Leaping Tiger Books is proud to announce to the sighted world:
Thomas Owen Black.
Like Willow May Jennings, Thomas is a blind writer.

LTB won’t try to pull your legs, Willow May and Thomas are one in the same writers.
    It was decided that as long as romantic novels were being written, Willow May would do the writing.
   Thomas has come out from behind Willow May’s shadow with his first debut in the historical fiction genre. Don’t worry, there are still elements of romance and heavy breathing. Readers won’t be disappointed to read of more action, suspense, and intrigue.
    The story is interesting and full of historical facts. However, now is as good a time to disclaim as any.
    The author wishes to say that he has tweeked dates and events to help the flow of his story. He tried to keep as close to the facts as the story allowed. Most details are accurate up to a point. The author feels that the reader won’t notice and still be able to enjoy the adventure. He has written a small blurb and has included the first chapter.
    The publication of Paradise: Lost and Found will be out at the beginning of Feburary. God willing. LTB has uploaded the books cover. As always the author would appreciate any comments via his e-mail address, Leapingtiger@knology.net

Paradise: Lost and Found is a story about a soldier disillusioned by a war; only to discover his way of life no longer existed. Through the journals of his father, Elijah Dalton leaves what remains of a former life and along with his neighbors seeks a new life in the wilderness west of the Mississippi River.
    The people of Dalton are chased by a renegade of ex-Union soldiers financed by a vengeful carpetbagger.
    In hopes of finding Paradise in the Indian Nation, Elijah realized Paradise can be the Land of the Damn. Chased out of the valley by Indian ghost warriors, the people gathered a new life while half-civilized Indians steal Elijah’s heart while the United States Cavalry futilely tries to erase the Native Americans’ out of existence.
    More by accident, the Southerners stumble on a new country. Thinking they found Eden, they learn Paradise was found within each other.

Chapter 1

     The starry night was dimmed by the harvest moon shining like freshly churned butter canvassing the surrounding forest with light of a ghostly hue. The way was little more than a game trail. The overhanging forest allowed very little moonshine to light the way, but the stallion did not hesitate as its hooves churned up the forest loam.
    The cloaked rider reined in the black stallion at a fork in the trail. The rider pushed back the hood to hear better. Something nagged at the back of the rider’s mind. Intuition warned the rider of danger on their back trail.
    Goose bumps pricked the rider’s neck hairs as the constant pounding rhythm of galloping hooves drew closer. The fast approaching pursuit sounded even more ominous in the eerily quiet forest.
    The hunter had picked up their trail minutes outside Richmond. The rider paid little attention to the pursuit, confident of the stallion’s ability to outpace any contenders.
    Now there was some doubt as to whether or not the rider could get away. Panic quickly replaced doubts, as the realization the stallion’s abilities would not be enough in the close environs of this forest.
    Feeling vulnerable and alone in the hilly woodlands, the hunted prayed to the ancestors in a whisper sent heavenward. Confident of prayers answered, the rider breathed easier. Fears of the hunted were set aside to coax the animal into a gallop.
    Virginia’s night air felt crisp and bracing against the rider’s cheeks as the shadowy fugitives flickered in and out of the dappled moonlight. Not so far ahead, a familiar noise pricked the rider’s perception. The distant sound of pursuit gradually faded as the new noise dominated the rider’s senses.
    Finally, the noise materialized into a fast flowing stream rushing over rocks. Now with focused attention, the hunter’s approach reverberated louder and closer.
    The geography of the terrain could deceive the listener with echoes rebounding off its stony ravines and cavernous hollows. The sounds deceived the rider and panic quickly returned. The stallion was encouraged into a faster pace until the stream crossed their path. Moonlight glittered off the water as if jewelry was carelessly scattered across it’s streambed.
    Fear reared its ugly head again with the idea of capture, but hope clamped down the anxiety. Heart-felt prayers of thanks ascended heavenward for revealing the way.
    Nevertheless, the fear of capture made the choice easier. The animal hesitated stepping into the icy waters. Despite the freezing temperatures, the river offered to hide their tracks and muffle their passage. The stallion’s entire body shivered as he stepped into the frigid water. Without hesitation, they splashed upstream.
    Fear and doubt continued to gnaw at the edges of the rider’s confidence. The stallion’s pace slowed as he picked his way through the rocky streambed. Helpless anxieties fluttered through the rider’s stomach as worry frayed the spy’s control.
    It made sense for the Confederates to dispatch a posse to keep their plot a secret. There was some satisfaction that the conspiracy was legitimate. Why else would they continue to dog the spy’s trail?
    Another thought plagued the spy’s overwrought imagination. Would the hunter think to pursue the hunted, up or downstream?
    Was the rushing water over the rocky riverbed masking the sound of pursuit, or was it the spy’s panicking perception? The pursuers would cross the river at any moment just when the silhouette of a fleeing fugitive would stand out in the moonlight. Anxieties redoubled its efforts to churn the rider’s stomach into froth when the high riverbanks offered no help of escape. The Stallion felt the apprehension and quicken his pace. The rider had only moments before teetering into a full-blown blind panic, when divine intervention shown a way out.
    A moonbeam lit the convergence of another stream entering the main channel. The rider urged the stallion into the side channel, but the animal balked to enter the overgrown stream. The sounds of pursuit splashed closer forcing the panic to return in earnest.
    The idea of capture threatened to liquidate the rider’s stomach if this stubborn stallion did not comply. The rider kicked the horse’s flanks, whipped the reins, and hopped up and down on the saddle. Despite her sugarcoated urgings, the stallion shook his mane in defiance. Frustration growled deep inside her throat as she slid off the saddle.
    The shock of the freezing water seized the girl’s breath.
    She stared with disbelief into the moon lit surface and doe like eyes stared back. Midnight-colored hair framed the small brown face. Her features favored her father with his narrow nose and thin lips. Ripples in the stream blurred the image and broke the spell.
    The Indian girl took the reins and led the horse through the overhanging brush. It was no wonder the stallion resisted going through the foliage. The limbs and branches whipped and poked them both.

