Myrtle Mysteries: BBQ, Sweet Tea and Murder – Chapter 15

After a relaxing Sunday spent at church and at home, Myrtle headed back to work on Monday.  Jimmy was in early to prepare for several important meetings and was on his second cup of coffee when Myrtle arrived.

“How was your weekend, Miss Myrtle?”  Jimmy was in a good mood.  The coffee must have been very strong this morning, thought Myrtle.

“Good, good.  I had a nice dinner Saturday with Vera and Shelby Jordan.  What about you?”

“Oh, nothing special.”  Jimmy looked away as he answered and Myrtle was sure she saw pink in his cheeks.  “Just hung out with some friends.  Nothing special.”

“Jimmy Davis, you are blushing.  I think you did more than hang out with friends.  Now you don’t have to tell this old lady your personal business but it makes me happy to see you with a sparkle in your eye.”

With a laugh, Jimmy said, “You caught me.  I did go out with some friends Saturday night.  We decided to try the new billiards place in Cheraw.  While I was there, I ran into a nice young lady and we spent some time talking.  You know, Miss Myrtle, I think you were the one who told me who she was.  Remember at Big Pop’s funeral?  Ginger.  Ginger Mangum.”

Myrtle realized she must have looked shocked as Jimmy started stuttering out an explanation.  “I know she’s only 21 and I’m 32.  All we did was talk; I promise.  But, it was nice.”

“It is not for me to tell anyone how to live their life, Jimmy.  Just be careful.  Age might be just a number but maturity is something else entirely.  You are a successful business owner who has a lot of life experience.  At 21, she is just starting to figure out herself and the world around her.”  Pausing, Myrtle was trying to choose her words thoughtfully.  She decided to keep it simple and again said only, “Just be careful.”

“Miss Myrtle, I appreciate you worrying about me but it’s all good.”  Jimmy got up and walked into his office so Myrtle decided it was time to begin her day.  After grabbing a cup of coffee and turning on the computer, she got to work.  They had a busy day ahead with several meetings – which meant a lot of additional paperwork for Myrtle.  Not that she was complaining as, strangely enough, she found that she enjoyed the paperwork.  Finding new ways to organize the office and keeping everything in order seemed to come natural to her.

About an hour later, the phone rang for the 5th time.  “Good Morning.  Davis Insurance, this is Myrtle.  How may I help you?”

“Myrtle, it’s Shelby.  Am I bothering you?”

“Of course not.  How are you on this Monday morning?”

“I’m good, I’m good.  But, I’ve got news.  Can you meet me for lunch at Beth’s?  I’ve already asked Vera and she can meet us there at noon.  Will you be there?”

“Well, if the excitement in your voice is any indicator, I wouldn’t want to miss it.  I’ll be there.”

“Great, I’ll see you then.  Bye.”

“Bye, Shelby.”  Myrtle looked at the phone as she was replacing the receiver and found herself very curious.  Shaking her head and resolving to wait until lunch, she got back to work.  At 11:50, she knocked on Jimmy’s door to let him know she was leaving.

“Have a good lunch, Miss Myrtle.  I’ll be here through lunch so don’t worry about setting the message on the phone.”  Jimmy barely looked up from his work so Myrtle knew he was having a good day.  He was happiest when completely absorbed in finding the best solution for one of his customers.

Making the short drive to Beth’s she arrived and saw that both Vera and Shelby were already there.  When she went inside, they waved to her from their booth and she went through the buffet line.  Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, lima beans and sliced tomatoes filled her plate nicely.  Balancing her sweet tea and paper plate, Myrtle made her way to the booth.

“Girl, sit down and eat quick so we can hear Shelby’s news.”  Vera was impatient in the best of times but became bossy when she was also excited.

“Hello, Vera, dear old friend.  Thank you, I think I will enjoy my lunch.”  Chuckling, she turned to Shelby and said, “Was she like this when you got here too?”

“I think I am more excited than anyone.  I got here at 11:30 because I just couldn’t wait any longer.  She’s probably ready for me to tell the story so I will stop bouncing my knee up and down.  She’s already fussed at me three times.”  Shelby elbowed Vera who just rolled her eyes.

