Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Can We See Success in the Fine Details of Our Lives?

"She wasn’t insane,” Braithwaite said. “True insanity, as frightening as it might be, gives a sort of obliviousness to the chaos in a life. People who commit suicide are struggling to order their existence, and when they see it’s a losing battle, they will finalize it rather than have it wrenched from them. Insanity wouldn’t permit that type of clarity. Laurel Dumont died as deliberately as she lived, believe me. And I could tell she was on that path months ago.”

First, I apologize if I spoiled anything above and further along.  The posted passage comes from Gloria Naylor's novel Linden Hills. Mark it on your summer reading list if you have not read it by now. It is very much worthy of your attention.

I suppose I should first summarize the novel before I get into why I chose to post this passage out of the many meaningful and profound ones found in the novel. Those familiar with the author, Gloria Naylor, are most likely familiar with her The Women of Brewster Place book. Some time in the late 80s that novel adapted into a television miniseries starring Oprah Winfrey. It was a story that orbited a set of women living inside a ghetto, or wall-off community. Throughout each woman's story, we chronicle her life, victories, and misfortunes faced within the desolation of the community. So contrast to Brewster Place is Linden Hills where people enjoy a posh living environment. They are the people with the six-figure income and profligate lifestyles. They are of an affluent pedigree, driven by their desire to remain within the confines of a neighborhood as up-market as Linden Hills. The novel highlights the hidden truths within some of the residents of the community, revealing that what glitters is not gold.  Many of these affluent characters are under the bend of Luther Nedeed, whose ancestors settled on the land first, subsequently owning and controlling its properties through his family's realty corporation. His charisma is undeniable in conjunction to his power, so he has influence over the community, much too many of the residents' vexation.

The rest I will leave to those who decide to read the novel because there is so much to explore. Some even wrote essays regarding how Linden Hills parallels to Dante's Inferno. Familiar, but having never read it, I am now interested in Dante's Inferno because of Linden Hills. Backwards?  Maybe.  Depends on what you like.

The passage I posted recounts a successful, well-established character in the novel who found herself depressed and vacated (except for her visiting Grandmother) inside her 12-room Tudor-style home somewhere in the curves of Linden Hills. The character's name was Laurel, and she made most of her fortune holding down an IBM division that consisted mostly of men. However, she also married into prosperity, which led to her relocating into her husband's (an African-American D.A. of the county) family home in Linden Hills.

Naylor did a fantastic job of laying down Laurel's history on how she spent summers with her grandmother in Georgia.  It is here that Laurel would swim in ponds and pirouette to classical music while driven by her muse. Her mother had long since been deceased, and Laurel believed that neither her father nor her step-mother cared too much for her company. She grew up, and it was that same grandmother that she spent summers with who cashed in on her life savings to put Laurel through college.  This paved Laurel’s road to success, and as mentioned, Laurel took a different route other than furthering her love of swimming and music.  Nevertheless, great career, great marriage, wealth, great home, and a committed husband; one would think Laurel knew she had it, but some things are never enough.

Leading to her suicide we--the readers--come to realize that Laurel is very much unhappy for several reasons. One of those reasons is that she does not feel fulfilled in her marriage. This reality comes to her in the form of disenchantment that her husband--as a male--is far more recognized than herself in the Linden Hills community.  She is humbly seen as his wife to her neighbors.  As talented and successful as Laurel is her need for self-validation suddenly acquires a snag.  It is her grandmother who sits up with her for days watching her granddaughter strum classical music out of her piano within her deperession. Seeing that it is a form of unreached therapy and self-validation for her granddaughter, the grandmother suggest Laurel find what she is seeking in blues music by the likes of Bessie Smith and Billie Holliday. An appalled Laurel finds those artist too low class for her taste. Nonetheless, her grandmother maintains that those artists best speak of the troubles Laurel faces within herself.