    Finally, they merged into a quiet glade surrounded by leafy boughs not yet dropped in the fall’s frosty season.
    They stood stock still, or at least as best they could, while shaking with cold and fear. The heavy underbrush and the surrounding woodlands afforded them a few moments of safety from pursuit. Minutes passed painfully slow. The girl imagined she heard splashing noises and feared capture in their own hiding place.
    However, the freezing water forced the girl and her horse to struggle out of the water. The foliage on the riverbank enfolded them into a leafy cocoon.
    “I think we’re safe for now,” she whispered in the stallion’s ear. The animal nodded his agreement.
    The girl could not stay put for her leggings were soaked and would freeze solid if she did not move. Besides, she had problems standing still without knowing where her pursuer stood. Remembering the lessons her father taught his only child, Morning Star crept through the forest as quietly as a falling leaf. Despite the paralyzing cold clamped around her thighs, the young Indian woman paused to listen before placing another foot down. She had an advantage over her pursuer; they had to contend with the noisy river. She imagined a heard of buffalo could pass without notice.
    Morning Star began to shiver in her wet clothing as she squatted behind a leafy bush. She tried to ignore her discomforts, closed her eyes, and opened her mouth to listen for the hunter. She felt if she could keep her mouth open, her teeth would not chatter and she could hear over her harsh breathing.
    All she could detect, besides her thunderous heartbeats, was the quiet mutterings of running water. She had to be sure. She inhaled a lungful of cold air as she parted a limb. There was nothing. Relief washed over her and she released the remaining air in her lungs. Tension eased out following the baited breath.
    However, Morning Star could not sit still not knowing. Where was her pursuer? Had they quit the chase? She did not think she was that lucky. She strained her hearing for any splashing. Were they laying in wait for their prey to spring out of hiding?
    The surrounding forest remained quiet. Not knowing what her pursuit was doing returned her aggravations and she began to chew on a fingernail. Time was slipping away while the Confederates were already advancing their mission. Squatting on her heels, she bounced up and down to keep her body warm and bleed off the nervous energy of waiting. Nerves, she thought to herself. She smiled at what her father would say.
    “Patience is something you have to work at.”
    He constantly complained about his daughter’s inability to sit still. He would insist she repeat the mantra, Patience is a Virtue. She knew he was right, but she also knew he hated the notion that he, himself, needed patience of a monk to raise a girl child.
    Morning Star had a sudden need to be in her father’s comforting arms. Whenever she was a little girl and had a nightmare, she would run to her father. He would gather her into his strong arms and whisper reassurances into her ear. He reasoned out her fears so she could return to sleep.
    Morning Star forced herself back to the moment by rubbing her cold cheeks with the palms of her callused hands. If she did not know where her pursuer stood, she reasoned, they did not know where she hid. The thought calmed her a little. While being held in place, the urgency of her mission went slipping past. She wrapped her cloak around her knees and lowered her head to rest her thoughts. Her mind refused to sit still and it returned to the events she recently played out like a Shakespearean plot.

     President Jefferson Davis resided at the gray mansion on the crest of Shockoe Hill. Not only did the mansion on Clay Street serve as a shining example of Southern gentility, but it also allowed President Davis to conduct the business of war.
   The household servants gossiped about him moving from the Spotswood Hotel. Some speculated the move afforded him better opportunity for escape should the Yankees overrun the city. The townspeople all agreed it was shameful when he shipped his family off to Canada.
   At least, that was what Emerson overheard while cooling his heels in the manor’s drawing room.
   The minute Captain Emerson Dalton resigned his commission in the United States Army; an urgent message requested his presence at 16 Clay Street.
   The summons was set for 6 PM the following day, but Emerson was nervous and arrived thirty minutes earlier.

     Not long after his arrival, Emerson met Albert Pike.
   The man’s appearance said he was either a lawyer or a politician. After shaking the man’s hand, Emerson knew him to be a lawyer; his soft hands revealed no physical labor.
   Polite conversation ended when President Davis’s servant announced supper.
    “Gentlemen,” President Davis said as he waved away the smoke of a freshly lit cigar from his face. “I hope the Smithfield ham was to your satisfaction?”
   The man from Kentucky pretended to pay little attention to his guests’ compliments as he swirled his snifter of brandy. He felt a twinge of guilt for serving Virginia ham, freshly picked butter beans, biscuits, and real coffee, when Confederate soldiers were doing without. Since the Union had half of Richmond surrounded, foodstuff was not as scarce as they were expensive. He was afraid of what his guests would think with such a decadent meal. The thought was quickly lost as he studied the golden brown liquor before returning his attention back to his guests.
    “I have asked you here tonight to work out the details of a plan that ultimately will help isolate Union forces west of the Mississippi River and insure the South continues to receive materials for the war effort.” The Confederate president paused as the Indian servant cleared the dishes.
    Jeff Davis’s guests were a prosperous landowner and lawyer from Arkansas. His other guest was a Cavalry officer. He pretended to be oblivious to the Indian servant’s presence, as he continued with his discussion.
     “The success of the mission rests mainly on your shoulders, Major Dalton,” Davis said as he stared at the Army officer. “General Pike has already met with John Ross, the principle chief of the Cherokee people, and has informed me the man has not changed his mind in regards to our cause.” He paused in his long-winded narration to finish off his brandy and sighed with contentment. He looked intently at the tip of his cigar as he continued. “John Ross has a large number of slaves working his plantation. Major, your job will be to push Ross off his fence. He must be made to understand that if the North wins this war; his slaves will be set free.”
    President Davis showed little annoyance with the Major paying him little attention. He observed Emerson and his serving woman exchange furtive glances. President Davis had to admit she was a beautiful Indian. He could see her pretense of being oblivious to Emerson’s attentions as she cleared his dishes. He knew she played her part as the shy Indian servant. He saw the fire of desire in both of their eyes.
    Suddenly, the dishes in her hands clattered onto the tray, breaking the spell. She hurriedly gathered the remaining dishes as she mumbled her apologies. She carried the tray of dirty dishes to the sideboard and stole a glance over her shoulder.
    Major Emerson Dalton lounged in a six-foot frame topped with blonde curls. Jeff Davis was envious of the major’s physique. His sky blue eyes had tracked Morning Star’s every movement the entire evening. President Davis caught himself gnashing his teeth. Was he jealous? No, he would never lower himself to such a base emotion. However, he was upset with Major Dalton for not paying proper attention to their discussion. The President was so irritated with the Major, he failed to hear Pike’s question.
    “Excuse me, Mister President? Shouldn’t we dismiss the serving girl before further discussion?” Albert Pike asked as he jerked his head towards Morning Star.
    With a slight shake of his head, President Davis winked at Pike. Silence filled the room as the serving girl wiped the black walnut table clean. The men’s stares followed every movement as she hefted the overburden tray and left the room.
    Morning Star paused just outside the doorway, hoping for further conversation. A sickening feeling gnawed on her confidence. Did they know she was a spy? Fear pricked her skin as cold sweat coated her brow. She felt like a rat discovering the cheese, only to uncover a trap. What if this treachery was only a ruse to smoke out the rat? She battled with indecision.
    On the other hand, Morning Star vacillated, what if it was true. She could not allow these Confederates to ill-use her people and if it was all a lie, then months of worming her way into Jeff Davis’ household would be all for nothing. Well, she could not linger out here in the hall.
    Morning Star entered the kitchen and eased the tray down next to the sink with a sigh.
    Miss Dorothy was the cook and supervisor of the house slaves. She held court in the stifling kitchen like the Queen mother wielding her scepter.
    “You know, young lady, I think that young army officer is sweet on you,” the old woman said knowingly as she eyeballed Morning Star through the smoke of her corncob pipe. ”The gristmill has grounded out rumors that your beau is a widower with a ready-made family. His people have a plantation down in the Carolinas.”
    “Miss Dorothy.” Morning Star forced herself not to sound exasperated with the old gossip. Instead, she wiped her hands off on her apron as she thought hard on how to respond.
    Miss Dorothy was a stout widow of middle years. She turned to Morning Star with a knowing look and winked. Her straw colored hair set under a cap like a mop.
    “Now, if I was ten years younger, I would give that man a run for his money,” the cook cackled. Morning Star felt herself blushing. She could not help it. The kitchen felt like a sweat lodge to Morning Star as she wiped her forehead with the apron. The stove boiled water to wash the dinner dishes and the late summer heat, coupled with the humidity, made the kitchen unbearable.
    “He’s not my beau,” Morning Star said defensively. She excused herself to escape the heat and Miss Dorothy’s scrutiny. She had a mission and she needed to alert her father.
    Her father was Major E. G. Allen, military adviser to the President of the United States. Major Allen, better known as Allen Pinkerton, was her spymaster. He had loved the daughter of a Cherokee chief, Morning Star’s mother. Neither one of her parents had any more control over their hearts than Romeo and Juliet.
    Pinkerton worked to uncover a conspiracy as their love blossomed.
    Not long after stopping an attempt to assassinate the President, Pinkerton was not able to stop Morning Star’s mother from the white man’s pox.
    Allan would not show his grief publicly. Naturally, father and daughter turned to each other for solace. He focused his attention in teaching her the white man’s ways. She learned to read, write, and to appreciate English poetry.
    President Lincoln did not feel he needed bodyguards despite the recent attempt on his life. The detective from Chicago debrief the president as to just how close he came to getting killed, and if he still refused the protection, the detective threatened to tell the First Lady. To avoid bruising egos and raising suspicions, Pinkerton quietly transferred his intelligence operations from General McClellan’s staff and discretely set up shop in the White House. Despite the many attempts to suppress the rumors of Pinkerton’s heroic sleuthing, her father’s promotion did not propel them socially.
    Washington society shunned them both, but this snobbery towards Morning Star’s bi-racial birth did not bother the Major as much as it did Morning Star. Her refusal to comply with the layers of petticoats and the war paint society women wore, was only an excuse to shun the elite. Therefore, when an opportunity to become a spy for her adopted country had presented itself, she did not hesitate to become a patriot.
    President Davis’ conspiracy rewarded Morning Star for her months of servitude. Her treatment as a house servant was barely discernible from that of a house slave. This behavior of man’s inhumanity to man tempted her to sever the head of the serpent, but that action would have only lowered her standards to that of the Confederates. Fortunately, her diligence uncovered his conspiracy conceived to serve the white man’s machinations.
    Morning Star had enough information to take to her father, but she was tempted to listen out for more. She knew if she was caught eavesdropping on the gentlemen, she could be hung as a spy.
    Despite the risks, she wanted another look at the handsome cavalry officer. Going against her better sense, she tiptoed back to the dining room door and overheard President Davis.


