Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ain't No Hobby

Summertime often gives us the chance to get together with friends and family for picnics, graduation parties or celebrations in one form or another. If you’re hosting it, there’s a lot of work involved, getting the place ready, cooking the food and the inevitable cleanup afterwards. Been there, done that, more times than I care to remember. But along with everything else, there are usually some interesting conversations that take place. Like this one.

Someone approached me and asked, “So, how’s your hobby doing?”

“What hobby?” I asked.

“You know, the writing hobby.”

My first reaction was snap back with a witty retort that one of my characters would be proud of.  I can think of many things that could be considered hobbies. Collecting ceramic kittens or spoons from each state would qualify. Gardening can be a hobby. Having a woodworking shop where you can make things and sell at an art bazaar would be another. But writing? Seriously, I wanted to grab a nearby copy of Webster’s Dictionary and slap them with it. But I didn’t. I bit my lip, took a healthy sip of wine and gave them my answer.

“My writing is not a hobby. Writing is a passion. To be able to create characters, put them in challenging situations and tell a story that will entertain, enlighten or maybe even educate the reader takes a lot of hard work. When you can draw a reader in so they experience the chill of winter when your story is taking place, and they’re basking in the heat of a Georgia summer, that’s a sign of talent. It’s usually done alone. Writers can slave over one scene for hours, tweaking it here or there to get it just right. It takes patience, perseverance and creativity. For me, it’s not a hobby. It’s part of life.”

This same topic came up with my writer’s group this week. When I asked for their reactions, almost everyone at the table felt the same way. It’s a passion.  So no matter what the genre, most writers recognize it’s for what it is. Or as one of the group said ' It ain't no hobby!"
To illustrate my point, here’s a scene from the sequel for “Why 319?” that I’m working on.  The story is once again told from Sergeant Jefferson Chene’s point of view.  Enjoy.

It was six o’clock Thursday evening. Cantrell had been updated. He’d kicked us loose. We all needed to step away from the case for a few hours. I dug out my phone and made the call.
“Hello, stranger.”
“Hi. I know this is short notice, but are you free for dinner?”
Simone laughed lightly. “That’s not short notice. That’s no notice.”
“It happens. So is that yes or no?”
“When and where?”
“Now. I’m on the west side but can be in Royal Oak is fifteen minutes.”
“Fifteen minutes!”
“I’m stopping at Little Tree. It’s been a while since I’ve had sushi.”
She made a derogatory noise. “I’ll meet you there.” She clicked off without another word.

I didn’t know if she was angry or not. But it wasn’t long before I’d find out. I swung off the I-696 freeway at Woodward Avenue and worked my way over to Main Street.  I lucked into a parking spot in the lot behind the restaurant. The place was three quarters full as I was guided to a small table near the windows. I sat with my back to the wall and was glancing at the menu when Simone came in. Getting to my feet, I tried to get a read on her. She pushed her sunglasses up into her hair and gave her head a gentle shake as she got close. Simone leaned in and gave me a brief kiss. She felt tense.

“You okay?”
“Fine.” She rolled her eyes.
I said nothing. She struggled to maintain a stern expression.

“You really don’t get it, do you?” Simone propped her left elbow on the table and cupped her chin in the palm of her hand. The waitress appeared. I ordered a glass of wine for each of us.
“What don’t I get?” I asked when we were alone.

“You call a woman about dinner, but you give her no time to get ready. You invite her to the same restaurant that was where you had your first date. And you don’t even think it’s a big deal.”
“You don’t need time to get ready. You’re beautiful.”
She waved away the compliment with her free hand. “Is that so?”

“Yes, it is so. And if you needed more time to get ready, you could have told me. It’s just that this place was close by for both of us and I’m hungry. It’s been a long time since breakfast.”
“Really. So it was just convenient?”
I nodded. “I haven’t seen you since Sunday night. It’s tough when we’re in the middle of a complicated case. I just thought it would be nice to have dinner.”

“So you’re saying you missed me?”
This was unfamiliar territory for me. But I sensed there was only one right answer. “Yes. I miss you.”
She relaxed a bit and rolled her eyes again. “That’s nice to hear. But would it have killed you to call me earlier?”

The waitress returned with our wine. Simone took a quick glance at the menu, then closed it and looked at me. I ordered sushi dinners for both of us.
“That’s what we had last time,” she said quietly.

“I remember. And for the record, I didn’t think that was a date.”
She shook her head and gave a little laugh. “You bought me a nice dinner and a glass of wine. We sat over on the other side of the room. We talked for a while. I learned about your background, you learned about mine. That was a date.”
“Okay. It was a date.”
“Our first date. You being a detective and all, I thought you’d remember.”

I took a sip of wine. “I do remember. It was mid-March. I remember the conversation, the wine and the meal. You were wearing a yellow blouse with a gray wool skirt and a gray leather jacket. And it was my first chance to check out your legs.”
She smiled. “So observant. But you gave me more than fifteen minutes to get ready that night.”
“You could have said no tonight.”

“Chene, for such a smart guy, you can be kind of dumb when it comes to women and dating.”
“So I’ve been told. What exactly did I do wrong?”
She laughed and shook her head again.  After another sip of wine, she put her chin back in her palm and stared at me for a moment. Her eyes were sparkling now. Apparently whatever gaffe I’d made I was about to be forgiven for.

“What am I wearing? Don’t peek, Mr. Detective, just tell me what I’m wearing.”
I looked her right in the eye. “Black high heels with open toes. Navy blue slacks, tailored to fit your shape. A white linen blouse with very fine blue and red stripes. One thin gold necklace and a pair of gold earrings that dangle. Another pair of diamond stud earrings. No watch, no rings, no bracelets.”

“Impressive. So what do you think?”
“I think I’m still confused as to why you’re upset.”
I was saved from further humiliation by the arrival of dinner. Simone graciously changed the subject. 

We talked about her work and the Morrissey case. I told her about the recent interviews and the goldmine of photos and notes I’d gotten earlier this week from Jamie Richmond, Malone’s girlfriend.  We worked our way through dinner and another glass of wine and kept the conversation light. It was only as we walked out that I had a chance. Recently, when we walked together, I’d taken to sliding an arm around her waist. That’s how we were as we stopped beside her car.
“Have you figured it out yet, Jeff?”
“Not a clue.”

She stepped away from me and put her hands on her hips. “When was the last time I work slacks when we went out?”
I thought about that for a moment. “I can’t recall you ever wearing slacks before.”
“Exactly. Do you know why I’m wearing slacks?”
“Not a clue,” I said again.

She huffed out a breath in frustration. “Because I haven’t shaved my legs in a few days and wasn’t expecting to see you tonight.”
“So if I’d given you more than fifteen minutes notice…”
“…I would have shaved my legs and worn a skirt.”

Simone was struggling to keep a disgusted look on her face. It wasn’t working. I reached over and took her hands and pulled her close.
“Next time, I’ll give you more notice.”

She hugged me tightly. “You’re still kind of dumb about women, Chene.”
“I know. But there is one thing you should keep in mind.”
Simone leaned back so she could look at me. “What’s that?”
“I would pay money to shave those legs.”

She burst out laughing. Pushing me away, she got in her car and started it up. I watched her pull out of the parking space and start to drive away. Then she stopped, backed up alongside me and lowered the window. Her eyes were dancing as she took a moment to look at me.
“One question,” she said.
“What’s that?”
“How much?”


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