The Miraculous Plot

Dubai architecture

Upon getting Val’s call, Faye White professed to expecting it. Of course Faye usually pretended such things. As another former classmate, this privileged blond supermom was once known for her unbidden prognostications and spontaneous predictions. Born rich and beautiful, she’d often seemed to be burdened with the responsibility or hubris to dispense advice among the less fortunate, too. Yet she attempted to detract from her physical beauty and wealth by projecting eccentricity instead of foppish apology. Her one saving grace.   
    “Are you okay?” Faye now asked, leaning over a Caesar salad in order to scrutinize her. “You look kinda lost.”
    Hit the nail on the head, why don’t you.
    Val smiled in grim determination, suspecting Faye did not ask just to be polite.  Nor was she waiting for the invitation to chronicle her own exploits—an exercise that might obviously validate the esteem to which she felt genetically entitled. Looking into those azure eyes beneath blond bangs that highlighted a short, stylish cut, Val knew that Faye’s superiority was a given, even if Faye herself felt embarrassed by it. It was why men did not approach her in bars, with or without a ring in view. It was also why calling her for lunch prompted acceptance without hesitation. Perfection was intimidating to both sexes.   
    “I do feel stuck,” Val confessed, seizing on any chance at resolution. “What do you do when you’re on this treadmill, and you can’t find the off button?”
    “Jump off,” Faye suggested.  
    Val snapped her fingers.  “Just like that, you mean?”
    “Sure.  What are you afraid of?”
    Val ruminated while gulping at her margarita.  “Everything,” she said, at last.
    “Well, that’s pretty inclusive. Do you at least get the continental breakfast?”
    “If I do, it’s so tasteless I don’t notice.”
    Faye took a sip from the wine glass that held club soda and a floating lime wedge. “You’re kidding me, right?  You’ve got a great job, a great guy, and–”
    Val shook her head emphatically from side to side. “Not a great job, and no great guy, either, as it turns out.”
    Her companion’s askance stare now held bewilderment. “What’s happened?”
    “He’s cheated, is what. He’s a cheat. He’s also cheap. As for the job, it’s more about hype than anything else. Cheating in other ways. Not unlike lying or acting. All for the sake of ratings numbers.”
    Faye grimaced at the news, then touched Val’s forearm for a moment, the soft brush of her fingers like a consoling caress across the paw of a Basset hound winning honorable mention. “Val,” Faye said, careful not to let her tone stray into condescension, “I’m sorry to hear you’re unhappy.”
    “Is that what I am?  Maybe so.  But I think it goes deeper than that.”
    “It does?  How so?”
    “I’m not sure I can tell you,” Val replied, finishing her drink.
    “Sure you can. You can tell me anything.”
    “No, I mean I’m not sure I can tell you, because I’m not sure myself.”  She paused, trying to frame the unframable. “Okay then, have you ever stopped to wonder if what you’ve done so far with your life has been scripted by someone else?  That you never wrote your own script before because you didn’t know you could?”  
    “I mean, it’s like other people expected me to take this path, and so all I really know is the rhythm of walking where they’ve all pointed.  I’m on this route, see, always looking ahead, trying to see around corners, hoping to find whatever it is.  And then, when I suddenly realize I’m on the wrong path, I see that the path I should be on is going in the opposite direction!  I stop and look behind me, and there’s this beautiful sunset I never saw before, illuminating the clouds overhead, and I’d never seen any of it until that moment. Until the instant I realized that life isn’t about the future. That the future doesn’t even exist, except maybe in my mind. And it never will.”
    “Wow,” said Faye, smiling nervously.  “There’s a concept.”
    “Think about it.  Or not.  Just tell me how irrational I sound to you.  Before I drown in booze, that is.”
    Faye cocked her head, leaning back. She was obviously analyzing something, although it failed to furrow her forever youthful brow. Val had begun to wonder if the folds of Faye’s brain had absorbed all of her body’s wrinkles when she finally said, “Who have you been talking to, anyway?  Because this doesn’t sound like you.”
    “Maybe I didn’t sound like me before, and I just didn’t know it.”
    “Valerie Lott, the philosopher?”  Faye sounded dubious.
    “All I know is I need something I never knew existed.  Like there’s this space inside of me needs filling, and I didn’t know the space was even there.”
    Now Faye wagged a finger at her.  “You fell for some geek, didn’t you?  Some poet who drives a VW bug and wears sandals and has a pony tail and a tight butt!”
    “Let’s just say I met someone who opened my eyes to another way of looking at things, and leave it at that, shall we?”
    Faye’s blue eyes widened. “Ohmygod. Where did you meet this guy?”
    “A place I never expected.”
    “Really?  When?”
    “You might say that. It’s always now with this guy.”
    “And you make love like there’s no tomorrow, I hope?”
    “No, we never even kissed.  And now he’s. . . gone.”
    “Ouch.”  Faye frowned on cue.  “You’re not in love, are you?”
    “I don’t know what I am, anymore. Considering you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. And you have to know yourself before you can love yourself.”
    “Huh?”  Faye puzzled it over.  “Gees, honey, you sure got somethin’.  Don’t know what it is, but I hope it’s not contagious.”
    Val considered telling her more, but then decided against it. Especially if it included reconsidering the preposterous notion that such a wise and gentle soul might be suspect in a major crime. She pondered telling her about Sarah Collins, next, but that too would be as foreign to Faye’s world as the gas giant Neptune.  She picked up a celery stick, dipped it in some ranch dressing, and chewed on that for a while, instead.  Then she asked, “How’s Mark and the kids, by the way?”
    “Good,” Faye said, noncommittally.
    “No,” Val insisted, “you can tell me. I want to hear it. Really. Has anything changed with you since we met last? And how long has it been, again, since we last talked?”

