectionately gave Jeff the nickname "Wonder Boy." I doubt there was much affection there...

I have read where Earnhardt affectionately gave Jeff the nickname “Wonder Boy.” I doubt there was much affection there…

The first Winston Cup race Jeff Gordon ever raced in was the final race of Richard Petty, as he moved into retirement. I am not the only one who feels that race was rich with symbolism. Read more about it here.

I had Jeff pegged to tie or set a new championship record from the beginning. So it was no surprise to me when he won Rookie of the Year in 1993. Or his first Winston Cup Championship in 1995.

Then I got a job and a boyfriend, and no longer had time for such things.

Jeff Gordon's #24 at MIS

Jeff Gordon’s #24 at MIS

Although, said boyfriend did take me to a practice and a Cup race at MIS. I got to see Jeff Gordon’s car in person as it sped around the track. Wasn’t quite the same as being able to actually see or meet him though. And I learned that while I prefer to watch hockey games in person, I prefer my car racing on television.

I still loved Jeff, but I was no longer rooting for him every week. I heard about his divorce from Brooke because it made news for her large demands on the fortune he had accumulated as he rose up in NASCAR. I was aware, but not watching, when the series went from being sponsored by Winston cigarettes to Nextel, then changed again to Sprint. I missed when DuPont stopped being his sponsor. I missed a few more of his championships. I missed fun TV moments like this one below.

I wasn’t watching when Jeff Gordon got married a second time and the happy couple started popping out kids. I was busy getting married and having one of my own.

My own Gordon fan.

My own Gordon fan.

As the holidays approached in 2014, Michigan International Speedway was having a toy and canned food drive. Like, literally. If you brought an unwrapped toy or a bag of food to the race track, they would let you DRIVE on it.

My husband was working, but I took my preschooler son with me. I talked my mom into going with me. She never ever wants to go anywhere. But since there was no walking involved, she had continued to follow NASCAR after I had, and she was intensely curious, she came with me. For more on this adventure, click here: http://imnotstalkingyou.com/2014/12/07/what-i-learned-this-week-12714/

It was so weird to drive on those high banks with my little Jeep Patriot. At the time I reflected, “I felt a little closer to Jeff Gordon that day.” I had trod on the same hallowed pavement that he had. Maybe it was some kind of sign that I should be thinking of Jeff again after all these years…

The view of the track through my windshield

The view of the track through my windshield

Then on January 22, 2015, all that changed. I was actually out on a rare date with my husband at a sports bar. And there, on all the televisions tuned to the various sports networks, was Jeff Gordon announcing that 2015 would be his last year to race. He was retiring.

I feel really bad for my husband, but I spent most of our date watching the interviews with Jeff.

So, this year, I made it a point to rededicate myself to watching NASCAR and rooting for Jeff Gordon. Except, well, that is hard when you don’t have all the channels the races are on. But, I am doing the best I can. I discovered that I could follow Jeff on all the social media that had not even existed when he started racing. I have already pre-ordered my commemorative diecast of the Axalta Chevy for Bristol pimped out in the classic DuPont paint scheme. And I drove 9 hours round trip to go see him in person.

Yes, you read that right.

My son and I (my husband had to work) made the long trip from Michigan to Pittsboro, Indiana for their parade in celebration of Jeff Gordon Day. I figured it might be my last chance to ever see him in person. I am usually a planner. I didn’t plan much for the trip, except to pack lots of snacks for my little guy. I hate driving on expressways, especially in big cities. But, they are the fastest way to get somewhere in a hurry, and Indianapolis was standing between me and Jeff.

My son and I pulled out the driveway at 4:40AM, he still in his pajamas, soon fell back asleep, leaving me to be my own navigator, reading my printed out MapQuest directions inside the dark car. I hate driving (Danica will get no competition from me), but I had been itching to take a trip, so it wasn’t so bad. I watched the sun rise as I drove through Ohio. I passed a deer nibbling in the fields. I saw a locomotive parked on the track. I wanted to point it out to my son, but couldn’t. He slept clean through Ohio. We were just outside Indy when I had to wake him up so that I could use the restroom.

