Yeah yeah, enough with the pleasantries. If you're like me and everybody's favorite washer woman, you're up to your eyebrows in flour, sugar, gift wrap and running out of tape and oh dear sweet baby Jesus, please don't tell me I'm out of tape and need to make another trip to Wal-Mart! Yes, in fact I am. Just kill me now.
Well, I've got a little present to help get you through, a sneak peak into my upcoming release, featuring Maggie and Neil and all the rest of the cleaning crew that will be out early next year on Amazon. So save those gift cards!
And enough of my inane babble and on with the hag!
The following excerpt is Part One of chapter one of The Misadventures of the Laundry Hag: All washed Up.
The sun had yet to make its debut over the eastern hills when I rolled out of bed, silencing the alarm clock before it blated out whatever hideously upbeat ditty was playing on the radio. It took a damn good reason to get my pasty white hide out of bed so early in the morning without a coffee IV. And for the first time in what felt like an eon, I had a good reason. All the Whos down in Whoville had joined hands and welcomed the start of garage sale season.
Or maybe it was just me.
Call me kooky, but nothing gets me quite as fired up as bargain hunting first thing on a Saturday morning. What better way to start the weekend than to score half a dozen paperbacks, a lamp and a hodgepodge of dishes for $8.50? You won’t find that in a department store. Plus, nothing gives one as much insight into the human condition as pawing through other people’ s bits and bobs of inorganic flotsam. One thing I’ve learned in all my years of garage sale hopping—you never know a recovering Air Supply fan at first blush.
“Neil,” I whispered, shaking my husband’s bare shoulder. His skin was hot to the touch, a shocking contrast to the chilly room. My very own human radiator. “Time to get up.”
One eyelid opened a crack. “It’s not even light out.”
“I want to get out there before all the good stuff is gone.”
He rolled over onto his back, his voice thick with sleep. “Uncle Scrooge, we’re talking about other people’s unwanted crap.”
“But it could be our unwanted crap!” Wait, that didn’t come out right.
He moved so fast I wasn’t even aware of his intention. Neil pinned me down, gripped my arms and his beard stubble rasped along my neck as he purred, “I can think of a much better way to spend the next few hours. And we don’t even have to leave the bed.”
Oh hell, he was aiming the big gun. Unsure of how to respond, I put my hands on his shoulders. The sight of my hideously scarred paws was all it took to cool my ardor to permafrost levels. I stiffened up, not wanting to deal with another flashback to the explosion that had maimed me a few months earlier. Talk about a mood killer.
Neil sensed my hesitation and dropped his head with a defeated sigh. “Still?”
Stuffing my hands back under the covers I groused, “They’re ugly.” Not to mention a painful reminder how fricking stupid I was. Not exactly a turn on.
“You’re killing me, Maggie. It’s been weeks of nothing but bread and water here. First your brother and his pregnant girlfriend are camped out in our bed and then your recovery and now whatever crazy playlist you have in your mind that’s turning you frigid.”
I sucked in a breath at the f word. “I cannot believe you just said that.”
Neil didn’t back down, not that I’d expected him to. SEAL training 101, never say die, even when you’re impersonating a horse’s patoot. “If the chastity belt fits.”
We’d been married for almost twelve years and I’d learned not to back down either, unless I wanted him to think he was right. “I can see marriage counseling has been oh so good for our relationship. Remind me to give Dr. Bob a review on Hudson’s business web finder list, under Q for quack.”
Neil threw off the covers, his romantic zeal gone. “You’re the one who wants to stay here! I said we should move.”
I slithered out of bed and stumbled into a half-assed but fully sarcastic curtsy. “So says his majesty, king of the castle, then so be it. If you’ll excuse me, the laundry hag has duties to be about.” I whirled on my heel and scampered to the bathroom. Even with the door shut I still heard his frustrated bellow.
“Damn it, Maggie, don’t run away!” His shout was followed by a loud crash and a thunderous woof from Atlas, our six month old St. Bernard mix. I think the other half of his parentage was draft horse because the windows rattled when he charged down the hall. Thunder echoed as he galloped headlong towards his master, then back to the sliding glass door off the dining room in an oh so subtle hint. Like it or not, the Phillips house had officially started the weekend.
I could feel Neil pause outside the bathroom door and held my breath. I didn’t know what to say to him and he must have been having the same problem because he didn’t speak. The dog barked again, breaking the tense moment. Neil’s sigh was audible even through the door and then his footsteps followed in the wake of doggie destruction.