     “Major? You will set out immediately. You must supply the Cherokees with guns, ammo, uniforms, and food stuff.”
    The spy slipped back to her room. There was no time for her own desires. The fate of the Union rested on her and she had to get the word to her father.
    She slipped into her closet-like room and quietly closed the door. She hurriedly scribbled a coded message. It will travel through her father’s network of couriers. A necessary precaution in case she failed to cross enemy lines.
    Morning Star changed into her leggings and her favorite moccasins. She retrieved a saddlebag from underneath her cot.
    Keeping to the shadows the cloaked figure slipped into the stables and saddled President Davis’s favorite horse, Zeus. She led the stallion out of the stables and had one foot in the stirrup when she saw Major Dalton leaning casually against the back door.
    Their eyes met. The spy’s skin flushed with heat of realization of her cover blown. Yet, he did not move. The sickening fear of hanging for espionage melted away and replaced with a tingling sensation of pleasure from the way he stared at her. At that moment, she knew exactly how her mother must have felt toward her own young officer.
    The Major stepped out into the yard as Morning Star pulled herself into the saddle without breaking eye contact. What did break the spell was a sentry with a rifle. The spy spurred the stallion into motion disappearing into the night without a backward glance. She heard a shot sail high overhead. She breathed out the nervous tension. Morning Star promised herself she and her officer would meet again.

     A sudden and very close noise brought Morning Star back to the present. For a heartbeat, she felt disoriented as if she had suddenly awakened from sleep. She had momentarily forgotten where she was when the splashing noise sounded again.
    Instinctively, her hand reached for the bone-handle knife sheathed at her waist. Only after she pushed aside her fear could she feel the hunter’s presence.
  
Ever so gently, she parted the limbs with her other hand. A cry of alarm lodged in her throat as the shadow loomed not more than an arm’s length away.

The shape of the man’s head sat level to Morning Star’s gaze. She stopped breathing. Slowly, the shadow turned to stare directly into Morning Star’s soul.





 
 

Well, Book two of the series, The Land of the Glitter Critters, has finally reached the electronic book shelves. I loved writing this story not only for the elements of a true story depicted throughout the tale, but mostly for the sake of dragons.

I don’t know what it is about dragons, but I can’t get enough. Maybe it’s for their mystical powers, or for their vast knowledge they allegedly to possess. If the old adage still holds that knowledge is power, then dragons are indeed very impressive creatures. Let’s not forget the horde of wealth they are thought to guard with fanatic determination.

At the time I was writing Dragon Shifters, I was not aware of the new craze of the shapeshifters, honestly. When I google them; there be dragons everywhere? I hope readers can distinguish between the cute and adorable, like Puff the magic dragon, and Abarasax, a Persian creature of myth. I pray that the cute and adorable doesn’t diminish the noble and the mystical creatures.

My understanding of dragons is that they are tight lipped. This is a trait we all may learn from, as Mark Twain said, It’s better to be thought a fool then to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.


 
 
Did you know I am a freak of Nature? No, nothing disgusting that has to be kept in the closet, nor am I that kind of kinky. What I'm talking about is writing for the sake of the art.  I know I can hear you all saying, "He is weird."

Probably, but I can't help it. I love to write and read. If you all are smart enough, then you figured out that I don't have much of a life. Sad, but true.

Being blind, it's hard to find someone and then there's all that relationship stuff that you need a manual to study. i will tell you as a guy, Thomas, not Willow May, my pen. She doesn't have much of a life either. That's the good part. Since we don't have a life, Willow and I can make up one and escape into it. I can tell you my imagined life is so much better than my reality. In my world, my hero always gets lucky.

We don't do bars; the girls at church scare me; and those you find at the grocery store are only good for what goes with eggplant! But in my stories, my hero eyeballs his dream girl across the room. So much can be said in a glance and so much can be implied with a raised brow.

That is why this blind guy wears sunglasses. Well, yes, they make me look and feel cool, but they offer me protection from offending anyone who thinks I am staring. I digress.

Writing and reading allows me to learn about the world around us without leaving the couch. And sometimes, I will actually learn something.

Good news! Dragon Shifter is nearly ready for publication, and here is a little sample of what's to come.