After putting on his clothes in the backseat of the car and fortifying ourselves with granola bars, I attempted to conquer the beast that is Indianapolis…and I went the wrong way on the 465 loop. I drove 3/4 of the way around the city, before finally reaching my exit. Good thing I had added in an extra hour of drive time, just in case.

Downtown Pittsboro, Indiana

Downtown Pittsboro, Indiana

When we reached Pittsboro, all the businesses had signs up in their windows that said “No Public Restroom.” They wanted you to use the porta potties in the town park, where the festivities were. I bought two cookies at Subway and used their bathroom. Best $1.09 I ever spent. Pittsboro is smaller than my hometown of Blissfield. It doesn’t even have it’s own high school.

There was a drawing to meet Jeff Gordon. Only 5 winners were chosen who each got to bring a guest. Winners would be notified by cell phone at a designated time. The guy sitting near me on the parade route won. We all heard the phone call. He picked the chick right next to him to be his guest. He had never met her. Didn’t even know her name.

Yes, it stung a bit that he didn’t pick me.

Jeff Gordon Day Parade, June 23, 2015 in Pittsboro, Indiana

Jeff Gordon Day Parade, June 23, 2015 in Pittsboro, Indiana

Jeff went by in the parade very quickly. I was waiting for his face to be one of those in the passing cars, it was, and then he was gone in a flash. We quickly walked over and got a good spot in front of the stage to watch the festivities. My son was thoroughly unimpressed with it all. I had a demented fantasy where my son would get lost, then find Jeff’s son Leo, they would play together, and then I would get to meet Jeff when I was reunited with my son. But I didn’t lose my kid and never got to meet Jeff. And I didn’t see his wife or kids there either, although I did see his step-father.

But, I got to lay my own eyes on Jeff and hear his voice with my own ears, so that is something.

"Look at my junk!" Not really. He was actually pointing to his new honorary police badge.

“Look at my junk!” Not really. He was actually pointing to his new honorary police badge.

I would have possibly pursued trying to meet or get an autograph from him further is I didn’t have my tike with me. But by the time Jeff finished, both us pale folk had withered in the hot Indiana mid-day sun. We tried to eat in town, but everything seemed to be a bar. So we headed out of town to the nearest exit with more choices.

Now I wish I would have bummed around longer. Driven past his old high school or hunted down the house he grew up in.

I still have hopes for another championship this year. This season hasn’t been the smoothest, but it hasn’t been all bad either.

Even if Jeff Gordon wins this year, he will not tie or break the 7 time Cup Championship record set by Petty and tied by Earnhardt. But he is definitely not going to be forgotten.

Below is actual video footage of Jeff Gordon break dancing. It comes after the 4 minute mark. There is lots of razzing by the other drivers before the 4 minute mark.

Now who will I root for? I kinda like that kid, what’s his name, that won the Daytona 500 this year? Ah yes, Joey Logano. My son even made up a catchy song for his name.

The best I ever did for Jeff was fit his name into that old Lizzy Bordon rhyme.

JEFF GORDON-sign

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time & GIVEAWAY going on over at Goodreads (ends August 15, 2015)
When You Least Expect It AVAILABLE NOW!

What I Learned This Week – 7/26/15

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This week I learned that I could build a hillbilly sound system.

My hillbilly sound system.

My hillbilly sound system.

When my preschooler son moved into a bigger bedroom, my husband designated the former nursery as his “man room.”

Well, then I designated the remaining bedroom as my room. Mostly craft/photo/exercise/sporting goods/genealogy storage, but also a tiny office space. Which, I figured, needed a sound system. You will notice that it features the portable CD player from my post a week ago. I also used the speakers from our old Dell desktop computer, which my husband and I both have almost discarded so many times, but they actually have really great sound.

"Dude, you're getting a Dell!"

“Dude, you’re getting a Dell!”

I rounded it out with my Sears mini boombox that is probably 30 years old. It once went to the electronics repair store to have a cassette tape removed that it ate (Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin’ Rich – Warrant). I don’t even think their are repair stores for cassette players anymore. People now even view computers as disposable. Everyone except me–I have resurrected my laptop with a new hard drive and a new power cord (Friday) in the 4 years I have owned it.

