A trip to the guitar hospital

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Pete Townshend of The Who was known for smashing his guitars. My only question is, how could he?

I only looked away for a second.

Then the crash … and the awful atonal groan.

I didn’t want to look, but I had no choice.

There she lay on the concrete floor, small bits of her peppered around the room. My little red Guild guitar, my favorite, because she’s the one I’m comfortable playing.

Yes, I have others, but they’re all too large and not made for a woman. (In case you’re wondering, I’ll just say it. Our breasts get in the way. And since I learned recently that more girls are starting to play guitar than boys, someone should do something about it. But I digress.)

She lay top side down. I knelt and gently turned her over. Cracks and scratches marred her cherry-red face. The top panel had split apart from the rest of the body. I wanted to weep.

Those of you who did not lug a musical instrument back and forth to school, perhaps do not understand my pain. From the first time I picked up a clarinet in fourth grade, I was taught to carefully tend and handle instruments, a message not unlike the one I received concerning the care and feeding of our family pets.

Later, I walked slowly into the store where I’d purchased my guitar, seeking a glimmer of hope. I winced as the man behind the counter unzipped and lifted the case lid. He stared for a moment, then quickly ushered me on my way to the guitar doctor.

When I arrived at Atomic Guitar Works, a bespectacled man surveyed the damage using a mirror attached to a long, bent handle. He reminded me of a dentist analyzing a mouth rife with cavities.

“I didn’t mean to do it,” I said, feeling the need to explain. “I was hanging her on a hook on the wall and just looked way for an instant. The hook was loose.”

He ran a finger over a jagged groove that snaked below the bridge. “Did you bring the broken pieces?”

“I did.” I produced a small plastic bag with two fractured shards of red wood.

“Good! I can fix it.”

I reached into my pocket and handed him a credit card.

He waved the plastic away. “No need.” He smiled. “I have a hostage.”

I cringed again. He knew I’d be back.

The good news is after three weeks in the guitar hospital and a big hit to my wallet, my little red Guild is mended. And if you weren’t aware of her accident you’d have no idea it happened.

Three guitars

But I’ll always know.

I hope someday she will forgive me.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

When you’re nervous, it’s good to have a friend by your side

Book Poster

Though I spent a good portion of my life with a microphone in hand – back when I was a TV sports reporter – there I was at my own book signing last night at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix unable to get the mic to work. Then a friend came to the rescue by simply pushing the on button, and the launch event for my novel A Light in the Desert was underway.

If you guessed that I was nervous, hence my little mic mishap, you’d be right. Despite over 2000 live TV appearances, facing an audience can still be daunting. Would I say the right thing? Would I lose my train of thought? (Hey, I am in my sixties.) Would I offend anyone if I mounted one of my usual soapboxes?

In retrospect, I needn’t have worried, because at my side was former TV anchor and Arizona icon Mary Jo West, my dear friend and consummate professional. Mary Jo moderated the program, and smoothed my way ahead.

Me and MJ Changing Hands 2

My friend Mary Jo West was the perfect moderator at last night’s book launch.

I could not be more grateful.

To those of you to came out last night, thank you so much for joining us. And to the folks at Changing Hands, thank you for allowing us to hold our party at your beautiful venue.

Me and Andy signin booksMe and DewWayne at book signing

What a fabulous evening!

 

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

“Rich and multi-layered, this is a novel not to be missed.”

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My thanks to Katherine, the book blogger who helms Katherine’s Book Universe, for her kind words and 5-star review of my novel A Light in the Desert.

https://katherinesbookuniverse.wordpress.com/2018/11/28/desert/

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

Come to the launch of A Light in the Desert on Friday, November 30th at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix. The program begins at 7:00 PM. https://www.changinghands.com/event/november2018/anne-montgomery-light-desert

Shoes: A Black Friday Miracle

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I’ve never understood people’s fascination with shoes.

I’ve hated shoes all my life, because my feet hurt. One look at the sweet little footprints inked on my birth certificate might explain my disdain for footwear. I was born with a bent left foot, and though the condition was surgically repaired in my twenties, shoes … still … hurt. I’ve also had a number of other medical procedures performed on my feet over the years, but – on the off chance you’re enjoying a meal – I will spare you the details.

