Tag Archives: fiction friday

Kissing Frogs Continues

This is the continuation of an ongoing fiction work I started years ago. If you want to read from the beginning, click “Kissing Frogs so Far” on the tab above the header.

Maybe, just maybe, he would one day have a single conversation with Tracey in which they did not both misunderstand each other and have a hackle raising competition. Maybe. But not today.

Joey’s spine was still tingling with the sensation that had run across it at the thought of being fired. The bill collectors had only just quit calling. He was beginning to check his mail without dread. He could not lose this job now. He was also having a hard time shaking the idea that he was going to be losing his job.

“Well, have a seat. Don’t just stand there kicking those boots. Did you get enough to eat? I told Joanna to make sure you were comfortable.”

Joey slid into the booth, while mumbling something inane about hollandaise sauce and better than mama’s biscuits. Edward laughed and leaned back, crossing his arms across his chest.

“Well, I was doing everything in my power to make you comfortable coming into this conversation, and then my daughter knocked it all apart.” He chuckled again. “The story of my life, I suppose, and hers too. OK. Let’s cut to the heart of the discussion because you’re sitting over there hearing nothing at all and hoping desperately not to hear one of the many euphemisms people use for fired.”

Joey smiled weakly, and nodded.

“You’re not fired. Does that help?”

Joey smiled more weakly and shook his head. Edward put his elbows on the table, and said, “O.K. Let’s start over.”

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Kissing Frogs . . . Some More . . .

This is the continuation of an ongoing fiction work I started years ago. If you want to read from the beginning, click “Kissing Frogs so Far” on the tab above the header.

 

Tracey’s face went white hot. She could feel anger climbing her spine like a wild rodent and her palms began to sweat. She took a deep breath before putting on her game face.

“I am sorry that you feel that way. I think that if given the chance to speak to a young woman considering going into business I would tell her that my deepest regret was allowing myself to be duped into pretending to be a princess by someone who claimed to be a prince, but was really just a toad in some fancy clothes. I would tell any young woman coming to me for counsel that she should read this book, of which I am especially proud, and that she should realize that she does not have to be a helpless princess and she does not have to be a bitter goddess. If she read the book – which you clearly did not, and that disappoints me more than anything else that has happened to me today – if she read the book and then wanted to talk about what the alternatives look like in a real world instead of the fairytale world of this book, then I would be happy to speak to that young woman about my successes and my failures.”

 

*****

An abrupt commercial break seemed to come as Tracey was in mid breath for more tirade. No one said anything. No one moved. And then all four phone lines began to ring at once.

 

*****

 

The second Tracey heard the commercial music cut in through her headphones, she peeled them from her head, and grabbed her few belongings. She turned to one of the webcams, and smiled her best smile.

“Tracey MacManus. T-R-A-C-E-Y M-A-C-M-A-N-U-S of Sophia publishing. Google it.”

What she wanted to do was sweep majestically from the room without giving so much as a backward glance to Dr. Toad sitting in his wire cage. But her left foot had fallen asleep, so she resigned herself to a slow gimpy walk through the glass doors.

 

*****

 

There was a flurry of activity as the women of Sophia publishing ran to their desks and took battle stations. Amidst the sound of women talking in every office, and the fax machine ringing and printing and the phones ringing incessantly, Joanna quietly stepped to a corner and dialed her cell phone.

 

“Mr. Edward, whatever you are doing to help, please stop. Tracey has done it for herself. Today she is a rock star and she needs you to tell her that.”

 

Then she hung up, and dashed to her despised desk.

 

 


Another episode of Kissing Frogs.

(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted whenever my pregnancy brain lets go of my creative cortex.  To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)

It was surprisingly quiet at Sophia Publishing.  Eerily so.  The silence was taxing even the normally easy conversation between Jack and Joey.  Periodically a door would open and close somewhere in the building, or a phone would ring, but the normal “coffee house meets study hall” atmosphere was strangely stifled.

Finally, Jack put down his roll of joint tape and grabbed a small radio from his tool chest and plugged it in before returning to his taping.  Joey didn’t pay much attention to the voices, he just enjoyed the break in the silence.