I placed it all on an ancient TV cart that my great-grandpa used in his TV repair business. I used an old Pepsi wooden crate to hold my extra headphones and cables.

Yes, my dear friends. This is me putting my Communications degree to good use.

And no one should be offended by me referring to it as a “hillbilly” sound system because I am hillbilly. I can prove it. Come dig through my genealogy storage bins ;-)

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time & GIVEAWAY going on over at Goodreads (ends August 15, 2015)
When You Least Expect It AVAILABLE NOW!

My Perfect Burger

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It is summertime! The time for my husband to grill me up a delicious dinner while I hide inside from the swarms of mosquitoes. Now, you might remember from my previous posts that I am a picky eater.

Thus, you will never find any tomatoes on my burger–I would pick them off.

I wouldn’t stand for mushrooms.

Condiments such as mayo or mustard on my burger? Yuck.

Anything weird like feta or alfalfa sprouts or pineapple or olives is totally off the table.

No, my perfect burger has cheddar cheese–sharp cheddar is alright. American is barely passable, and usually only from McDonald’s. We are talking about home-made burgers here, preferably made on a grill (outdoor or the George–either is fine).

I like barbecue sauce on my burger. Yes, if I am somewhere else, ketchup will do. But, we are talking about my PERFECT burger here. I always use Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce. I put it on my bottom bun.

The Perfect Burger-In Progress

The Perfect Burger-In Progress

Then I need a white onion. I love onions. And raw, none of that sauteing business. I put a few rings or slivers on top of the barbecue sauce.

Next, the WELL DONE hamburger goes on top. Grade doesn’t matter, although a nice 80/20 usually does the trick. Years ago, before my husband was my husband, he and I found out that a bit of McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak seasoning mixed into the meat before cooking gives it a bit of a zing. Now I kind of miss the taste if we forget to throw some in.

The Perfect Burger

The Perfect Burger

I top it off with the cheese over it, then the top bun. Some nice dill pickle chips with it. Yum!

That sounds so good, I think I will go make that for lunch right now.

Pro-Meat meme. Meat. It's what's for dinner...

Pro-Meat meme. Meat. It’s what’s for dinner…

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time & GIVEAWAY going on over at Goodreads (ends August 15, 2015)
When You Least Expect It AVAILABLE NOW!

What I Learned This Week – 7/19/15

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This week I learned that the movie One Small Hitch, is a really, really good movie. I stumbled upon it in a romantic comedy search on Netflix. It is a 2013 movie starring Shane McRae and Aubrey Dollar as two childhood friends pretending to be engaged for the sake of Josh’s (McRae) dying father. Awkward situations ensue.

WEEK-One Small Hitch

I will admit that it did start a little slow, but the leads are both adorable and it only gets cuter when they move into an apartment together. One Small Hitch is like While You Were Sleeping, except no one has to be pushed onto the railroad tracks and end up in a coma. A few people get punched in the face though.

This week I also realized that I have the best CD player in the world.

Best CD player

Best CD player

Yes, some of us without an iPhone or mp3 player with a screen still rely on such devices to make collections (mix tapes), “playlists” if you will, of songs that suit our fancy on any particular day.

I have a big CD player in my kitchen, but I wanted to listen to a CD while laying in bed. So, I headed upstairs to the electronics graveyard to find a small CD player. I knew we had at least one. Actually, I found two. One was a jogproof one that I had purchased one year for my birthday. It wasn’t jogproof, and I am not a jogger. So, ya.

The other is the CD player I quickly recognized from my old job. For the 12 years I worked for Borders, I used this CD player nearly every day. You can see that I doodled on it, and marked it with stickers so that if someone stole it, I would know that it was mine.

I cannot believe that it still works! I do believe that it used to have an AC adapter, but I can’t presently find it. I used to put a CD on pause, then head off to a 3 hour meeting, leaving it spinning on my desk the whole time. Last night I popped in batteries of questionable age, and it still worked like a dream.