Birth Certificate

One study says American women on average own 27 pairs of shoes, while men own 12. Eighty-five percent of women admit there is at least one pair of shoes in their closet that they’ve never worn. The shoes are too uncomfortable – too high or tight – according to 64% of respondents. Apropos of nothing, 41% won’t wear their shoes because they were too expensive and they fear damaging them. One can picture these ladies staring longingly at those pointy red stilettos, sighing … wondering what might have been.

Sometimes, my shoes got me into trouble. One gray Connecticut afternoon, my boss at ESPN called me into his office and insisted that I not wear Pumas or Nikes or Adidas or any other form of athletic shoes in the studio. An odd request, I thought, since I was working for the all-sports-all-the-time network. He claimed that viewers would know about my sneakers, whenever I was sitting at the SportsCenter anchor desk.

At first, I thought it was some kind of prank. An initiation joke of some kind, because how could the station’s followers have any idea what I was wearing under the desk? I could have been naked from the waist down and they wouldn’t have known. Then, my boss pointed out the low-angle side camera that clearly displayed my sneaks curled up under my chair, a beacon in their whiteness for a national audience of drunk and sleepy late-night sports fans.

Then there was the time I arrived at a junior varsity football game with a painful big toe. My black officiating football shoes were unbearable, so I switched them out for a pair of white sneakers, figuring that, sartorially, they would go perfectly with my black and white uniform. But, no! You would have thought I’d appeared in pair of pink pumps, considering the reaction of my peers, who rolled their eyes and raised their eyebrows and treated me like a pariah.

I have been lucky the past two decades in that, as a teacher, what covers my feet is never an issue.  Still, whenever I am required to attend a “function” I get a bit queasy. My first thought is always about my shoes and how much pain I’m willing to endure to look the part. Because, for me, finding comfortable shoes is akin to locating that last remaining unicorn. That perfect pair not realty but myth.

So, imagine my surprise when, on my Black Friday shopping trip, the angels sang, and trumpets blew, and there before me were the shoes I’ve always dreamed about.

“How do they feel?” my sweetie pie asked amid the bustle of bargain-hunting shoppers.

I walked around, beaming. I felt like Cinderella. “They’re a perfect fit! And … so pretty!”

He smiled.

“I can’t wait to wear them.”

“You know …

Boots 2

… they’re hunting boots.”

“Obviously!” I said, undoing the laces and Velcro and zippers. “And I will be hunting rocks.”

“Of course, you will.”

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

Come to the launch of A Light in the Desert on Friday, November 30th at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix. The program begins at 7:00 PM. https://www.changinghands.com/event/november2018/anne-montgomery-light-desert

 

 

 

 

 

 

No phone, but my days are numbered

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I don’t own a cellphone.

I know what you’re thinking. What the hell is wrong with her? 

Ninety-two percent of Americans own cellphones. Back in 2004, just 65% were tethered to electronic leashes. Sadly, my days are clearly numbered.

Why do I find the thought of owning a cellphone so awful? As with many things, I had to pop on my thinking cap and ruminate.

I thought about the time I faced a cute soldier friend back from an overseas deployment for a brief 24-hour visit. My phone rang. My news director ordered me into work on my day off because everyone else had called in sick. I’d like to tell you that I was a team player and bailed on my soldier, but I did not. My boss had to do the sports segment on the news that night. I don’t think he ever forgave me. All these years later, I feel a bit guilty. If only I hadn’t picked up the phone.

Then there’s the fact that I’ve spent the last 19 years teaching in a Phoenix high school, during which I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time asking … cajoling … begging … OK, threatening students to, PLEASE STEP AWAY FROM THE PHONE! Please, stop cradling those electronic devices like they’re defenseless newborns. And, geez, are those tears? I promise I’ll give the phone back at the end of class.

My students are universally unmoved.

When informing folks of my phone-less condition, they are at first incredulous. I can see it in their eyes. You are, of course, joking. They stare, waiting for a punchline that never comes.