Prologue

Dana


     She was not a stupid child, despite how her behavior seemed to others. Dana Summers knew instinctively that love was what men said when they actually meant sex. She knew that hard lesson by experience. The cruelties and lies of men changed her from one extreme to another. Did she ever have control over her life?
    In the beginning, her heart ruled her actions. Her innocence, her cherry, and her youth were sacrificed to satisfy the men’s baser natures, mainly lust.
     The sixteen year old sighed as she stared out at the passing scenery. She could not really see anything outside the window, for it was nighttime. What she actually saw was her reflection from the dashboard lights. The ghostly image looked into the darkness of her soul.
    At least in the beginning, she thought she knew what being “in love” was all about. She read Cosmo and watched Sally Jessie Raphael.
     Who was she kidding; her reflected image furrowed her eyebrows. Her cute button nose scrunched up at her confusion. She rested her chin in the palm of her hand as her stare unfocused itself out of the old Dodge pickup truck.
     After an infinity of sighs, the blonde checked herself in the reflection before leaning back into the seat. She tried to ignore the coil springs stabbing her buttocks as she cut her eyes towards the man driving the beat up truck. He was her mother’s boyfriend and that made him a suspect.
     It was her own lusts for this gorgeous man with his honey brown hair; he wore it a little longer than most Texans. However, it was those rich blue eyes that mesmerized her. She thought they penetrated her very soul. It was when he smiled that Dana knew she would do anything he asked of her, including taking off all of her clothes.
     Dana sighed and looked back at her reflection in the window. Hank was not her first, nor would he be her last.
     He was no different from any of momma’s other boyfriends. When he spent the night with her momma, he would rise early and find her in the kitchen. Just the way she planned it. Men were so easily manipulated.
     Dana had to do all the cooking, since Momma was indifferent to eating. Her momma was constantly on some diet. Dana had read in Cosmo, the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. All she had to do to attract her momma’s boyfriends was to fry bacon.
     It was uncanny how quickly they responded to the smell of bacon.
     She let them play their little game of seduction, but in reality, she was the master of the game. The game would begin when he stepped up behind her and mold his body against her well developed frame. His hands found her C cup breasts and gently massaged them, while he nuzzled her neck. She could feel him stiffen and felt a warm flush from the top of her yellow gold hair down to the tips of her painted toes.
     “If you’re not careful Momma’s gonna catch you,” Dana warned.
     “I ain’t worried,” Hank declared. “I could take her in three rounds. Besides, she’s still fast asleep.”
     Dana forgot the bacon frying on the stove. She turned around in his arms and snuggled closer.
     “So, when are you gonna fuck me?” Dana lowered her eyelids and pumped her hips against his erection. The gesture provoked a growl from inside Hank’s broad chest. She stepped away from the stove and easily let her cutoff jean shorts fall to the kitchen floor. When Hank realized she was not wearing any panties, a deeper throated growl vibrated throughout his body as his hands squeezed her firm naked butt. Her hands pushed down his gym shorts and his erection sprang into life.
     “Stop that,” Hank said half hearted. He backed off. “I hate fast women,” Hank complained.
     “So, I got to play the submissive?” Dana complained as she pulled up her blue jeans shorts.
     “No.”Hank leaned against the other counter with his arms crossed over his chest. Those beautiful blue eyes stared right through Dana’s defenses without a second glance.
     She felt like a little sparrow caught in the snake’s trance-like stare. She fought hard to break the hold he had on her. She went over to the sink and turned on the cold water faucet. She shoved her hands under the cold water. She had learned early that to cool her flaming libido, she needed ice water. The desire never left her body, but settled it down to a manageable simmer.
     Hank came back over to try and comfort the girl, but she shook him off and poured herself a cup of coffee. She walked around him and sat down at the kitchen table. He followed her example and sat down opposite her. She kept her eyes directed into her coffee cup, but she could feel his stare. She admitted Hank was more sincere than the others, but in the end, they were all the same.
    “What’s wrong, baby girl?” He asked. He got no answer.
     She continued to stare into her cup.
     When her emotions settled down, she sipped her coffee and looked up into Hank’s eyes.
     “When Momma was dating a biker, I was about thirteen years old.” She paused to make sure she was ready to talk about this part of her life. “He would come over and they would party, but Momma couldn’t hold her liquor and when she passed out, he would come looking for me.” She smiled up at Hank and continued. “He threatened to kill Momma if I didn’t submit to him. If I tattled, he would hurt Momma.
     “At first, he was gentle when he broke my cherry, but when he and Momma fought, he would take out his aggravations on me. In the beginning, he used his belt, then he would force me to suck him off, and then he would fuck me in the ass.” Dana was going for the shock effect and it worked. Hank’s expression was what she expected. His expression widened with incredulity; his mouth hung opened, and his face turned pale. She laughed at him. “And that was what he called soft porn. He would urinate on me, fucked me until I bled, and made me get two abortions by a back alley crack head.”
     “Oh my god, my poor baby girl,” Hank said pitifully.
     “The funny part about it, Momma was oblivious to it all or else she just ignored it. She wasn’t blind. She had to know her boyfriends would just as soon fuck me than her.” She lowered her head and returned her gaze to the coffee cup.
     The kitchen was silent for a long time before she looked back up at Hank.
     “What really scares me, I’m starting to enjoy the abuse to the point where it’s like an addiction.” She had made the confession into her cup, so she only heard his chair scrape the kitchen floor, and then felt his warmth as he knelt next to her. He took one of her hands and pressed it against his lips.
     “How about you and me take a little trip to New Orleans?”
     “Us?” Dana felt her ordinary brown eyes widen at his suggestion. She was scared and thrilled all at the same time. She thought she would pee in her shorts.
     “What about Momma?”
     Hank just shrugged.
     “Well, I won’t tell, if you don’t?” he asked with a smirk. “It was her suggestion we get better acquainted.”
     Dana was immediately suspicious. It had to be some kind of trick. Since when was Momma ever that thoughtful. In fact, it was probably the last thing she wanted.
     Dana was already intimately acquainted with most of her boyfriends.
     She pushed Hank back on his heels. She walked over to the stove and turned it back on and continued frying the bacon.
     “I don’t believe you,” she said. Even to her ears, she sounded like a wimpy little child. She felt his presence up against her, but she would not allow her body to respond.
     “I want to fuck you down in New Orleans,” his breathless voice whispered, as it tickled her ear. His hands found her breasts again. “I’ll buy you some good old Cajun cuisine, listen to some jazz, and stay in a hotel with room service. So that way, we don’t have to get out of bed to eat.”
