Calamity Jayne Goes to College

BOOK: Calamity Jayne Goes to College
11.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




For Katie, my first

reader this time around. Thanks,

sweetie! You did a bang-up job.

And for Nick, who, along with

Tressa Jayne, headed off

o college--we miss you, bud.

April 2007
Published by

Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

200 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10016

If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold
and destroyed" to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

Copyright © 2007 by Kathleen Cecile Bacus

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical
means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission
of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

ISBN-10: 0-505-52701-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-505-52701-1

The name "Love Spell" and its logo are trademarks of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.

Printed in the United States of America.

Visit us on the web at





Rick and Tressa are sitting in Catholic school. Tressa is sleeping and the teacher, realizing this, asks her a question: "Tressa,
who created Heaven and Earth?" Rick sees Tressa is sleeping and, meaning to help out, quickly pokes her with a sharp pencil.

"Jesus Christ Almighty!" exclaims Tressa.

"Correct," says the teacher, surprised.

The next day, the same incident occurs and the same question comes up. "Who created Heaven and Earth?" asks the teacher.

Tressa--again sleeping--is poked by Rick's pencil. "Jesus Christ Almighty!" she exclaims.

"Correct again," says the disgruntled teacher.

The next day, for a third time, the teacher sees Tressa snoozing. She decides to trick Tressa and asks a different question:
"What did Eve say to Adam after their fifteenth child?"

Tressa, poked by Rick's pencil once again, this time screams, "If you stick that thing in me one more time, I am going to
crack it in half!"

Hi. My name is Tressa Jayne Turner. I should tell you up front that I never attended Catholic school. (The "Rick" I referred
to, however, did--and does--exist. And the name has not been changed to protect the innocent.) I'm a dubious poster child
for public school education. I should also admit here that I probably would have benefited from attending a school where you
wore uniforms and the educators were allowed to rap your knuckles with a ruler and slap you upside the head just to make sure
you were paying attention. I slept through more high school credits than my gramma does TV newscasts. Not that that's something
I like to crow about, but there you have it. You get the point: School and I weren't what you'd call simpatico.

It wasn't that I hated school exactly. I just didn't like the early class times, the course material, the administration,
some of the faculty members, and all those really silly rules. You know, like no dodge ball at recess. They even outlawed
Red Rover, Red Rover because Dorky Donnie Douglas got clotheslined during one session and bruised his windpipe!

In junior high, there were all those lovely little after-school detentions if you were tardy. I got to know the janitors real
well. And in high school? Well, they had no sense of humor at all when it came to being late for class. It was like baseball:
Three strikes and "YOURRRE OUT!"

Then there was that ridiculous rule about bringing food into the classroom. What a joke! Like some pathetic prohibition was
going to stop me from sneaking in contraband Twinkies and candy bars? It was a no-brainer to get aroundd. They don't make
that handy dandy pouch in the front of a hoodie for nothing, right?

Last but not least, there was that pesky bit about staying awake in class. It got to the point where teachers requested I
bring disinfectant spray so I could de-drool and sanitize the desktops at the end of each period. Sigh.

Yes, I was the kind of student whose parents got real used to seeing the notation STUDENT NEEDS TO APPLY HIM/HERSELF on report
cards. Guess they didn't have a drop-down selection with STUDENT DOESN'T GIVE A RIP on those computerized reports, huh?

Despite my difficulties, I did manage to avoid total, abject humiliation, and received my high school diploma along with my
classmates by means of some summer school sessions and a mother who threatened to take away my livestock if I didn't graduate
on time. Talk about your motivation! I ended up with a GPA and class ranking that, while they didn't result in colleges beating
a path to my door begging me to attend their fine institutions, did get me a lot of attention from recruiters for the various
branches of the armed services. I considered a stint in the military for a bit... until I got a look at the shoes they have
to wear. And camouflage is so not my color.

I live in small-town Iowa--just FYI, we grow corn and soybeans here, folks, not spuds--and I've achieved some level of...
shall we say "notoriety" in the last several months--purely by accident and happenstance, you understand. You see, stuff has
a way of happening to me. A lot of stuff. I have the nickname to prove it. Thanks to a certain Department of Natural Resources
officer who has invested an inordinate amount of time and energy messing with my head--okay, and at times my body, too--I
was dubbed "Calamity Jayne" at about the same time I was learning how
to ride a bike--feet on handlebars and hands on pedals is not so safe, I found out--and discovering that not only was skirt-wearing
not recommended when playing on the swing set, but-skirt-wearing in general was something to be avoided at all costs. Especially
when one was a bit of a tomboy, loved to ride horses and climb trees and romp with puppy dogs. (Okay, so I still love to do
all those things. What can I say? I'm a free spirit.)

