Posted by my alter ego—that more serious, but still sometimes slightly humorous writer—Cindy Beck.
Photo by Cesar Tort, Wikimedia Commons
Kat Nilsson wrote the words, “I was watching CSI Miami,” in big loopy letters on the legal pad in her lap. Then, since she had writer’s block, she doodled in the loops. After a few minutes of wasted time, Kat scratched her head with the point of her yellow pencil and sighed.
“No. That’s not right. I can’t start a novel out that way. I hate CSI. Can’t stand those women with whitened teeth, brightened faces, and over-tightened blouses.” Kat erased the words with a vengeance, as if erasing the facial features of the botoxed movie stars.
She started again. “Stacy heard a knock at the door, and just as she went to answer—”
As Kat wrote the words, a deep thump, thump, thump reverberated through the house. With a sigh big enough to sink a battleship, Kat threw the pencil into a mug of assorted pens and walked to the front room to see who was knocking.
The wind whistled as she opened the heavy, wooden door, and a chill ran between her shoulder blades. No one stood there. Not a living soul. Attached to the door by a feathered dart was an off-white sheet of paper, with dark, thick handwriting.
If you find the dog, call me.
P.S: The bodies are in the basement.
“The basement?” she whispered. Kat shuddered and tugged her bedraggled University of Utah sweatshirt tight around her body. There was a basement in her house. An old basement with a cold, concrete floor—a room she never, ever, ever went into because … well … anyone who writes murder mysteries knows that something horrifying always happens in the basement.
Scanning the bottom of the note and then turning the paper over, Kat looked for a clue as to who wrote it. No signature, not even a grimy thumbprint to give a hint.
That’s when she heard it—a thin, high-pitched, forlorn howl from under the house. For one illogical second her heart rocketed with fear and she thought about screaming and running to the neighbors. But then, her writer’s curiosity kicked in. Who left the note and why did they put a dog in the basement? How did they know about the basement? Who, what, when, where, how and why?
She counted friends on her fingers. Josi? No, she didn’t own a dog. Nichole? Yes, Nichole was a jokester all right, but also allergic to anything with fur, including.…
Like a good Catholic girl, Kat crossed herself for luck. She might be allergic to aspen and eucalyptus, but at least she wasn’t allergic to mink, like Nichole.
Bulldog, Rex, or Nipsey? Goodness knows their names were doggy enough, but no, they were all too tenderhearted to shove a dog in a basement in order to scare a writer wordless.
It had to be a practical joke, pulled by the neighbor-kid-from-hell, who was always throwing tomatoes at her car when he thought she wasn’t looking. Yup, that had to be it. When she got the dog out of there, she was going to have a long talk with that boy’s parents.
Hitching up her sweatpants, she closed the door behind her and walked around the redwood-sided house to the back yard. Dried leaves crunched under her Big Bird slippers and she realized that they might be a lucky charm when writing, but they wouldn’t do much to protect her against earwigs, black widow spiders, and uggg … stink bugs … that might be in the basement. But it was too late now; her feet took her down the concrete steps as if they had a mind of their own.
Ssshhh. What was that?
A rustling noise, like a lady’s crisp, crinoline underskirt, drifted to Kat's ears. And then, silence. Certain that she’d psyched herself out, Kat took a deep breath and with one hand on the rust-encrusted doorknob, listened again.
Not a sound.
No dog howling, no skirts rustling.
Feeling weak in the knees, and even weaker in the head, she turned the knob and pushed the door. Its hinges squeaked. Dang. She hadn’t done it hard enough, and now she’d have to step inside, in that dark, damp, hole-in-the-ground and push the door all the way open with her shoulder. Why hadn’t she thought to bring a flashlight?
Kat stepped over the doorjamb and shoved. The door slowly inched back, but it was almost as if light feared entering the room. Darkness reigned, and the tiny shaft of brightness that had the courage to shine against the door slowly dimmed as clouds obscured the sun.
That’s when she heard it—an otherworldly moan. And she could make out two bodies, lying on the floor, legs bent at sharp angles, tongues hanging out. A shriek caught in her throat. She wanted to whirl and run but her legs refused to obey.
The shapes unkinked their legs, rose up in front of her, and Kat screamed—a wordless, soundless scream.
"Surprise!" shouted the two bodies as they flicked on flashlights. Hoots of laughter and a chorus of happy birthdays erupted from around the room. They were all there, Josi, Nichole, Bulldog, Rex and Nipsey. And Kat wanted to kill every one of them.
If it wasn’t for Bulldog handing her a puppy that kissed her cheek and snuggled against her shoulder, she would have done it. But then, how mad could she really be, when they’d braved the basement in order to throw a surprise party?
“The puppy’s your present from all of us,” Bulldog said. “Any author who writes about murder needs a dog to curl up with and to protect her from the gaboogities at night.”
The puppy nuzzled Kat's neck, and her heart rate slowly returned to normal. Josi leaned over and stroked the dog’s sleek fur. “What are you going to call her?”
Kat’s eyes twinkled, “After the scare you've all given me, I'm going to name her Heart Attack."
And with that, the puppy pointed her nose in the air and gave a howl of agreement.
What's playing in my head (be sure to click on the link, 'cuz it's cute): The Puppy Song by Harry Nilsson (no relation to the character in this story).
CONTEST WINNERS (last week)
Sande! Congrats, Sande, you've won an autographed copy of Aunt Rae's Remedies. Please send me your mailing address in an email: cindybeck(dot)author(at)yahoo(dot)com.
CONTEST (this week) In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness
Prize: Autographed copy of Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors.
Description from Cup of Comfort Website: If stories are medicine, then this collection will help keep hopes up and spirits alive on the road to recovery. Readers will applaud the bravery of 50 exceptional survivors as they tell their unique experiences with breast cancer. Every breast cancer survivor has a different story, but they all have one thing in common: courage. From dealing with diagnosis to undergoing chemotherapy, facing hair loss and possibly the loss of a breast, these fearless women undergo more than anyone ever should. These stories pay tribute to these women and their battles, and celebrate their victories. In this stunning new collection, readers will find compelling, inspiring, and uplifting personal essays about the experiences and emotions of living with—and after—breast cancer. $.50 of every copy sold will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure®
Cindy's Note: Included in the book is "Dancing in the Moonlight." Written by me, it's the heartwarming story about me and my mom during her diagnosis and surgery for breast cancer.
How to Win: Leave a comment on this blog entry by midnight Friday, Oct 16, 2009. It's as simple as that! If you don't have anyone to give it to who is a breast cancer survivor (that's assuming you win), let me know that in your comments and I'll donate the book to a local library instead. And you'll have done your part for breast cancer!