Okay, I swiped Chapter 1 from the book that still does not have a title. It is not final draft, but we’ll make that our own little secret.
At the end of your reading, you will find, as promised, a link to the telltale, mood-setting music.
“Kate! Quit arguing, honey, and just pull over!”
Jesus, I hated it went things went wrong before a Lesbian Adventure Club weekend had even officially begun.
“Fine,” I barked at her. I slowed far too quickly and lurched into a convenience store’s parking lot. I shoved the car into park, saying, “I really don’t think I was driving that badly.”
“Honey, you always think you drive okay without shoes on.”
That’s because I frickin’ do, Claudia! But, I shut my mouth, even going so far as to resist the urge to point out how poorly I could have driven had I been wearing three-foot-long clown shoes. Regardless, and for the record—the DWD record, not the DMV record—I was not a bad driver. Granted, I was not as overly cautious as she was, and okay, I had somewhat of a lead foot … whose weight was a hell of a lot harder to gauge without a shoe at the weigh-in.
She unbuckled her seatbelt, twisted around, and came pretty damn close to sliding right into the backseat. I thought to help her but proved able to rein in my inner scoundrel just in time. I was already starting out the day on the wrong foot, and I desperately needed it to start out on the right one. Sock, clown, lead: It didn’t matter which. It just mattered that it did, and my testy attitude was not helping.
So, I distracted myself: I stared at her butt. While that normally would have been a good thing, a splendid thing, I instead found myself wondering how I ever convinced her that the gaudy plaid did not make her butt look bigger. Truth be told, it did. I was sure it was not anywhere near the grotesque proportions she believed, but, yes, gaudy plaid widened her load. Still, it was a damn glorious thing to behold, and I felt better.
A second later, she seated herself normally and handed me a sandal.
“With socks?” I shrieked. It wasn’t that I figured it was a fashion faux pas; I didn’t really care about those. It just felt stupid, looked stupid, was stupid.
“Take your sock off then.”
“Fine,” I snapped and instantly whacked my brain for an attitude adjustment. “Whatever you say, Claudia,” I said to her—and me—and leaned to remove my sock.
Yanking the striped thing from me, she asked, “Are you nervous, honey?”
Jesus, was I! “I think I look stupid,” I admitted with a solemn nod. “Well, actually, I know I look stupid. I’m supposed to look stupid.”
Before I knew what hit me, she plucked the red nose off my face and gave me a quick kiss. “I think you look cute,” she said. “And these getups are nowhere near as stupid as some of the others they’ve made us wear. How about the backward boobs? Remember how hard it was to drive with those?”
That, thankfully, seemed to whack my funny bone, and I joined her in laughter. Indeed, we had been through far worse, and if I wanted to avoid the whole “mess with and be messed with” lecture for the bazillionth time, I knew I had to frickin’ lighten up.
Feeling more confident and a whole hell of a lot less pissy, I put on the sandal and shoved the car into drive to continue our journey through Granton.
Ten minutes later, I turned onto Holly and Laura’s country lane.
Yes, I know. It was supposed to be Alison and Janice’s weekend, but things had changed. Hell, a miracle had come to pass. See, Laura had kept her promise from last meeting and worked like hell to find the off-ramp on Hell Highway. Not only had she found it, she had taken it and ended up on a road that surprised us all. She had begged Alison and Janice to let her and Holly host the weekend. Seriously, she had begged, and none of us were exactly sure why she had done something so completely out of character. We thought maybe she was doing some self-imposed penance for getting shot right before our weekend, backing out of the next one, and having to be kidnapped last month. Something was definitely up, but she refused to explain whatever the hell it was.
And here we were, about to find out.
Immediately, we saw a sign on their front lawn that said: Welcome! Two feet later another one read: The Greatest Show on DWD Earth. I easily recognized the artist’s creative hand.
Then our eyes looked beyond the lane to see a humungous white tent on the far side of their field. It was large enough that it could have covered their whole frickin’ house.
“Holy shit,” I shouted.
“They were not exaggerating for a change! This is the big top!”
“They could fit elephants in there. Do you think there will be elephants?”
She shook her head. “Maybe they’re going to start us off with mimosas so we see pink elephants.” She gasped and added, “I was thinking of Susan, not you, Kate! I’m sorry!”