After they all settled in, they finally did eat and enjoy their lunches.  A quick refill of sweet tea for everyone and they were ready to talk business.

“Will you tell us now, Shelby.  I am dying over here.”  Vera turned to Shelby and asked.

“Okay, okay.”  Looking over at Myrtle, she said, “I was very careful, Myrtle.  Benji has been coming  to my church for about a year now.”

“Benji?  Who is that?”  Vera asked.

“Chief White.  Benjamin.  Well, he told me to call him Benji.”  Shelby said timidly.

“Vera and I knew him as Benjamin in school; he was a few years behind us.  I think we just never pictured him as a Benji.  Vera, wipe that smile off your face.  Go own, now, Shelby.  Ignore her.”

“Benji, Chief White, has been coming to church for a while.  We’ve only spoken in passing but, like I said, I always had a feeling he kind of liked me.  Anyway, I saw him yesterday morning after preaching service but talked myself out of going up to him.  Then last night, he said hello after the training union service and I decided to go for it.  I asked if he wanted to grab some coffee in the fellowship hall.  He said yes.”

Shelby was so excited she barely paused before continuing.  “I couldn’t wait to tell you both that I did it.  I asked him out.  Oh, I know that it wasn’t a real date but for me, it was a big deal.”

“It’s a big deal for anyone.  Trust me, Shelby.  Good for you!”  Myrtle squeezed Shelby’s hand and even Vera was smiling.

“We talked for a while and had several cups of coffee.  I almost forgot to ask about the investigation.  When I finally did bring it up, I honestly didn’t want to push it.  We were having such a nice time.”

“I don’t blame you, Shelby.  Don’t feel pressured to do this.”  Myrtle said.

“Oh, I don’t feel pressured.  I just don’t want him to think I’m only talking to him to find out information.  I’m sure he’s wary of that and people have done it before.”  Shelby took a deep breath and continued, “Once he started talking, he actually seemed relieved to have someone listen.  He has a very stressful job!”

Myrtle smiled to herself and risked a knowing look towards Vera.  They could tell that Shelby was becoming smitten herself.

“He told me that they are releasing Barry, the meth head.  The evidence just isn’t there and they can’t really hold him any longer.  It sounds like he did find the money like he told the police.  Benji said he almost felt like he was starting back at square one.  They have interviewed everyone close to Pop although I did point out to him that they didn’t talk to me.  He seemed a bit embarrassed and said that since our marriage had ended a while back, he told his detectives that he couldn’t see any reason  for them to come see me.  I’m not sure if I should have been offended that he thought me too meek to be a suspect.  Maybe I’ll have to disabuse him of that notion.”  She laughed and continued on, “Oh, that’s wicked. But, it feels good to laugh again.”

“Nothing wrong with showing a man he’s wrong about something.  I strive to do it every day.” Vera said with a straight face.

“Vera, you are a card.”  Shelby was hitting her stride with the story.  “He didn’t say a lot about his discussions with Laura and Rhonda but I didn’t get the feeling he considers them suspects either.  He mentioned that Paul Jr was very defensive when they talked to him, though.  Have either of you considered speaking with Paul or Elizabeth?  I hate to think of a child killing their parent but it is possible.”

“I thought about it, too.  But, I’d probably start with Elizabeth even though she lives a few hours away.  She is a little more level-headed so we might get more information from her.  Paul is a lot like both his mother and father so talking with him could be like walking in a mine field.”  Myrtle responded.

“That could be true.  Benji said Elizabeth was a sweetheart to them and answered all their questions.  They sent someone to Columbia to talk to her.  I might be reading too much into it, but I really felt like he didn’t suspect her either.  That’s why he sounded so down.  Every suspect seems unlikely and the clues seem to lead nowhere.  He did bring up Ginger Mangum too.”

“Wait, what?  Ginger Mangum, Betsy’s daughter?”  Myrtle was so shocked she couldn’t believe it.  First, it had never crossed her mind that Ginger would be a suspect.  Second, she hadn’t thought much about Ginger in the last several years and to have her name come up twice in the same day was unusual.

