I've been talking about my new book "Foodies Rush In" for awhile now. While agents and editors have nibbled at the book, I think it might just be another of those quiet books that doesn't have enough 'wow' factor for a big publishing house to take a chance on. It's okay. Not all stories are loud. I'm proud of this one because it shows a softer side to my writing. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet. Haven't quite given up on getting an agent to rep it....but....it's possible I might just publish it on my own. Kealoha and I are looking in to a little publishing business to also produce audio books. We'll see. Until then...here's the first chapter of "Foodies Rush In". Hope you like it.
FOODIES RUSH IN
Dana Kupiac leaned her head back against the plane’s seat. She hated flying with a passion, but if she just breathed through it, she’d be fine. In just two more hours she’d be home cuddling on the couch with her two kiddos and back into the grind of her life as a single mom.
The old woman sitting next to her softly patted her arm. “Would you like a drink?” she asked. The woman had white hair with just a twinge of blue, a bedazzled holiday sweater, and that soft sympathetic smile that brought up images of grandmothers and poodles and cookies baking. “You look like you could use a drink,” she continued, her smile beaming. “I’d have another one but I already had a heavy dose of Valium. Doctor prescribed of course. Does wonders for flying.” The woman winked at Dana, then her gaze seemed to go off into the yonder. She stared at her bedazzled chest and then picked a piece of lint of the sequined Santa. The woman had a sequined Santa face on her sweater and Dana tried not to notice that those pink eyes were exactly where the grandmother’s nipples would be.
“No, thank you,” Dana said and shook her head. “I just need to breathe through this. I’ll be fine. I just get a little nervous about flying.” Dana considered for a moment. “I get a little bit nervous about basically everything.”
The grandmother nodded sympathetically. “Valium does wonders for most everything,” she continued. “Why, I’d take it all the time if I could.” The woman stared at her chest again and flicked the bell on Santa’s hat. She seemed to like the way the bell ‘tinked’ because she flicked it again.
Dana tried to stifle a laugh. The woman next to her was blasted. Totally blasted. And if she had cookies baking at home, they were probably laced with something. Dana smiled and then closed her eyes. If she pretended to sleep…maybe then she wouldn’t have to talk to the woman.
With her eyes closed, Dana tried to have her mind not focus on the sounds of the plane hurtling through the air and the probabilities that there would be a crash of some sort or a terrorist attack. News coverage of that sort of thing had almost completely ruined travel for her. She was always so creative in her neuroses that they sometimes threatened to really drive her crazy. No. She’d do as her sister Valerie suggested: she’d find her Zen. Dana was pretty sure her Zen left along with her husband last year, but still, she’d try to find it. Maybe it really was within her and not somewhere on the coast of Ohio. Did Ohio have a coast, she thought? No. No. Not like Michigan. Michigan was surrounded by water. Michigan was her home. And in two more hours, she’d be hugging her kids, and the neon lights and general craziness of Las Vegas would be far behind her. Less than two hours. The flight only had another half hour or so before landing, and then she’d get her luggage, get her car from long term parking, drive the half hour home to Coopersville, and return to farmland and kiddos and making jams in her kitchen…and all of the glitz and adventure would be over. Quite possibly forever. At thirty-seven and single again and with boobs giving in to gravity more and more each day instead of fighting it, Dana didn’t see a whole lot of razzle-dazzle in her future. Unless it was battery operated.
“Course, Ecstasy is nice too,” she heard the old woman say. “Young folks call it the E. When my husband and I pop ‘em we go at it like we’re teenagers. It makes everything sorta…glow.” The old woman reached in front of her and began to stroke something imaginary. Dana closed her eyes tighter and pretended to snore.
Dana needed to find her Zen. Where was her Zen?
She didn’t have one. Let’s face it, being high-strung was part of her genetic make-up. She wasn’t like her sister Valerie, a stay-at-home supermom to twin baby boys. She could latch both boys onto her nipples and still manage to not only clean the entire house including scrubbing the floors, but also cook a four course gourmet dinner while doing pilates. No. Dana wasn’t like her sister at all, and with her dark hair and skin that hinted of past ancestors from around the world, Dana sometimes wondered if they were really related. Of course, Valerie was an exact copy of their mom and Dana…well, her strong chin and deep brown eyes looked just like her father’s. Sometimes she wondered if she’d even inherited his facial hair.
She sighed. Thankfully the woman next to her had stopped talking. Dana would’ve worried she’d gone into some kind of overdose condition, but she could hear the woman flipping pages of a magazine.