     Dana’s body betrayed her. Once again, her butt wiggled against his erection. This time, when her shorts slipped to the floor, his shorts did the same.
     Dana blushed at the memory and looked out her window. She was completely naked on the counter when the fire alarm went off. She had forgotten to take the bacon off the stove and now, they were burnt to a delicate crisp. She smiled.
     It felt like the next few minutes were taken from Saturday Night Live. They scrambled to get their shorts on and realized they were putting on each other’s shorts. They couldn’t help but laugh. After trading shorts, Hank went for the alarm, twisted it off, and shoved it into a drawer. Meanwhile, Dana turned off the stove and started scraping the burnt bacon into the disposal.
     It was at that moment, Momma walked into the kitchen, rubbing sleep out of her eyes and sniffing the air.
     “What the hell is going on out here?” She demanded.
     “Nothing.” Hank and Dana said in unison.
     Dana looked at her Momma out of the corner of her eye. She had been beautiful a long time ago. It was the liquor and all the other abuses that made her less desirable than her daughter. Her blonde hair was stringy, her boobs sagged, but it was her beer belly that stood out for all to see.
     Dana looked over at Hank, who was trying hard not to look guilty. Dana kept her back to Momma and focused on cleaning the frying pan.
     Momma stood with her fists on her hips and looked with narrowed eyelids.
     “I distinctly heard the fire alarm go off.”
     Dana watched Hank out of the corner of her eye. He shrugged as he lifted a cup of cold coffee to his lips. She knew it to be cold, because she had poured it for him fifteen minutes ago.
     “Do you want some coffee, Momma?” Dana asked as innocently as she could manage.
     “No,” Momma said as she eyeballed both of them. She wore her wife beater as bed clothes. Her blonde hair was still tangled. “I’m going back to bed. Alone.” She seemed to be annoyed, but said nothing else. Without another word, she turned and left the kitchen. They waited for the bedroom door to close.
     A bump in the road brought Dana back to the present moment. She smiled at the memory. She studied Hank out of the corner of her eye.
     Damn, but he was a good looking man. He caught her staring and grinned. She felt warmth wash over her and between her legs. She turned back to stare out of her window.
     One minute, Dana was watching the Texas countryside pass by with regular monotony and the next minute, Hank was shaking her awake.
     “Wake up sleepy head, we’re here.” Hank sounded tired. Dana knew it was a long trip, but he wouldn’t allow her to drive some of the way.
     “It’s not like I don’t trust you,” he had said. He hesitated when he looked over at her. “It’s just us Texacans don’t let anyone drive our trucks.”
     Dana should have begun to smell a rat, but the lights of New Orleans caught her eye and her attention. They went through a Poor Boy drive thru window and Hank bought them a Poor Boy crayfish sandwich and seasoned fries. “Where are we going now,” Dana said around a mouthful of fries.
     “I’m tired,” Hank said as he turned his truck onto Mary Street. They rode on through the back streets until they stopped in front of a rundown looking motel. Hank turned off the truck. They sat there and listened to the motor tic.
     “Let me go in and register us.”
     “Can’t I come in with you?” Dana asked plaintively.
     “No,” he said harshly. “It won’t look right for a grown man and a minor going into a motel. It’s just not done, even in New Orleans.” Hank opened his door and got out. “Just sit tight. I won’t be long.”
     The slamming door sounded foreboding. Then, the truck chirped. He had set the car alarm.
     Why would he do that? Dana wondered. Her straw began to suck air as she thought about it. They were in a strange town and it was three thirty in the morning. She relaxed a little. The feelings of being locked in the truck faded a little. She felt a little better that he was thinking of her sitting out here alone in the middle of the murder capital of the country.
     Dana rolled down her window and listened to the lonely wind rustling the leaves in the trees lining the street. The motel’s sign creaked in the breeze as it swung back and forth. Dana could barely make out the faded lettering, but the sign had a picture of a cat poking its head out of a box. The Lettering read, Cat in the Cradle.
     What a strange name for a motel, she thought. The clock radio read three fifty-five. How long does it take to fill out a registration card? As if on cue, Hank came out of the front entrance smiling.
     “Why are you so happy?” She asked.
     “No reason,” he said shrugging. “I’m just happy we can finally sleep together.”
     Dana became uneasy. She could not put her finger on it, but he was up to something and it made her uneasy.
     Hank pulled the truck along the side of the motel and parked the truck next to a dumpster. They climbed out and Dana had to stretch. She watched him take her luggage out of the bed of the truck and waited for Dana to join him at the back door.
     “Why are we using the back alley?”
     “Discretion. We gotta keep your reputation as clean as possible,” he said and winked. He banged on the metal door and they could hear the knock echo down a hallway. “Besides, we must keep up appearances. Or else, what would the neighbors say.”
     “Somehow, I don’t think you are really worried about what the neighbors say,” Dana said a little more suspicious.
     She heard footsteps approaching the door.
     Her imagination began to take hold and fantasized that the footsteps belonged to a huge monster like Frankenstein. The footfalls sounded like they were booted. She heard keys jingle and one was inserted into the door. The metal door creaked open slowly. The sound of metal scraping metal sounded like fingernails across a chalkboard.
     Sure enough, Dana had to crank her head up to see the giant’s face. Actually, he reminded her of a black Lurch, the Addams family’s butler. His dark eyes were lifeless. The hairs on the back of her neck tingled.
     “Dana? This is Bruno,” Hank introduced the bouncer. He walked through the doorway and Dana followed very close behind Hank.
     “Pleased to meet you, Mister Bruno,” Dana squeaked out. They climbed a set of stairs and found room number 212.
     “Here we go,” Hank announced. He inserted the key and opened the door. He pushed the door open and bowed. Hank gestured for her to enter first.
     Hank set down the luggage, turned around, and left the room. Before Dana knew it, Hank locked the door from the outside of the room.
     “Hank? What are you doing?” Dana asked. She was afraid. She ran to the door and tried the doorknob. It was locked.
     “Let me out!” She screamed and banged on the door. “Hank please!”
     “I’m sorry baby,” Hank said through the door. “It was your Momma’s idea. She made me do it.”
     Dana could not believe what she was hearing. Her own flesh and blood?
     Dana became hysterical and demanded to be let out. She cried and cried. Finally, she collapsed against the door in defeat.
     “I’m sorry, Dana.” She heard Hank through the door.
     “Why?” Dana heard no reply.
     A few minutes later, Dana heard Hank’s truck start up and roar to life. She rushed to the window and looked down just in time to see the truck’s taillights turn the corner and disappeared.
     She felt betrayed. Her own mother? She frantically tried to open the window, but it was nailed shut. She searched the room for something to throw through the glass. She took her suitcase and was about to fling it through the window when a key rattled in the lock. Dana backed into a corner of the room and used the suitcase as a shield. The door slowly opens. Dana held her breath. The door opened a little wider

