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Friday, July 12, 2013

Blue State

Welcome to a special, long installment of November Surprises blog. Read on for part one of Blue State - then download the rest either on Amazon or Smashwords for only 99 cents!

1. Wealth and Well-Being

It was late, I was tired, and I should have been asleep. Instead I kept flipping through the pages of my Title Nine catalog before I ran them through the shredder.

I don’t kayak through rapid waters, surf high waves, or climb treacherous rocky cliffs.  I feel good about myself if I manage to get in a run on a workday or if Monty and I take the kids hiking on a weekend. So I guess the Title Nine “real women” models are all just over-achievers, as they’re pictured pursuing their out-door adventures with trendy clothes and gazelle-like legs that go higher than my torso. On one page, a way-too-smiley model named Meryl was spelunking. The sidebar information about her said she’s a mother of four and an animal masseuse. Her goal was to visit everywhere on earth where there are underground caves.

Women like Meryl exist. She’s every other woman in my neighborhood.

I started getting their catalog because the chic, outdoorsy clothes Title Nine offers are the type that all the chic, outdoorsy women in Seattle wear. But looking through this catalog was as disheartening as a trip to the neighborhood playground, where mothers push their jogging strollers, walk their rescue dogs and pontificate about how old their kids should be before they go to Belize for the first time.

I sighed. Traveling is another thing I don’t do much of, but my husband can’t say the same. A few weeks ago, over dinner and without ceremony he said, “They’re sending me to Botswana for a month. I have to go if I want to keep my job.”

I didn’t disagree; I just tried to digest this piece of information as I swallowed down my peas with cream sauce. We’d been fighting about his traveling for months and I always lost the argument. So I pushed the issue to the back of my mind, choosing instead to focus on the here and now, like work deadlines, daily tedium, and the task of raising a family.

That only worked for a while. Then, the night before he left, the truth came crashing in and I didn’t deal with it well. While he packed his bags, I cleaned. I had a sudden, urgent desire to dust the bookshelves and the coffee table, to wash the towels, and to rid the microwave of grease and grime. I guess I thought if my house was in order that my life would be too.

 At around 11:00 Monty came downstairs and found me in the office, sorting through all the old mail, including the Title Nine catalog. I had gotten the paper shredder out and was feeding it credit card applications and useless insurance information.

“Hey,” he said. “Are you coming to bed?”

His t-shirt and shorts hung loosely on his lean, muscular frame, and his dark hair was all mussed up. It was an appealing look but I resisted his charms. “In a few minutes.” Another sheet went tearing through in a noisy grind. “I don’t know why they send us this stuff; it’s such a waste of paper.”

He stepped up behind me and put his arms around my waist, pulling me close and murmuring into my neck. “You have to do that now?”

I pulled away. “Yeah, I kind of do.”

He slumped against the wall. “I’m leaving for a month tomorrow.”

“I know,” I said, looking at an old bank statement instead of him. “And whose fault is that?”

“So you’re going to be passive-aggressive and punish me?”

I sighed in irritation. “No. I’m going to be plain old aggressive and tell you that I’m still mad you’re going. You promised me last fall that you were done with this kind of trip.”

“We’ve been over this a million times.” He tapped his fingers against the wall, rapidly and with power. “You know I have to go. It’s my job to take trips like this. I don’t have a choice.”

This was his usual argument. For as liberal as Monty claimed to be, he still had this archaic idea that his role as “father” was to ensure the well-being of his family, and well-being means wealth. I understood but I didn’t agree.

I dropped the bank statement on the desk and pushed the whole stack of papers away. Then I faced him. “You have a choice and you choose to stay with this job where you have to travel 30% of the time, where you’re often unreachable and you’re putting your health at risk. And it doesn’t matter how much I tell you not to go, you’re always going to go anyway, aren’t you?”

His chin dropped and he rubbed his eyes before answering. “Yeah, I guess I am.”

I folded my arms across my chest and looked away.

“What do you want me to say?” he demanded. “I asked you to consider moving to New York so I could do something else and you said no. I don’t know where that leaves us.”

“Nowhere good,” I replied.

He shook his head and his green eyes darkened. “I don’t understand why we’re arguing about this now, the night before I’m leaving, when this trip has been planned for weeks.”

I shrugged. “I guess tonight it just finally feels real.”

Monty took a deep breath in through his nose and slapped his hand against the wall. “I’m going to bed.”


He walked away and I continued with my paper shredding, thus halting the last argument we’d have in the home we’d bought together.
This month's story is too long to be a blog post! To read the rest, download it at Amazon or Smashwords for only 99 cents!

Click here for Amazon.
Click here for Smashwords.

Love. Family. Growing Older. They’re all part of the state we live in.

Lucy has left her home in Seattle and possibly her marriage too, because her father’s stroke has turned things upside down. When she’s not at her dad’s bedside, she’s at her mother-in-law’s house, caring for her children while avoiding her husband’s calls. Re-examining her professional goals and staving off heartbreak is only part of it; Lucy has to decide where it is that she belongs. But when Monty returns early from his month-long trip to Botswana, she’ll also have to decide which is more important – the life she has made for herself, or the life she left behind.

Blue State is a short(ish) story written for fans of November Surprises blog (, November Surprise the novel, and the novella Campaign Promises.  As a special bonus the first two chapters of The Hold Out are previewed in the back, which continues the saga of the Bricker family, this time with Jack and Monty’s younger cousin, Robin.