*****

Tracey had never been inside a radio studio, and for a moment, the novelty of it distracted her and stopped the tremors in her joints.  This may be the “new media” as Andrew had phrased it, but it was still worlds away from television.  In T.V. there was an invisible line of separation between the talent and the technology, but here the technology and the talent were almost one.  Dr. Andrew Faulkner was connected, in an almost Borg like way, to every part of the show.  He had engineers and a producer and a call screener, but he had every thing to run the show at his fingertips for the entire three hours he was on the air.  Tracey suddenly realized that radio was a control freak’s paradise.

*****

Joey was surprised when Joanna walked into the break room with coffee a few minutes later.

“We would normally have a fresh pot on in the kitchen about now, but some jokers tore the whole thing apart and haven’t managed to put it back together.  So I had to order a few boxes from across the street.  It will be in the break room, if you want some.”

She was subdued, but managed to still flash her smile as he looked up.

“You okay?”  Joey asked, purposefully ignoring the warning look from his closest friend.

Joanna smiled again and nodded.  “Yeah.  Sorry about the drama guys.  It’s not always like this.”

She made her way into the break room and then popped her head back through the door way.

“Hey, I’ll have the show on in here and I’m getting a better reception than what you’re getting.  Do you want me to just turn it up?”

Jack and Joey both looked at her in confusion.

“What show?”

*****

She was wired up and headphoned up.  There were three live webcams pointed at her, and conversations happening through the headphones that made absolutely no sense.  Tracey had never before felt more out of place.  She gave herself the “this is your baby” pep talk, and tried to go over some of her notes, but Andrew signaled her to stop turning pages.  The rustling was giving feedback in the microphone.

Every part of her was screaming, “What are you doing here?”  And then the familiar music began, and the “on air” light lit up and the Andrew with which she had become so familiar, suddenly transformed, before her eyes, into Dr. Andrew Faulkner – conservative radio voice.


Fiction Catch-up Week Post 1

(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted whenever my pregnancy brain lets go of my creative cortex.  To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)  Because three people asked about Kissing Frogs this week, I am going to try to post at least two more installments this week, and get back to the regular Friday posting.  Try.
Out of the corner of her eye, Tracey saw Jack and Joey step quietly back into the break room.  Her fingers were slightly numb from the pressure with which Andrew was holding her hand.  Pressure she certainly hoped was intended as reassuring support.  All of that, however, was eclipsed by the overwhelming presence of her father.

She couldn’t handle this today of all days!  There was too much riding on today, and she just couldn’t let daddy step in and take it all off the rails!

*****

Mudding sheet rock was boring and, unfortunately quiet work.  There was nothing at all to muffle the clear voices that began, almost simultaneously, and ran over each other, in the hallway, directly outside the break room door.

“Daddy, I can’t do this right now!  I’m sorry you had to see me with Andrew like this, but I can’t take time to hear the ridiculous and partisan things you’re going to say.  I have an important appointment to keep that could well be the tipping point in Sophia Publishing history, and whatever you think you have to say would probably benefit from a cool down period.  I’ll come by the club for brunch on Saturday and we can hash it all out there.”

“Tracey!  I just can’t do this right now.  I am so sorry to arrive for a quick father/daughter lunch and find you . . . like this.  I can’t stand here and hear the ridiculous partisan things I’m sure he will say.  I have an important appointment today that could be a very good thing for Sophia Publishing but I can’t talk to you without a cooling down period.  Come by the club for brunch on Saturday and we’ll hash this out like a civilized family.”

The sound of footsteps, and stairs descended, and doors closed followed leaving only the sound of trowels scraping putty across taped seams.

“They’re not paying us enough.”  said Jack, earnestly.

*****

Sitting in the back seat of Andrew’s town car, his fingers resting on her shoulder and the city passing by, Tracey felt like she was a passenger on a runaway train.  She had that same feeling in the pit of her stomach as just before take off any time she had to fly.  She closed her eyes and told herself the same thing she did every time she was in a plane.

“It’s going to be all right.  I’m in good hands.”

“You certainly are,” replied Andrew, startling her.  “There’s no reason to be nervous.  You’re about to give Sophia publishing the launch a thousand publishers in your place could only dream of.”

The sweat popped out on her neck and gathered a little at her temples.  She could feel the shakes in her legs already and her mouth was as dry as flannel in a prairie.  She nervously mopped her temples, and put on her joking face.
“Well, at least no one’s going to have to see me.  One of the great things about radio, right?”