“That’s her.”  Shelby said.  “Again, I didn’t get the feeling it was a big deal but he said they had to talk to her because of that business with the car.”

“That business with the car, ha.  You mean the fact that she stole Pop’s Camaro and then totaled it?”  Vera had always had the knack of cutting to the chase.

“She did steal the car and total it but Pop didn’t press charges.  I can’t see why in the world she would have a motive to kill him.”  Myrtle pointed out.

“Benji said as much himself but said he couldn’t leave any stone unturned.  He said she was a pretty young lady, of course, and cooperated but that there was something about her he just didn’t care for.  It could be her history of drug use and trouble-making but who knows?  The only other person he really mentioned was John Plyler.  I guess they had words about a year ago about Pop’s BBQ sauce recipe.”

“Oh, I remember that.  How had I forgotten?  John decided he was going to start selling BBQ at his place, Johnny’s Shack.  It wasn’t going well and one day he saw Pop at the post office.  He accused him of bad mouthing his BBQ sauce.  Pop apparently told him that he didn’t need to say anything bad about it, the customers did that themselves.  He said that maybe John should focus on improving his own BBQ sauce instead of trying to copy Pop’s.  They almost came to fisticuffs but Pop walked away before it could go too far.”  Vera said.

“Leave it to you to know all the details.”  Myrtle never ceased to be amazed by Vera’s knack for learning gossip.  “Does Chief White think John would hold  grudge over something so small?”

“The argument might seem small but Johnny’s Shack has always struggled.  He has to be jealous of the success Pop had at his restaurant.  Maybe he just blew one day.  Benji didn’t give me too many details but I got the feeling that he was not ruling out John’s involvement.”

“Okay.  So, we need to talk to Elizabeth and to John.  What are our next steps, fearless leader?”  Vera looked at Myrtle expectantly.

When Myrtle saw Shelby also gazing at her, she said, “How in the world did I become the leader?”  After a few moments of silence from the other two, she finally sighed and said, “I think we should talk to John first.  I know him pretty well so I can stop by the Shack one night this week and see if he will talk to me.  Why don’t we plan a trip to Columbia on Saturday?  We can shop a little and drop in on Elizabeth.”  Vera nodded her agreement and Myrtle asked, “Shelby, what about you?  Wanna visit Columbia?”

“Why not?  This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”

Mini-Review: Peril at End House (Hercule Poirot #8) by Agatha Christie

After working my way through about half of Christie’s works so far, I’ve come to the conclusion that almost all can be classified as good (3-4 stars) or great (5 stars). I think the 2- star entries will be few and far between and 1-star is unthinkable. 

Peril at End House falls into the good category at 4-stars. I probably would have enjoyed it more if read in one sitting. Instead I kept it as my ‘purse book’ for a while. So I only pulled it out when I had a few minutes before a meeting or appointment. This created a disjointed reading experience and wasn’t the best way to consume a Poirot. 

One thing I also noticed is that I now read Poirot with David Suchet’s voice. I’ve been binging BBC Poirot when I have time and am quite obsessed. It took me a few episodes to begin to appreciate his portrayal of the character but now…he is brilliant. I may have an unexpected crush. 

Myrtle Mysteries: BBQ, Sweet Tea and Murder – Chapter 14

The following week was uneventful and frustrating for Myrtle.  She spent her days working in the office and her nights searching her brain for ideas that might help with their investigation.  Vera was busy with work and going to her granddaugther’s dance recital so she was more scarce than usual.

She decided to spend all day Saturday cleaning the house.  By the time she had scrubbed the bathroom, mopped the floors and dusted all the furniture, her mind was the clearest it had been in weeks.  As she put the last load of clothes in the dryer, she heard the doorbell.

“Well hello, Shelby, come on in.  You will have to excuse the way I look.  I was just finishing up my housework.”

“I don’t want to disturb you, Myrtle.  I should have called first.”

“You aren’t bothering me at all.  Let’s sit on the deck and have some sweet tea.”