And so many functions! I can program what order I want to play the tracks from on a CD, which comes in handy for albums such as Pieces of You by Jewel, that contain some very good, and some not very good songs. It has repeat one or all. It has bass boost. It shows track number and time at the same time!

For being around 15 years old, it has held up remarkably well. The volume dial causes some interference in the headphones when adjusted. But I used to have headphones with a volume control in the cord, so that was never a problem.

I love that it is a little no-name brand. I love that at that time, they thought they still needed to spell out that it was “DIGITAL” technology.

Now, everything is.

Don’t get me started on my love of analog/cassette tapes.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time & GIVEAWAY going on over at Goodreads (ends August 15, 2015)
When You Least Expect It AVAILABLE NOW!

PURCHASE as a Paperback or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

Excerpt: Chapter 1 of When You Least Expect It + Goodreads Giveaway

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WYLEI_med
When You Least Expect It
The Riley Sisters
Book 2
By Jennifer Friess
ISBN: 978-0692452165
#WYLEI

To celebrate the release of When You Least Expect It, Book 2 in The Riley Sisters series, I am holding a giveaway over at popular reader social media site Goodreads. You can enter here to win a copy of The Wind Could Blow a Bug, Book 1: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/147094-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug

And for you today, dear dedicated blog readers, I have Chapter 1 of When You Least Expect It

1

KILEY

Kiley gazed out the windows into the darkness as she autographed her novel for the last customer in the bookstore. She signed it, then smiled at the customer as she was hurriedly ushered out the door by the owner, Mrs. Bethany.

“Five minutes till close,” she barked.

Kiley got the feeling that Mrs. Bethany didn’t hold a lot of book signings in her store. But Kiley’s agent seemed to be able to get her into almost anywhere: expos, libraries, bookstores—chains and independents. This didn’t always make for a warm welcome, but Kiley was always grateful for anywhere she could get more sales and talk to readers, having one-on-one interaction. Her agent was happy that Kiley was so game to be on the road for long periods of time, traveling around the country. Most authors had 9 to 5 jobs and kids and obligations they were reluctant to leave behind. Knowing that tomorrow would be the end of seven months on the road, Kiley now realized maybe she should have been skeptical about why she was the only one willing to do this rigorous touring. Maybe there was a good reason why sane authors didn’t want to.

Kiley got up and began loading the leftover books onto the metal cart the owner had pulled up next to the table where she had been signing. Mrs. Bethany would place one or two copies back on the shelf, no doubt returning the rest of the stock back to the publisher. Kiley gazed at the cover of her book. The picture featured a good looking man and woman in an embrace. But what always jumped out at her was her name. Even though it had now been a year since the book had first been published, she still felt like she was dreaming when she saw her name in print on the cover of an actual honest-to-goodness book.

Well, it wasn’t exactly her name. It was her pen name, K. Riley, because her given name, Kiley Riley, sounded like a Dr. Seuss character. She couldn’t use her middle name of Renee. Ick. Every Renee she had ever known was a bitch. It was kind of cool being known as an initial. It also doubled as an actual name, “Kay.”

She flipped the book over in her hands and looked at the picture of herself on the back cover. The team at the publishing house had wanted her to change her hair, have it look more natural for the picture, but she had resisted and finally won out. No one seemed to be a big fan of the sleek black bob with bangs she had sported since high school, but she loved it. And it was HER hair. No one else should get a vote.

Most people are pretty impressed when they find out that her first book was published while she was still attending Alva University for her bachelor’s degree. Well, her only published book, so far. If she was honest with herself, she was impressed by this too.

Kiley had done writings that were so much more serious. Started stories that she spent years working on, only to abandon them. She never thought the little free-write she started at 1:00AM about her jacked up life at the beginning of her sophomore year of college would turn into a novel. It only took her three weeks to flesh out the first draft. By the end of sophomore year, Kiley’s favorite English teacher had read it and was helping her to find agents to shop the novel to. It took months before a publisher bought it. It made her a bit disillusioned by the whole process. It wasn’t the romantic experience she had always dreamed that it would be. Writing was the fun part. And she tried hard to remember that through everything that came after. There was another year of going through the editing process. Ugh! She could barely recognize the finished product as her story. The publisher paid her, and slapped her name on the center of the cover, so they must have thought it was still Kiley’s work.