There seems to be no chance for Laurel as her husband leaves her and friends stop calling.  Then one day Laurel is asked out of her lonely bed by her grandmother, who informs that she has a visitor at the house. Here enters Luther Nedeed who in one conversation tells Laurel that since her husband no longer lives in the house, she would have to move out of the upscale community of Linden Hills. An argument rises and legal threats collide.  However, the powerful Luther's visit turns the final twist of the knife in Laurel.  With her home falling from beneath her, she feels as if nothing in this world is hers anymore. Unable to listen to her grandmother's methods of curing her blues by standing through it till it moves, Laurel takes her life by diving into an empty swimming pool.  Luther Nedeed stood along the corner of the house and watched her take that mortal dive.

Powerful stuff, right? Of course my summarizing this portion of the novel does not give the material justice. Still, the passage and the supporting summary reiterations that success does not necessarily bring happiness to an individual, something we all heard over and over again.  However, the one thing we have to ask ourselves is what is the definition of success, especially for the everyday individual who is out to achieve something to better his or her life?  See, even I can many times take for granted the things that I have, complaining for more when there are people who would give up so much more to have what I have.  I’m fortunate to even be able to read and type this, physically and mentally.  So there are successes in my life, but like many, I do not always see success in the small details of living because I am too preoccupied with obtaining my definition of it.  So despite that glaring revelation, my complaints for more sometimes gather dark contemplations.  Let me spell out that I most certainly do not feel suicidal on such days; Jesus, I would never have the guts.  However, I do wonder what life would be like should I not have to participate in every bit of it?

 "...struggling to order their existence…"

Because of some unfortunate imbalances and torturous individual philosophies of the human experience, can we not ever learn to consider life itself a success?  Or is that not enough?  Is that too impossible a concept?  Is it safe to say that one’s culture is responsible for this?  What is it about trying to make order of life, love, family, health, wealthy, spirituality, and success that should we not obtain this “order” we began to see the uselessness of it all without acknowledging the smaller, fine details?

Naylor, Gloria. Linden Hills. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Penguin, 1986. Print.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Commentaries on Characters of Color Solving Crimes in Fiction

