Short Story – As Sad as Rhonda

Malik watched the woman today, as he watched her almost every day.

She moved about the diner, coffee pot in hand, stopping to laugh with just about everyone in the place. Not him, but everyone else. He supposed he was still a newcomer. She swept away from what Malik assumed were a group of farmers and headed toward him with the pot. Five months of breakfast here five times a week, and she knew he would drink at least four cups of coffee before he headed out on the interminable job search.

“Hi, kid,” she said, pouring his coffee and dropping another handful of creamers on his table. She pursed her lips and threw a few extra napkins down as well.

Malik looked down. He had spilled egg yolk on his white shirt. “Guess I’m not job-hunting until I change.”

“You’re having a hard time finding a job,” she said. “There’ll be work once school lets out, but you got time before that happens.”

Malik shrugged. “It’s not urgent. It’s just that I hate looking for work. I feel like I’m going on endless first dates and I’m always coming up short.”

She smiled for the first time. It changed her face. Malik noticed the fine lines around her eyes. He couldn’t guess her age.

“If I had my way, you could have this job.” She walked away to serve another customer.

Malik finished his coffee and left his money on the table.

He went home, stripped off his clothes, and turned on the computer. He’d put in a few more online applications and start fresh tomorrow. He was sick of going door to door.

Later, when dinner was simmering on the stove, Malik was on hangouts, chatting with Johnna and Anthony. He leaned into the screen, wanting to jump through and touch their faces. “I miss you so much,” Johnna said. “It isn’t the same without you.”

Edward came through the front door and put his hands on Malik’s shoulders. He leaned toward the screen. “We’ll try to come for a visit when classes let out this summer.”

They disconnected, and Malik stood, turning to hold Edward. Edward’s hair brushed Malik’s nose for a moment, but he didn’t turn his face to kiss Malik’s mouth.

“How was the job hunt?”

“We’re not going for a visit when classes let out,” Malik said. “Not when you’re teaching summer classes.”

Edward was carefully taking off his suit jacket, and hanging it up on the garment rack in the corner. Malik watched him hang up his button-front shirt, his tie. He carefully aligned the seams of his pants, brushing out the wrinkles before draping it over the hanger. Edward thought he had to look pristine when he taught. Malik had tried to tell him the students would relate to him if he acted a little more natural. He hated that Edward looked so dapper. He wanted him to try to be more rugged, to fit in. He knew it was hard to be a first-year professor, fresh out of grad school. And Malik didn’t want Edward to stand out in this farming community.

He couldn’t fault his husband, though. Edward had tried so hard to get a job at a school in California, leaning on Malik’s salary at the insurance company as the months passed with no calls.

Now Malik was the one without a job. He got up to take dinner off the stove. He had promised to follow Edward anywhere.

In the morning, Malik watched Edward getting dressed. It was the same process as the night before, in reverse. It was Tuesday. Edward would be wearing his gray slacks and the light blue sweater vest. Malik saw the way the other professors dressed on campus, especially now, when it was cold and wet, and everyone was prepping for a long, ugly winter. Malik stared out the window at the gray sky. “I can’t remember what the California sky looks like,” he said.

 

(To be continued on Patreon)

The members of my Patreon club get access to short stories no one else sees, cover reveals, character bios, bits and pieces from works in progress, and so much more.

Come join us for a good time!

https://www.patreon.com/bethburnett

Saints and Sinners

I’m excited to be part of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival this month. My partner and I are taking the train and I think we’re both looking forward to twenty hours of peace and solitude before the big celebration. It’s a good time for an appearance. Eating Life has had a nice uptick in sales lately, spurred, perhaps, by the news that my fifth book, Coming Around Again, will be published by Sapphire Books Publishing in fall of 2018.

I’ll be on two panels and will be giving a reading, so if you are anywhere near New Orleans, consider coming out for this LGBT centered portion of the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival.

 

A New Way to Commune with Readers

Beth Patreon Flier

My patreon platform is going well for the first week or so. I have four patrons so far and I have posted quite a bit of content that others won’t get to see – short stories that will only be posted on Patron, rough drafts with editing notes, cover reveals that others don’t get to see yet – even blurbs from current WIPs.  The engagement so far is fun…. the readers seem to enjoy the content and they like having a say in what I post.

This upcoming week, the patrons are getting a video-reading from my upcoming novel, Coming Around Again, release date fall of 2018.

There’s even a rumor I may post some of my poetry, heretofore only seen by myself and my cat.

And no one has to wear pants.

 

 

Happy Love Day

Today is the 12th anniversary of the day I got my beloved dog, Brutal Brutus the Destroyer, aka Brutie, from the St. Croix Animal Shelter. Brutie old man

 

He was the world’s most adorable puppy, but he is an even handsomer old man. Happy love day, Brutie. I hope we have twelve more. ❤Brutie as a baby

 

Thank you for reading! In honor of Brutie’s love day, one random commenter on today’s blog will receive a free paper copy of my fourth novel, Eating Life.

