EXCERPTS from The Accidental Wife:

     How does somebody trade places with their great-great grandmother? Was Jessamine having tea with the interpretive staff of old Fort Laramie, charming visitors with her uncanny knowledge of the nineteenth century? Did we pass into some alternate universe—exchange students traveling through time—or was this all just a very bad birthday nightmare I would wake from in the morning? I pulled the patchwork quilt over my head and bit off a quick prayer, then wondered if I was praying for the right thing.

Tomorrow. Everything would be clear, come tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Jessica Brewster! 
                                                                   * * * * *
     He was sleeping commando. I, who never expected to spend a night in bed with any man, woke up on my thirtieth birthday in a wilderness Wyoming cabin with a rooster crowing at the window and a naked man beside me. Not just any man. Oh Lord, this wasn't a dream channeled by a humming teacup. I was in bed with my great-great grandmother's legendary first husband." 

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     In the moonlight, he rose from the Adirondack like an old man and moved toward me, his green eyes fanning me from head to bare feet. He touched my face with both hands, feathering his fingers across my forehead, into the wells of my eyes, over my nose and cheekbones, like a blind man needing to know who stood before him. I tried not to stiffen at his touch, willing myself not to blink, not to release the fresh tears that had begun to pool. He collared my throat with his long fingers and ran a thumb over my lips.

“I want my wife back. Come back to me, Mitawin,” he whispered.

The word on the teacup; the hallmark of my deceit. Our eyes locked, and I felt my throat closing and my knees begin to quiver. For a few seconds his grip tightened around my throat, and I clamped my eyes shut with a fleeting thought. Yes, take my breath...end this tormenting deception. When he suddenly released me, I could see the pain twisting his face. He turned away and rubbed his chin against his shoulder, bracing both arms on a porch railing.

“My shirt looks good on you, Jess,” he said hoarsely. You always did have a thing for my shirts.”

I cleared my throat. “You, can’t sleep out here,” I said after a long silence. “Come to bed.”

His shoulders flinched. “Is that an invitation?”

“I only mean...you can’t be comfortable sleeping in that chair.”

We both started by the sudden hoot of a nearby owl, and like the volume turned up on ear phones, I was suddenly aware of other night sounds, crickets, wind rustling through the sage, my heart bumping in my chest.  

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EXCERPT FROM THE ACCIDENTAL STRANGER:

      I screamed as the gun exploded in my hand and fell to the ground. The bear moving toward Scout dropped, and I raced to scoop up my son before he toppled into the icy stream. Cradling my whimpering child, I ventured closer and could see at once that it was no bear I shot. A man in a bearskin poncho lay on his side. A mass of dark matted hair covered the side of his face that wasn’t blooming with blood, running down his cheek, pooling in his ear and staining his thick beard.

     “Is he, is he dead?” I whispered.

     Chuck fumbled for a pulse and we all started when the man groaned and his eyes fluttered open.

     Green! His eyes were green. The fear in them registered with me as he searched our faces. When his eyes met mine, his jaw twitched. A flash of memories washed over me and my heart began to thump wildly. I set Scout down when my knees began to buckle and I thought I was going to be sick. As I sagged in the snow, my bare fingers reached out to staunch the blood.

     So red against the white snow. His eyes, so…green. Every shade in a spectrum of emotion raced through me.  I knew only one man who owned those eyes.

    Had he come back to me?

    Did I shoot the only man I ever loved?

                                                                       * * * * *

EXCERPTS from Hot Stuff:

   “Just how old is your brother?”
   “Old enough to hold down a bus-boy job to help pay for all this. Evan has Asperger’s, a form of autism with obsessive compulsive behavior. He wasn’t formally diagnosed until he was nine, after he upgraded his collection from smurfs to garden gnomes. Over the years, we’ve learned some lawn décor Evan brought home belonged to that category you call a 10-99…er…some might call it this.” He finally managed to smile when I pulled a handful of candy hearts out of my pocket and singled out the one that said Hot Stuff.

   “Billington knows about all this?”

   “Certainly. Our neighbors are aware of this, too. When something goes missing, they usually show up here first to see if Evan has it planted in his garden. If they can identify it, we simply have a custody exchange, then mollify my brother with a trip to a local garden shop for some kind of a replacement.” I popped a candy heart into my mouth and offered him one after flicking a strand of cat fur off the Kiss Me heart.

   Screwing up his face, he cleared his throat. “Valentine candy in July?”
   “I won a six-month supply after writing new imprints for the company. The candy has a long shelf life,” I added.
He declined my offer.

   “Bite Me.”
   “Ma’am?”
   “That was one of my slogans. The candy boss wanted something modern. You Know was another one. Kids today can’t get through a sentence without sprinkling it with ‘you know’.”

   He studied me with a lopsided grin. “Why didn’t Billington tell me all this?”
   “I don’t think he knows I write slogans and ads for a living.”
   Shifting on his feet, he pulled on his ear. “I mean about your brother stealing yard ornaments.”
   “Oh well, I suspect Evan’s fancy may be an inside joke at the precinct.”
   He shook his head and sighed. “With a rookie at the butt of the joke, I imagine. Mind if I check out the tent?”
I held open the tent flap for him to pass…so I could assess the fit of his jeans from the rear. Confusion flattered his dark good looks from the front. His backside was just as fine. Hot Stuff could have been embroidered on the back of his shirt.