By the time I was in second grade, my mother had given up on outfitting me in anything with a frill, ruffle, or bow, except
for on Sundays when I was forced to wear my "girl clothes" to go and sleep in church. (I gladly left all "little princess"
trappings to my younger sister, Taylor. She looked the part. She still does, as a matter of fact.) To be honest, on Sundays
I generally ended up looking like Little Orphan Annie playing dress-up after her dog, Sandy, took her for a run though a thicket.

Your basic "girlie girl" I wasn't. While cowboy boots may be a great fashion accessory when you're twenty-three, an almost
rodeo queen, and finally (I hope!) coming into your own, wearing boots with shorts and skirts in elementary school was just
looking for trouble. As if I ever needed to look.

My time in middle school was no less bumpy, but luckily I found sports--or they found me--and that kept me operating just
well enough to avoid the ineligible list. Most of the time. It was in middle school that I also learned I perform better at
individual sports. (Something about getting along well with others.)

By high school I had adopted a bit of a rebel-without-a-cause identity--developed in response to chronic harassment from that
certain rangerly friend of my brother who went on to become too good-looking for my own good, an ever-growing series of misadventures,
and a reputation for being a bit of a nonconformist... as well as someone to avoid during an electrical storm. Or at weddings.
(I'll explain the latter later.)

From then on there seemed to be no turning back. I was a hormone-driven, harmlessly rebellious, cockeyed cowgirl with a turbocharged
motor mouth. And believe me, I wasn't afraid to use it. With a superjock older brother and a beautiful brainiac younger sister,
I found comfort and safety in mediocrity. And the mouthiness, you're wondering? I'm blaming that one on genetics, folks. My
gramma is known as Hellion Hannah, if that helps explain things.

Truth be told, I saw myself as a kinder, gentler--and female--version of James Dean. Oh, I have a soft, gooey center, but
I just wasn't comfortable showing it all that often. For me, showing feelings was like being caught with your pants down.
You know, uncomfortably exposed. At a distinct disadvantage. I am slowly learning how to embrace the inner me and to pursue
my destiny in a confident, mature manner. Dr. Phil and Oprah have counseled me during this ongoing process, so I have high
hopes that I will figure it all out before I have to sign up for Social Security benefits or croak, whichever comes first.
But with my history, which includes matching wits with murderers, playing hide-and-seek on a carnival midway with psycho dunk
tank clowns, and pursuing reclusive authors in houses only Norman Bates could love, I'm not bettin' the farm on makin' it
to retirement age. Still, one has to plan ahead.

This financial planning was what compelled me to drop in to college for the fourth time after three previously unsuccessful
attempts to expand my cranium tanked big time. To be fair, I do have to add that at the time of those earlier collegiate experiences,
I was still searching for that inner self I mentioned earlier. My niche. You know, what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Through the process of elimination I had discovered what I
supposed to do with my life: One, veterinary medicine. (I just can't inflict hurt on an animal even in the name of healing.)
Two, psychology. While I'm totally into Dr. Phil, I discovered I don't have the stomach to sit and wait for anyone's response
to the question "Tell me how that makes you feel." Blech. I'm thinkin' I'm more of a "Suck it up, Nancy," kind of therapist.
As you might have gathered, I don't deal comfortably with emotions. Or mushy love stuff. Oh, or diets. Sigh.

There was also my short-lived stint as a massage therapist. Unfortunately, the reality of rubbing oil on some stranger's naked
body for a living grossed me out more than I anticipated. Ah, she has intimacy issues, you're thinking. I see you watch Dr.
Phil, too. Good for you.