Excerpt from Eating Life

From my novel Eating Life. It’s one of my favorite moments because I think it is the exact moment Ben chooses to stay alive. ❤

 

Casey knew that nothing she said could ease his pain. She waited, occasionally putting her hand on his head or his shoulder. Finally, his sobs subsided and he started breathing more normally. Casey reached across him to the counter and grabbed the bag of chocolate chip cookies.

“Here,” she said, handing it to Ben.

He laughed a little. “Chocolate chip cookies to save the soul.”

Casey shrugged. “Look at me,” she said, smiling. “Obviously I turn to food for comfort.”

Ben snorted. “You look great. Don’t disparage yourself.”

“I’m not. I’m being honest. I do turn to food for comfort.”

Ben shoved a cookie into his mouth. “So do I,” he said around a mouthful of half-chewed cookie.

“Yeah, but you’re skinny,” Casey said. “When you have food issues and you’re skinny, people are sympathetic. When you have food issues and you’re fat, people are just disgusted.”

“Jerky people.”

Casey patted Ben on the head and smiled. “I don’t know if I’m the right person for this, Ben. But I’m going to try to keep you alive.”

He reached into the bag of cookies and looked up at her. “These cookies are a good start.”

 

***

 

Casey woke up wrapped in her sleeping bag with Dakota stretched out at her side. As bad as his hips were getting, he could usually find a way to jump into her bed when he wanted comfort. She stretched thoroughly and got up to go outside. Dakota followed her out the door, immediately lifting his leg on the nearest tree. Sadly noting how his leg barely came off the ground anymore, Casey watched him make his rounds of the trees and bushes. Noticing a break in the trees, Casey stepped over some tangled vines and headed for a small clearing. When she stepped out of the trees, she found herself looking down over the edge of a cliff at the Pacific Ocean. She thought about Ben throwing himself over the side of the cliff. What did it take to end one’s own life? Sad as she had been at so many points in her life, she could only remember one time when she was low enough to consider ending it. It was during the worst of the days with Ally, after the emotional abuse had turned physical. It was after Casey had already cut Megan out of her life because Ally hated her. Those were days when it felt as if she would never feel happy again. Once she had gotten out of that alive, she knew she would never take life, or Megan, for granted again. Sure, there were still a million little moments of sadness over the years. Megan had stepped in on several of those occasions, walking her through the deepest of her heartaches. She closed her eyes, calling up the strong and beautiful features of her most cherished friend. Megan could build a rocking chair and cook a soufflé. She had just enough mechanical knowledge to avoid getting ripped off when her car broke down. She could build a campfire, and she looked great in a suit. Casey wondered if Megan was happy now, working for the advertising company and supporting a partner. Dakota came up beside her and she rested her palm on the top of his head. Together, they stared at the waves.

A branch snapping behind her startled her out of her thoughts.

“Morning, early riser,” Ben mumbled, rubbing his eyes as he came up beside her.

“Hey. This is an amazing view.”

“What are your plans for the day?”

Casey shrugged. “I thought I’d wrestle some coffee out of my old percolator. Once that’s done, I’m going to take everything out of the car and repack. Hopefully I can make some more space. I didn’t organize it when I left Sedona, just threw everything in and left what wouldn’t fit.”

Ben smiled. “You’re a wanderer. Little pieces of you are all over the country. What happens when you decide to settle down?”

“I don’t know.” Casey sighed. “Some days, I think it would be nice to have a permanent home. Then I get to a place where I think I’ll stay for a while and after a few weeks, I start to get anxious that I’m missing something somewhere else.”

“You’re welcome to stay here as long as you want,” Ben said.

“With or without you?”

“I’m still thinking about it,” he answered.

“I’d like to stay for a few days. The woods are my friend. But then I need to head out. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen Megan and I’m suddenly missing her like crazy.”

“Where does she live?”

“Memphis.”

“Memphis. I’ve never been,” Ben said.

“Want to go?”

“To Memphis?” Ben took a step back, laughing.

“Why not?” Casey shrugged. “Dakota likes you. Megan would probably adore you. What else do you have going on?”

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

“Well then.” She scritched Dakota behind the ears and turned to walk back toward the cabin. “I need some coffee. I’ll hang here for a couple of days and you can decide if you want to go with me to Memphis.”

“They make Krispy Kreme doughnuts there,” Ben said.

“Yeah. Warm off the line,” Casey laughed. “Dakota loves them.”

“Can we go to Graceland?”

Casey stopped, looking back over her shoulder. She stared at Ben, who looked back at her, expressionless.

“Graceland?”