I would like to present a blog that reveals two short-lived mystery series written by women of color and starring women of color protagonists.  I came across Grace F. Edwards and Judith Smith-Levin (rest in peace) in a search that branched when I discovered Valerie Wilson Wesley's Tamara Hayle detective series.  While Wesley's series lasted eight books, sadly, Edwards and Smith-Levin's respective series were only four books long.  Still, each title gave me everything I looked for in a smart, dedicated woman displaying independent thinking and deductive reasoning when confronted with a puzzling murder mystery.   
Grace F. Edwards wrote the Mali Anderson series.  Based in Harlem, Mali Anderson was a former department cop who found herself fired from the force after punching out a racist/sexist police officer.  In turn, a lawsuit followed after her termination.  Mali spent the majority of her four book series detailing minutiae events concerning the lawsuit’s development.  Meanwhile, Mali set into her purists of receiving her social workers’ Ph.D while dating the one officer who stood by her during her days on the force and its crumbling aftermath.  He was the handsome Tad Honeywell.  Between solving the murders surrounding her hometown of Harlem, Mali also raised her eleven-year-old orphaned nephew, Alvin.  Living with her father, they both went about ensuring that Alvin remained protected from the predators that stalked the streets of Harlem.  Both the murdering and drug affiliated kind I must clarify, considering Mali did everything in her power to keep her nephew from becoming a victim to the streets period.  In the last book Alvin was missing the entire time.  Mali felt it was best to send him on a yacht out of the city, especially when in the previous book things got heavy between Alvin and a neighborhood street pimp.  All of this only brightened my love of the series; social commentaries subtle but at play.  Nevertheless, at any moment you could count on Mali either storming to her family and friends' rescue, or her--quite literally--being hit by a car.  In retrospect, Mali did take a series of beatings book after book.
I loved reading about Mali’s character and do miss her stories.  Unlike Star, who I will detail next, Mali was notas easily distracted by outside interference, including her relationship with Tad.  She was a character that handled much of her circumstances head-on, driven by the desire to protect or avenge the victimized with the use of her brain.  She was not seen as a shining sexy figure that the gender-opposite characters drooled over; therefore, she was most related as a sister to other characters.  She was not an average character either, especially with her aspirations for personal justice ringing clear in her narrative.  There was little titillation in this series outside Mali and Tad’s relationship, and I rather it be that way because too much can scream of author-inferring-character.  Alternatively, Mali spent a good bit of her time speaking on the histories of Harlem, its architecture, and its music scene (her father was a musician).  Because her boyfriend was still a police officer, she would take his advice when necessary, and place it aside when she felt like other tactics would work better.  Remember, she was once a copherself so she felt capable.  This would frustrate Tad, and I liked Mali better for it.  So whereas she was no longer a cop, Mali still did her own thing when the people around her were victims of murderand in need of justice.  She knew the victims of the crimes she faced.  They were of her community, which was all the more reason for her to make the choices she made that risked her life.
Judith Smith-Levin wrote the Starletta Duvall mystery series.  Based in Massachusetts, Starletta Duvall was the a homicide lieutenant who favored going out into the field as opposed to pushing papers at her desk.  In her first mystery, she even went undercover by using her sexy wiles to entrap the culprit of a singular crime.  Similar to Mali, she received her share of departmental flack, particularly as an African-American woman leading a team of homicide detectives.  However, one advantage that she had over Mali was that her father was a well-known police officer who remained honored within the department before his passing.  So nobody really messed with her unlike Mali's ugly situation.  While the respect of her father was often thrown into the mix, the true nature of her winning over many of her teammates was her apparent sexiness and gorgeous looks.  Some of her department buddies would even refer to her as "baby."  Partnered with an Italian-American man named, Dominic Paresi, Star (her nickname) solved a series of four-book cases with his assistants as well as her city's top medical examiner, and local womanizer, Mitchell Grant.  With his blond hair and stunning green eyes, Grant even found himself intrigued by Star, and vice-versa.  Before long, the two were sharing a bed that may possibility be the first display of an interracial couple in this genre of fiction.  Nonetheless, while Star lived alone with a cat, she had her best friend, Vee, and Vee's children to help balance her life.  Many of Star’s cases came handed to her within a professional distance, meaning she was never really one with the victims.  I take that back—there were maybe two I can recall that Star held history with.  Nevertheless, that did not stop Star from pulling out the stops to solve her cases, which she did with a sharp tongue and a stomp that was a hell of a lot more pitiless than her counterpart, Mali.  And I loved every bit of its display.

I loved reading about Star, too.  I must say that the first book’s prologue was unquestionably gruesome.  I feltsick after reading how deeply Smith-Levin describes a murder-in-action.  It was that vivid and scary.  However, the only, and I mean only, thing that threw me off in Smith-Levin’s four-book series was the constant admiration of her character’s looks, body, and authority by male characters, including villains.  This is a glaring observation I seem to pick up on when it happens in any book, and it distracts me each time.  Not to mention how her love interest, Mitchell Grant, was known for sleeping with a variety of women under the umbrella of thought that he was just too amazingly handsome and sophisticated to resist.  Meanwhile, Star just happened to grab him into the commencements of a committed relationship.  However, their relationship only gets more interesting as the series develops and individuals from Mitchell's past starts to walk into the series.  That... I loved.  This might be somewhat of a wild shot, but I did notfind Star suited to be a lieutenant.  Now,this is not to say that I know what the hell such a position requires, but often times I felt like she was playinga role smaller than what she was actually given.  Pardon me if that does not makes sense, but occasionally Star seemed preoccupied with other matters.  Plus, there were moments when she would flipout and resort to tears and vomiting when a particular form of stress came her way.  I will also never understand how in the first book (and a bit in the second) she would go from arriving at a fresh crime scene to sipping wine or eating ice cream at a fine restaurant in one night.  Did she not have a 48-hour window necessary to follow what evidence she had available to her, considering she took the case even as a lieutenant?  Thankfully, most of what I just mentioned leveled out by the third book.  Now, what I did like about Star was that she was much more humorous than Mali, but like Mali, she also took dangerous risks that made for intense readings.  Star got her butt whooped a couple of times also, and did not seem to flinch when she gave lip to the antagonist during the final showdown.  This was a fine series.  I just wish that Smith-Levin had cut away with some of the “golden” character appearances and traits.  

