All I Wanted Was Cinnamon

Those who know me best know I adore dumb T-shirts.


Let me rephrase that: Those who know me best believe my T-shirts are dumb. My closest friends cringe when I show up to a brunch or dinner out. Some folks I warn: “I’m wearing the Ewok today” or “You’ll have to excuse my lucky gnome shirt.” I do this to get the eye-rolls out of the way.


My friends, ever practical, roll their eyes anyway and get over it because they love me. A few close buddies have tried to “redress” me multiple times, pointing out more respectable options hanging from thrift store racks or glistening in department store windows. I cringe at the uncomfortableness of such garments and the not-me-ness.


They cringe at me cringing.


And I keep on wearing what I wear.


I’m sure I’d be the ultimate fashion-disaster fodder for that show “What Not to Wear.”


But I love my corny shirts. They’re comfortable. They’re geeky, nerdy, and off-the-wall, often inspired by pop culture and all things I loved as a kid (and still let my inner child gloat over), or things I find tongue-in-cheek hilarious as an adult. Or things that tickle Little Miss Muse in all her glittery purple glory.


I do draw the line at wearing actual glitter, though. That’s Little Miss. And she spreads enough glitter around here that I’m positive my lower lung lobes are 83% metallic. No MRIs for me…


If I ever have to go to a black-tie event, I’ll die a thousand deaths, call my fashionista gang to dress me, then head home to change out of the “monkey suit” and into my happy, baggy 100% cotton “Thanks, Science” shirt, which sarcastically laments the fate of alchemy, Pluto, and the brontosaurus.


Often, I’m not even aware I’ve donned comical or quirky attire. It’s the clean garment on top of the laundry pile. Often, strangers will stare at me, make a comment or smile, and I have to look down to remember what I’m wearing.


I’m always thankful in these moments that I am, indeed, wearing something, and that I didn’t escape my home in a half-dressed state.


I was running errands the other day and went into a discount store to pick up a single item: A jar of cinnamon. That’s it. That’s all I needed from this place.


It’s 9 a.m. The only other folks out at that early hour shopping in our small town were elderly folks. And two white-haired sisters (or best friends, or fellow escapees from the nursing facility) each with her own cart were in the aisle. With the cinnamon. The ladies were dressed like, well, ladies. Button-up blouses, crisp and neat. Mid-shin-length skirts with dainty floral prints. Reminded me of how my grandmother used to dress to “go to town.”


Clearly, I didn’t get that gene. The “dress up to go to town” gene.


I give them their space, waiting patiently for them to pass. Lady #1 smiles at me, nods, then looks at me a little longer. “I like your pocketbook.”


Well, that’s not what I was expecting. I thanked her and told her I liked it as well, reminded again of my grandmothers who called their purses pocketbooks.


“Where’d ya git it?”


“I bought it online.”


That, dear readers, was the wrong answer. Remember, all I wanted was some cinnamon. To fix dear hubs French toast. That’s it. (And yes, for those who know me well, I ended up butchering the French toast anyway, so what happens next is all icing…)


I proceeded to stand there as Lady #1 gave me the firmest tongue-lashing I’ve had in quite some time on the dangers of online shopping. How punks and predators lurk there, and “they’ll git you every time.” She continued her scolding as she rounded the corner out of sight. I just stood there, head hung, not out of shame of my online purchasing habits, but because why fight or defend? She’d made up her mind, and at least she cleared the cinnamon aisle.


Lady #2 moved her cart up to Lady #1’s now-empty space at the end of the cinnamon aisle. I can see the jars of spices from where I stood. But, again, I’m giving them space and allowing them time to pass. I’m so close…


Lady #2 moves in closer. And squints at my chest. Clearly, she wasn’t fixated on my owl-print pocketbook. Purse. Bag. Whatever.


Clearly, she’s looking at my T-shirt. (I hope, or else this gets really, really weird…). And as is customary, I look down at my shirt, too.


Here. We. Go.


Lady #2 asks in a long, southern drawl, “Is that Big Foot ridin’ a uni-corn?” Emphasis on Foot and uni.


I look down at my shirt again, wishing that it was the antique typewriter shirt, but nope. Fantasy, all the way, baby.


I mustered a timid “Yes, ma’am.”


She continued to stare. At my chest/shirt. It was awkward. She tilted her head this way and that, giving me a silent tongue lashing with her eyeballs. A lashing that would rival that of her partner in crime (who was still complaining two aisles over about the generations that are too dependent on technology).


