Green's Hill-Amy Lane's Home - News

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Safe Heart and Thick n Quick

 So, someone at marketing MUST have thought of the double entendre. I mean, knitters are witty, right? How can nobody get that there's a dirty joke in the name of the yarn?

Regardless, Lion Brand Thick & Quick has been a knitting staple for a lot of knitters for years--since I got into fiber craft, back in 1998. It's 20% wool, 80% acrylic (in most incarnations--there's a couple of color ways that have no wool, no how) and it washes well and works up  super quick on giant penis-sized knitting needles and sometimes, you just need that quick shot of happy, right? Instant satisfaction? That adrenaline shot of the thing you love most with immediate results?

And speaking of quick shots of happy... Safe Heart is out. I know it sounds like a horrible segue but the entire concept fo Crafting Category is built around the idea that short romances are very carefully crafted truffles of entertainment, every piece, every interaction, specifically tailored to make sure the story carries emotional punch. So, you know--instant satisfaction. (On giant penis-sized needles, no less?) Anyway-- it was an apt metaphor, and, of course, I just happened to finish the scarf with the Thick &  Quick roving just in time for Safe Heart to come out. 

It was kismet! 

So here's Safe Heart-- Enjoy!

Safe Heart

by Amy Lane 

Search and Rescue: Book Three

Five months ago boy-band lead singer Cash Harper left Glen Echo in a hospital in Jalisco… and broke his heart.

Glen’s heart is the only home Cash has ever known. He’s spent the past five months trying to find his friend Brielle and make sense of his own instincts. Now he’s ready to be a real partner and lover to Glen—but first they have to finish their original mission.

Glen is ready for Cash to walk through his door needing help, but he is absolutely determined not to let him back into his heart. Men don’t run. Cash did. End of story.

Rescuing Brielle will take the full talents of Glen’s search and rescue company, and that means Cash needs to re-earn the team’s trust. Between Bond-villain traps, snakes that shouldn’t be there, and bad guys with guns, they all have plenty to negotiate. If Cash can prove he can stay the course and that he deserves Glen’s faith, they might survive this op whole and ready to love.


Friday, September 18, 2020


When I was young and stupid--literally 1986--one of the entitled young white men in my mostly white junior college had the bright idea that we should "protest something." All of the great protests--civil rights, women's rights, anti-war--all those happened in the sixties, he argued. We were missing out on the opportunity to protest something in the 80's. So, we protested a fountain that needed to be refurbished. It could have been pretty--why didn't they do something about it? (I cannot make up this level of entitlement and naivety. I was working 40 hours a week while taking 17 units so I could make it through college asap--did it not occur to me to protest student debt? The lack of health care? Carbon emissions? Dear Goddess, we were dumb.)  Anyway-- the president of the university came out and tenderly explained that the student council had to approve the funds, and we had to not be in a drought year (we'd just come out of a drought year to a flood year in 1986. Those were the days) and maybe we could talk about it then.

Hurray! We'd protested! Successfully, we thought.

Boy, was all that energy wasted. I've sat here with a RESIST sign on the front of my house for months, still expecting to get egged or vandalized because my neighborhood is 1/2 redneck and 1/2 Don't-Give-a-Shit, and I YEARN for the days when I thought that was all that was wrong with the world. 

Of course, I learned better and I was a much better focused raging liberal when I started teaching high school. 18 years of that had me convinced that crapping on education was a Republican conspiracy to dumb down our electorate--and all of my male counterparts thought I was delusional. Yeah. So glad I was right about that. 


It's funny--I THOUGHT I knew about politics before 2015--but boy, the last four, five years have aged and educated all of us, right?

I saw the Ruth Bader Ginsberg movie (so good! Also, Armie Hammer...mmmm...) and, like the rest of America, grew to hope Bader Ginsberg lived forever in the pernicious tumult following Dumpster Fire's election. It was not to be--but it wasn't fair of us to wish for it, either.

When you're 17 you can put all your political faith in the guy who's gonna run for Student Body President next semester and fix a fountain--maybe, if you're lucky enough to have enough to eat, and a car (barely) and a job and the pale-skin pass to things like protests that doesn't get you gassed or shot. 

When you're 50-something, even putting all your faith in the indomitable and amazing and stunningly brilliant and wise beyond even 87 years Ms.  Ginsberg is something you know you can't do.