My sweetie pie does not generally use a cellphone either. Again, I can read your mind. How did they find one another in this world of seven billion plus people? While that remains a mystery, we both agree that cellphones can occasionally be useful. Over the last year, we’ve noted those times: looking for a Thai restaurant in an area with which we were unfamiliar, searching for a friend’s house when I forgot to write down the address, getting lost on my way to officiate a high school football game. I think that was it. Three times over the course of a year.

Now, a disclaimer. When we travel, Ryan grabs his trusty, little black flip phone. And, yes, we see those disparaging glances, ones that label us as old technophobes. We risk the disdain because we’re not dumb. We learned during a long overnight flight delay that some airports lack easy-to-locate pay phones. Also, Ryan now places the flip phone in my car during football season, when I traverse much of Metro Phoenix on my quest to throw yellow flags.

“You might need it.” He shrugs.

“But I don’t want it.”

“Just take it.”

Here’s the funny thing. While many people roll their eyes at my cellphone-less status, more often than not that wide-eyed shock morphs into a sad smile.

“Wish I could do that,” they say wistfully.

“But you can!” I cry, thrilled at the thought that there are more of us out there. “I’ll help you!”

Then they shake their heads at the absurdity of cutting themselves free.

I’ve considered creating some sort of resistance, but I fear there are far too few residing on my side of the isle. And the cellphone companies are too rich and powerful, filling the airwaves with commercials touting their shiniest new gadgets that will soon bring the miracle of 5G.

Still, I’m always on the lookout for like-minded folks who might help me lead the revolution. I’d say, “Call me!” But … well …

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

Come to the launch of A Light in the Desert on Friday, November 30th at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix. The program begins at 7:00 PM. https://www.changinghands.com/event/november2018/anne-montgomery-light-desert

A Light in the Desert is, “An engaging and thought-provoking read.”

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My thanks to Lynda Dickson at Books Direct for her 5-Star review of my novel A Light in the Desert. https://booksdirectonline.blogspot.com/2018/11/a-light-in-the-desert-by-anne-montgomery.html

Come join me and former Arizona television personality Mary Jo West for a discussion and book signing on Friday, November 30th at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix. The program begins at 7:00 PM.

https://www.changinghands.com/event/november2018/anne-montgomery-light-desert

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

https://www.changinghands.com/event/november2018/anne-montgomery-light-desert

A beautiful sentiment

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When I received an official ballot in the mail, I was confused. I had no memory of requesting one. Though I often forget things, so perhaps I did.

It’s just that I always vote at the polls. Lately, here in Arizona, voting in person has been problematic due to a number of snafus – ridiculously long lines because not enough polling places were available, voting machines that were wonky, and poll workers who were not properly trained on equipment.

So mailing in my vote seemed prudent. Still, I carried that ballot around with me for weeks, and when the final date arrived to pop it in the mail, I held on and missed the deadline.

“Why didn’t you just mail it?” my sweetie pie said. “I always mail mine.”

“I know … but … it’s just that there was no sticker in the envelope. You understand, don’t you?”

He nodded. “I do.”

So, now I must admit that I really like the round, red, white, and blue I Voted Today stickers. In fact, I enjoy them so much, I keep them stuck inside my linen closet door. Had I given my collection serious thought early on, I might have arranged it better. But, as you can see, the array is rather cluttered and disorganized.

I voted Today 2

I can’t remember when I started hoarding my voting stickers. Or why. Perhaps I had difficulty discarding them because of the beautiful idea they convey. Or maybe my collection is there to remind me to never miss an election.

When voting day arrived, I stared at my ballot. I would have to go to the polls. When I arrived, three nice ladies eyed the envelope in my hand.

“Is it sealed?” one asked.

I licked the flap and held it shut.

“Is it signed?” asked another. “And don’t forget the date and your phone number.”

“Yes, and yes and yes,” I said.

“Then just slip it in the slot.”

And still I paused. That’s when I saw the third woman holding a thick coil of stickers.

“That what I came for,” I said.

She smiled. “Then take two.”

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

https://www.changinghands.com/event/november2018/anne-montgomery-light-desert

An unexpected do-over

Me and Don Baseball

Don Clarkson and I were baseball umpiring partners for five years. During that time, he told me stories about his life as a Green Beret during the Vietnam War. I wove some of those accounts into a book, A Light in the Desert, which is set in Arizona in 1995 against the backdrop of the deadly cold-case sabotage of the Amtrak Sunset Limited .