This lady hates, I mean hates, my shirt. But she’s more reserved than her cohort.


Lady #2 finally says, with all the love in her heart (because at this point, it would be rude to just walk away?), “Well. I guess he’s gotta ride on somethin’, don’t he now?” And she takes her cart and leaves the cinnamon aisle.


As she passes me, I hung my head again, not to hide shame in the shirt, but to hide the fact I’m about to bust a gut laughing at her obvious disgust and meager attempt at hiding it. “Yes, ma’am.”


Best reaction I’ve ever gotten from any piece of clothing I’ve ever worn in my entire life. Hands down.


But I got my cinnamon. Well, hub’s cinnamon.


Made it to the car.


Laughed all the way home.


I’m sure I gave those old gals something to rant and discuss all the way back to wherever they came from. Especially Lady #2, who clearly didn’t state her entire mind.


These gals have inspired another short story, as a matter of fact. The characters will have names and massive personalities much like my fellow shoppers.


I rather like those women. Speaking their minds. Doing their thing. Being themselves with no fear of judgment. White heads held high and proud. Go for it, grannies!


I hope one day, when I’m old and tired and white-haired (or bald, I’ll more than likely be bald), that my kids (or my keepers) have kept me supplied with unicorn-riding sasquatch shirts. Or Ewok shirts. Or lucky gnome shirts.


I hope they don’t dress me like a “proper” lady, in button-up blouses or skirts or eeeyikes—pantyhose (kill me now!).


I hope I’m still me.


I’ll escape my nursing home (hopefully wearing one of these shirts, or things would get really, really weird…).


I’ll push my shopping cart down the discount store’s cinnamon aisle.


And I’ll scold some young shopper on spending habits and choice of attire.


The young shopper will try not to bust a gut laughing at me.


And maybe my character might end up in someone elses’s novel…

Black Cats Are Lucky!

Time for a quick giddy little jump-and-squeal moment!


Back in March of “The Year That Shall Remain Unnamed,” the world turned upside down. I’d just returned home from the Vegas writing workshop where several of my stories managed to make their way into professional publications. I was on a high, and Little Miss Muse was equally squeal-filled.


But “The Year that Shall Remain Unnamed” hit hard.


Everywhere.


Everyone.


Including the little group of pro editors from the workshop. A couple of the projects had to be canceled. The market was too unsure. The funds were unsure.


Everything was… unsure.


I understood. I, too, was unsure.


Then an email hit my in-box from Mr. Michael Bracken. I’d submitted a mystery short story prior to that trip and—even amid COVID—he accepted my submission to Black Cat Mystery Magazine.


Now, I’m not a superstitious person, but I know folks who are (I’m related to a few of them). I believe, for those of you who happen to be of that skittish persuasion, ya’ll can relax about those black cats.


At least in magazine form.


Because this Black Cat was pretty lucky for me…


One of my creepy mystery shorts, “Coral Cove,” was picked up by Black Cat Mystery Magazine. The editor, Michael Bracken, was a joy to work with, and I so appreciate the opportunity to be tucked into the pages (or float along on the digital data stream, as the case may be) with other talented authors.


You can find Black Cat’s full lineup of mystery offerings and browse other genres from Wildside Press. Issue #9 is the newest release. At some point, I believe the magazine will be available in print form, but I’m not seeing that option live just yet.


The setting of Coral Cove had bobbed around in my head for a long time. I’d always found coastal neighborhoods with their cookie-cutter structures and brightly colored siding intriguing. Were the people inside mirrors of their domiciles—cookie-cutter personalities, nearly robotic in their daily journeys? Were these simply vacation rentals, or do families make the coast their permanent place?


How many happy memories were shared by the inhabitants?


How many terrors?


How many tokens hang on their walls to ward off superstitious lore?


And, if my own family’s vacations are anything to compare with, how many knock-down, drag-out fights occur within those walls over the classic “Where do you want to eat” debate?


Little Miss Muse, however, wants you all to know that she’d never let me put anything so mundane as the McDonald’s versus downtown diner duel in “Coral Cove.” Unless, of course, it ended in someone losing an eye. *Wink*


“Coral Cove” won’t appear anywhere on the blog or in any of my personal collections for quite some time. So, you mystery lovers, go check it out. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and find another author or two who scratches your mystery itch in this issue of Black Cat Mystery Magazine.