“Yeah.”

“What the hell? One more overpriced tourist trap won’t kill me.”

 

Eating Life Cover

 

Patreon

I’ve recently started using the crowd-powered content site Patreon. It’s a great way to offer content to readers and fans who want things that no one else will ever get!

Patreon offers a reward system. Sign up to pay a monthly fee and you get content from me that no one else gets to see – EVER.

Why would you do something like this?

  1. That content. Super awesome content. The best content of all-time. I mean, maybe.
  2. You’ll be a patron to an artist. (Writer.) Just like some old king.
  3. If I get enough patrons, I’ll just write and create content all the time and you’ll get even more awesome stuff.
  4. Not having to wear pants. (Okay, this one is really only for my benefit, but I know you want me to be happy and I’m happiest when I’m not wearing pants.) **For my UK friends, pants here = trousers. Don’t want to make this post PG13.

You can find my patreon page here 

 

And you can watch my welcome video right here. (Cheesy jokes come standard. Togas not included.)

 

The Winter Blahs

It always hits around mid-January, doesn’t it? The holidays are over, you’ve shoveled way more than you want to, you’ve debated moving somewhere warmer for the fifteenth time, and there’s nothing left to do but sit inside in seven layers and wait for spring.

I like to write during this time. I’m not going to be leaving the house much anyway, so I might as well make some productive use of my captivity. I wrote three books in 2017, and a great deal of that work happened in January and February. (And again late in the year in November.) In the spring, I like to be outside, and in the summer, there are conferences and road trips and camping. Winter is a good time to write.

Except  – it’s January 14th and I’ve only put about five thousand words down on paper. But I’m not beating myself up. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to not be hard on myself. I’m going to follow the same advice I give my students. Sit down and write for at least fifteen minutes a day. No matter what else happens, you can make time for fifteen minutes. You’ll be amazed at what you can do in fifteen minutes a day.

It’s my commitment to myself and my readers. Fifteen minutes a day. I may not write three books this year, but I will definitely write at least one.

 

2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, I try to post my New Year’s resolutions – to commit to writing the things I hope to accomplish in the coming year. Last year, I think I came close to accomplishing most of what I set out to do.

This year, I resolve to be happy with my body just the way it is. I resolve to avoid dieting, to refuse to press myself into a patriarchal construct of accepted female appearance. This year, I’d like to continue to lovingly nourish my body with mostly plant-based foods, delicious teas, and perhaps a bit too much coffee. I resolve to continue to try new vegan recipes and to continue to delight in my own growth as a cook who can create delightful meals without stress.

This year I want to move my body more, stretch more, spend more time standing up from my desk. I want to dance without worrying what people are thinking about me. I want to touch my toes and stand on one foot and do a few minutes of yoga every day so my back doesn’t hurt after a long day of working.

I want to take Brutus out for more walks so, when the time comes that walks are no longer possible for him, we’ll know we made the most of the time he could enjoy the outdoors on his own four feet.

This year, I want to cherish my partner – I want to make sure she knows that I don’t take for granted how she loves and adores and desires me exactly the way I am. I want to make sure that she feels as special as she makes me feel. This year, I want to remember how hard it has been to spend so much time apart as we deal with immigration, and I want to appreciate how deeply we value the time together.  I resolve to appreciate the natural intimacy between us, and to continue to cultivate it as the years go by.

This year, I want to publish two of the three novels I wrote in 2017. I want to write one or two more. I want to win at least one short story contest. I’d like to submit to five anthologies in 2018.

I resolve to worry less about money while still working on upping my income. I’d like to get a job teaching creative writing. I want to sell more books. I resolve to not let the acquisition of things every become my focus, regardless of changes in income. This year, I promise to continue to give when I can, even when my finances are uncertain.

This year, I want to remember that it’s okay to feel lonely sometimes and that the best way to make friends is to reach out to friends. I want to encourage connections with old friends, and spend time with new. I want to send more paper letters, give away more books, spend more time video chatting with people I love, give hugs more freely.

This year, I resolve to turn over the pages of my calendar at the beginning of the month, rather than looking up at it in December and realizing it is still on May.

Finally, no matter what else happens, I resolve to remember that I deserve this.

Happy New Year, friends.

 

NaNoWriMo

I guess after all the updating DURING NaNo, I forgot to mention that I did complete it. I ended at just over 51,000 words, and pretty much the completed bare bones rough draft of my YA fantasy novel. It was a lot of fun and I would probably do it again.

Maybe. If nothing else, it taught me that I could/should be writing a lot more than I generally do. Not that I think I should bust out 50,000 words a month every month. But I could at least be doing 25,000 a month without the rest of my life falling apart.

I had a pretty major push on the second to last day, proving yet again that panic and fear are two of my biggest motivators. Or that goal-setting works. 🙂

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