Andrew’s eyes went completely serious, and he turned his body toward her, abruptly dropping all physical contact.

“This is the new media, Tracey.  We video stream the entire show live to tens of thousands of subscribers.  I thought you understood that.  I have hair and makeup waiting at the studio.  That’s why we’re arriving an hour before the show goes live.”

Tracey blinked, and put on her best smile.

“Well.  I better dazzle them then, hadn’t I?”

Andrew relaxed and patted her thigh.  “That’s my girl.”

The airplane in Tracey’s stomach had just gone acrobatic.


Finally another Fiction Friday. (Sorry Becky)

(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted every Friday.  To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)

“Yes, thank you for calling me back.” said Tracey, trying to ease the tartness slipping into her voice.  She’d been trying to reach her representative at the printers since just before lunch the day before.

“Well I was just heading out for the weekend, but I wanted to return your call.  How can I help, Tracey?” came the scripted response.

“Are you looking the digital copy of the manuscript that was approved by our in-house proofreaders?”  Tracey adjusted her monitor and clicked the tab to bring up the document in question.

“I have the bound hard copy sitting right here on my desk.  I’ve already shut down my computer for the day.”

“That’s okay.” answered Tracey, almost brightly, “I’ll wait for you to boot up.”

*****

“We’ve got a friendly wager on this.  Which would you prefer, the wheat grass smoothie, or the espresso bean/chocolate chip blended coffee concoction?”  Jack was holding a blended drink in each hand, the condensation from the plastic cups dripping from his pinkies onto the laminate top of Joanna’s reception desk.  Joey was leaning on the other end of the raised counter, with a grin on his face.  Joanna grinned back and reached for the coffee.

Joey’s grin flickered, just slightly, in surprise and Joanna burst out laughing, immediately switching to the smoothie.

“So what was the bet?”  she asked, clearly relishing the wheat grass.

“I get to drink a refreshing over priced chilled blended coffee and he gets to watch,”  replied Joey, enjoying his high calorie concoction as much, if not more, than Joanna was enjoying hers.

“And if you had lost?  If I had chosen the chemical laden, processed beverage?”

“Then he would have had to drink the wheat grass, and I would have gotten to watch,” replied Jack, his eyes twinkling and dimples flashing.

*****

The scripted politeness had been abandoned for barely veiled frustration as Tracey, firmly, but politely, refused to be pushed off to Monday.

“Okay, so before we begin comparing the digital manuscript to the printed book, let’s begin by reading together the promotional synopsis.  You read aloud and I will follow along from my copy.  Okay?  Go ahead.”  Tracey felt a brief flashback to her days as a nanny in college.

“Since the suffragists, western women have found their identity trapped between two impossible ideals.  These are not the artificially created “feminist” and “patriarchal submissive” categories . . .” the voice on the other end of the telephone connection read quickly and monotonously.

Tracey’s eyes were faithfully scanning the familiar words when the door to her office gently clicked open and Joanna stepped through.  The sight of her casual stance caused Tracey’s already fragile temper to reach almost a boil.  Andrew was right.  This attitude of Joanna’s wasn’t endearing and casual, it was disrespectful, even subversive.

“. . . so using fairytale to combat fairytales . . .”  continued the irritated voice, reading at almost double speed, “ . . . Ms. Free addresses both the princess complex and its counterpart the goddess complex . . .”

“That’s fine.”  said Tracey, abruptly, not noticing Joanna slip back out of the room.  “You can stop there.”


Fiction Friday hiatus

I’m sorry but Tracey, Joey and their cohorts have entered a period of suspended animation while the author recovers from fever, body aches, nausea and the general feeling of having been hit by a large moving vehicle.

No.  I’m not pregnant.


Fiction Friday Episode 4

(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted every Friday.  To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)

It looked like the big shot was the only one in the room actually breathing.  The three women were just looking at him, like deer caught in the headlights of a HUM-V or eighteen wheeler.  Or his brother’s million candle watt portable floodlight.  Despite himself Joey chuckled.  That was exactly the look – deer about to be poached.

Standing at the top of the stairs, and watching the ever growing water fall cascade over the cracked concrete, Joey didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.  This was an enormous job, and he had only begun to scratch the surface.