 
 
From Willow May 
    Hey, my name is Willow May Jennings and I’m a blind writer. I write chick lititure and that’s why I use a pen name; To protect my reputation as a southern redneck. I can’t have the good old boys at the coffee shop learn I write chick lit.
    I was told that Stephen King wrote under a female pen name and he wrote romantic lititure until his reputation as a serious writer was established. We all know how well that worked out for him.
    I was taught in creative writing and other lititure classes that an author had a responsibility to educate as well as entertain his or her audiences.
    In my first novel, Catmando, I portrayed a blind social worker and what it took to become a productive citizen and live to tell about it. Living in the dark can be hazardous to one’s health if one isn’t careful. All the incidents in Chapter One was taken from my own experiences. No kidding, from the inadvertent grope to the near miss by a passing automobile is true.  
    Believe it or not, my main character in Catmando, was an actual person. There is really glitter critters in this world; even though, I don’t think they are shapeshifters.
    I’m told writers should try to imitate life, so in this book, I did my best. Below is the first chapter of Catmando. I hope you will share with me feedback via my e-mail LeapingTiger@knology.net   

Catmando - The Land of the Glitter critters
CHAPTER 1

    The thing about being blind, you can never see where you are going, especially in a new town. He resigned himself to the fact that once again, being blind has its drawbacks. “Just another wrong turn.” Neil Bonnet mumbled under his breath. I need a break, Neil raise his head to beseech the heavens as he silently pleaded. “You’ve just moved here all the way from the blue grass fields of your uncle’s horse farm. And you did this blind,” Neil’s little voice argued. “You’ve had only a few weeks to orient yourself.” And yet, I’m lost, again, Neil interrupted himself.
     A feeling of helpless frustration grinded on every nerve ending. He should have taken a taxi on the most important event of his adult career. Neil realized he had turned down another blind alley when he inhaled less than fragrant odors of rotting garbage and old cat urine. At this rate, he would never make his appointment.
     “A lot of good my having a degree in counseling if I can’t even help myself,” Neil grumbled under his breath. “Especially if I can’t distinguish the difference between an alleyway and a street. What’s the point of me going to the job interview at Social Services.”
     It was at that exact moment of his frustration when his cane banged up against some garbage cans. He surrendered in defeat. He started banging them harder out of frustration.
     “Hey now,” a feminine voice called from further down the alley. “What’s all this racket?”
     “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize anyone was using this alley,” he said with the feeling of foolishness warming his face.
     “Obviously. Are you lost? Or are you just practicing to become a drummer for AC DC?” the female voice asked.
     “No, I am lost and have a job interview in five minutes at Social Services,” he said in embarrassment.
     “Why sir, you are standing in the back of the Social Services’ building. The front of the building is the next two left turns. Just hug the building on your left and you will find the stairs to the front door,” the female voice spoke in an urgent assurance.
     “Well, thank you ma’am,” Neil said with hope. Without another word, Neil swept his cane along the building, when the female voice replied.
     “You’re welcome, sir.” Neil had come equal with the voice. He thought she was squatting against the building, for the level of her voice came up to his waist. Concerns regarding the woman quickly faded as street noises filled his awareness. He noticed he had left the alley when the building no longer blocked his hearing.
     “What did she say, turn left or was that right?” Neil paused to recall. “How many turns before reaching the stairs?” Neil was thinking out loud when a small body brushed itself up against his leg and chittered.
     “Left, my darling Neil, then left again. Only then will you reach the front of Social Services,” the same female voice said softly.
     “Who are you and how do you know my name!” his voice cracked like a scared child. Goose bumps rushed up his spine in alarm and fear. There was no response from the alley. The alley cat stopped rubbing up against his leg. Not knowing what else to do, he said. “Thank you.” Neil quickly walked away.
     Neil busied himself with locating the steps leading into the Social Services building. He paused as he stepped onto the first riser and reflected.
     He figured there had to be a street person squatting in the alley. She had spoken at the same time the alley cat rubbed up against his leg. If Neil ever entertained the idea that cats talked, then he would commit himself to the nearest asylum. He scrunched up his face in confusion with that notion. He shook his head to clear out the coincidence and climbed the remaining stairs.
     Neil paused just inside the front door as it closed quietly with a rush of air. The sound of outside noises quickly faded. Cool air blew against his face with the sterile aroma of an office. He detected a faint odor of ammonia in the foyer.
     Neil familiarized himself with the new surroundings.
     He could hear the fans blowing the air and there was typing on a keyboard. He soft-tapped his way deeper into the lobby. The typing stopped as he approached. “May I help you?” a friendly female voice offered.
     “Yes, I’m Neil Bonnet and I have an appointment with Miss Cooper,” he announced.
     He listened to the tones of a telephone keypad. He stood fidgeting with his cane. His stomach fluttered with apprehension. What would he do if they hired someone already? He told himself to chill out.
     “Pricilla? There’s a Neil Bonnet here to see you.” The voice paused. “But he’s blind,” the receptionist spoke with disbelief. She muffled her voice to converse in private. “You’re sure he’s not a client?” Another pause. “Yes ma’am,” the receptionist replied reluctantly. “Sir, you may have a seat, Miss Cooper will be out in one moment.”
     Neil thanked the receptionist and turned around as if he could see. He took the chance, stayed on the carpeted area, and soon found a cushioned chair.
     He could sense when people watched him. They would hold their breath until the blind guy was safe and settled before they resumed breathing.
     He relaxed his body and the typing resumed. An air bubble escaped from a water cooler.
     He began to fidget in his seat. He wanted to check his talking watch, but knew it was a sign of nervous tension and took deep breaths to calm down.
     Time passed slowly before he heard a door open. Heels clicked their way down the hall towards him. They stopped in front of him, seconds before gardenias greeted his sense of smell.
     “I hope you had no problem finding Social Services, Mister Bonnet. I’m still learning my way around your city and that early morning traffic. Well,” she sighed loudly before continuing, “it can be a bit aggravating.” Miss Cooper paused to catch her breath.
     “No problem. I got lost three times myself and I live only a few blocks away,” he said with a wave of his hand. He quickly stood up, switched the cane to his left hand, and held out his right. Her handshake was soft and firm. “Miss Cooper, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” he said, feeling his cheeks stretching into a grin.
     “It’s nice to meet you too. Mister Bonnet. If you will take my elbow, I will guide you.”
     He switched hands and grasped her elbow. He could not keep himself from smiling. Her relaxed and confident manner eased his stomach from a boiling turmoil down to a quiet simmer. Her quaint English accent was music to his ears. She stopped in front of a closed door. She opened the door and waited. Neil stood back and gestured for her to enter first.
     “Thank you sir,” She said politely.
     He followed her into the office. A musty odor filled his nostrils suggesting the room was seldom used.
     “Please, Mister Bonnet, have a seat,” she said patting the backrest. He used his cane to find the chair and used his hand to find the armrest. He imagined her walking around the conference table as he heard her drop a file on the tabletop.
     “This meeting is really just a formality,” she said as the chair on the other side of the table creaked. “I really have only two questions left to ask,” Miss Cooper announced. “First, where do you see yourself in five years?”