A slight smile started to form on Dana’s face. It was slight, sure, but even a slight smile was something of a miracle. This last year had been worse than hard. It had been almost unendurable. When Paul left her, she’d felt abandoned and devastated, yes, but more than that, she’d felt deeply betrayed. Not to mention the anger she’d felt with him leaving not only her and their marriage but also their 4-year-old daughter Ruby and 6-year-old son Zach. Paul had left everything they’d built together and started over with a new woman, a new house, and a new baby on the way. He paid child support, took the kids every other weekend or so, but beyond that, Dana had been on her own.
And she’d made it work. She taught English at the local Community College, worked at a restaurant on the weekends she didn’t have the kids, sold the jams and jellies and spicy chutneys she canned in her friend’s kitchen. And she’d somehow managed to keep paying the mortgage payments on the modest house. She’d kept the kids clothed and fed and loved. And she tried only to fall apart when they were sleeping or at their dad’s. A year of constant work and struggle had left Dana beyond Zen, beyond constantly exhausted. She was in a land of barely existing at all.
So when her sister had given her the round-trip ticket to the conference in Las Vegas, a conference for foodies of all kind, Dana had sunk to her kitchen floor and cried with the sheer weight of the kindness. “I’m not just being nice,” Valerie had said, wiping the hair from Dana’s forehead. “I’m making an investment. In you. In your catering business. Vick and I will watch the kids and you can go to the conference. Learn everything you can about how to sell your food because, Dana, it’s amazing. And then come back here and we’ll do it. I’ll help you. Things will get easier.” Valerie had said the last part so convincingly that Dana had nodded as if she believed her. “And,” Valerie continued then looked around to see if any of the kids were within earshot. “Try to get laid. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?” Then she’d slipped Dana a crinkly condom wrapper into her hand and closed it tight, an action that was exactly something like their mother would do.
Dana laughed a little to herself as she thought of this. She was deep in her thoughts now. So deep she didn’t mind the turbulence at all.
She replayed all the crazy things that she’d done at the conference. The first two days, she’d gotten all the information and then some that she needed to work on her catering and canning business. She could make the food in her friend’s kitchen (Stella had a restaurant) and then sell her packaged goods online. She’d made contacts and handed out information. Tried amazing combinations of foods. And then…then…she’d met someone. He was cute, awkward, funny, and a great kisser.
Dana floated away thinking about him. She could remember almost everything about their two crazy days and nights together—except with all the mai tais and other tropical drinks there were a few holes in that last evening. She could still feel his kisses on her lips, on the side of her neck, even on her... If the old woman next to her knew what she was thinking right now, she’d wonder if Dana were on the E.
It was a foolish rendezvous, but it was also a lot of fun. And that last night…Ha! That last night began with a karaoke contest in a tiki lounge and ended with a hysterical fake wedding with her dressed in an 80s style short fluffy white dress and her ‘husband’ dressed in a t-shirt that looked like a tuxedo and jeans. Elvis had ‘married’ them of course and they had laughed and laughed and laughed, and then drank some more.
Of course, none of it was legal. They hadn’t filed paperwork or anything. They hadn’t even made love. Had sex. Whatever you’d call it. Had a one-night stand. No. All they’d shared was a simple kiss at the chapel, and then a much more complex series of kisses on the elevator up to the hotel, much to the apparent delight of a couple of Canadian tourists (she knew they were Canadian because they wore little red maple leaves on their matching jackets). As much fun as Dana had had with him, she knew it was only for a couple of days. But it was a couple of days that might allow her to get through the next year of hard work and endless struggle but still have something small within her that was her own.
“Please put your seats in the upright position,” one of the flight attendants announced over the loudspeaker. “We will be making our descent into Grand Rapids, Michigan where it is a balmy 14 degrees. Happy holidays, everyone!”
Dana barely heard the words. She was too busy reliving the vacation of a lifetime. For the first time in a year, she felt rejuvenated and relaxed, ready to start her new business venture. She’d make a secure life for her and the kids, Paul be damned. And thinking about all the things she’d done this weekend, she realized that for the first time since before she was married, she felt reconnected to her body again. She’d never realized how over the years in her marriage she’d shut herself off from being a sensual being. Dana knew now, although she’d known it before, but maybe it was helpful to be reminded…Dana knew now that she was more than just a single working mom. She was more than a sister. She was also a woman. What happened in Vegas would stay in Vegas, of course. It was two days and two nights of sheer liberation. But she was taking back something with her. She was taking back more of herself. She was going home stronger, more motivated, and she couldn’t wait to hug her kids and get on with their lives.
“You’re looking very relaxed,” the woman next to Dana said as if she approved.
Dana nodded. “I’ve found my Zen,” she said softly, more to herself than the bedazzled, drugged up grandmother.
When the plane finally zoomed through the atmosphere and slid across the runway of the Gerald R. Ford Airport, Dana was still smiling. She had, indeed, found her Zen. It had begun with a man named Eugene…