Kiley received her box of advance reader copies on Christmas Eve, her senior year. There was no doubt that everyone received a copy as their Christmas gift. Although, in retrospect, she probably shouldn’t have given copies to her parents. But Kiley didn’t want to think about all that family drama right now. That January, it was available for purchase. While the publisher let Kiley postpone a real publicity tour until after her final classes ended in May, she still did occasional newspaper and radio interviews to support the book. She multitasked and did these while completing her classwork. It was a good thing she had planned ahead and completed her senior research project the first semester, rather than waiting till the second. Actually, Kiley had to give credit to her big sister Jane for that advice. Jane was always the planner in the family.

She didn’t get to go on any big, national TV shows. But she did get to do local morning shows and talk shows. The first time she was super-nervous. But once she learned the TV lingo and what camera to look at, she was as good as gold. There was one appearance she had to fly to, but most she would just drive herself to. If they were on a weekend, sometimes her boyfriend Ted would come along.

He would say, “Let’s pretend this is a little mini vacation.”

She would say, “It IS a little mini vacation.”

But he never liked this clarification, for some reason.

Ted wasn’t scheduled to graduate until December. He said that was why he didn’t mind traveling with her sometimes. All his toughest classes he would be taking in the fall. Ted was a biology major. His plan was to go on and get his master’s degree. He made fun of Kiley when she had first tried to secure an agent for her story. He had thought she was crazy and had delusions of fame. He fed her statistics of how many writers actually supported themselves solely from their craft. Ted was a glass half empty kind of guy.

Of course, they weren’t yet dating at that time. Ted just lived in the same dorm as Kiley. They often saw each other coming and going. They passed each other at the mailboxes and ran into each other in the laundry room. They started dating, well, sometime around when the publisher gave her a deal.

Wait, was that right?

He had asked her out. She had been so flattered, that of course she said yes. They had been a couple ever since.

Ted was the same height as Kiley when he had shoes on, which made him shorter than a lot of other guys. He was skinny. If he forgot to eat lunch, he could be classified as scrawny. He had beady eyes that saw the world through metal-rimmed glasses, which sat atop his nose that didn’t quite fit into his face. He wasn’t classically handsome, but he had a kind of dork-sheik about him.

Once she had finished her classes, she took off for her official book signing tour across the country. Kiley’s agent helped her to set up appearances. She even skipped graduation to go. She had the registrar ship her degree to her mother. Why bother with a ceremony symbolizing the start of her life, when she could already be living it?

It was discouraging, at first, when so few people would show up for her book signings. It wasn’t at all like she had pictured when she daydreamed about becoming a writer. She had imagined being in a big, national chain bookstore with the smell of coffee in the air, and a line of people curving all the way out the door and around the building. But with only two large national bookstore chains remaining, most of her stops were in small, independent bookstores that became cramped when you added an extra table and chairs.

The publisher kept stressing to her how important it was for an unknown author to get out and meet people, to get her name (and book) in front them. They said it was the same as with a new band needing to tour. While it was great having strangers tell her how much they enjoyed reading her book, it seemed everyone always asked the same question:

How did you come up with the idea for your story?

The answer Kiley always gave was that it was based on her own life, which truthfully, large parts of it were. But the truth, which she never told them, was that it had come to her in a dream. But she couldn’t tell people that. It sounded so—Stephenie Meyer. She desperately wanted people to believe she was a good writer, not just a transcriber of dreams. She wanted to have wonderful ideas of her own freewill, not from her subconscious. It seemed like the lazy man’s way to create a story.