After showing Shelby onto the deck, Myrtle came back in to prepare a tray of sweet tea and some of the chocolate oatmeal cookies* she had made the night before.  She added a few of the mini-pretzels that she always kept on hand in case they wanted something salty to go with the very sweet cookies.  Heading back outside, she was interested to see what brought Shelby to visit her for the first time.

“Here we go.  Tea, cookies and pretzels.”

“Thank you, Myrtle.”  Biting into one of the cookies, Shelby let out an unexpected groan of pleasure.  Blushing, she said, “I’m sorry, Myrtle, but these are the best cookies I’ve ever had.”

“I would be modest but the truth is that I love them too.  The base recipe came from my mother and I tweaked it with some changes of my own.  I think the secret is using a portion of brown sugar instead of all white sugar.”  Myrtle smiled over at her guest.  “Shelby, I am so glad you came by but we both know you didn’t come her for tea and cookies.  Is there something on your mind?”

With a laugh, Shelby set down her glass of tea.  “I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to get to know each other Myrtle.  One of the things I am starting to learn is that you don’t pull any punches.  I like that.”  Myrtle saw the spark in Shelby’s eyes and knew that, in many ways, she was starting to come back to life.  When Shelby continued talking, Myrtle had to pull her thoughts back to the conversation.  “The truth is that I’m probably just being nosy.  After we talked a few weeks ago, I haven’t been able to get Pop’s murder off my mind.  I know you and Vera have been quietly looking into it and I wanted to see if you had any ideas of what happened.”  Shelby stopped talking and Myrtle was surprised to see that she was blushing again.

“Was there more you wanted to say, Vera?  It looks like you are holding back.”

“I guess I’m a bit embarrassed.”  Taking a deep breath she looked at Myrtle and said, “I wanted to see if I could help y’all investigate.  I’m a big mystery fan and always figure out the killer ahead of time when I’m reading.  Plus I’ve watched all the Poirot mysteries on Netflix and I think I could match him – little gray cell by little gray cell.”

It took a few seconds for Myrtle to respond because she was so surprised.  “You love Poirot?  Me too.  Have you read the Louise Penny series set in Canada?”

“Oh yes, I love Armand Gamache.  If only there were more men like him in the real world.”

“They are out there, Shelby.  You just have to find the right one for you.”  Myrtle thought about Shelby’s words and decided to take a chance.  “Back to your question.  Vera and I are having dinner here tonight and I’m sure we will talk about Pop.  Why don’t you come back around 6 and we will see what happens?”  Looking down at herself, she chuckled.  “As you can see, I need a few hours to get myself together.  Between the house cleaning and dancing, I could use a shower.”

“That would be wonderful, Myrtle.  I’ll bring desert.”

“Perfect.”  Shelby was getting up to leave and Myrtle started to stand.

“Myrtle, if we’re going to be friends, you have to treat me like one.  That means you don’t have to walk me out.  You stay here and enjoy a little quiet time.  I can find my way back to the front door and I will see you tonight.”

“Well, alrighty then.”  Myrtle saluted Shelby and laughed while saying, “See you tonight.”

Myrtle decided to take Shelby’s advice and she spent the next hour on the deck enjoying the sunshine, birds chirping and more cookies than she would later admit.  She saw Miss Willie mowing her backyard and the smell of fresh cut grass was still strong in the air when she went back inside.  Before her shower, she remembered to call Vera to let her know that Shelby would be joining them for dinner.  As expected Vera was more than happy to have their new friend there.

For years, Myrtle was a bath person.  She wanted to soak all her cares away for as long as the water was warm and until her fingers and toes were wrinkled as prunes.  While she still enjoyed a soak sometimes, she had come to appreciate a steamy shower.  Spending more time than should be legal, Myrtle finally stepped out of the shower.  Wrapping a towel around herself and looking in the mirror, she was happy with what she saw – a woman aging but okay with it.

She used a light hand on her makeup and was able to get herself ready before 5:00.  While preparing dinner, she turned on channel 9 news as background noise.  She rarely paid close attention as the news was too depressing most of the time.  But, she enjoyed looking at the handsome anchor every few minutes.  She might be old but she wasn’t dead, after all.