You can mourn her passing though. You can mourn the loss of a soul who understood that law and justice was for everybody, not just for the white and entitled few. You can mourn the loss of someone who understood that denying women their rights over their own destinies hurt men too--and hurt society and the world as a whole. You can mourn a person who seems to have embodied the best of us, someone who fought when it mattered, and who never, ever, would have put all that passion into a silly fountain when their were real dragons to be slaughtered, and not just windmills at which to tilt. 

But you cannot let all your hopes die with her. When someone uses their platform and their power to fight for all of us, the least we can do is continue to fight in their memory when they're gone. 

Goodbye, Ms. Bader Ginsberg. You have inspired us. May your warrior heart take its place at the hearth with your beloved husband, in the halls of Valhalla, where the brave and just may live forever.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Tiny Victory

 Hey all--I'm going to come out and say it--the weather is kicking my ass. My eyes are itchy, I'm tired even when I can't sleep--you get the picture. You've all seen the screen shots of the west coast air quality--blargh.

Anyway--I do have something fun to relate today.

Mate was my guinea pig, I mean time keeper as I practiced another class today. I'm working on one tomorrow as well, btw. Anyway--today, he sat and listened to me talk about character and trope and conflict and all the English teacher things that I love to pull out sometimes and talk about. And I was pretty sure he was just humoring me and mostly playing on his phone.

But then, later, we started talking about his new favorite show. 

Ted Lasso is an Apple TV exclusive starring Jason Sudeikis and if you get a chance to watch it--do! Sudeikis plays a sweet college football coach who is recruited to coach league soccer--and he's a good guy. He brings out the best in people--and he works hard at it. The fun part is watching him work hard to win over his boss--who originally recruits him because she thinks he'll run the team into the ground, ala Major League, but we can see her starting to warm up to him, because he's a decent human being.

Anyway, Mate and I were talking about the show, and he says, "It's like you said in your class--no character is just one of the five things. They're all of the five things and sometimes those things aren't aligned--they contrast, and that means the characters aren't one dimensional, they are multi-faceted."

I stared at him. "Five things?"

"Five methods of making characters. You know, speech, appearance, thoughts, actions, what other people think."

And suddenly my lesson came flooding back, and I was like, "You were PAYING ATTENTION?"

"Well yeah. It was a pretty tight class. I liked it."

You all, it was one of the best moments of my teaching career. No lie. *sniffle* 

You don't even... Wow. The only thing better would have been to have one of the kids internalize one of my lessons, but, no--that's a bridge too far.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Little Pitchers

 Teaching wasn't easy for me.

Even today, I have sort of a soft voice--even when I'm firming up my diaphragm and using my drama skills. And my brain! Training my brain to break down something I knew just by breathing into tiny digestible chunks, like breadcrumbs, to lead reluctant teenagers to the prize--it took more discipline than my family thought I had. 

I did it though. It was important to me.

My first teaching job that wasn't subbing in one of the worst districts in the state was a job interview I hadn't meant to get. I was SEVEN MONTHS PREGNANT. There were no laws protecting pregnant women or mothers 28 years ago. Getting fired for being pregnant was a perfectly legal thing, and holding it against someone that they had to take off work for being with a sick child was totally acceptable. Commendable even. That was what administrators thought of as doing a "good job."

But I got the job--surprise! And none too soon, because at that point, having the baby was going to cost us $3500, minimum, and at that point, Mate was still working in a restaurant kitchen and waiting tables. Health insurance--Kaiser--that would let me give birth was worth getting fired over, and we both knew it.

So there I was, 8 1/2 months pregnant, waiting for my first job review. I was in a conference room, during my prep period, exhausted. The job was great--except for the fact that I had four classrooms and was carrying a milk crate full of books around on one of the old luggage wheelies that were replaced when luggage companies started making roller boards instead. All I remember from this time period was getting home, sitting on a corner of the couch, and watching the original Batman the Animated Series and Animaniacs until I could get up, make dinner, and go to sleep. Mate worked nights then--he would leave me, exhausted, and feel like shit too.

Those were the days.

Anyway--so there I as, exhausted, sucking down a milk that one of the ladies in the office was kind enough to get me, when suddenly I heard the two ladies in the office talking about when the district was going to fire me.

How awful it was that I had interviewed when I was pregnant.

How I couldn't possibly be doing the job well because I was huge.