I am sad that both series are short-lived.  While Smith-Levin passed away a few years ago and cannot continue, I believe there is still hope for Grace F. Edwards in digital printing.  Still, nothing can change the greatness and risks these ladies took in writing stories featuring women of color honing intelligence and authority in the face of puzzling crimes and danger.  I say that with complete certainty of that risk when I recall Asian-American crime writer, Tess Gerritsen, mentioning how she was discouraged from making one of her protagonist match her own ethnicity because of the dangers of "low sells."  To me this type of "risk" always implies that no one can identify with the character, which is not necessarily true when I can easily place myself into the lonely shoes of characters like Kinsey Millhone.  Nonetheless, Star and Mali managed to play up on their many strengths for an entertaining series of great books.  I hope that others will find themselves relating to the type of characters, social themes, and settings I many times long to read. 

In closing, I just feel like someone should write about these authors and their characters.  I hate to see great material not receive the attention it deserves.  Should the two have received such in the past, there may have been more books to keep us reading about these women.
Author Image Sources
Grace F. Edwards taken from The Harlem Writers Guild @
Judith Smith-Levin taken from MySpace via Google Search.  Website link unavailable.
You can find all of Mali Anderson Mysteries in E-book format on Amazon @

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tao and Allowing

I bought Wayne Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts -- Change Your Life months ago and just now picked it up to read.  In the book, Dyer divulges readers with his study and construction of the Tao Te Ching and, by matching his always wisematic (yes, I made that up) words with modern living, tries to open readers to applying the Tao to their everyday life.  Or in a roundabout way, he simplifies the text.  So while I heard about the Tao Te Ching in the past (I believe throughout reading a Buffy theorist psychology book), I never really dived into the material.  I chose to stick with my Louise Hay--thank you very much--instead.  I only say so because it is much easier for me to grasp the concept of books like You Can Heal Your Life, as opposed to the Tao Te Ching, even under the massive intellect of Dr. Wayne Dyer.  Nevertheless, that probably goes for anyone who faces the two’s approach to maintaining a healthy spiritual life.

And that’s one reason  I was afraid to even write about the subject.  I looked through a couple of translations that differ from Wayne Dyer’s and was left pretty much unsure if I should attempt to try to understand any of it for myself.  Following those translations were comments by shaken people who swear one verse means this as opposed to that.  With that deterrent, you begin to wonder which is an authentic reflection of the ancient Chinese text that provides tools on demystifying the human experience.  Hell, I didn’t know.  But I wanted to know.  Out of general interest, I wanted to wrap my mind around just a small bit of it if I could.  This is one reason why I read Dyer’s information, but also Derek Lin’s recommended online source.  Between the two I have room to think a little for myself also.

According to Derek Lin’s online translation, the Tao Te Ching starts with Chapter One stating:

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence
Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

And Dyer's source reads as 1st Verse stating:

The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name.
The Tao is both named and nameless.
As nameless it is the origin of all things;
as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery;
ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations.
And the mystery itself is the doorway
to all understanding.

Each of Lin’s lines differs from the source Dyer used in his book, but I can only guess that the main meaning behind the two resonates to the same beat that you shouldn’t make a fuss out of trying to figure out every person, situation, circumstance, and idea that comes your way.  For the most part, all those things will do is remain a mystery, just as we are within the Universe's mysterious schematic.  We are in the "Case of the Living" also, so you'll never completely solve why a person does the things he or she does, especially when we cannot solve many of the psychologies that make up ourselves.  An example is sort of like me attempting to figure out why a relative of mine moved to Chicago to be with the father of her seven-month-old, leaving her oldest child behind as he enters kindergarten next month.  Now of course I can dive into the surface of the circumstances, but how in the hell am I suppose to make sense of her decision when it's not mine to make?  Or another example is why one of my co-workers repeatedly details to me her affairs with other men with total disregard to her marriage?  Who am I to judge or say anything?  Or why does that one fellow chooses not to speak to me, glaring instead from across the room?  So why should I attempt to understand when the mystery of the Tao suggest that I let such matters run their course as it goes to work developing all parties involved.  It’s a mystery of mysteries, after all.  So maybe the only way to understand it is not to try to understand it, even as I kill the urge to reason with this relative on how this may effect the child in the big picture.