I laughed and told her the apology was unnecessary even if she had been referring to my drunken stupidity at Crappie Cabin. That twenty-twenty hindsight stuff sometimes afforded one the ability to laugh at oneself.
We pulled further ahead, noting Maggie and Susan’s car, as well as Alison’s. I took that to mean there was a massage therapist somewhere about, too.
Then we saw yet another sign at the end of the lane, by a green four-wheeler with a wooden trailer attached to it. We both squinted, but neither of us could read it. I got as near as I could, and Claudia jumped out to take a closer look.
Seconds later, she came back, stuck her head into the car, and informed, “It says to put our camping gear in the trailer before we head to the tent.” She sent forth a snort of exasperation. “It costs five tickets to get our stuff hauled.”
“Shit, we’re going to have to pay for coffee again, too, aren’t we?”
“I’m going to kill Alison and Janice for letting those two take this weekend,” she said with a silent laugh. Then, she instructed me to back up the car and get as close as I could to the trailer.
I could do that. Even without a frickin’ shoe, I could do that.
I backed up and over, did an amazing U-turn, and then carefully aimed at Claudia in the rearview mirror. I killed the engine, hit the button for the trunk, and disembarked.
Trying to get myself in a strategizing frame of mind, I suggested, “Why don’t we just carry our stuff? We really don’t have that much, and five tickets could be a fortune.”
She pointed to the trailer. “Everybody else’s stuff is in it so I suspect there’s probably a worse consequence for not doing it.” She ordered, “Just grab us five tickets from my purse and put your shoes on. I’ll unload our stuff.”
Trusting she was correct, I did as instructed. From the driver’s seat, I reached to her purse and pulled out a small roll of red tickets that had been delivered to us last week. I ripped off the necessary number and shoved it back in. Then I twisted around so my legs were outside the car. I removed her sandal, tossed it in the back, and grabbed its replacement.
Shoes! I cursed them as I shoved a foot in each. I was uncoordinated enough in flats or tennies, hell, even bare feet. To don shoes that were nearly as long as my calves was guaranteeing total embarrassment, or worse, a neck brace. I did, however, think they were kind of snazzy: shiny green and yellow vinyl with red shoe laces. They clashed with my purple and pink striped socks that clashed with my high-water gaudy plaid pants that clashed with my polka-dotted shirt that clashed with my striped tie. I had been called a clown before, but never, ever had I actually looked like one. And to make that somehow okay: I matched one green-eyed beauty of a clown.
I put on my black derby hat with the daisy and went to join the clown behind the car.
Discovering her nearly finished with the task, I joked, “Is it your cheerleading skills that let you walk so gracefully in those shoes, or did you have a past life as a clown?”
“You’ll get used to them, honey,” she assured as she tossed our sleeping bag into the trailer. “If you trip, you just have to make it look like part of the act.”
“Speaking of the act—”
“Oh my God!”
I spun around to see what the hell made her screech. When I determined the source, I screeched, too. “Holy frickin’ shit!”
Wide-eyed, we gawked for a moment as the blue van inched its way to the bumper of my car.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“Who the hell gave them testosterone?”
The doors flung open, and there stood Ginny and Kris, looking like I had never, ever seen them. They had beards! Seriously, the professors sported beards, and I don’t mean like a fakey Abe Lincoln beard you’d slap on a child in an elementary school play. I mean it actually looked as though they had beards. Facial toupees, I hoped; otherwise, they had a whole frickin’ lot of explaining to do.
“Hey, you clowns,” Ginny shouted to us as she rounded the van and swatted her bearded partner. “I have always wanted to say that to their faces.”
Claudia defended, “I would rather be a clown than a bearded lady. Do you want to borrow a razor?”
“Just never you mind,” Ginny scolded. “What exactly are we supposed to be doing?”
We quickly explained the trailer and the five-ticket fee.
“For Pete’s sake, they’re both back to normal, aren’t they?” When we fearfully nodded, she said, “Then I’ll gladly take whatever they dish out.” She wagged her finger, adding, “Just do not tell them I said that. The last thing they need is permission.”
We finished offloading our belongings and lawn chairs, and then Kris and I did a little maneuvering with the vehicles so I could park and she could get close to the trailer. When we offered to help with their things, they sent us on our way … into whatever the hell kind of adventure awaited us.
