f you handcuff a woman to a headboard, you need to use fur-covered cuffs. Otherwise you’ll rub all the skin off of her wrists during rough sex, and she’ll bleed like a motherfucker. Blood is just not sexy unless you’re writing paranormal.” The gal with the lesbian haircut delivered that little nugget with gusto.
What in the hell am I doing here? I’m going to kill Oprah. Does anybody actually listen to her “if you can visualize it you can do it” crap other than me?
Becoming a famous romance novel writer had sounded like such a good idea the other day. The simple fact that I couldn’t really write had seemed beside the point . . .
My best friend and roommate, Kristy, accused me of pulling a Sunshine Weather Girl again, referring to my embarrassing and very recent attempt to become a meteorologist. Kristy’s reminder was a low blow. I didn’t like to think about that. Clearly showing up at the news station for a month straight wasn’t the way to become the new weather girl. It had resulted in a restraining order, six hours in the pokey, and a feature story on the six o’clock news. My mother told all her friends I was adopted . . . I wasn’t.
So here I stood, in the poorly lit back meeting room of the downtown public library, with ten or so women who looked like seventy-year-old church ladies. Why do women in the Midwest think that really short hair shaved up at the back of the neck is a good look? I found out the bondage gal’s name was Sue, but she went by Shoshanna LeHump. Quite the little fireball, she was dressed entirely in lavender fleece. She explained her husband had threatened to divorce her if she continued to write that garbage under her real name. Her words, not mine. I didn’t know if I was more shocked by her pen name or the fact that she was married.
I glanced around the room hoping to spot Evangeline O’Hara, the famous
New York Times
best-selling author. She wrote a mean bodice ripper and was the main reason I’d joined this group. I hoped she’d like my ideas and mentor me to stardom. Of course, ideas were a slight problem at this point, but I would continue visualizing like hell.
I was looking forward to discussing Evangeline’s books with her, until Kristy, not unkindly, had reminded me I hadn’t read any of them.
“Turkey Noodle Dooda Surprise served with Tater Tot Casserole can really get your amorous juices flowing,” the one who called herself Nancy gushed. Her floral caftan reminded me of Hawaii. The quintessential grandma had no last name. Apparently she had legally changed her name to Nancy . . . you know, like Cher or Beyoncé or Gaga.
“I’m sorry,” I interrupted. “I thought this was a romance writers’ meeting.” My insides clenched. This couldn’t be right. I must be in the wrong room, or hopefully the wrong building.
“It is,” Shoshanna LeHump said. “Nancy writes romantic cookbooks!”
“Oh, aren’t you a lovely thing.” Nancy smiled and squeezed my hands. “Are you a cover model?”
“Um, no. I’m actually a, um . . . writer,” I white-lied. I do write things. I’m a CPA, for God’s sake. I just happen to write numbers instead of words.
“Shoshanna,” Nancy called out to the handcuff-loving porno granny, “we have a new writer!”
“Fucking awesome,” the Shoshanna woman yelled back, giving me a big thumbs-up.
Shit, this was not turning out the way it was supposed to. These women were very sweet; they’d all hugged me when I arrived like I was a long-lost friend. Okay, that was a little unsettling, but as well meaning as they were, I didn’t want a Bunko group of grandmas who cussed like sailors . . . I wanted Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, where we would drink wine and chuckle at our own witty brilliance. Speaking of witty brilliance, where in the hell was the Queen of Bodice Rippers? I wasn’t sure how much more information my brain could hold about bondage, whippings, and hot dishes before it would explode.
“Excuse me,” I said, interrupting Shoshanna LeHump’s in-depth explanation of the benefits and sanitation of butt plugs. “I thought Evangeline O’Hara was a member.”
The room went silent. Everyone stared at me like I’d grown three heads. All of the lumberjack-looking softball-playing grandmas narrowed their eyes at me.
“Are you friends with that viper bitch whore from hell?” Nancy, the storybook granny, inquired kindly. Her words and her tone did not match. Clearly I’d heard her wrong, but on the off chance I hadn’t, I refused to ask her to repeat herself.
“Um . . . no,” I whispered, a little bit scared. “I’ve never met her. I just thought she was a member.”
Everyone’s smiles returned when they realized I wasn’t best buds with the viper bitch whore from hell. These seniors had some amazing vocabularies. I made a mental note not to get on their bad side.
“Oh, thank God,” Shoshanna LeHump grumbled. “I was worried that stinky hooker sent a spy in to steal more of our ideas.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, shocked. What kind of ideas would a New York Times best-selling author steal from a group of old ladies writing about butt plugs?
“She’s a criminal,” Poppy Rose Petal yelled.
God, I hope that’s her pen name.
She was a big-boned gal with a blinding fuchsia neck scarf, trim khakis, baby pink sweater, and loafers . . . with a shiny penny in each. “That last book she wrote was Shoshanna’s idea.”
“That’s true,” Ms. LeHump, the handcuff expert, ground out angrily. “The bus tour across Russia was my baby and she stole it. Of course, my bus is a rolling S and M club for amputees, but the basic premise is the same.”
It was time for me to get out of there. If Evangeline O’Hara was even one-fourth as bat-shit crazy as the rest of these gals, I needed to make a break for it.
“So,” Poppy the flower woman asked, “Rena, what are you writing?”