One of the things that Myrtle enjoyed most, when she had time, was cooking.  For tonight’s dinner with friends, she decided to keep it simple.  And, after all the cookies she had eaten earlier, it wouldn’t hurt to make some healthier choices.  First, she pounded the chicken into cutlets and made a crust of panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and parsley.  Next, she boiled a box of bowtie pasta.  While it was cooling, she cut up veggies – cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes and corn fresh off the cob.  She finished off the pasta salad with a simple dressing of oil, red wine vinegar, chopped cilantro, salt and pepper.  To complete the dinner, she roasted a head of broccoli and of cauliflower.

The pasta salad was cooling in the fridge and the chicken and veggies were in the oven just as Vera came through the front door.  “Myrt, where are you?  I brought some garlic bread and it’s still hot.  Where can I put it?”

“I’m in the kitchen.  Bring it in here and I’ll set it on top of the oven while the other things are cooking.”  Putting the wrapped garlic bread in place, Myrtle turned around to hug her friend.  “Girl, it’s been a week since I’ve seen you.”

“I know.  Crazy week.  Work was a bear.  I’m just glad we are together now to catch up.”

“Are you sure you don’t mind Shelby coming, Vera?  I think she’s a little lonely and, as she admitted, a little curious about what we’ve found out.”

“You know I don’t mind.  I like her.  But she may not like us after this dinner.  She is going to be so disappointed with what we have so far.”  Vera ruefully said.

“That could be true but at least maybe we can have some fun before she discovers our secret.”

The doorbell rang then and Vera went to let Shelby in.  As they both walked back into the den, they were already gabbing about their weeks.  Myrtle was glad to see them getting along so well.  After a few minutes, Myrtle led them both into the kitchen where the table was already set for three.  She pulled the chicken and veggies out of the oven and the pasta salad out of the fridge.  Setting everything on the counter, she said, “We are all friends here so it’s buffet style.  Grab your plates and let’s eat!”

Everyone filled their plates high and after a short blessing, they were all so engrossed with eating that they only had time for a few words here and there.  They finally all finished and pushed away from the table.

“Myrt, you know I’m not much for anything healthy but that was a darn good dinner.  You did it again.”

“Vera’s right, Myrtle.  That was so good.  I’ve eaten so much that I may never be hungry again.”

Myrtle was pretty happy herself and smiled at them both.  “Thank you, ladies.  I will accept your compliments.  It was good, right?  Now, Vera, I know that you are already eyeing that angel food cake and the strawberries that Shelby brought but why don’t we let our dinner settle and we’ll eat desert after a while?”

Everyone agreed so they moved back into the den.  Myrtle took her place in the recliner she had used for many years.  Vera sat in the arm chair next to the television.  That left the other recliner for Shelby.  Unknowing, she sat down and then looked at Vera’s face.

“What’s wrong, Vera?”  Shelby asked.

Myrtle stepped in quickly.  “Vera is just being overprotective.  That was Bradford’s chair.  No, no, Shelby, don’t you get up.  He would want us to use it.  Stay there.  Life goes on and I’m not going to keep that chair as some kind of unused shrine.  It’s comfortable isn’t it?”  Shelby nodded but still seemed a little uneasy so Myrtle decided to change the subject.

“Okay.  Let’s talk murder.”  Myrtle waggled her eyebrows and looked at the two ladies.  When they snickered, she continued.  “Now, Shelby, we are convinced you are going to be very disappointed when you find out how little we know.  But, here goes…”

Myrtle, with a little help from Vera, recapped everything they had learned so far with one exception.  They had agreed that they should keep the fact that Pop might have another child to themselves.  It wasn’t their secret to share.  But, they talked about both Rhonda and Laura.  All three agreed that, regardless of their flaws, they just couldn’t see either one of them killing Pop.  Once they went through everything that had been reported in the newspapers, they all looked chagrined at the lack of real leads.  Yes, the police had arrested the meth head but there were rumors that the evidence was looking more and more flimsy.  Most people expected him to be released any day.

