Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Fiction - The Ring Toss Pt. 1

So last Christmas I put one of my short stories up on Amazon. The Santa Drag had first appeared in an anthology for Still Moments Publishing, but when they went out of business, I got the rights back. Publishing it on Amazon was a bit of a whim, and I had a lot of fun with the process. At the time, I'd intended to follow up by publishing the sequel, The Ring Toss.


In the meantime, I ran my story Aloha, Baby here on the blog in eight installments. And as much fun as I had publishing The Santa Drag, running the story on the blog was more satisfying. Given that, I decided that rather than publish The Ring Toss, I'd start by putting it up here. It's a wedding story, so we're at the right time of year, and it picks up about three years after The Santa Drag ended...

A last-minute change lands Mack in a long white dress, but can she commit?


The Play – Something Borrowed, Something Blue: A Bachelorette’s Adventure

Director: Dusty Squires
Assistant to the Director: Donald Loudemilk

Brittney (the bride): Mackenzie Reed
Mara (the maid of honor): Geneva Louise
Kenley (the bride’s sister): Dusty Squires
Caitlyn (the bridesmaid): Cheyenne Miller
Salvatore (the stripper): Julio Lorenze
Pete (the groom): Julio Lorenze
Synopsis: Brittney is gearing up for the biggest day of her life with the help of her friends and her older sister. The girls head out for one last, wild night and things get a little out of hand. Will Brittney pass the test and make it to the church on time?

It wasn’t the little Mexican girl’s fault. She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was stopped at a light on the corner of Union and Court Streets in front of Our Lady of Loretto, the big, old Mexican-Catholic church in my neighborhood. The girl and her whole fam-damily crossed the street in front of me. Teased, sprayed, and dressed in a whirlpool of white lace studded with glitter, she held tight to an older guy with a slicked-back ponytail. He looked to be about my age and I guessed he was her father. Three young girls walked behind her, their bright satin dresses ruffled like a bouquet of bougainvillea, flowers so fragile they wouldn’t survive in a vase. A Quinceañera. The girl was fifteen years old and dressed like a bride. I was over twice her age and never had that chance. Seeing her set off a rolling boil in my belly.

It was my own fault, really. Joe had asked. Twice, not counting when we were twenty-two and he begged me to move to L.A. with him. I turned him down that time. When we ran into each other back in Seattle three years ago, I said yes. To moving, not marriage. He asked me to move to L.A. despite the fact that when he kissed me my lips tasted like spirit gum remover from the Santa Claus beard I’d been wearing. He never complained— gotta love a guy who can overlook something like that.

The light turned green and, after waiting for the last of the little bride-lette’s family to move past my car, I headed up the street. I was on my way to the dress rehearsal for A Bachelorette’s Adventure—an equity-waiver production I’d signed on for to fill time while Joe was out of town.

Mackenzie Reed, ironic bridesmaid. It was perfect casting. Sometimes I asked myself why a girl who had the stones to play Santa in a mall was too chicken to be a bride in real life. Wish I had the answer to that one.

I was headed for the Houstonian Theater which is at the end of Theater Row on Santa Monica Boulevard. It isn’t much more than five miles from my house, though the never-ending rush hour turned the drive into a much longer trip. I’d heard a SIG Alert for the one-o-one, which is L.A. speak for “stay off the freeway, fool.” Traffic was still slow. There must have been some unlisted road work happening on my secret back route, so I had plenty of time to bond with my neighbors as we crawled past billboards, strip malls, and palm trees. Driving with the top down on my ancient convertible Peugeot, the early June sun tried to bake away my negativity. Who needs sunscreen?

Parking took so long that if I were a teakettle, the roiling boil in my stomach would have had me squealing higher than a dog whistle. Driving a cool, old car meant sacrifice and my baby wasn’t much for air conditioning. When I finally climbed out, my crinkled cotton skirt was pasted to the backs of my thighs. I peeled it off and settled it over my hips, leaving my layered tank-top/T-shirt combo untucked. The shirts ended about an inch above where the skirt began and that was fine with me. My plain, old belly button was cute, even without a tattoo or piercing.