“Well . . . um—” What in the hell was I going to say? I didn’t want to give away any of my brilliant ideas. Wait . . . I didn’t actually have any ideas. Time for a butt-yank explanation. Not to be confused with butt plug. “It’s a romantic comedy about a schoolteacher and um . . . a bus driver.” In my nervousness I spoke a little louder than I’d intended. Evidenced by several of the old girls discreetly covering their ears. Shit.
“Sounds great,” Nancy exclaimed. My God, could she be nicer? “What’s the plot?”
“The plot.” What was the plot? That was an excellent question. “Well, it’s a forbidden love . . . because he’s a former convict and um, they vow to have sex in every room in the school.”
“Fantastic,” Shoshanna LeHump yelled, slapping her thighs and doing what looked like a drunken Irish jig. “Are there any threesomes or girl-on-girl action?”
“No.” I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing. “That hadn’t occurred to me.”
“Well”—she winked at me—“a little girl-on-girl action can really spice up a story.”
Was she hitting on me? I couldn’t tell. It seemed like she was, but she’s married. I’m fairly sure she had used the word
at one point between her diatribes on cock rings and lubricants. To avoid that train of thought, I continued on with my big fat hairy lie of a plot.
“Anyway, it turns out he was unjustly accused of a mass murder during a hurricane and spent the last five or ten years in prison. Maybe it was seven years . . . I can’t remember exactly. Then he dug his way to freedom, using a spork, right before his sentence was overturned, but now they want to put him back in prison for breaking out. You see, he didn’t know they were going to let him out of the pokey. That’s why he tunneled to freedom.” I sucked in a deep breath and scanned the room for alternate exits. Maybe I could slip out when they weren’t looking . . .
“Oh my God,” the Rosebush Petal woman said, “that’s incredible. How does he meet the teacher?”
“Of course,” I stammered, “the teacher. So he dyes his hair and gets his teeth capped. He had a gap between his two front teeth because his parents couldn’t afford braces when he was a child, and he steals an identity. He goes to the school and gets a job as the bus driver after about four interviews. He’s really worried about the background check because he doesn’t know all that much about the person he stole the identity from.”
“Intrigue, that’s good.” Nancy nodded her approval.
“Thanks,” I said, smiling. Her genuine kindness and encouragement made me feel like an ass for lying, but I was already in too deep. “Then he sees the teacher across the playground during third period and it’s love at first sight.”
“Does she have big boobs?” Shoshanna LeHump asked.
“Um . . . yes. Yes, she does.” I sucked my bottom lip into my mouth and put on my serious face. She had definitely been hitting on me.
“Wait—” My potential girlfriend stopped me. “I thought you said romantic comedy. Where’s the funny part?”
“Oh, the funny part . . . right.” What is the funny part? Shit, shit, shit. “The funny part is when they . . . um, have, you know, sex in all the classrooms. Chalk and erasers get in the way, mayhem ensues. The fire alarm goes off. The chairs are too small . . . Stuff like that.” I was sweating now. I wasn’t sure how much more crap I could come up with.
“Does he have to go back to prison?” a rather rotund gal with kind eyes and no eyebrows named Joanne asked. She clearly had a violent relationship with her tweezers. More impressive was her purple Minnesota Vikings sweat suit. It made her look like a giant grape.
“No, no, he doesn’t,” I said with finality, hoping we’d move on to someone else.
“Does the teacher ever find out about his past?” Nancy inquired.
“Nope.” I smiled. “I’m going for that ambiguous feeling. Kind of like real life.”
“Fucking brilliant,” Shoshanna bellowed. “I still think you should consider a little threesome action. Maybe with the principal or one of the lunch ladies.”
“You might be right.” My enthusiasm sounded forced, but I hoped if I agreed, she would shut up.
“You should listen to LeHump,” Poppy the Plant said. “She made three hundred thousand in sales last year alone.”
“What?” I gasped. I had no idea so many people wanted to read about sticking things in their butt. As impressed as I was with that number, I couldn’t possibly add a scene with the teacher and the bus driver and the lunch lady. It wasn’t true to my vision.
What am I thinking? I have no vision. I just pulled the most ridiculous premise out of my rear end and now I have a vision?
As I silently contemplated the merits of a threesome with the lunch lady, the mood in the room changed abruptly. The tension grew thick and the hair stood up on my arms. The women scurried around like ants in a rainstorm. What was going on? Were they offended that the bus driver didn’t come clean about his past? I could change that part. Maybe he should tell her . . . After all, he’s not really guilty of killing anybody. I mean, he did steal an identity, but he found the driver’s license in the garbage in back of a fast food restaurant when he was scrounging for burgers. He was starving, for God’s sake . . . couldn’t they understand that?
“She’s here,” Nancy hissed. All eyes flew to the door.
“Who’s here?” I whispered urgently. My breakfast doughnut was threatening to make a reappearance. Why in the hell didn’t I leave at the first mention of bondage? I was scared to death and I had no idea why.
“The skanky, book-stealing, bottom-feeding slag,” Shoshanna LeHump said quietly. “Don’t look her in the eye—she’ll suck out your soul.”
“Put Rena behind you,” Nancy frantically barked to Shoshanna. Her muumuu flowed wildly around her, making me dizzy. “The smelly skank-hole always goes for the new ones. Protect her!” she hissed.
LeHump shoved me behind her. She was strong for such a tiny thing. I was starting to hyperventilate. What in the hell had I gotten myself into?
A small almost inaudible whimper rippled through the room as she entered . . . Ladies and gentlemen, Evangeline O’Hara was in the house.