She felt more comfortable the more signings she did. Ted came with her for a month in the summer, to keep her company. But a little part of her was happy when he went back to school for the fall semester. She was lonelier now, with no one else in her hotel at night to talk to. But when Ted was with her, she always seemed like she had to put on an act to keep him happy. Like if he saw her pick coleslaw out of her teeth with her black, plastic spork, he might be repulsed and run screaming the other way. She felt like Ted held her to a higher standard than she held herself. And that was kind of annoying.

She snuck in visits to her mom and dad when she could. She talked to her identical twin sister Miley several nights a week on the phone. Miley always said she couldn’t be on a six month trip like that. She just wasn’t programmed for it. Kiley liked traveling and seeing different cities and towns. But she was still lonely. She was becoming too used to this transient life. She needed to get back to reality. And start a second book already! Her future standard of living depended on it.

After the books were all on the cart, Kiley grabbed the other assorted odds and ends from the table. She dropped her empty cup of fountain coke and the crumpled napkin containing the crumbs from her orange cranberry muffin into the garbage can. She picked up her selection of Sharpie markers she had brought, black and silver, fine and ultra-fine point, and put them back into her messenger bag. Just then her cell began to ring. A quick glance at the picture on the screen told her it was her older sister Jane.

“Hi. I’m not interrupting, am I?” Jane asked worriedly.

“No. Perfect timing. I am just about to walk out the door,” Kiley replied.

She covered the mouthpiece of the phone and thanked Mrs. Bethany for having her. She only grunted in reply, although by most book signing standards, Kiley’s little book had done very well for her business tonight. Kiley waved at the two employees in the back of the store who had helped with set up, then pushed her way out the glass door with the metal frame. The little bell chimed in farewell.

“I just wanted to make sure you are still planning on arriving tomorrow,” Jane inquired.

“Yes. I would love to just come straight down now, but I’m in Arkansas,” Kiley said, approaching her white SUV that glowed under the parking lot lights. Climbing behind the steering wheel of her Toyota RAV4, she watched as the owner locked the door and flipped the sign to “Closed.” “I am pretty sure I would fall asleep on the way to Alabama.”

“Oh, that is fine. I would rather not have to worry about you falling asleep and ending up dead in a ditch tonight.”

“Ah, I miss you, optimistic sister,” she replied, sarcasm dripping from every word.

“Very funny. Do you think you will make it here by dinnertime tomorrow?”

“That is my plan.”

“I can’t wait to see you.”

“I can’t wait to see you, too. I bet you have changed a lot in the three months since I saw you last. Time to head to the motel.”

“Goodbye.”

“Bye.”

Kiley drove toward the nearest interstate, where she had seen a bunch of chain motels, and a few mom and pop joints that looked like they could be a set for a new horror movie. Coming into town, she especially remembered seeing one that looked like it had recently had a fire, in the last five years or so, with boards covering the windows. But there was a giant brand new shiny banner hanging across that building which read “Now Open for Business.” Kiley couldn’t imagine anyone dense enough to actually stop there to get a room for the night. She was terrified to even drive past the place, afraid that a ghost would come up her tailpipe, or in through her ventilation system, and possess her.

She checked in to a low-budget but reasonably clean-looking motel. She handed over her debit card at the front counter, praying that there was enough money remaining in her checking account for both a room tonight and gas tomorrow. She pulled her little carry-on case to her room, swiped the key card, turned on the light, then fell face first onto the bed. Kiley was so tired. She wished she was still a little kid and could just sleep like this. Her appearance clothes would get wrinkled, but she wouldn’t be having any engagements in Oakley and could have them dry-cleaned before any future ones. But sleeping in her dress clothes wouldn’t be very comfortable.

Kiley pushed herself up off the bed. She pulled an old, stretched gray T-shirt out of her suitcase. She didn’t bother to look for her own toothbrush. She opened the one sealed in plastic wrap provided by the motel instead. Then she laid down on the lumpy mattress. She tried to fluff the flat pillow, but it was no use. The low thread count sheets scratched her as she tossed and turned. She hadn’t paid a high enough price for this motel for them to have a budget big enough to use fabric softener. She turned on the television to her favorite late-night talk show, hosted by Timmy Killon. The radiating glow of the screen and incessant drone of the men talking soon lulled her into sleep.

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