Thus far his investigation had revealed the source of the original leak in the pipes of the men’s restroom.  This being an all female establishment, no one had noticed that one of the toilets in the men’s room had completely dried out.  No one, that is, except a family of rats, or squirrels, or some other small rodent, who crawled in the bowl and built a nest in the pipes.

The domesticity was disturbed when a delivery boy arrived and begged to use the restroom.  Ushered into the men’s room he used, and flushed, the toilet next to the dry toilet, sending angry water rushing through the old pipes, and up against the sturdy rodent nest.  The nest, much like the home of the righteous man in Jesus’ parable, refused to budge.  Instead, the old brittle pipes gave way to the force of the water, and cracked.  It caused a chain reaction of popping joints, and seeping seams, until all at once an entire section of pipe gave way, and greeted Tracey with a flood.

He took one last glance at the smitten women in Tracey’s office, chuckled, and set off to measure the exact financial toll that was being leveled against Sophia Publishing.

*********

Tracey was unnerved.  She had rehearsed this critical meeting over and over in her mind, but now that she was here, face to face with Andrew Faulkner, she felt like a foolish school girl.  She had actually giggled when he shook her hand.  Giggled!  What was she, thirteen?  She caught herself doodling a small heart on her note pad, and quickly scribbled it out, only to look up and see Ms. Free and Dr. Faulkner looking at her expectantly.  She could hear the sound of her hopes and dreams flushing . . . or maybe that was Joey working on the plumbing.

“Would you like to take this opportunity to introduce us both to your newest publication?”  Dr. Faulkner graciously covered for Tracey’s brain pause.  She put on her game face, took out the glossy press packets just in from the printer this morning, and came out from behind her desk.  This was her office, and her project.  She believed in what she was doing, and was proud of both Sophia Publishing, and this first big project.  If her knees would just quit trembling, she could really sell this thing.  And, hallelujah, for the first time in her life the power point presentation was working.

“Well, as you both know, this work is an evaluation of the fairy tale complex that exists for women in popular culture.”

Tracey had swung into communications mode, and it was getting easier.  In every other part of her life, Tracey felt like a greased pig on a tight rope.  But when she was making a presentation about something she really felt passionately about, she was on firm ground.  This was her home field advantage.

“The reason the both of you have been invited to this advanced look, is because both the conservative movement and the feminist movement comes under some criticism here.”

Eye contact was back, but this time she could handle it.  This was the confidence building look.  This was all salesmanship.

“Now the last thing a fledgling publishing house needs these days, is enemies, and we certainly can’t alienate red and blue states in one book.”  This had the desired affect.  All three of them laughed together.  Both Dr. Faulkner and Ms. Free were relaxed.

“But honestly, we really don’t think we need to.  We don’t want this to be a polarizing book, we want this to be unifying.  We want to open up a dialogue, and discuss what is good for young women, not what is good for politics.  Isn’t that really what we all want?”

And there it was.  She hit her mark, and they took the cue.  After forty-five minutes, Tracey had read them excerpts from the book, clarified the house positions, and fielded all the expected questions.  It was almost as if they had a copy of the script in her brain.  And at the end of the meeting, as she ushered them to the door, they were greeted with dry stairs.  TOUCHDOWN!

“Well, thank you so much for your time.  Please feel free to call if any questions come to mind, and I’ll have the printers send your advance copies to you directly.”

Ms. Free shook her hand warmly, thanked her and headed down the stairs, but Dr. Faulkner held back.  This was not good.  Tracey always got the shakes after a presentation, and she could feel the trembling beginning in her hands.  She had to sit down, but not before seeing Dr. Faulkner out.

To her great surprise, he put his hand on her shoulder, and smiled at her.

“Ms. MacManus, it was truly a pleasure meeting you.  I have been ‘courted’ by publishers and promoters a lot in my radio career, but this is the first time I actually enjoyed myself.  Thank you.”

Tracey couldn’t help it.  She blushed, and look at her feet.  Dr. Faulkner laughed.

“You know.  When I finish a T.V. appearance, or a public debate, I always get a case of the jitters.  Can’t stand up for at least twenty minutes.  You’re a cool customer.  And humble.  It’s been a pleasure.”

And with that he left.

Tracey collapsed in her office chair, nervous jitters at full assault. She could still feel his hand on her shoulder.  When she got her breath back, she picked up the telephone, and hit “page”.

“Joanna, where in the name of all that is good and holy are you?”