  * * * * *

EXCERPT from Blossoms and Blizzards:

                     This excerpt is from Halley's Tonic...  written by Cj Fosdick

It was the strangest funeral Lake City had ever seen.

Outside the blue stucco house, children bundled in snowsuits and polar boots scudded on their layered bottoms down the hill and into the driveway between two thirty-foot spruce trees. Squealing with delight they scampered up the hill to repeat their descent. Half of Lake City was filing through the house on the hill, spilling onto the columned porch and brick veranda with their Styrofoam cups of steaming cider, smiling laughing toasting their good health and the first day of spring.

Inside, everyone was anxious to get a glimpse of the wooden tole-painted casket in the parlor. If anyone was disappointed to find it already closed, nobody let on. Nobody needed to see the wrinkled face of an old woman to remember Halley Edberg. She was there in the scent of potted herbs that cluttered every windowsill, in the  bright abstract paintings that covered every wall, and in the tiny orange and blue parlor still draped with Christmas evergreen. But most of all, Halley was there dominating the room as she always did — from the flashing blue eyes and mischievous smile of the nude in the portrait that hung over the fireplace.

Aside from the blue casket with its scrolled rim of painted flowers, the portrait drew the most attention. ‘Is that really supposed to be Halley?” Karen Richards, the mayors wife asked.

Without taking his eyes off the reclining nude, his honor leaned over and mumbled into his wife’s ear, “Halley — fifty years ago. Heard it was painted by some artist from Little Falls, someone who knew  Charles Lindbergh.”

Marta Olson squeezed Karen Richard’s arm and hissed into her  other ear. ‘His name was Donovan — her lover.’ For a moment, Marta hesitated, then bobbing her head for emphasis, she raised her  voice to accommodate more listeners. “Halley told me herself about  how they used to romp naked in the woods, picking wild blueberries  and swimming in some creek like two satyrs.”

“Satyrs are masculine, I believe,” the mayor laughed. “Halley  might have been strange, but she was never masculine.” 

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     This excerpt is from Lake Wobegon Days...  written by Garrison Keillor

 

Society of summer evenings in Lake Wobegon was formal and genteel. We didn’t bolt our food and jump up from the table but waited for the slowest eater,  me, who hated all vegetables except pickles, and cleared the table, and two of us did dishes, a race between washer arid wiper. By then, it was six o’clock. Children of age could go out bike-riding, the younger ones played in the yard. Mother and Dad worked in the yard, except Wednesday, which was prayer meeting, and then sat on the porch, and one by one we joined them.

The porch is about thirty feet long, almost the width of the house, and six feel, eight inches wide. The porch is enclosed with ten-foot-tall screens and we sit in old brown wicker chairs, rocker, couch, except me. I lie on the floor, feet to the house, and measure myself against that wonderful height. A six-eight person can pretty much write his own ticket.

"They say we’re supposed to get some rain,” Ralph said, stop- ping by our porch, ‘but then they’ve been saying that for a week]’ The grass is brown, and you can taste dust in your mouth. A cloud of dust boils up behind Mel’s car when he comes with the mail, and then he doesn’t stop at the mailbox. Not even a shopper today or the phone bill (Who called Minneapolis last month? Three dollars! What do you think this is, the Ritz Hotel?). Not even a free pamphlet from Congressman Zwickey’s office, something from the U.S.D.A. about keeping cool.

The dog days of August, they’re called, but you get them in July, too, days when dogs camp under the porch where the dirt is cool and damp or lie panting in the shade, big grins on their faces. Good old Buster. Phyllis and I trimmed him one afternoon and kept trimming until we got him trimmed all even, he was clipped down to the stubble. A dog heinie. He seemed grateful. We ran the hose on him and he lay in the sun and got a dog tan.

Nobody in this family lies in the sun. You work in the sun, you lie in the shade. We don’t have air-conditioning of course. ‘If you’d work up a little sweat out there, the shade ought to feel good enough for you,’ is Dad’s thinking. Air-conditioning is for the weak and indolent. This isn’t the Ritz, you know. Be thankful for a little breeze.

It was luxuries like A/C that brought down the Roman Empire. With A/C, their windows were shut, they couldn’t hear the barbarians coming. Decadence: we’re on the verge of it, one wrong move and k-shoom! the fat man sits on your teeter-totter. You get A/C and the next day Mom leaves the house in a skin-tight dress, holding a cigarette and a glass of gin, walking an ocelot on a leash. 

What about the lngqvists, they have air-conditioning

We’re not the lngqvists.

What about Fr. Emil?

He has hay fever.

Father’s hay fever was so bad last summer he could hardly breathe. His face was puffy, he went around with a hanky in his hand. He went to the North Shore for some relief in August, but one week alone with all that scenery was all he could bear. So he’s got an immense NorthernAire in his bedroom window and he lives up there.

It was when Mrs. Hoglund got one that people talked. There was nothing wrong with her, so who did she think she was? She said she got it for janice who broke out in heat rash, but Janice only visited for a week or two and always in june. ‘Well, it was probably a mistake,” Mrs. Hoglund said, “but as long as I have it, I might as well get the use of it.” So we’d sit on our porch on an August evening, quietly perspiring, and hear her machine humming next door. If only there were a way to connect air-conditioning to health or education.