My dear friend, a Vietnam veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and the effects of Agent Orange poisoning, inspired me to write a book.  I self-published the story a long time ago. Later, a small publisher picked it up, but then the company closed.

Few people read the book. For authors, this is difficult. I’m not sure what to compare it to, but perhaps it’s like people not wanting to look at all those baby pictures proud parents and grandparents pass around.

Before Don Clarkson died in 2010, his wife read the story to him. She told me he liked it. At least I had that. But I had to face the fact that the book would be resigned to a drawer somewhere, the story largely forgotten.

As a former TV reporter and a sports official for 40 years, I’ve spent much of my life in a world where there are no do-overs. So, imagine my delight when the folks at the Amphorae Publishing Group – the same people that released The Scent of Rain – read my book and decided to take it on.

“We were drawn to the idea of the crime of derailing a passenger train and the connection to … domestic acts of terror,” said Kristy Makansi, an Amphoare Publishing Partner and Managing Editor. “And that a person who has done some terrible things in their life–even if in the service of a greater good–can suffer guilt and be redeemed through acts of kindness.”

A Light in the Desert will be available wherever books are sold on Tuesday November 6, 2018. The official launch will be held at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix the evening of November 30. Please come and join me and my dear friend and former TV personality Mary Jo West for a discussion and book signing.

As an author who’s been granted a do-over, I couldn’t be happier.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

https://www.changinghands.com/event/november2018/anne-montgomery-light-desert

Brownies: Maybe I’ll have to share

Brownie poster

Sometimes, life throws you a rose. Or, in my case, a brownie.

Let me explain.

Recently I received an e-mail

Hello, Anne!

I was looking at our records and noticed that you have been a Fairytale Brownies customer since 1995. Thank you for loving our brownies!

Our co-founders, Eileen Spitalny and David Kravetz, will be giving special VIP tours of the Fairytale Brownies bakery before our annual Open House next Tuesday and we would love for you to be a part of it. Are you available for a 2:30 p.m. tour? We would love for you and a guest to join them. Please let me know if you can make it. Spaces for the tour are reserved.

Thanks!

How cool is that!

Of course, I jumped right on the opportunity to see the fairies bake the brownies I’ve been sending friends for years. I’ve spread those chocolaty delights worldwide. So, I called my youngest son – who has dabbled with the idea of becoming a pastry chef – and made the date.

Upon entering the massive kitchen in Phoenix, a fabulous aroma makes visitors swoon.

It might be all that butter and those big bricks of chocolate shipped in from Belgium.

butter-and-chocolate.jpg

It might be giant racks of brownies, with lovely names like Toffee Crunch, Chocolate Chip Blondie, Espresso Nib, Mint Chocolate, and Raspberry Swirl.

IMG_1235

Whatever it is, my son and I agreed it was magical.

Troy at the brownie factory

As we toured the facility, I was on the look out for the brownie fairies, but they were often shy and elusive. We caught this one hiding behind a massive pile of sugar.

IMG_1246

Others were tasked with sorting scads of swirly, cream cheese brownies.

Cutting Brownies

Then there was the freezer. A good 50 yards of frozen treats, packed high to the rafters on both sides. Though I’m a desert dweller and quite averse to the cold, I contemplated remaining in that fridge, setting up a tent and one of those high-altitude sleeping bags, a warm cap over my head, a matching scarf perhaps, and some mittens. In the advent of a zombie apocalypse it might be the perfect place to stay.

Me in the Brownie Freezer

Unless, of course, zombies like brownies.

Gosh. Maybe I’ll have to share.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

My love affair with … spiders

Spider 1

This little guy lives by the dog’s water bowl, which doesn’t bother me or the dog a bit

I faced the webs on my porch. You see, it’s fall in the desert, time to clean our yards and outside living areas. To those who’ve grown up understanding the concept of spring cleaning, note that we perform that chore in the fall. It makes sense, since we spend the summers couped up with our air conditioning – hiding from blast-furnace temperatures – and the winters basking blissfully outdoors.

