LUCY BURDETTE: What we are writing week seems to come around very fast, especially if we're not writing something we can share! I have completed the copy edits for KILLER TAKEOUT, and now await the page proofs. This is always a fun stage, because seeing those pages makes the book feel so real.
I'm also noodling around with an idea for an eighth Key West book, should the publisher clamor for that. It's too early to say much about it other than it would take full advantage of the changing climate with Cuba. (Remember, Key West is only 90 miles from Havana.) (And if you are anxious for another installment, the best way to make that happen is to preorder KT.) And I have been working on the proposal for what might be called a novel of suspense. So plenty of balls are being juggled!
I thought I'd share a scene from KILLER TAKEOUT that takes place on the dock where Hayley and Miss Gloria live in their houseboat. I have a lot of fun jamming local people and places into my books, including the names of pets. Schnootie the schnauzer came from an SPCA auction, and now her brother, Dinkels, an elderly black cat, will be making an appearance. Another friend was very disappointed that her cat didn't make the cut, so Jack has been layered in too. You might remember that both Hayley and Miss Gloria have cats, so of course they are in this scene as well. (Don't even think about all those litter boxes on the high seas!)
As I puttered up to the parking lot in front of Tarpon Pier, feeling the breath of relief and gratitude that always greets me when I realize I’m at home, I heard a huge ruckus on the dock. The racket radiated from Schnootie the schnauzer, whose barking echoed hysterically from the Renharts’ houseboat. As I strode up the finger, I spotted Miss Gloria on the Renharts’ deck. This never happens because Mr. Renhart abhors socializing. Over the incessant yapping of the schnauzer came the shrieking and growling of what sounded like hyenas. A lot of them.
I was pretty sure I recognized Evinrude’s angry cat voice among the yowls.
I broke into a trot, arriving just as Miss Gloria dove into a cartoon maelstrom of spinning legs and feet and fur and emerged with my tiger cat.
And that break in the action gave enough space for Miss Gloria’s black cat Sparky to rush back into the fray. So much was happening that I wasn’t certain who was fighting—or how many of them. But when Schnootie lunged into the whirling fur, I saw my chance and snatched Sparky out. Her chest heaving, Mrs. Renhart wrestled down two other long-haired cats, one pure black and one furry gray with a white face and neck and striking green eyes.
“Oh my gosh,” she said, her voice squeaky with exertion. “What a way to meet the new neighbors. And I so hoped my new kitties could be friends with yours.” She looked utterly bedraggled and forlorn, the two big cats clutched under her arms.
“These belong to you? Let us put our guys away,” I said, gritting my teeth as I smiled. “Then we can have a proper introduction.”
Miss Gloria and I carried our squirming, growling felines back to the dock and locked them in our houseboat. “What in the world was she thinking?” I muttered.
“I think she’s mostly lonely,” said Miss Gloria. “She sees how our animals get along so nicely and she wanted to copy us.” She shrugged and grinned, the skin around her eyes crinkling with laughter. “Take it as a compliment.”
“You’re right as usual,” I said, and gave her a quick hug. Another way I felt lucky in my life—this amazing and unlikely roommate. When I first met her, I sized her up as a frail but quirky old lady, a relic living out her last shaky legs on Houseboat Row. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
We started back to the Renharts’ houseboat, where our neighbor had—thank goodness—put Schnootie away in their cabin. Her new cats had retreated under the deck chairs. And Mrs. R was laying out a gallon jug of inexpensive white wine and a plate of Oreo cookies.
“I’m so sorry about all that; I just wasn’t thinking.” She poured the wine into three plastic glasses and passed them to us. In the background, Schnootie yelped and slammed her weight repeatedly against the screen door—a one-dog percussion section.
“It was our cats’ fault as much as anything,” said Miss Gloria, and thunked her glass against each of ours in a plastic toast. “They love a good fracas. Now tell us the story of these new kitties. Are you fostering?” She wiggled her fingers at the black cat who approached her cautiously and sniffed.
I scratched the big gray cat behind his ears. He closed his eyes for a moment as if to enjoy the rub, then darted under Mrs. Renhart’s chair. I took a sip of my wine and a bite of the cookie, neither of which fit into my calories-for-today plan. But our neighbor had never invited us over before, and she seemed desperate to keep us there for a bit. “Red velvet Oreo? Delicious,” I said, as I knelt down on the deck and ran my hand over the big black cat’s back. “Who is this beauty?”
“That’s Dinkels,” said Mrs. Renhart, breaking into a huge smile. “He’s almost fifteen. Can you imagine sending a fifteen-year-old cat to the animal shelter? The workers said he seems to think he’s a dog.”
“He’s got gorgeous eyes,” I said. “And a powerful presence.”
“And beautiful fur,” said Miss Gloria dutifully. “And who is this other handsome fella?” She leaned down to peer at the gray cat.
“That’s Jack,” said Mrs. R. “They think he’s even older than Dinkels, but he’s sweet and dignified.” Her eyes teared up and she ran her fingers through one cat’s fur and then the other’s.
“I don’t know what came over me. I was sitting here yesterday thinking about how happy I was to have Schnootie in my life, and how I should give back what she’s given me by adopting more animals. And the next thing I know, I’m running a home for elderly felines.” She hooted with laughter and took a slug of wine. “Mr. Renhart, as you can imagine, is not amused.”
We laughed along with her, probably howling a little louder than was polite.
Meanwhile, if you are still short on stocking stuffers, you might enjoy browsing my Pinterest board with tons of suggestions about mysteries that would slide nicely into a stocking! If you like Christmas-themed cozies, don't forget DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS.
In fact, I think we should give away a signed copy of DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS to go in someone's stocking. Leave a comment with your email to be entered.
And how could I resist sharing this photo from last weekend's Key West Christmas parade?
|Lucy with Officer Joe|