And into the middle of that, the administrator walked in, closed the door, and proceeded to give me a pretty decent review. 

I was still fired at the semester. And from the job I got the next semester because my son wouldn't stop screaming and as went through childcare like gangbusters, and then a whole sequence of events I won't bore you with now.

I'm just saying I remember the betrayal, the unkindness, and the meanness that was designed to hit me where I lived.

And I still went in to teach the next morning. I taught until the Monday before I gave birth. I came back six weeks later and gave the final. 

And I didn't say a word to those tiny-minded women whom I thought were on my side. 

It wasn't the first time--or the last--that I overheard unkind things said about me by people who were supposed to be my friends. And the thing is, I'm still standing. I worked hard to be a good teacher. Nobody thought I could do it--I was too sweet, too much of a pushover, too much of an "earth mommy" (that quote was made directly to my face by another colleague, btw) and I couldn't possibly know what I was talking about if I wasn't a complete twat about forcing my opinion down other people's throats.

And the funny thing is, before I teach, I agonize over every word, every moment of the thing I'm teaching, making sure it's important enough to say, important enough to put into words, and to assert to the world its worth learning.

But I still do it, whenever possible. And it's still worth it. And I've learned how to take those moments of unkindness and betrayal with a grain of salt.

I know who my friends are. And after overhearing conversations like that one in the principal's office, I know who they aren't.

And I'm stronger than people think I am. And I'm still standing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Kermit Flail--September Morning!



Let's hear it for September!

September for me is usually pretty busy--kids starting school, conferences, conventions, soccer. And while the school is online, and Mate is the only one doing soccer because Squish doesn't want to do it if there's only distance practicing without games, and the conferences have been canceled, it still manages to be my busy month!

For one thing, I get to teach classes in the next month--three if you count one in October, and I'm SO STUPIDLY EXCITED about teaching classes on Zoom. So I've been prepping for those and it's a different way of thinking, and that's fun! Also, I have not one but two releases this month--one of them is a teaching book, which, yeah, I know, *yawn* *snore* but, again--stupidly excited for Fiction Haiku to come out. Again--something new, and something I threw myself into, so even if no-one reads it, it's still a pretty big accomplishment for me!  Woot! The other book, Safe Heart, IS a  category romance, and it's action/adventury, and fun and snarky and hopefully delicious!

And speaking of delicious--and busy!--this was one of the most deliciously busy Kermit Flails in a while! In paranormal romance, we've got Reclaiming Quin, by Parker Williams, and you guys know the adage--you can never go wrong with werewolves, right? Then comes Kim Fielding's new--and MUCH awaited--audio release, The Bureau: Volume 2. Gotta tell you, I have both of these queued up in my audio, and I'm so excited for them! Woot!  And for contemporary, we've got Kate McMurray's delicious rom-com, Save the Date!  Oh--and don't forget the kinks and quirks--the luminous Jaime Samms is rereleasing her Bound to Fall, and Jaime does know how to torture her guys in the best of ways. 

So there you go--fun stuff all around! Hopefully something for everybody--and fun stuff to boot!

September is definitely busy--but I listen or read a little every day. I hope you guys have time to sneak in a little bit of romance in your busy September as well!

Reclaiming Quin

by Parker Williams

Shifter Quinn Adler knew he would live and die as a slave. 

Quinn’s life was filled with pain until he was resc
ued from an abusive pack. But in Lydon, Quinn can’t be sure of anything, so he’s terrified of everything. With no one to give him direction, he is lost—until Deke takes control of him. 

Deke Timmons hates that he has to play the role of master to his mate.

Unfortunately, Quinn won’t accept his love until Deke can show him what being mates means. Vowing to help Quinn, Deke takes him into the world he’s never seen. Though sometimes their relationship is tense, his methods seem to be working. 

Then a power-mad Alpha swoops in to kidnap Quinn and ends up getting Deke by mistake.

Now Deke must play submissive to a wolf complicit in Quinn’s abuse. He’ll do whatever it takes to get back to his mate—but with Deke in peril, Quinn must find his courage and reclaim the person he was meant to be.

Buy Here

Or Here

Save the Date

by Kate McMurray

Tristan knows he and his ex-boyfriend Stuart were not meant to be, but that doesn’t make the invitation to Stuart’s wedding any less of a punch in the face. Tristan decides the best strategy is to find a super hot date to prove to Stuart that he’s moved on and is doing just fine, thanks.