I gently moved the broom across the ceiling and into the corners, careful not to harm any of the arachnids who’ve made camp by my door. I admonish the tiny ones to run, since I don’t want to injure them.

And, now, you might think me strange, because I could never hurt a spider. Why this is the case, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps it was growing up with Charlotte’s Web. Or maybe it was watching my parents deposit spiders who had found their way inside outside, instead of crushing them into little blobs of spidery goo.

I never thought this behavior odd, until faced with folks who felt differently. There was the tough US Marine who hailed from Trinidad who was my housemate for a while. I had explained about Matilida, the black widow who resided in a low corner of the kicthen who only came out at night.

“Just don’t walk barefoot by the sink after dark,” I explained.

Then, one day I heard him howling in the kitchen. “You need to come in here! Now!”

I complied and was delighted by goosmer silk threads floating in the air, each speckled with dozens of tiny golden babies holding on like wee surfers. I grabbed some newspapers and corralled the infants and released them outside.

The big brave Marine recolied.

Then there was the evening stroll in the Costa Rican rain forest. My sweetie pie and I joined a small group searching for night creatures with a woman entomologist.

“Oh! Look at what we have here!” She reached into the leaf litter and produced a large long-legged spider. Eyes wide, she grinned like a grandma with a newborn babe. “These are the ones they use in horror movies. Who would like to hold it?”

No one moved. She frowned, disappointed in our little group, so I stepped up and held out my hand. Her eyes sparkled, one of those perhaps-she’s-not-quite-sane looks that made me reconsider our decision to follow her into the jungle in the dark. She placed the beast in my palm.

“So cute. Just like a kitten,” she cooed.

OK, I admit I had a sudden urge to flee, an impulse that had nothing to do with the spider. In fact, the little guy was rather sweet. I silently said goodbye as he scampered off into the undergrowth.

Then there was the football spider.

Late in the first half of a high school game, Phil, my line judge, ran toward me, blowing his whistle, and waving his arms overhead, killing the clock.

“Tarantula!” He stared wide-eyed and pointed downfield.

My first thought was that the home team had a spider mascot, but that idea was quickly dispelled when I saw a fuzzy creature moving in a strangely robotic motion near the 20-yard-line.

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It was a tarantula’s appearance at a football game that would cement my love affair with spiders.

The barrel-chested coach, who’d been on me the whole game, grinned and crossed thick arms. “What are you going to do about it?” he yelled.

As we crouched over the beast, I envisioning some hapless kid with a fist-size spider wriggling from his facemask. I bit my lip and glanced at the players who eyed me from midfield.

Phil and I stared at one another. He raised both palms up.

“What are we going to do?” I asked.

“What are you going to do?” he mimicked the coach.

I took a deep breath and watched the hairy beast inch forward, moving all eight legs in a silent ballet.  Did I hear the coach laughing?

I shot my arm into the tarantula’s path. And, without pause, the spider crawled onto the back of my hand and up my wrist, fuzzy feet tickling my skin.

Phil stood and backed away.

“Please don’t bite me,” I silently pleaded over and over, as visions of old horror movies played in my head. While the tarantula traveled up my arm, I walked slowly toward the end of the field. When I reached the outer edge of the track, I bent over and gently dropped the creature near a patch of rocky desert. The tarantula landed upright and marched on.

I swallowed several times, then turned and ran back up field past the coach. I herded the players to the line of scrimmage and took my position behind the quarterback. I blew my whistle, putting the ball into play.

But no one moved.

Then Phil’s whistle sounded and he signaled time-out. He doubled over and I thought he might be ill, but then I saw he was laughing.

“What?” I stared as he ran toward me.

Phil leaned in, then looked around to make sure no players were nearby. “The coach said, “‘She has a pair hangin’ and they ain’t tits.’”

I eyed at the coach. He nodded toward me, deferential, all remnants of his previously condescending attitude having disappeared with the spider.

For the rest of the game, no matter the situation – whether a flag went for or against his team, whether he agreed or disagreed with a ruling – the coach only addressed me with two words.

“Yes, ma’am,” was all he said.

Perhaps now you can understand my love affair with spiders.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.