They sat in silence for a while and Myrtle was surprised when Shelby was the first to speak again.  “Can I ask you both a question?”

“Of course you can, girl.” Vera said.

“You both have been thinking as outsiders.  That’s probably a good idea so that you can come up with things the police might miss.  But, you didn’t mention even talking to the police chief or anyone official.  I know you had some informal chats with Officer Murray, Vera, but I’m not sure those count.  If I were investigating I would at least try to see what I could find out from the chief.”

Myrtle and Vera looked at each other and laughed.  “Myrt, I thought about talking to him early on but we got to focusing on ‘the wives’ and I completely forgot about it.”

“Me too, Vera.  It was kind of always in the back of my mind but…”

“Shelby, you need to attend our planning sessions more often.  You can keep us on track.”  Vera stood up then.  “So, Myrt, do you want to flip a coin to see who gets to go speak with the illustrious Chief White?”

Shelby slowly raised her hand like she was in a class.  “What if I went and talked to him instead?”

“You want to go see the Chief?”  Myrtle was unable to hide her surprise.

“Truth is that I’ve known him for a while and I’m pretty sure he is sweet on me.  You know, I used to have ‘it’.  Maybe…”

“You are going to use your feminine wiles to get information.  Now, I know we are going to be good friends.”  Vera cackled as Myrtle tried to shush her.

“Don’t pick on her.  If you are willing to try, Shelby, it’s not a bad idea.  But, I will give you one piece of advice.  Unless you reciprocate his feelings, don’t take it too far.  You might end up with a problem.  And I really don’t want to see him hurt.”

“Oh, I won’t, Myrtle.  Truth is that I kind of think I might like him too.”  Blushing for the third time that day, Shelby looked down and said, “This is so exciting.”

“Lord help us, we are becoming Charlie’s Angels.”  Vera said.  “Let’s go eat some of that cake, Sabrina and Kelly.  Don’t you roll your eyes, Myrtle Mills.  You know I am Jill with this fabulous head of Farrah Fawcett hair I was born with.  Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”

“You are mixing up your cliches, Vera.  Come on, Shelby, let’s get her some cake to get her to shut up.”


*Recipe: Myrtle’s Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter

1 cup white granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2 1/2 cups quick oats

In medium saucepan, bring butter, sugars, cocoa and milk to a slow boil over medium heat while stirring constantly.  Allow to boil for one minute – keep stirring the entire time to make sure it doesn’t stick on bottom or sides.

Take pot off heat and mix in one cup of oats.  Then add peanut butter and vanilla.  Once mixed, add another cup of oats.  As needed you can add up to 1/2 cup more of oats depending on consistency.  (Humidity and other factors will affect the final result and it’s best to make these in a cool room.)

Drop cookies by spoonful onto wax paper.  Once they cool completely and set up, place them in a cookie tin with layers separated by wax paper.

Mini-Review: The Killing Moon (Dreamblood #1) by NK Jemisin


I am woman enough to admit that I might not be smart enough to adequately review NK Jemisin’s work.  She is a genius.  I have adored everything I’ve read so far from her.

The Killing Moon is the first in the Dreamblood duology.  The world building and magical system are exceptional.  Gatherers are a revered, and very limited, portion of the Gujaareh people’s religion.  They worship Hananja and at her service they harvest Dreamblood from those who have requested it (think a very peaceful assisted suicide) or those deemed corrupt and judged to death.  The Dreamblood is then used to treat illness – both mental and physical.

The main character, Ehiru, is a powerful Gatherer who is a devout believer.  When things begin to happen that challenge his beliefs, he is forced to examine the corruption among his own kind.

Powerful on so many levels, The Killing Moon is a 5-star read.

Review: An Obvious Fact (Walt Longmire #12) by Craig Johnson


The Walt Longmire series is one of my favorites. The writing and storylines are engaging; plus I share this series with my Daddy so it holds a special place in my heart.