     Neil pretended to think about the question, but he had already thought it out and had an answer. He tapped his chin. “I envision myself,” he said, “helping every client that comes through my office by returning them to society as a productive citizen.” Neil knew it was mostly fluff, but some employers appreciated confidence. She said nothing for a few minutes and he felt her stare.
     “That sounds like a good plan. A bit unrealistic, but who knows, you may be able to pull rabbits out of hats,” she laughed a little. “My second question is how soon can you start?”
     “There’s no time like the present,” He said without hesitation.” He grinned and held his breath until she replied.
     “Excellent,” she said brightly. “My morning is clear of meetings, so how about we start your orientation?” He heard her get up from the squeaky chair.
     “That sounds fine,” he replied full of enthusiasm. He stood up and worked his cane to locate the door. He found the doorknob and opened it with a flourish. Neil waited to allow Miss Cooper to exit first.
     “Mister Bonnet, are you sure you’re blind?” She asked with feigned skepticism. “Here’s my arm, if you really need it.”
     Neil stepped out of the room, closed the door behind him, and reached out for her elbow."
     “No, not really. It’s just a lot of people have the misconception that just because blind people can’t see doesn’t mean they can’t function as normal people. As you well know, many of the visually impaired have complications that make them appear abnormal. Even trained professionals hold these misconceptions that hinder the blind from living a productive life.” he blew out a sigh. “My work is cut out for me. It will take some doing to erase these biases.” He smiled and gently squeezed her elbow. “Of course, it never hurts my reputation to be seen escorting an attractive lady.”
     “And how do you know I’m attractive?”
     “I can hear it in your voice.” They turned down another hallway and stopped. His cane found a doorway to his right.
     A friend had once told him that he was staring off into space instead of looking in his friend’s direction. He said it was weird and made him feel like Neil did not care. Out of habit, Neil would focus his attention on what people were saying, rather than the speaker. He knew that eighty percent of a sighted person’s perception was through sight and understood why it felt like disrespect. This is why Neil made a conscious effort to look over at where Pricilla’s face should be. He chuckled inwardly, for some people thought he was faking his blindness, when he would look in the direction of the speaker’s voice and they thought he could see.
     “My office?”
     “Yes, and mine is just across the hall. “
     Neil Bonnet began his career when he located the knob and opened his office door. Using his cane to orient himself through the doorway, he tapped his way around the room. He paused to reach out and identify the office furniture. His cane dinged something metallic and he discovered the file cabinet. He worked his way to his chair as he completed the circuit of his office. The smile never left his face.
     “Thank you, Miss Cooper. This will do,” he said as he trailed the edge of his desk and sat down in his chair. His grin intensified as she closed the door behind her and came around his desk. His heart thumped when she dragged the client’s chair around to his right and made herself comfortable. He could feel the warmth of her closeness.
     “Let us begin,” she said as she guided his fingers over the keypad of the phone console as she explained their functions. Her hand was soft, but firm and deliberate. A light scent of gardenias wafted into his senses. He struggled to concentrate on what she was saying.
     A college professor had once explained to Neil that when two sighted people of opposite sex communicate, they do it with a knowing smile or a wink that can speak volumes. Such sensory inputs were lost on Neil. Now, he understood when Miss Cooper’s practical hands-on method of instructing her blind coworker made his nerve endings vibrate with excitement as his imagination ran rampant. Unintentionally, her touch felt more like a caress. The distraction sidetracked his attention as his stomach roller-coastered.
     While she demonstrated how to operate the computer software, the phone rang. Without thinking, he reached out to pick up the receiver, but instead of picking up the handset, he grabbed Miss Pricilla’s breast.
     While the phone continued to ring, he hurriedly pulled back his hand and buried it down in his lap. His entire body flushed with the heat of embarrassment. Neil wished he could crawl inside his desk drawer and close it behind him, but instead, he mumbled an apology. She patted his shoulder.
     “Don’t worry about it,” she said casually when the phone stopped ringing. “I realize that being blind will have its awkward moments,” she spoke as her hand gave his forearm a light squeeze. Neil heard her sigh through her nose. ”Accidents will happen,” she said with an airy abandon.
     “I’m afraid it’s usually the rule rather than the exception,” he said shyly. He heard genuine laughter bubble up.
     They returned to the computer, but he remained distracted. His attention busied itself reliving the contact, the softness of her breast, and once again, feeling the flush of embarrassment flow over his flesh. He made a mental note to be more aware of where she stood and what his hands were doing. From that moment, his life would be in a state of sweet torture.
                              ***
     As the new counselor for the visually impaired, Neil welcomed the heavy workload. After meeting with the client, he would meet with his manager, and together, they would process the bureaucratic paperwork.
     There were occasions when he could tell when she stood in his doorway. Sometimes, she would say nothing and then he could not smell the gardenias and knew she had moved along. However, one day when the office had closed, he detected the sweet scent had entered his office. He had the feeling of foreboding rise to the back of his throat when the door closed. Heels tapped across the linoleum, and then the client’s chair creaked. He waited patiently, and then asked. “What’s wrong?”
     ”I’m really put out with you, Neil Bonnet,” she said. He thought she spoke with a mock seriousness, which made him feel a little better.
     “Me? What did I do?” He widened his eyes in exaggerated alarm.      “When I first arrived here in Kentucky, all I ever heard was how you Southerners prided yourselves on hospitality. And yet, you haven’t offered to show me around, or even asked me out for a date,” she sounded offended.
     “Well Pricilla, I’m devastated at such a gross oversight,” Neil perpetrated a face with feigned horror, while he clutched at his chest; feigning a heart attack. In reality,his heart sighed with relief. His features softened into a smile with a self-deprecating grin. “I beg your pardon at such a faux-pas, but you have to admit, I wouldn’t be very good at sight-seeing tours.” He felt his face begin to warm. “To be honest, I am a little shy around pretty women,” he said as he stared in Pricilla’s direction. “I love the satisfaction from helping others. It’s more important that I help my clients than to think of having a personal life.” He dropped his unseeing gaze to his lap with his confession. She covered his arm and squeezed. The heat of the contact stirred a little mischief into his grin. “Besides, I like you as a friend and wouldn’t want to mess that up by asking you out for pizza and beer.” Neil admitted as he looked up in her direction. He heard the chair creak and listened as her heels walked back to the door.
     “Thank you, Neil, for your honesty. And yes, I would hate the idea of ruining a perfectly good relationship over pizza and beer when veal Piccata and a Chardonnay would do a better job of it,” she rejoined. He heard the smile in her voice and smelled the perfume leave the room.
     He admired her wit as a grin pulled at his lips. The thought he might be falling in love pushed his cheeks even further. He knew the taboos about office romances and especially with one’s own supervisor. Still, the idea of touching those breasts distracted him for the remainder of his day.
                              ***
     It did not feel like it had been thirty days since he had first started at Social Services. Neil blew out a week’s worth of exhaustion as he waited at a street corner for the traffic light to change.
     Fridays were routinely his day to catch up on paperwork and make follow-up calls to vendors. Everyone and his brother had issues today.
     “It must be a full moon,” he said out loud. He thought he would need to have the phone surgically removed.
     The cars idling in front of him finally moved into traffic and allowed Neil to cross the street. However, this Friday was the day he earmarked for his date with Pricilla.