We started up the path, and I imagined it felt quite similar to walking to the gallows. At the same time, though, a sense of excitement tagged along. Without even knowing what existed in that huge tent, I knew this was the most elaborate setup any of us had dared. They apparently figured they had lost time to make up for.
A short ways into the field, we came upon a sign that made us swat each other and start laughing: If you’re carrying your camping gear, you owe us 15 tickets.
A few yards further, we found yet another sign: Rule: Pee in the field or use one of these modes of transportation to get to the house. There lay stilts, a unicycle, and a barrel. Um… I lacked the coordination necessary for either stilts or a frickin’ unicycle, and I wasn’t at all sure how a barrel even qualified as a mode of transportation. Up shit creek without a barrel?
I surveyed the field, feeling confident I’d be peeing in it sooner or later.
Claudia poked me. “Did you read the fine print on the sign, honey?” Not really awaiting a reply, she read, “‘Breaking your neck will cost you all your tickets.'”
Oh yes, without a doubt, I’d be peeing in the field. Once more, I scanned the vicinity, spying not one tree that didn’t butt the neighbor in the distance or the highway. Okay, I’d be peeing in the field for all the world to see. I hoped to hell that was not what they meant by “The Greatest Show on DWD Earth.”
Suddenly, we heard the bearded professors asking us to wait up for them.
When they approached, we got to witness their stupefied reaction to the bathroom arrangements, and I realized that at least I would not be peeing in the field by my lonesome.
Soon, the four of us neared the big tent. Ginny was squawking (joyously squawking), and Kris simply smiled. She seemed more like herself, and I felt very relieved. Yet her beard: I had a hard time not staring—and probably grimacing, too. It was frickin’ weird.
Finally, we reached the entrance only to find one more, very large sign: The Big Top. Laura, obviously, had been at it again. Every letter, with the exception of the T, had nipples. Oh yes, typical Laura.
“Oh my God, it’s a boob convention.”
Stupidly, I imagined that in my mind, and my face turned as red as my detachable nose.
Ginny carefully cracked the tent’s flap door to do a little reconnaissance. Apparently, she wasn’t very stealthy, for the flap flung open, and there appeared our two ringmasters. Okay, to be more accurate, Holly’s attire cried out “ringmistress.” It was a sexy little number with very short black shorts, fishnet stockings, knee-high boots, a red velvet coat with tails, and a frilly top hat. For some reason, the whip she held made me look to Laura. Her costume was similar to Holly’s, minus the “sexy” adjective. Her pants were long, her shoes were black loafers, and her top hat lacked the frilly stuff. Thankfully, she held a cane and not a whip.
“Oh my God!” Holly gushed as she gave the four of us the once over. “You guys look incredible!”
“Sutter, you look like—”
“Shut up, Laura!” Easily, I would have bet my life that the first thing out of her mouth would have been something smartass about my being a clown. Yes, indeed, Laura was back.
In my defense, Holly pretended to crack Laura with the whip. Lion Tamer. Laura Tamer. Same diff, I figured.
Holly lavished us with kisses and hugs and tugged the professors’ beards. Not unlike how we reacted, she wanted to make sure they merely looked real.
Then, Laura extended her greedy palm and demanded a ten-ticket fee to enter what she deemed a “five-ring circus.” Begrudgingly, we paid up, and she held open the flap to allow us passage.
We made a single step forward when a dog stuck its majorly wrinkled head out of the tent. Its face was Claudia’s worst nightmare—the reason she slathered moisturizer by the gallon.
Obviously not seeing any future resemblance, she excitedly bellowed, “Oh my God, you guys got a dog! An English bulldog!”
“Well, not exactly,” Holly said. “He’s just staying with us for a while. His name is Zeke.”
Laura said, “If any of you are The Incredible Shrinking Woman, you can take a ride on him.” She patted her leg, and he obediently came to her.
On his back was a harness with a tiny chair, a miniature version of what you’d see on an elephant tasked with giving people rides. Seated in the chair was a little stuffed monkey.
I laughed and said to Laura, “I thought you were the only monkey on anyone’s back.”
“The dog stole my act,” she said, right before cracking me a good one.
Once more, the ringmaster held open the tent’s flap, and the ringmistress hustled us inside.
Click here for the telltale, mood-setting music. God help us.