This installment was another great addition and had all the elements I’ve come to love. However, there were a few jarring continuity issues that I still can’t believe made it through editing. The biggest and most surprising is the age of the crime victim. When Walt begins his investigation, the victim’s mother states that he is 28. Walt then says that he is 32 about one-hundred pages later. His age is important and this discrepancy is never explained so I have to assume it’s an error. There is another scene where Vic asks about a vehicle that plays a role. Walt explains it to her and then just a few short paragraphs later she asks a question that seems that the prior conversation didn’t take place. It was…strange.

Overall, though, I still very much enjoyed the story so I’m giving it 4/5 stars. My hope is that Craig Johnson hasn’t reached the point where he feels he can eschew a strong editor. They should be there as the last line of defense to help a writer catch things like this.

Myrtle Mysteries: BBQ, Sweet Tea and Murder – Chapter 13

The next day, after church, Myrtle decided to have a simple lunch at home.  One of her favorite comfort meals was a tomato sandwich.  White bread, thick sliced tomatoes covered in salt and pepper and a thin layer of mayonnaise.  Add some salt and vinegar chips on the side and you couldn’t ask for much more.  After finishing her lunch and a large glass of ice cold sweet tea, Myrtle sat on her back deck to relax.  Her mind was still full of Laura from the day before and she knew that the only way to try to get past it was to write.  As she went inside to grab her journal from the nightstand, she passed her wedding photo.  Seeing Bradford’s smiling face reminded her that the remembered pain from her teenage years was ancient history.  Smiling herself, she grabbed the journal and headed back to the deck for sunshine and catharsis.


By our senior year of high school, Pop and I had been dating exclusively for two years.  For the most part everything was great between us but we did have our problems.  Pop became more and more popular – being a member of the football and basketball teams.  His good looks didn’t hurt matters.  I wasn’t cut out for the in-crowd, though, and preferred to spend my time with my small group of friends.  My focus was on school and my part time job at IGA.  There were times that I turned down Pop’s invitations to go to parties or hang out after games with the players and their girlfriends.  Most of the time this turned into an argument.  The worst was a night I will never forget in April 1970 – only one month from graduation.  I still remember it like it was yesterday.

“Myrtle, everyone is going to Lake Robinson tomorrow night to hang out.  I want us to go.”   

“Pop, you know how I feel about that.  I’m fine to go to a party around here sometimes but I don’t think it’s a good idea to go there.  Your friends like to party.  They drink and smoke pot.”  Myrtle could see Pop getting ready to defend them.  “Don’t, Pop.  I don’t care what they do and you know it.  But, the truth is, that isn’t who I am and it pisses me off that you are trying to make me into something I’m not.”

“What?  All I said was that I wanted to go to a party and now you are accusing me of trying to change you.  That’s insane.  You just think you are too good for them.  That’s why they call you a miss goody two shoes.”  As soon as the words left Pop’s mouth he knew he made a mistake.  

“Do you think I give a rat’s rear end that your dumb-butt friends don’t like me?  Let me enlighten you.  No, I don’t.  Take me home.  Now.”


Both of us were silent on the ride to my house.  I got out of the car and slammed the door behind me.  My father just raised his eyebrows when I came inside but he didn’t say a word.  I went into my room and punched the pillow a few times.  Then I cried for about an hour.  All the time, I kept waiting for a knock on my window.  Pop had always come back to apologize when we argued but this night he didn’t.  

The next day I didn’t hear from him at all.  I moped around the house and avoided Vera’s phone calls.  She had her standing Saturday night date with Jake and I wasn’t in the mood to talk anyway.  It was a long night.  I tossed and turned and slept a grand total of ten minutes.  Around 3 am, I decided that I needed to go and talk to Pop first thing in the morning.  

I told Mama and Daddy that I was sick the next morning so that I could skip church.  At 9:30, I drove over to Pop’s house in my Mama’s car.  I was so nervous when I knocked on the door but after several minutes I realized that noone was going to answer.  Pop had stopped going to church about a year before so I thought he must have been still sleeping.  I was writing a note to leave on the door when I heard a car pull up.  As I turned, I realized it was Pop just coming home from his night of partying at the lake.  But what was most surprising was that Laura Mungo was exiting the passenger door.  When he saw me, Pop stopped dead in his tracks.  The look on his face, along with the slow smile spreading across Laura’s, told me everything I needed to know.  When I turned him down, he took Laura, who had been after him for years.  

