Excerpt From: P J Colando. “The Winner’s Circle.” Apple Books.
“UNLIKE JACKIE, FRAN WAS irked by “Amazing Grace”. Especially when Bonnie’s ringtone interrupted steamy Tom Selleck dreams. She groped the nightstand for her cell, clicked it on, and croaked, “How—”
Fran swallowed to regain her voice and attempt cordial. She needed to reply, “How sweet the sound.” It was the obligatory response among friends, but just now the ritual undermined behavior management principles. One shouldn’t reinforce disruptions like nighttime phone calls. Though she was a late-in-life newlywed, who didn’t require beauty sleep, she did need peace. How did Jackie Breeden sleep with grandfather clock chimes every quarter hour through the night?
Fran opened one eye to sneak a clock peek: 10:33 p.m. In the jostling, her phone dropped to the floor, but their carpet prevented clatter. She gratefully rolled over, mindful not to bump her snoring mate. His guzzle-snort camouflaged a phone call that would awaken him and ignite his potential to pray.
Joan Baez’s famed anthem resumed. Fran suppressed a groan. Her clumsiness had disconnected the call of a persistent friend. Rolling to a crouch on the floor, she scooped up the phone and clicked on.
“The new sweet sound will be cha-ching[…]”
“performed un-puritanically beneath the sheets, then cozied her onto the mattress edge where she tried to read herself to sleep. Marriage was unexpectedly exciting. Apparently abstinence did make a body grow fonder. Fran was considering an additional wedding gift—purchase of a king size bed to ensure her own space.
She grabbed her phone and held it low, amidst the rustle and swish of the silken fabric, hoping the noise would infuse sense into Bonnie’s head. Fran padded to her office down the hall and Brailled the desktop. A tablet and pen aligned in their always-place. The silver patina of her recent wedding photo’s frame twinkled in the moon glow.
Fran startled. She’d never noticed Paul’s tie skewed to spoon the folds of her wedding suit sleeves. Significant lust hidden in plain sight.
She smiled as she recalled squeezing her nosegay during the ceremony and the subsequent photo shoot. Moments later, she lofted the roses over her head backwards for a perfect landing into the hands of Bonnie, Paul’s secretary. The same still unmarried woman who’d quit her job and left town a few days ago with Carl, Steve Breeden’s half-brother. California bound, they said. What[…]”
“over-protection when his star players missed grades. She smiled at a memory of hoisting her paddle in the general vicinity of his over-stuffed ass. Hell, she’d have whacked him if her office door had been closed.
Emboldened by the memory, she pressed on. “What the hell am I supposed to do with these numbers? Memorize them and then eat the note? Global nuclear war didn’t start after the nightly news, did it? You giving me the combination to Carl’s underground bomb shelter or his safe deposit box?”
“Watch the Boffo Lotto drawing tonight at 11:00. We can’t, because we’re deadheading to Rock Island, Illinois. I knew you stayed up late and would do a favor for a friend.” Bonnie didn’t pause to allow Fran to object. “I have a question for you, Fran. What the hell are you saying hell for? You’re a pastor’s wife now!”
“I’m off-duty.” Fran slammed down the phone.
Fran stood, hoisted her robe so she wouldn’t trip over its hem—and to shake off Bonnie’s rebuke—and swished into the family room. She turned on the TV, already set on FOX, and heard the same news pronounced by another bauble[…]”
“the parsonage under extreme protest, put her Craftsman cottage up for sale. Paul didn’t know it, but she’d slipped back several times for respite from his parishioner problems, of which she now owned fifty percent. For better or worse.
The sixth ball rolled down the chute, almost smiling as it scooted into place. Fran looked at the paper in her lap, looked at the screen, looked at her lap, took a deep breath, and squinted.
Then, she looked again. Shock sucked her breath. I’ll be go to hell and back! Did that just happen? Is this a dream, a fairytale, or a nightmare come to life?
Bonnie’s, er Carl’s, numbers were winners! Fran’s heart felt as skittish as the numbered balls had looked inside the tumbler that assured their mix. Her sleeves fluttered like monarch wings while she flapped her arms in a wild chicken dance. She’d never pranced with abandon at wedding receptions, not even her own. She grabbed a table lamp before it toppled, then twirled it for good measure.
She longed to scream. She was a former school administrator, used to being in control, and a newlywed mindful of her husband’s rest, not a frivolous teen[…]”
“Bonnie, how are you? Are you sitting down?”
“I’m fine. Carl’s doing 80 mph on I-80 so, of course, I’m sitting. I’m seat belted and squeezing the handle above the truck cab door, gluing my tongue to the roof of my mouth to improve my balance, like you told me from yoga class. I’ve only driven small town roads, never been accelerated as a passenger to this speed. Carl said the sky’s the limit on the Interstates, so I’m hoping to not go airborne.”
“Of course, I won. I won the man, took that church secretary job and shoved it. Did I tell you we’re headed to Vegas to marry in the Little White Wedding Chapel near the Strip? Elvis will officiate.”
“You won the Boffo Lotto.” Fran kept her voice flat. Mention of a strip flustered her all the more. Was the former church secretary wayward already? She held her tongue, willing Bonnie to comprehend soon. Fran longed to end the call and return to bed.
“I did, er, Carl, my intended, did? What’s the total?