The path to the altar is fraught with obstacles, though, and Tristan has to deal with the wilds of online dating, wardrobe malfunctions, men who look like pirates, emotional baggage, grooms with cold feet, and sports team rivalries before he even gets to the wedding. But then Tristan finds love in the last place he expects, but it’s going to take more than a reply card and a nice suit to hang onto it.

The Bureau: Volume 2 audio

Written by Kim Fielding
Narrated by Joel Leslie

This collection contains the fourth and fifth Bureau novellas. Bureau stories can be read in any order.


An agent for the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs? That’s the best job in the world. And it’s enough for Terry Brandt, who doesn’t need personal relationships complicating his life. His newest assignment puts him undercover, investigating a Hollywood agent who may have some evil tricks up his sleeve. 

Edge is not the man he appears to be. Although he’s a member of the Hollywood agent’s security staff, his true situation is darker and deeper than that. Ordered to seduce the new prospect, Edge finds himself caught in conflicting loyalties. 

Haunted by their pasts and tied up in secrets, neither Terry nor Edge can afford to allow passion to interfere with duty. And with danger dogging them, it’s impossible to envision a future together.  


Vietnam veteran Kurt Powell’s addiction almost cost him everything, but a job as federal agent with the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs helped him find sobriety and purpose. Now he tracks down dangerous paranormal creatures as well as humans who abuse their magical powers in illegal ways.  

Sent from Belfast to the United States as a boy, Desmond Hughes later fell into a disastrous relationship that led to horrific murders. He’s spent 17 years in a bleak prison with few comforts and no hope of release.  

A new mission throws Kurt and Des together in a desperate attempt to prevent disaster. Sometimes what’s long been lost can still be found, but the road to redemption is never easy - and a mutual attraction may not ease the way.

Bound to Fall

by Jaime Samms

With so many fences between them and happily ever after, two men wonder if it’s worth opening the gate.

Ten years ago, Eddie Crane, an actor on the rise, loved his costar and dreamed of the day they could be together. But his love, with his submissive nature, couldn’t handle fame, and before Eddie could help him, he died in a car accident—with Eddie at the wheel.

Now, scarred and guilt-ridden, Eddie buries himself in bad decisions and prays that a stunt—on or off camera—will go wrong.

Teenaged fantasies about the actor on his wall distracted Arthur Pike from real life—his dead father, runaway mother, gruff grandparents, and his unrequited love for his cousin’s straight husband. Now grown and off the farm, Pike is a horse stuntman hired to teach a reluctant Eddie to ride.

Pike is drawn to Eddie’s dominant nature despite the sadness clinging to the actor. Eddie let one lover down, but in Pike’s submissiveness, he sees the possibility for redemption. 

Crafting Category Romance: The Art and Science of Fiction Haiku

by Amy Lane

Category romance is a precise art. With such a small word count, writing the perfect category romance is a little like writing a haiku. But how do you write a book in seventeen syllables? How can you cram compelling conflict, satisfying character development, and toe-curling romantic tension into less than sixty thousand words?

In Crafting Category Romance, two-time RITA™-nominated author of nearly one hundred books Amy Lane describes the rules of engagement, traps to watch out for, and how to leverage common tropes to create conflict, craft a character, develop a plot, and leave readers with a happy ever after that's different every time—all in a tidy package. With practical exercises in plot, conflict, and character development, Crafting Category Romance will teach you how to use the rigid rules and expectations of the genre to your advantage and win a loyal readership following for life.

Safe Heart

by Amy Lane

Search and Rescue: Book Three

Five months ago boy-band lead singer Cash Harper left Glen Echo in a hospital in Jalisco… and broke his heart.

Glen’s heart is the only home Cash has ever known. He’s spent the past five months trying to find his friend Brielle and make sense of his own instincts. Now he’s ready to be a real partner and lover to Glen—but first they have to finish their original mission.

Glen is ready for Cash to walk through his door needing help, but he is absolutely determined not to let him back into his heart. Men don’t run. Cash did. End of story.

Rescuing Brielle will take the full talents of Glen’s search and rescue company, and that means Cash needs to re-earn the team’s trust. Between Bond-villain traps, snakes that shouldn’t be there, and bad guys with guns, they all have plenty to negotiate. If Cash can prove he can stay the course and that he deserves Glen’s faith, they might survive this op whole and ready to love.