I watched Laura walk to her house next door and I slowly approached Pop.  

“What did you do, Pop?”

“Myrtle, listen…”

“Pop, answer me.  What did you do?”

He scraped his hands across his face and looked at me with the blue eyes I had loved since I first laid eyes on him.  “When you wouldn’t go with me, I was so angry.  Laura was in her yard when I was leaving last night and she said it was a shame for me to make the drive alone.  I don’t know why but I asked if she wanted to go with me.”

“Is that all?  Did you just drive her there and home?”

“Myrtle, we all had a lot to drink.  It was a crazy night.”

“Tell me the truth, Pop.  Now.”

“I didn’t plan it, Myrtle.  Laura started kissing me and one thing led to another.”  He started crying then and I knew the truth was going to be bad.  “Myrtle, I love you.”

“If you really loved me you wouldn’t think about touching another girl.  Did you sleep with her?”  I couldn’t believe how calm I sounded when my heart was pounding and I was sure I was seconds from passing out.  

“I did.  I don’t know why but I did.  As soon as it happened, I knew it was a mistake.  It meant nothing to me.  Nothing.  You are my world.”

Feeling numb, I let out all of my frustration.  “You don’t treat ‘your world’ that way, Pop.  I knew you were partying with your friends but I thought you were better than this.  If someone had told me that you, of all people, would break my heart, I would have punched them in the face.  Instead you’ve made the last two years a lie.  We’re over, Pop.  I don’t want to see you ever again.”

I slowly walked to my car and looked over at Pop one last time.  He looked dejected and alone but, for the first time, I felt nothing when I looked at him.  I’m not sure how I made it home but somehow I got there and into my room before anyone else could see me.  Knowing I needed my best friend, I called Vera.  We spent the next several hours cursing Pop and all men in general. For weeks, Pop begged for forgiveness and I ignored all of his attempts.  He finally stopped coming around and I eventually started seeing him and Laura around town together.  

 From that moment on, Vera hated Pop.  I eventually forgave him but knew that I could not forget.  Our friendship was over along with any chance for a future.  

Review: The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson


Well crap.

In September, I decided to make it a #girlsrule month and only read female authors.  It was a great reading month for me with a lot of winners and many 5-stars given.  My plan was to read this one early last week and then finish off the month with an NK Jemisin (I started with her Hugo winner early in the month.)  Unfortunately I got sick and didn’t read as much as I hoped.  So, this was the final book of the month and, whomp whomp, it was my least favorite of the batch.  This really stinks because Amber Benson seems like a very cool person and I was hoping to love her writing.  I’ll try to keep it brief but I had several issues with The Witches of Echo Park.

First, it’s an urban fantasy.  I read tons of UF and most have a similar feel to the writing styles.  Of course, each writer has their own voice but it should fit the genre.  TWOEP had the feel of a cozy mystery which completely threw me off.  It was way too cliche and the characters and their relationships were not fleshed out properly.  We expect that with a cozy but not an UF.

Speaking of the characters, my second issue was that Lyse is either a train wreck, Mary Sue or idiot.  I honestly can’t decide which.  It was so hard to care for or about her.  She was all over the place and her reactions didn’t make sense.

One of those ‘reactions’ is my third issue – the “love” story.  What the holy heck?  She meets a guy outside a coffee house, he invites her in and she decides not to go.  A few days later, he finds her in the middle of the night after she’s fallen on the sidewalk and cut herself.  She is speaking incoherently due to blood loss and then in the next paragraph, they are making out (HEAVILY) and she goes home with him so he can “bandage her leg”.  She and her aunt are all of a sudden talking about this being a real relationship with real feelings.  HUH?

Lastly, this doesn’t feel like a fully plotted story.  It’s more like the prequel for the real book which is to come.  Almost nothing happens plot wise.

Sorry to say not very good.  2/5 stars for an interesting idea that wasn’t executed very well.