Without a doubt this verse alone is much more broader than I can handle, but what are you seeing in your life that you could let go and enter  a state of “letting it be”?  And why is it sometimes easier to let things be in one case as opposed to another?  And where does being unsympathetic and selfish may tie into letting people follow their course as you focus on allowing your own course to unfold?


Dyer, Wayne W. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2007.

Lin, Derek. "Accurate Translation of the Tao Te Ching." Accurate Translation of the Tao Te Ching. N.p. <>.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Tell Me"

Why should it be my loneliness,
Why should it be my song,
Why should it be my dream

Without a doubt, this poem speaks to me. It speaks mostly to who I used to be, or the person I am trying to grow from remaining as. These days I have better tools available to fight those feelings of inadequacy that swim up to battle my newfound way of thinking and believing. However, often those tools are a touch rusty and in need of a polishing. So for a moment a sneaky question of “am I good enough” and “am I wasting my time” manages to seep through, both within conscious and subconscious musings about life. Those thoughts mostly come when I find myself looking at the changes that others are making and not so much the “strain“ that I sometimes feel within my particular development. When I am settled in my personal achievements (many times small but hopeful), those despairing thoughts hardly ever flicker into my consciousness.

So I suppose that sometimes when I see a friend sharing pictures of him or herself with someone special, I wonder about my loneliness. I wonder was there anything I could have done differently in my last attempt at dating, so that I could now own the option of calling someone special up for a stroll downtown. Alternatively, when I hear about friends getting that new car or new apartment, I wonder about my song. I wonder is it too much to believe those material things are possible for me, or am I just too lazy to go out and get them. When coworkers walk away from the job to embark on a new opportunity, I wonder about my dream. Dreams that have flip-flopped and dangled, missing those "aged appropriate" deadlines I’ve given them.

This is bull by the way. Toni Morrison published her first book in her 40s.

Like a lot of people, these realities (or not so realities according to how they were achieved) bug me also. Sometimes I just sit in an empty space watching, what I feel like is life, happening to the people surrounding me. Meanwhile, I feel uncertain, unsure about my present and future situation. I began to wonder, what can I do and why do I not know what to do?

So we’ve all been there. Hell, it’s life. You chew it; you swallow it; you go find something else.

Then I realize that these thoughts are probably more cyclical than we think. See, you have to consider that others take personal note of the achievements you make. A friend might feel a certain type of way because I’ve managed to love and accept myself in all of my singleness. I had the guts to tell someone who hurt me that I'm not putting up with pain any more. Or that I am brave and confident enough to stand on my own. Others may feel that my well-running car and reliable living situation warrants an envious eye. Then there are those who may find new jobs but not the direction that is fit for them.  Meanwhile, I work the job I can hardly stomach while putting in work opening myself to others through my creative talents. Or in essence, I’ve developed my path by following my bliss that will eventually lead to bright prospects.

So it goes around in circles. We all do the best that we can with the tools and information that we are given. One day, we all will get there, and if applied correctly, can be motivated by the achievements of others.

However, at the end of the day I ask myself the same questions Langston Hughes’ “Tell Me” ask. We all do. It is something so deep it anchors into our core. Blame our culture or our being human, but we well always ask these questions about ourselves. However, instead of asking "why" we would do better to recognize and be proud that we have a story to tell all our own.

I'm finding much of that in blogging.

