Author, Gourmet Chef, and Ping Pong Champ!

Gambling for Good Mail

Gambling_For_Good_220x_maxAbout the Book:

Take a romp through contemporary Southern California culture self-help groups, weird addictions, drive-in religion, romance novel contest, time-share sales, serial marriages, chiropractic manipulations, and stuffed pets all shadowed by an unusual and tragic love story.

A Connecticut transplant in King Disney’s Court, Felicia Wood gambles for good mail that comes from catalogue orders. She runs from memories and skims the surface of life, cluttering her home with bonus gifts. “Sometimes I think I should think,” Felicia says. “But now is not the time,” and she plunges in. So should you.
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Excerpt:

Felicia Thorpe Felletta Papadakis Haggarty Wood had changed her last name so many times she had to concentrate when she signed it, usually just below her Visa’s expiration date.

This morning she sat in an overstuffed chair with an open Home Solutions catalogue on her lap. She signed Felicia T. Wood on the order form, the T for Thorpe, her first sir name. Her next piece of good mail would be a barbecue apron imprinted with Van Gogh’s sunflowers, a present for Hugo for their fifth anniversary.

She leaned back, listened to the sound of coffee percolating in the kitchen. Stacks of paperback romance novels, magazines, and catalogues tilted precariously on the counter that separated the dining area from her galley kitchen, filled table tops, and spilled onto the pale blue carpet. A gaggle of miniature ceramic geese appeared to waddle among the stacks on the floor. They were her silly children.

Hugo would be coming downstairs soon. Although he grumbled sometimes about the clutter in their little condominium, she knew he thought it was just fine. Cozy. Although several years’ worth of catalogue orders and related bonus gifts did crowd their home, they cheered it, too.

It was an unusually dismal October morning for Southern California. Fog had rolled in off the ocean, curled itself around the nearby junior high school and rolled across the athletic field toward the condominium complex. Unlike Connecticut, where she grew up with fog that simply materialized, here it zoomed in on roller blades.

She heard Hugo’s footsteps overhead. Although the fog would burn off by mid-morning and the day would be warm and sunny, she couldn’t shake a sense of foreboding, rare for her. She’d been a cheerleader in high school, nicknamed “The Sunshine Kid”.

But Hugo hadn’t been himself lately. Probably worrying about some real estate deal that wouldn’t gel.

“Jay-sus Christ,” she heard him yell.

“You okay, Honey?” she called, forcing a smile into her voice to soothe his irritation. She stood; the catalogue fell onto the floor. “What would you like for breakfast, Dear?”  She heard an anxious tone in her voice.

Hugo thudded down the stairs, barely missing a stack of paperback books on the bottom step. A red tinge spread from his neck up his face and over the top of his head to his hairline. “I squashed a Goddamn frog or something.”

Watching the pile tilt, Felicia didn’t hear his words. “What d’you say?” she asked.

“A frog. A fucking frog. A green pottery thing. Right under my foot outside the bedroom. Good thing I had my shoes on. I might’ve cut my foot.”

“Oh, the terra cotta one. Don’t worry, I can get another one.

Hugo stood studied her. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Felicia went over to him. “Sorry about that.”  She gave him a warm kiss on the cheek and repeated, “Breakfast?”

“I have a Chamber breakfast meeting this morning. I told you last night, but you had your nose in a catalogue.”

Oh, oh. Here it comes. Felicia backed into the kitchen and poured his coffee. Reaching for the sugar, she knocked a pair of black plastic salad tongs, price tags still attached, off the counter. They landed claws down, on a neck pillow on the floor. It looked like the tongs were taking a bite out of the pillow. Felicia started to laugh, then remembered Hugo’s mood.

Hugo brought in the morning newspaper and stood in front of her. “Seriously, Felicia, you need to go back to work. Maybe just part time at first. You shouldn’t let all your medical training go to waste. There’s a slew of nursing jobs out there.”  He handed her the classified section of the newspaper.

“I don’t want to be a nurse, Hugo. I’ve told you. Too depressing.”

“Well, you may have to.”  His voice was so low and serious it startled her. “We’ll discuss it tonight.”  He picked up his cup off the counter. “Thanks,” he gruffed, and moved to sit at the table. With a sweep of his left arm, he pushed her catalogues and paperbacks onto the floor. “I might as well add to the flimflam that’s already there.”  He kicked a stack of novels under the table. “How the hell can you read that romantic drivel day after day?”

Felicia knew better than to respond. Just before her third husband, Brian-the-prick-Haggarty, left her, he sounded just like Hugo this morning. What gets men into such bad moods?  She joined him at the bare table and concentrated on her coffee.

Slowly, the color of his face returned to its usual pallor. He drained his cup. “It’s a shame to let your training go to waste. If you don’t like it, why did you get your RN in the first place?”

“Told you.”  She watched the fog. “Andy Papadakis was a paramedic. He said I’d look cute in a nurse’s uniform.”  She giggled, remembering. “Dumb reason to do all that studying. What’s this breakfast you’re going to this morning?”

“Toby Murdock’s committee. Afterwards I’m closing escrow on the Peninsula property.”  Hugo smiled broadly. A glint of silver from a filling flashed at her.

Felicia clapped her hands, jumped up, and went into her cheer-leading routine, one foot forward, knee bent, fists punching forward as she shouted, “Go, man go!”

Hugo’s smile faded. He failed to see the humor in it. In fact, he failed to see the humor in most everything. “Don’t cheer yet. Deals fall out of escrow all the time.”  He opened the back door. “What are your plans for today?”

“Chiropractor appointment at eleven for my neck. Clean up, cook. You know.”

“Yeah, I know.”  He eyeballed the clutter in the living room. “See you tonight.”

“Wait.”  She rushed to the door and kissed him. At five-foot six, he was barely two inches taller than Felicia. The lips of her previous husbands had been much harder to reach.

He closed the door behind him. Little tendrils of fog had managed to sneak inside. She watched them shrivel and fade, feeling the pervasive uneasiness that sent her back to the catalogue. She began filling out its order form. She made three piles of the bonus coupons to include in the envelope, putting her name and address on each coupon. Next she wrote the order number for a tiny plastic chest of drawers to hold screws and such. Suddenly she remembered that the very same chest had arrived last month. Where was it, in the garage?  The spare bedroom?

She crossed out that line and filled in the next for a pair of silver plated candelabra. Great for the Christmas holidays. Then she found a gadget that would clean shoes just by stepping into it, priced at only nine-ninety-eight. What a bargain. This time she might win one of the grand prizes like that forty-seven-inch TV. Of course, they had a TV that took up too much space already, but they could put the big one in their bedroom if—no. Hugo would never give up his closet. He needed room for all his precious suits. “Gotta make a good impression when you sell real estate,” he said about once a week. “Gotta look as smart as you sound.”

The phone rang, startling her. Telephones scared her. “Some people are afraid of spiders,” she’d said to each husband who questioned her fear. Now, she took three deep breaths and hurried toward the wall phone in the kitchen.