Buy Here 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Hair cuts


So, a bunch of quick takes for this one. I've been blogging a little less and investing in social media a little more, but that doesn't mean I don't have stories to tell!

For starters? 

The sweater.


It's made with chunky yarn, and the back and two front pieces are constructed all in one piece. And there I was, with only a few pattern repeats before I was done with the second side, when I saw the damned thing in the daylight.

Not the OTT light-- the DAYlight.

And the last time I'd started a ball of yarn--two pattern repeats on the back and about eight on the front--I'd started the WRONG WHITE.

So, most of the sweater was eggshell and these parts were GLARING WHITE.

And the funniest part of this scenario--you know, the scenario where I rip back scads and scads of yarn and then knit it up again with the right color--is that I walked into Babetta's and said, "So, I was knitting up Squish's sweater, and it's Plymouth Encore Chunky weight, and I realized I'd used the WRONG WHITE on a good ten pattern repeats--"

"Oh my God," she said. "Was one of them color 146 and the other color 250? That happens all the time!"

Gentle reader, these were, indeed, the colors I had confused. What impresses me here is that she didn't even need pictures. 

Anyway-- I have a picture here--I'm almost done with body of the sweater, on to the sleeves next. I'm

knitting an emergency keyhole scarf at the moment--don't ask. It's... well, it's complicated. 


If you follow me on FB you know Squish's cat has confused himself with an apex predator again. Last night it was a GIANT moth, and she was TOTALLY squicked out. The cat, however, was dancing. "Didja see? Didja see what I did? I'm a sassy boi who KILLS MOTHS!"

Of course he is. 

And finally-- about the haircuts...

Baby Trump made a big deal about Nancy Pelosi getting her hair cut, but in fact it's legal in California as long as you follow the guidelines. And Matt has a friend from soccer who was happy to cut our hair. There's a salon complex in Rocklin--a few suburbs over--and it's neatly divided up into individual rooms, each room equipped with chairs and a shampoo station and all of the product that the particular stylist relies on--all meant to host one client and maybe a friend, only. I felt safer there than I do at the grocery store, for sure.

Anyway, Squish bailed--she had a sore throat, probably from allergies--but ZoomBoy and I went, and the following conversations resulted.

This first one was IN the salon room. As he was getting his hair cut, our stylist remarked that his beard was sort of growing in. She said, "Not quite ready to shave yet, are we?"

"I don't know how to shave my face," he said. "I need Dad to walk me through it."

"Well, you put the shaving cream on your face, shave with the whiskers, and rinse off the razor every time it swipes through the cream," I told him.

"Cream?" he asked puzzled. "I don't need cream when I shave my armpits in the shower."

And here is where I wish Blogger offered me a selection of .gifs, because I don't have words for my expression at the moment.

"You shave your armpits?" I said blankly. 

"Yeah, aren't you supposed to?"

"I'm sure it's fine," I said, "but that explains so much about what's been happening to MY RAZORS!"

"Oh. Was that bad?"

"I just need to replace them a lot more often!"

"Oh. Sorry. Can't I use them on my face?"

And I should just get him one of the Venus level razors with all the goop on it, and I'm pretty sure it will take care of his stubble AND moisturize. I... I just didn't realize boys were shaving their armpits now. I... I have no frame of reference.

So that happened.

And just a moment ago, I asked him if I could take a picture. "ihhhhh..." he whined.

"You don't like your haircut?"

"I like it fine! But you can see my neckbeard!"

No. No you can't. but I think that 12 pack of the super awesome ladies razors with the goop is coming right up.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Glued to My Feed

 It's weird. I know I've functioned this week. I've gone walking, gone grocery shopping, cooked, done dishes--I mean, I've been functional. 

But like many of you all, I haven't been really here.

I've been glued to my feed where the world comes completely unglued around me, and it's a thing I need to stop.

Not that I don't want to know what happens--no, I'm almost addicted to knowing what happens.

It's that sometimes, "knowing what happens" bleeds into fixating on the things we can't change, and it gets frustrating, and we get angry, and the next thing we know we're getting into a shouting match with someone on the internet who really DOESN'T have anything better to do than scream at people who don't believe what they do. 

And we DO have better things to do. 

I mean really, we have so very little we can control. We can make our reality better by stepping away from Twitter every so often, right?