     After his talking watch told him it was time to go home, he turned off his phone and sat in his office practicing the line he would use. He waited for the office to empty out its occupants. He had stalled long enough and mumbled a prayer to the saint that watched over fools and little children. He walked up to Pricilla’s office door and tapped it with his cane.
     “Well Pricilla, you can poke me with a fork. I’m done,” he said with a crooked smile. He looked in the direction of her desk and hoped she was actually sitting in the chair.
     “Neil? Why would you poke yourself with a fork?” she asked.
     “I wouldn’t literally, it’s just a, well, oh never mind. I’ll hear you Monday,” he said turning away, feeling frustrated at losing his nerve.
     “And I’ll see you later,” her reply followed him down the hallway. He clenched his teeth with determination and turned back around.
     “Pricilla?” Neil had never been on a real date and had no experience in asking a girl out. He was feeling very uncomfortable. His clothing felt tight and he started perspiring under his collar. He thought he would faint.
     “Yes, Neil?” The tension eased a little, she was keeping it casual.
     “Well, I was wondering, I mean,” he fumbled over his words and began to shuffle his feet.
     “Yes, I would love to go out with you tonight. Say seven o’clock?” Pricilla suggested.
     “Do you mind picking me up?” Neil said with a grin stretching his lips from ear to ear. “It’s just that I don’t own a car and the State of Kentucky thought it would be better if I didn’t try to drive.” His grin grew lopsided as his head tilted to one side.
     “Yes, I agree with the State of Kentucky that it would be better if I drove,” Pricilla said laughing.
     He gave her directions to his apartment and left the office with a little swagger. He wondered why he had thought it would be so hard. His whole body tingled with anticipation. His excitement translated down to the tap-tap of his cane tattooing the sidewalk. The very idea of touching those soft breasts, again, made him giddy.
     Odors of peroxide from Irene’s Beauty Salon assaulted Neil’s senses and brought him back to reality. His forehead creased with concern. His cane missed his marker and Irene’s place was way past his turn into the apartment. A horn honked and wheels screeched. The rush of air blowing past him meant a vehicle had nearly sideswiped him. He gulped with the sudden realization he had just walked into a busy intersection in the middle of rush hour.
     The city fathers in an effort to accommodate wheelchair users deemed it necessary for many of Delbert’s street corners to lose their curb in favor of a ramp.
     Neil quickly retraced his steps until he knew he was back on a sidewalk.
     After regaining a normal heartbeat and feeling confident that he had not soiled his boxers, Neil cursed his stupidity for not paying attention to his surroundings. He said a prayer of thanks, for it was only by the grace of God that he was not a hood ornament. He found the sidewalk that led into his apartment building and gave out a sigh of relief.
     The building was an old brown stone, at least that was what the building supervisor had said. His cane banged the aluminum frame of the apartment’s front door and he used his key to let himself into the foyer. He smelled the familiar musky mildew as his cane’s tapping echoed down the hallway. Neil paused at his door as he reached back into his pocket for the keys.
     “I can’t believe I was nearly road kill.” Neil shook his head of the bad memory as he inserted the apartment key. He forced himself to think of more pleasant things, like Pricilla’s English accent. She spoke better English than most of her coworkers. It was only when she got excited, that the accent became more pronounced.
     He unlocked the front door of his apartment and the first thing he noticed was how cold it was. He paused in the doorway and stood wondering why he had a cold apartment.
     “Damn, it feels like I left the refrigerator door open again,” he grumbled under his breath. It would not be the first time he had left it wide open. More than once, he had kicked the refrigerator door shut, only to return later and find a constant flow of cold air escaping from the opened refrigerator. His face fell into a frown as his fingers found the refrigerator door closed. “Well, that’s
weird.”
     Something was terribly wrong. His guts clenched at the unknown that still lurked in the apartment. He did not have time to worry about it and went to change for his date.
     “Man! It feels like January in here,” he complained loudly as he shrugged off his jacket and tossed it onto the bed. The bedroom window was closed shut and still it was very cold.
     While emptying his pockets, he recalled hearing a conversation at the water cooler just outside his office. He could hear air bubbles escaping as someone helped themselves to a cup of water. Another air bubble escaped when he recognized Todd’s voice.
     “I think Pricilla is a lesbian.”
     “Why do you say that?” said the second voice.
     “Because,” Todd said in frustration, “she refused to go out with me, again.”
     Cecil, the second voice, agreed. “Those English women may actually have good taste. And what’s worse, she’s probably a wildcat when the lights go out,” Cecil said amused.
     “Screw you,” Todd responded without menace as his voice trailed down the hallway.
     Neil snickered at Cecil’s jibe. He returned his attention back to his report.
     He was hopeful, as he unbuttoned his shirt, that he could turn his bedroom into a wildlife safari and satisfy a long neglected animal lust. He turned to toss his shirt into the clothes basket when his body collided with the open closet door. He cursed as pain raced up and down his lean frame. It reminded him that he was not paying attention, again.
     A visually impaired person has to be aware of his surroundings at all times, or else, he would be black and blue from head to toe. His stomach bubbled up with aggravation, for he obsessed about closing all doors. Obviously, his obsession with Pricilla had distracted him from his habit.
     “Falling in love could be hazardous to my health,” Neil admitted. Worried about the time, he hurriedly stripped off his clothing and dumped them in the clothes basket. He shivered with goose bumps popping up all over his naked body and quickly shut the door. He rushed to the bathroom and turned on the hot water faucet. With the door closed, the bathroom soon filled with steam. After showering and shaving, he hustled to put on some clothing.
     The nights were still chilly. He remembered Pricilla saying to keep it casual, so he jerked open the closet door and quickly pulled out a pair of jeans and a dress shirt. He had just closed the door, when something heavy fell against it from inside. Startled, he shuddered.
     When he stopped long enough to think about it, he realized that he ran into a rash of lunatics in the last couple of days. It also occurred to him that all the calls he got today were unusually weird. Sheer volume should have alerted him of a full moon. The revelation made him feel uneasy. He pressed his talking watch. Damn, he would be late if he did not shake some butt. He opened his closet door and freezing air rushed out. It felt like he was standing in the doorway of a walk-in freezer. He quickly grabbed his jacket and closed the closet door.
     He was struggling into the coat when another something thumped against the door. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. His stomach tightened like a vice in a bad dream. He laughed out loud. It was just his nerves. He was putting the other arm through his jacket, when another thump slammed against the door. This time he jumped with fright.
     He hurried to find something to defend himself, but was only able to scrounge up his cane. He went over to put his ear against the closet door. He reasoned that something on the shelf must have fallen. No problem.
     He reached down and took hold of the doorknob. It was freezing. His fingertips stuck to it.
     Neil instantly recalled the Christmas Story, when the kid was double-dog-dared to stick his tongue to the frozen flagpole. Funny the things that pops into one’s head at times of stress. He jerked his hand away, went to the dresser, and dug out a pair of boxers. He used them to turn the knob. He yanked the door open. Something grabbed him and pulled him in.
 

    Leaping Tiger Books

    Willow May Jennings

    I’m a blind writer. I write chick lititure and that’s why I use a pen name; To protect my reputation as a southern redneck. I can’t have the good old boys at the coffee shop learn I write chick lit.

    Tomas O. Black

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