Friday, July 12, 2013

When Life Speaks to Us

“North Charleston was tighter. Houses was jam-packed, apartments here, there. It was more dangerous, but I wasn’t afraid. Hell, home was dangerous. I was willing to take on anybody that came my way. I always would pray to myself. One time I was walking for a job, all the way from Mall Drive up to that Wendy’s, way up there just before you get to the Northwoods Mall. I walked. Miles. But just before I got to Gaslight Square, a lady was walking, and she was dressed church-wise, and she hand me this little book. I just grabbed it, and I took it. I was pouring down sweat. I said, “Oh, Lord, please let me get this job.” I didn’t even know where I was going. I just told God to direct me to the right place. I passed so many places that I could have stopped to, but I didn’t. I ended up at Wendy’s, and they hired me that day. That same day. And I thought it was meant for me to run into this lady.”

This passage was taken from page 150 of Ruthie Bolton’s biography, Gal: A True Life.  Having came across it a couple of hours ago, I stopped to read it again and again because I felt something both saddening and highly inspirational.  Placing aside all that the book has to offer in terms of her bravery within her horrific family situation (I don't mean that as a disregard when there is much to discuss), this passage stuck inside of me like a plug in a socket.  I recall Oprah’s "Ah-ha" catchphrase lighting up my thoughts.

While a host of conversations are in my head that I can draw from this passage and relate to my life, I believe the number one shining thought is that God/the Universe is always there for us.  He/She/It (whatever have you) is most certainly on your side and all you have to do is ask, believe, and show up.  From there we watch a path be revealed to us as we keep walking, even in times when we think absolutely nothing is happening or that there are more blocks than avenues. 

It makes me think about those days where I feel so unproductive because I simply am not sure what it is that I need to do.  Today was one of those days, so I decided I would read until something came to thought.  Now here I am blogging what I felt was a significant piece of information guided my way.  That's one more blog entry of me "showing up" and trusting that someone else gets it.

So that I would not forget this passage from this incredible book, I wanted to tack it on my blog as that perfect reminder of how life truly speak to us in times when we just need to sit down, quiet ourselves, and listen.  Then it's back to hitting the pavement and showing up.

Bolton, Ruthie. Gal: A True Life. New York: New American Library, 1994. Print.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Who's It Gonna Be

Chris began to question the wisdom of this trip as she blew a twister of cigarette smoke into the polluted air of Saint Mech’s Bar and Grill. Within her thoughts, she sat alone on the farthest stool of twelve with her back turned to the other eleven lined up toward the bar‘s entrance. She nursed a Georgia Peach and puffed a pack of Virginia Slims where her Newports ran short in a crumbled box near her ashtray. Her long dark locks surfed down her backless rose-printed bell sleeve dress, and the buttered coloring of her long legs were crossed, facing an ill-repaired jukebox. She wore a pair of black stiletto sandals, clockwise twisting a dangling foot each time her thoughts of planning murder bricked against a possible obstacle. Her foot went counterclockwise as she plotted a way around these foreseen obstructions. And while her black designer bag rested unassumingly before her on the bar, a closer look would reveal that there was more inside of its deep pockets than checks, cards, and body spray. Look deep enough and someone would find the aluminum pistol case she had stashed beneath her requisites, including her lipstick.

She needed to reach inside her bag for that lipstick, considering she tasted most of it on her tongue after gnawing her lip for the past thirty minutes.

Chris’s purple eyes glanced at the zipped and buckled bag and, reconsidering applying more lipstick, she reached to stub out her cigarette instead. Another stream of smoke spilled from her faded cherry-pink lips. She didn’t have time to think about lipstick when she wondered if she could do this? If she could shoot her ex, Darien, in the face.

Chris heard the crunch of weight over the stool behind her and gave a profiled eye towards its occupant. It was Hal. Not another drunk that needed a kick in the balls to leave her in peace.

“It’s about time,” Chris murmured as she reached for another cigarette and her lighter. She offered the two, knowing Hal didn’t smoke Virginia Slims.