Despite the traffic and my cranky attitude, I arrived on time. “Equity-waiver” means few seats and no budget. I was getting paid in good karma and didn’t want to blow it by showing up late. Good karma and the chance to be seen by a casting director who might hire me for something that actually paid money.

The theater has a deco-style clay façade fronting a plain brick box, with a parking lot on one side and an alley in the back. I crossed the parking lot in front of the brown-skinned, Betty-Boop-like mural painted on the theater’s wall. Betty’s eyelashes were longer than my arm and she was shilling for Paramount, advertising some new movie that might yet go straight to video. I’d seen her around town a lot, a freaky mélange of street art and advertising which wasn’t quite as cool as her designers might have hoped.

I was punching in the code to unlock the back door of the theater when Cheyenne came up behind me. She was brand new to L.A., an ex-cheerleader who’d transplanted herself from Chadron, Nebraska. She was also dating Dusty Squires, our play’s director.

“You look a little pickled, Mackie,” she said as I pushed open the door. All the theater people call me Mackie because Joe calls me Mackie. I’d gotten so used to it I forgot to introduce myself to people as Mack.

“Exhaust-fume toxicity.” I held the door for her to come in, and then gave the handle a good tug to get it completely closed.

“Yuck.” She laughed. “See you in the dressing room.”

She headed in the general direction of the director’s office while I went up to the communal dressing room. Cheyenne has the wide, brown eyes and turned-up nose of a kitten. Underneath I could see the bones of the cat she would become after a few more months in Hollyweird had buffed the country off her. She brought out my big-sister instincts. For starters, I wanted to get rid of every pair of little ballerina flats and as many of her prissy, tailored jeans as I could. We’d donate them to the Salvation Army or something and I’d take her shopping for some real clothes. I’m helpful that way.

Backstage, the Houstonian was a warren of small rooms and dim hallways. The white walls had been tarnished by time and use. The hallways were covered with dark-grey carpeting and the rooms had tired, hardwood floors. We had a dressing room staked out and everybody except Dusty shared it. Julio Lorenze, the only man in the cast, didn’t appear ’til the second act so we were usually decent by the time he arrived. Wouldn’t have mattered, though. I’ve been in plays where the costumes were kept in the alley out back.  Semi-public displays of nudity come with the territory.

The dressing room was a windowless rectangle. I knocked once on the door—to be polite—and pushed it open. The door was at one of the short ends of the room and each of the long walls had a mismatched collection of old bookcases and tables pushed up against them. A couple of rolling racks of costumes ran down the center and chairs were set randomly around. The short wall opposite the door was covered with a full-length mirror.

I dropped my bag on the nearest chair and noticed a note pinned to the mirror. Going closer, I saw it was for me.

Mack—come C me—D

I translated it as an invitation to head to the director’s office. I shrugged and did a couple shoulder rolls, trying to expel some of the bubbling tension twisting in my gut, then wasted a little time by checking to make sure my costumes were where I left them. Everything was in the right place so I eyeballed my phone for a text from Joe. Nothing. Bummer.

I gave the shoulders one more twirl. It was time to put on my big-girl panties and go see what Dusty wanted.

Hmm...I wonder what kind of trouble Mack's going to get herself into this time. If you're curious, jump HERE for part 2...


  1. I adore this cover, Liv! Can't wait to read The Ring Toss!

    1. Thanks so much, Deborah! I hope you enjoy the read.

  2. Great start! Looking forward to more!

  3. Maybe Dusty found out that Mack is a former assassin and wants her to come out of retirement to perform one last job ;)

    So far I really like the writing on this one. It moves along and has some nice details.

    1. Well, she did play Santa in a mall, so maybe assassin isn't that much of a stretch...
      Thanks Mike! I hope you enjoy it. ;)