Of course, that doesn't mean we're not still donating to things like the Sierra Club and the bail fund for protestors either. Because the world continues apace.


And other than that, I finished an essentials bag out of a cotton/acrylic blend, with a little sleeve of fun fur at the shoulder to cushion my neck. I am ABSURDLY excited about how well this turned out--and part of it is the yarn, which is stupidly soft, even without the nylon fur stuff, which is also super soft. I used to wrap a bandana around the shoulder, and it looked... well, weird. And seriously--am I not weird enough?

Anyway--fighting to stay awake here--this might be more incoherent than usual. I DID have an encounter with a hidden pussycat in a tree--as in, I saw the hidden pussycat, and I got a picture of the hidden pussycat, but if I showed you the picture, you'd wonder what the actual hell I was trying to get with my camera. Which, if you think about it, is a great metaphor for writing. Sometimes you can reveal the hidden pussycat with magic words, and sometimes, you need a lot of editing and some prayer. 

And there you go. My profundity limit has been reached. 

Stay healthy, happy and sane out there--I know it's not always as easy as it should be.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Comfort Where We Can...

So, the state of the world right now... 

Don't get me started. 

But there I was, last week, pondering on it all, when I went to Michael's and came back with yarn.  And felt stupid. And then Mate said something about more yarn. And I felt defensive. And then I went online to Michael's-- and remember, all, I have SO MUCH YARN my acronym is S.A.B.L.E.-- Stash Accrued Beyond Life Expectancy-- so this is unforgivable. 

But there was a sale.

A gorgeous sale. 

80/20 YarnCakes for $4.99 a cake.

And... and the world sucked. And I couldn't knit or crochet fast enough to fix it. But there's so much potential in each cheap giant yarn cake. And... and... and...

And then unlike, say, medicine or checks or car registration for the entire rest of the world due to Republican cruelty, THIS PACKAGE, of all the necessary packages on the planet, THIS PACKAGE, arrived promptly. Before its scheduled date, even. 

Shame on the hoof.

And I just couldn't open it.

"What's that?" Mate asked. 

"A box," I said.

"Where's the box from--oh!"

"Can't miss that," I tell him. The logo is EMBLAZONED on the side of the giant box.

"Nope. That's, an, uh, large box."

"It's enormous." I literally have no words.

"So, are you going to open it?"

Now, my living room is in shambles. We're still trying to empty ZoomBoy's room so we can move all this other crap into it, and my yarn corner--which I clean up every so often is as in need of a trim as I am--or Mate for that matter. The thought of opening this box and organizing my yarn around the contents therein makes me want to cry.


"It's almost like you're ashamed of that box."

Well, I had this coming. I look him in the eyes. "Could be."

"That's fair." He thinks carefully, knowing that revenge-by-retail is a habit I've been valiantly trying (and mostly succeeding) to break over the last two years.

"Any, uh, reason for that box?"

"I broke." I mean, gotta face this shit head on, but the fact was, he had every right to say something the FIRST time I overbought yarn. Yes, he pissed me off, but I obviously have a problem.

"Gotcha." He breathes in through his nose, and then makes a wise man's decision. "Are you going to open it?"

"After we get the living room back."

"That's probably a good idea."

"I'm sorry," I say, looking at the giant cardboard monument to my shame propped up in a corner of the kitchen.

"Me too," he says. 

There's a hug at the end of this.

The box is going to sit there until the living room is clean. And, unspoken between us, that's probably the last time I'm going to buy yarn for quite some time.


Friday, August 21, 2020

A little bravery

So I'm not often courageous--but I do get pissed off.

I was at the grocery store, talking to my friendly neighborhood grocery clerk through plexiglass, both of us wearing masks. Didn't matter--we could tell we were smiling by our eyes. Chicken was off getting tortillas because I'd forgotten them, and I was paying for my purchase before I started bagging groceries. (We can reuse bags here, as long as we bag our own.)

Anyway--the woman behind me broke the social distance minimum to lean on the counter, and the grocery clerk--you could tell she hated doing this--spoke up.

"You need to back up. You need to remain behind the cone until she's done. And pull up your mask."

"I am tired. My hip hurts." (She had a thick Russian accent.)

"That's fine, but at least pull up your mask."

The woman rolled her eyes. "The government can't see me."

The clerk persisted. "But it's store policy."

"Doesn't matter. Who can see?" She smirked.