“That went well,” I muttered. Neil’s infinite patience had run out. He had it in his head that I was holding out on sex to punish him. For what, I had no idea, but as the nookieless days dragged on, all I knew was that my husband didn’t understand me anymore. My gaze fell to my hands. Hell, I didn’t even understand myself.
I glared at my reflection, glad at least the marks there had faded to a few whitish lines. I could have died. A few scars and mangled paws were solid reminders that life was precious. The woman in the mirror looked ready to sob her penny pinching heart out.
“Cry me a river, why don’t ya?” Turning my back on the mirror and starting the shower, I was determined to move on with my day, with my life. This place was just a bad patch. Every couple went through one. Ours was postponed due to military lifestyle and children taking precedence. We were long overdue for a significant marital spat.
Enough brooding. I lathered, rinsed, repeated, all the while making a mental list of what I wanted to find during my garage sale hop. Later on in the season I’d go out to browse around, find a trashy romance novel or ten. But for the first sale I needed to get organized, keep my focus.
“Mom, Uncle Marty’s here and I gotta go!” Kenny pounded on the bathroom door.
So much for focus. “Two minutes!” Sopping wet, I stepped from the shower and into my bathrobe. Teeth brushing could wait until after coffee. We had a plan and nothing was going to derail it. Not today.
“Maggie, the baby’s coming!” My brother’s voice held a hysterical note.
Except maybe for that.
“What?” Wrenching the door open, I glared up at him. Kenny pushed past me and shut the door on my bathrobe tie. “No, not possible. She’s not due until next month. We haven’t even had the shower yet!”
Marty’s thick eyebrows drew together. “You just got out of the shower.”
Neil smacked him on the back of his head as he moved past us toward the kitchen. “A baby shower, numb-nuts.”
Marty nodded and then frowned as his mental train switched tracks. “I need your car.”
It took half a dozen tugs to free my bathrobe from the doorjamb. “What’s wrong with the camper?” Marty and his baby mama had parked a not so mobile home on my front lawn two months ago and it hadn’t moved since.
“Out of gas.”
Glaring, I pushed past him. “You never filled the tank?”
“Have you seen oil prices lately?” My brother followed me down the hall.
I whirled and stuck an accusing finger in his face. “You can’t drive a pregnant woman to the hospital in a Mini Cooper! What if you don’t make it, the back seat is full of cleaning supplies.” I shut the door and scurried into jeans and a T-shirt.
“What about Neil’s truck?” Marty called through the door.
“It’s ten feet off the ground. I can barely haul my cookies into it. You’d need a crane to get her into the cab. What about Sylvia’s car?”
Sylvia Wright was our next door neighbor and my best friend. A few weeks ago she’d also become Marty’s landlady/ roommate. In the middle of a messy divorce, Sylvia needed all the financial help she could get. She’d moved her worldly belongs into the apartment over her garage and given Marty and Penny the run of her federal style house. The solution was far from perfect but it was better than trying to house them under our roof.
Marty tripped over Atlas who was sniffing at his leg, possibly looking for a date. “Sylvia’s not home, her car’s gone.”
“Socks, socks, socks,” I chanted and tried to force the idea of a home birth from my mind. No amount of disinfectant would make that all right. No socks to be found. “Screw it.” Sandals it was.
Flinging open the door, I pushed past Marty again. “Neil, I’m taking Penny to the hospital.”
An apology was written in my husband’s blue-green eyes, along with a healthy dollop of frustration, but we didn’t have time to hash it out now. He nodded and did what he did best, got down to the task at hand. “What do you want me to do?”
“Get Josh and Kenny up while Marty fills his freaking gas tank, then meet us in the maternity ward. I’ll try to track Sylvia down in case we need her to take the boys. This might be a long labor.”
Marty grabbed my arm. “I’m the father, I should drive her.”
I opened my mouth to say something pithy and Neil clamped a hand over it. “It’s his son or daughter coming into the world.”
Lord have mercy. My baby brother stood before me, a full grown man. Maybe not the best man to ever drag his knuckles across the pavement, but a man nonetheless. Neil was right, damn it all, I couldn’t keep taking over for him when things got rough. I sagged, the wind going out of my sails. “My keys are in my purse.”
Marty dropped a kiss on my cheek, grabbed the hobo bag off the bench seat in the hallway and ran outside.
I slumped back against my husband’s chest. “Man makes plans and God laughs.”
Neil wrapped his arms around me and nuzzled my hair. “As long as someone is having a good time.”