Hal waved her offer away as he dug into his chest pocket for a pack of Marlboros reds, flagged the bartender down with a simple finger, and ordered a Bud Light to go with his cowboy killers. Once all was in order he reached for Chris’s lighter, instead of his own, and tried to fire up on the remaining fluid as she swiveled to face him fully.

Smoke and a blaze clouded the study Chris was trying to gather off Hal’s face. She smirked just a little as she managed to take in her best friend of ten years. He looked less hampered since his introduction to the marriage life began five months ago. The Hal Chris knew always had his ass too tight financially to even dream of getting his ratty hair trimmed. Now, she noticed the difference in his easy part and moist ends. It didn’t change the channels of lines crossing his worn, heavy face, but it was an improvement.

“You look clean, Hal. Wifey must be treating your fat ass real good?” Chris said. She tucked away a single slip of Hal’s hair as she leaned into him, thankful that he didn‘t draw back. “Is she still the American pie you wanted over me? She a fiber bar goodness in high heels and pearls kind of woman? No summer strawberry pie to help with that cholesterol problem you got going on?”

Chris titled her head to catch Hal in a defensive flinch underneath the shade of smoke she cast. Yet, there wasn’t one.

The clicking of her lighter subsided as Hal slid it back on the bar, his lit cigarette a success. He pulled into his first take, his attention steady on the blinking Corona light above the bar instead of on Chris.

“You mad?” Chris asked, voice low and sweet. “Did I go to far?”

“No, but unlike some people,” Hal said, “Delilah’s character remains consistent. If she does get off track and decide to come after me in any kind of way, whether it be shooting the shit out of me or poisoning my food, I‘ll make sure she doesn‘t succeed. You feel me?”

Chris shrugged, drawing herself back onto her stool as her sugary pink nails tapped lightly on her lighter. “I have a reason for asking you to help me kill Darien, Hal.” She grinned just a little. “I would say him sleeping with my sister sounds pretty damn consistent on my behave. You’re the one with the change of heart. Once upon a time you liked your girls tougher than you. I‘m a little concern now. Especially after I got all dressed up. Now you‘re about to flake on my proposition.”

Hal cut his eyes toward her with a bare grin. “Don’t give me that, Chris. You know what I am capable of so cut the cute shit and talk to me. I didn‘t come here to listen to you act like you belong in the eighth grade.”

“Hey, I was just wondering if marrying your lady made you soft?” Chris provided an innocent gesture. “That’s how serious this situation is to me. Do or die, Hal. Like it used to be.”

For the first time, Hal turned to his old friend. Old girlfriend. And when he felt his body calling for hers, he quickly looked away. Those calls lead somewhere dangerous with Chris. He knew this first hand after years of dealing with the queen of ambition. Yet, here he was sitting at the bar with the woman he both loved and found repulsive. Whether it was her body or her mind, he had no way of resisting. His wife lay at home in bed under his lies because of his need to both love and save Chris.

“Get to the point, Chris,” Hal said, strumming the thoughts of Delilah home alone waiting for him to return as she slept.

“If it’ll get you in the mood to help me drive Darien out and put a bullet in his ugly head, then yes, I‘ll get to the point.”

Chris reached for her Georgia Peach as the bartender slid Hal his beer then proceeded to toss a towel onto a stack of phonebooks as other patrons signaled his service. Once more, Hal and Chris were alone at the end of the bar, far from the entrance, tables, and drunkards. No one could hear their banter and mummers of murder.

Hal wrapped his thick fingers around his beer and took a swallow, hoping it would chock down that flit Chris’s body was calling toward his. “I learned my lesson dealing with toothpick broads like you, Chris. You in particular. So I want to hear this right out so I can find where you‘re going to screw me over at.”

“Whatever, Halard.” Chris sighed. Her eyes cut away for a moment then back. “You question my consistency when you know I’ve always been one to pick a fight. If a little blood shed is needed, I’m down for that too. Now‘s the time. You wanna get paid, right?”

Hal gave his head a small, reasoning tilt. “So how you wanna do it?”

Chris sat up on her stool, pulling in closer to Hal. “Like this…”


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