As a writer, I am often asked where I find the inspiration for my stories. The answer--everywhere. News stories, family gossip, conversations overheard at the dentist's office, and most of all life. It's all around us, you just have to pay attention.
One of my favorite nuggets, though, came courtesy of long time writer friend Patty Blount, who made me spit Pepsi all over my computer by declaring on Twitter that she'd just given herself a minor concussion trying to remove her sports bra at the gym. Her tale of woe sounded just like something that would happen to a character I was writing at the time, so I asked if I could borrow it. She graciously agreed.
In honor of a great friend and an award-winning writer (check out her books at PattyBlount.com) who is celebrating the beginning of a shiny new half century of life tomorrow, here's a sneak peek at the scene she inspired, now a part of my novel Reckless in Texas, due to for mass market release by Sourcebooks in August 2016.
The Set Up: Immediately prior to this scene, Violet has suffered a fall from a horse in a muddy arena, causing a mild case of whiplash. Joe has been given the job of seeing that she gets safely to her camper and tucked into bed.
The parking lot outside the emergency room had a wicked tilt to it. Or maybe that was Violet, because when Joe wrapped his arm around her shoulders and tipped her to the left, the ground flattened out.
“You’re a mess.”
She wanted to smack him for laughing at her, but she needed all her concentration to climb into the pickup without braining herself on the door frame.
Joe buckled her seatbelt and shut the door. When he climbed behind the wheel, he asked, “Are you hungry?”
“Do you mind if I swing through a hamburger stand on the way?”
He cranked the engine and she hunkered into her seat, letting her eyelids droop so the lights along the main drag zoomed past in streaks like when a movie spaceship jumped into hyperspeed. She was stoned. More stoned than she’d ever been in her life, including the day she gave birth and the night her son was conceived. And the second one didn’t count because she was drunk, not stoned, and they were totally different. Weren’t they? Except in that Johnny Cash song about Sunday morning, but she was kinda young and naïve back then so maybe she just thought he was stoned on beer.
Anyway, this was nothing like being drunk. More like floating. Really high. She could still feel the pain in her neck—the real pain, not Joe, who was annoying her with the bossing and pushing and all—but neither pain bothered her if she didn’t move too fast. Joe didn’t ask if she wanted her prescription filled, just pulled into an all night pharmacy and left her in the pickup while he jogged inside. Just for that, she ate most of his French fries while she waited.
When he parked at the rodeo grounds, she slid out of the pickup only to discover her legs had gone on strike. Joe caught her, propped her up and steered her in the direction of her trailer. Violet yelped when something popped out from under the fender and went straight for her knee. Katie jammed her head under Violet’s hand, stubby tail doing double time. Joe scratched the dog’s ears while Violet turned her head one careful degree at a time. Where Katie went…
Cole unfolded from one of the lawn chairs in the black void under the awning. He looked at Violet, frowned, then looked at Joe. “What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s got whiplash and she’s zonked to the eyeballs on pain meds.”
“And they left her with you?”
Joe made a face as if he couldn’t believe his bad luck, either.
“How’s Delon?” Cole asked.
“Good enough to ask if he won a check,” Joe said.
“Guess he’ll live then.”
The rigid set of Cole’s shoulders relaxed a touch, the equivalent of a normal person’s giddy smile. Violet ground her teeth. Of course he hadn’t come to the emergency room. Instead, he’d sat alone in the dark, brooding. The big dumbass. She shrugged free of Joe’s arm and stumbled over to plant a hand square in the middle of Cole’s chest, both for balance and emphasis.
“You are a jerk,” she said, giving each word its own space.
She slid her arms around his waist and burrowed her head into his shoulder. “I love you anyway.”
He stood, stiff as a statue, as she clung to him. After a few seconds his hand came to rest on her back, patting awkwardly. “You scared the shit outta me.”
“Join the club.” She gave him another squeeze then let go and turned on her heel, sending her head spinning off into hyperspace again.
Joe grabbed an arm and swung her around to face the steps. “Up you go. Say goodnight, Violet.”
“G’night, Violet,” she repeated, then giggled.
“Geezus. She’s wrecked.” Cole whistled to his dog. “Let’s get outta here, Katie.”
“Appreciate the help, buddy,” Joe called after him, then manhandled her up the steps and through the door, propping her against the nearest wall while he found a light switch. “Which bed is yours?”
“I need to clean up first.”
Joe made an exasperated noise, but helped her to the bathroom door. He inspected the interior and grunted. “It’s so small you probably can’t fall over.”
But she could faint, and almost did when she got a look at herself in the mirror. She peeled off Joe’s coat, hung it on a towel hook and shrugged off the hospital gown. A shower was beyond her. She’d have to settle for combing the mud out of her hair and swabbing her face and neck with a washcloth. First, though, she had to lose the sports bra. The clammy elastic dug into her shoulders and ribcage like steel cable. She hooked her fingers under the bottom band and tried to peel it up. The bra didn’t budge. She pulled harder, gritting her teeth against the arrow of pain that shot down her neck. Her fingers popped loose and her hand flew up to cold-cock her square in the chin. The toilet hit the back of her legs, buckling her knees, and her shoulders slammed into the wall. She slid down like a bird on a windshield.
Joe yanked the door open as her butt hit the toilet lid. “What the hell—”
Violet blinked up at him. Them. Multiple versions of his face wobbled though her field of vision. “I believe I’m gonna need a hand here,” she said.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PATTY!