"We can see," I said. "It's store policy, and it's human decency. This is for everybody's protection--do what she asks please."

"Government can't see!"

"This isn't for the government it's for us! Be a good citizen and pull your mask up!"

She did, glaring and I finished my purchase just as Chicken ran back with the tortillas. She ran around to finish the bagging, and was short two bags.

The clerk looked me dead in the eye and said, "Don't worry about paying for those. You're fine."

And it wasn't the thirty cents a bag or whatever--it was the acknowledgment. We had each other's backs.

And I need to remember to be brave more often.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Blackberry Bush Blues

 I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before--certainly not in recent years.

My first kiss was behind the pool house with a complete stranger in the sixth grade.

He said he could teach me how to dive and we'd been flirting the whole day and he pulled me around to the back, and there were were, wet hair, dripping water, my lime-green swimsuit sagging a little because the elastic was shot. There he showed me the little hop that would make divinghappen.

And I gazed into his hazel eyes and saw the mild acne and the way his longish hair duck-tailed and the few whiskers on his chin and realized he was probably fourteen or fifteen and I was eleven.

I must have looked scared for a moment--I know my heart leapt into my throat because I wasn't stupid--I hadn't grown up sheltered, although for a long time I pulled my "innocence" around my shoulders like a cloak to protect myself from the things that I'd seen, the things that had been done around and to me, that little girls shouldn't know.

I knew bad things could happen to girls who went behind the pool house with strangers.

But his eyes widened and he looked surprisingly vulnerable and I could smell sun and chlorine and, surprising and almost overwhelming, the smell of blackberry bushes.

It's an odd smell. It doesn't smell like fruit. It's tart and almost like oak and like water and bracken and it's always a sharp counterpoint to the smell of dust and scorched grass which were the other prevalent smells in the foothills. 

It flooded me--then, now, always--with a deep melancholy. A sadness for summer because summer was always so fleeting, even when I was a kid. A sadness for being a lonely kid, stuck in my own head. 

And then there was a breathless pause, he grew close enough to touch his lips to mine, and I caught my breath.

And then it was over. A true gentleman, he taught me how to dive--and I didn't screw up my courage then--and then he spent the rest of the swim session with his friends.

I think it occurred to both of us that anything else was probably a bad idea.

But that smell of blackberry bushes stuck with me. 

Those who have read Vulnerable will remember how much. That smell--that underlying sense of change, of excitement, of a teeming world underlying the ordinariness of the long, exhausting day--has stayed with me. Scenting blackberry bushes on the wind always fears me with equal parts fear and excitement and I am never sure which will win out.

That day it was fear. 

We recently unearthed old pictures of Mate and I at our rehearsal dinner--i.e. a picnic in the park where we got married. It was 105 that day--and the next, and believe me, there's nothing like an outdoor wedding when you're wearing a ton of satin and lace to make you homicidal for punch--but blackberry bushes lined the stream that runs through the park, and I still remember a stray strangled breeze carrying that smell to me and for a moment we remembered why we were doing this thing with the formal wear and the relatives and the family, and I was filled with hope.

This week California has been hit with a painful heat wave. 

Climate change--which is terrifying enough--coinciding with some of the scariest political history in our country's memory, and we were in for 105-114 degree heat from Friday to Friday. 

I pulled my practical Mom shoes on and woke up at seven (*gasp *) to walk the dogs. I'm not sure if I can do the same tomorrow--I need to get them out and about before nine o'clock or their little feet can get scorched on the blacktop of the path. But Friday I managed, and at seven in the morning, when the temperature is in the low eighties, the path isn't torturous. I was finishing up a walk and passing a giant conglomeration of oak when it hit me.

The smell.

The scent of blackberry bushes. 

It shouldn't have been a surprise-- much of the path runs alongside a creek--but the water is far below and the wind is not ambitious enough to lift the smell of water and change to the heavier, stiller air above.

But it was. And in spite of the heat rolling in like the steamroller of doom, I paused and closed my eyes and remembered the smell of fear and hope and change. 

The fear and change are old friends--particularly after the last three-and-a-half years. 

Particularly after this year, I think we all can agree. 

But the hope--that was a surprise. 

In Vulnerable, when Cory follows that smell, she finds death--but also faith, and upheaval and strength and life. 

There are many, many years between that character and myself. 

But I can still remember the smell of blackberry bushes in the apocalyptic heat and hope.