Snot Everywhere

This was going to be a complete and thorough update on those self-imposed deadlines and goals I outlined in the last blog. A completely honest assessment. Thorough, with adjustments, tweaks, and more self-inflicted restrictions and rules. Totally writing-focused.


But now there’s just the following snarky recap.


Because there’s snot.


Everywhere.


I.Mean. Everywhere.


Last week, Stella Marie contracted some sort of feline upper respiratory thing. Snotty, sneezing, drooling (I think her throat hurt). But because of the holiday, I held off rushing her to the vet. By the time the office was open for non-emergent issues, she was better. Still a little sneezy, but better.


As of last night, she began singing the song of her homeland at the top of her lungs and dancing to and fro with EVERY chirpy-bird toy she could find. The wee hours of the night were filled with her happy howls and the fading electronic squeaks of a pale blue narwhal, red cardinal, and mouse-on-pumpkin.


I planned on stripping out the near-dead batteries from those toys today. But she sensed my aggravation, and she’s hidden them. Likely in the recesses of the box springs or in some other unknown-to-me-even-though-I-lived-here-first part of the house.


Little Miss Muse probably helped her.


And there’s nothing I can do about Stella’s singing voice. Or her choice of two a.m. through three-thirty a.m. for choir practice. Little Miss, however, thrives on a bit of chaos now and again and enjoyed Stella’s recovery howling.


As of two days ago, Amara and Malachi started with the same head cold symptoms. Amara is still stomping around here like a boss, chasing springs, and keeping sharp eyes on the perimeter. All the while she’s sneezing and spraying violent fountains of snot everywhere that Stella missed. Sliding glass doors, walls (freshly painted walls, mind you), floors, television screens, and my style guides for the day job. Nothing like needing to look something up and grabbing a booger-crusted reference book.


Poor Malachi, though. He’s not so hot. Mouth breathing, fever and very, very needy. Like “Hold me, Mom, I’m dying” kind of needy. Now I’m covered in snot. Shirt. Pants. Arms. Hair. Glasses (I’ve cleaned the lenses four times and it’s not noon yet). The laptop screen has not escaped his aim, either.


This poor guy’s status prompted a call to the vet. And a trip to the vet in a too-small carrier. (The irony is not lost on me that the free fiction story for the month is based on this very cat and a trip to the vet. If you’ve not read it yet, you can check it out until the end of the month).


He came out with a shot in the butt and oral antibiotics. Also, Amara is not fond of the fresh-from-the-vet smell he now carries and has slapped the snot out of him three times. Literally.


She’s now howling in time-out, interspersing hissing with sneezing.


It’s been real around here. And the above only addressed our feline fiasco and not the long strings of human happenings.


So.


Here goes the recap:


June :

1. One short story to clear the cobwebs and allow Little Miss to stretch her wings and shake out her tutu. UPDATE: Miss Muse has spread her wings with 2K words on this particular task, then… sick cats and other human ailments from various and sundry sources. Missed it, but at least I got it started. And the cat snot has permanently cemented the purple glitter she’s been spreading about to every.surface.in.the.house. So yeah. Snot and glitter.


2. Make it to July. Check. I’ve got skid marks and road rash on my soul, but hey. We made it to July.


July:

1. Four shorts. Hahaha. Not started, but it’s just the 9th. Plenty of time.

2. Three blogs and a free fiction. One blog down after I spell check this one; the free fiction will be from last year’s efforts. Two blogs to go.

3. Novel 2 reread to figure out where I left my characters and what they were wearing when I ditched them. Not yet. Packing it for a weekend away, and we’ll see what happens.

4. Make it to August. Hopefully with no skid marks or road rash. Or snot. Glitter, I can deal with.


August goals not reposted here because, well, too much life to live to think that far ahead. I’d be thrilled to knock out the ones above.


And stay snot-free.


All the way to August.


I’ve got to leave a good day or two clean.all.the.snot. But not until all three cats are done blowing out boogies.


Aannnd…


I hear hissing.


And thumping.


Likely Amara.


Removing more snot from Malachi…


Here’s hoping the rest of your July is bright and shiny and you hit all of your self-imposed deadlines with glee!


Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on Mondays for a new blog or revisit older post on my Archive page. Don't forget to come back on the first Monday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.