With a string of dead-end jobs behind me--well, maybe not exactly behind me yet, but I have high hopes--I finally found a
vocation where I could utilize my skills. Okay, so maybe being a Nosy Nellie type isn't exactly a job skill you can include
on a resume, but it does come in handy as a newspaper reporter. Which was what I became. Well, at least part of the time.
Off and on. Now and then. I'd been rehired for the third time at the
Grandville Gazette,
my home-town newspaper--the only hometown newspaper-- less than a year earlier when I'd been a key figure in a homegrown
whodunit. My writing skills were adequate and, for once, being a magnet for chaos was a point in my favor. Like, who knew?

Stan Rodgers, my boss at the
and I had discussed compensation issues last fall after I'd sniffed out the goods on a famous chiller/thriller author who'd
turned Houdini. Stan had agreed to give me a raise and benefits if I got some college journalism courses under my belt. He'd
even offered to pick up half the cost of tuition after I threatened to proffer my nose for news to his closest competitor
and biggest rival, the
New Holland News.
I jumped at the chance.

I enrolled at Carson College in nearby Des Moines for the spring term, taking Basic Reporting Principles and Investigative
Journalism. Despite the lure of higher pay and the perk of health insurance bennies, I discovered it wasn't any easier this
time around. It was high school all over again, with one notable difference: This time I was paying for it. Kinda. Sort of.

It was the same old, same old:

Tressa struggling to get to class on time.


Tressa struggling to stay awake in class.


Tressa struggling to get her homework done.


I blinked and looked up from my spiral notebook to find my fellow students staring at me, along with Professor Stokes, who,
I gotta tell you, looks way too much like Saddam Hussein for my peace of mind.

"Present," I responded, no clue what the journalism instructor wanted since I'd been spacing off for the last ten minutes.

The classroom snickered.

"I was inquiring as to what you've decided on as the topic for your investigative report," the professor said. "As you no
doubt recall, this paper will serve as a huge part of your final grade, so it's extremely important to pick something that
you can sink your teeth into." He took a long look at the candy wrappers on my desk. "Journalistically speaking, of course,"
he added.

Oh, buddy, Tressa Jayne was not going to earn her little gold star for the day. I'd completely forgotten today was the day
we were scheduled to get our topics approved by Saddam--uh--Stokes. I didn't have clue one what to suggest as a topic for
investigation. All of my previous journalistic coups had basically found me, not the other way around. And somehow I didn't
think a piece on how long the new gaucho pants trend would last or a debate of the state guidelines pertaining to the handling
and application of livestock manure in an environmentally friendly way constituted the hard-hitting, gritty investigative
report the good professor had in mind.

"Uh, well, you know... actually I've already kind of, like, done this assignment," I told the man standing at the podium and
looking at me as if I were an infidel. (Which I suppose is always possible. I'm not quite sure of the meaning of that word,
but it seems to get thrown around a lot lately.) "After all," I continued, "I did break the Elizabeth Courtney Howard story."

The professor gave me a hard look. "Yesterday's news, Miss Turner," he responded. "We don't recycle old headlines for final
grades here at Carson. We require current, topical events. You know.
news." I wondered who the "we" was that he was talking about, but decided it was safer not to ask.

"Yes, Professor," I said, sensing a promised brand-spanking-new office desk and ergonomically designed leather chair slipping
away from me. "But, you see, I have this best friend who is getting married this coming Saturday and I'm her maid of honor.
She went with dusty blue and peach for her colors," I felt compelled to add for some strange reason. My friend, Kari, had
selected peach for my dress. With the holiday weight I'd packed on, I'd sure look ripe for the picking. I just prayed there
wasn't any kneeling involved or I'd split my peel. "As the maid of honor, I've had to do some heavy-duty hand-holding and
snot wiping to get my friend to this point. You all know how emotional brides can be."

Emotional? Try mercurial. The same woman who could handle a roomful of middle school students without breaking a sweat had
become apoplectic when she discovered the mints were not a perfect match to the flowers and napkins.

"Not to mention the best man is the same groomsman who gave me an extreme wedgie at my brother's wedding," I told the class.
"And I dropped a little smokie dripping with barbecue sauce down the front of my dress. I ended up with all side poses in
the wedding pictures, and believe me, it's harder to hold in your gut through a marathon photo session than you'd--"

"Thank you for sharing, Miss Turner," Professor Stokes said with a tight smile, "but unless you're planning an article on
prenuptial stress or how to remove cocktail wiener stains or wedgies, we're still waiting for your topic selection."

BOOK: Calamity Jayne Goes to College
11.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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