Continued on Kindle and Nook and iPad. Ebook and audiobook.

Jonathan LoweFrom “The Key to Vincent,” a prequel to the movie Collateral:

On that fateful afternoon Freddie backs his pickup into his rental warehouse, lights a Coleman lamp from his trunk, and then shuts the door. Lighting the torch, he sits and starts to put the flame against the corrugated steel wall, but just stares at the flame instead. He finally turns it off, staring. Then he decides to leave. While driving away Freddie notices two men ahead of him in another pickup truck. Driver is a big Hispanic, and passenger a prematurely gray, sharply dressed Caucasian. Freddie follows from a distance, then pulls over to observe them through binoculars as they get out. Driver takes a ladder from the back, and walks toward a new but not-yet-opened shopping plaza. Bulldozers are parked nearby, and a rope with Keep Out signs. What the hell? Freddie’s expression says. The driver uses a crow bar to open the burglar alarm box. As fate might have it, Freddie looks for his cell phone, but sees an image on the folded Miami Herald newspaper on his passenger seat, instead. It is an article about Eco terrorism in the Everglades and south Miami, illustrated by a photo of a burning store.
Raoul Castenada, dressed in Kakis, enters from the rear stockroom door, looking out at the vast selection of merchandise. Vincent is behind him. From behind his dark sunglasses, Vincent scans the aisles, seeing no one. He picks up a phone hanging on a post, and punches a button to talk into the P.A. mouthpiece.
VINCENT) Attention, shoppers. Please come to the rear of the store.
(He listens for movement, but there is nothing.)
VINCENT) Is there an Eco in here? (a beat, to himself:) Just me.
(Raoul puts rubber gloves on, nabs a shopping cart and pushes it in front of him. Into the cart are thrown a 200’ rope, a gallon of motor oil, a baseball bat, an axe, a gallon of paint thinner, spray paint, then a boom box and batteries. The batteries are inserted into the boom box. He withdraws a cassette tape from his pocket, and pops it in to play Cuban music.)


Fame Island Adventure

Palm Island

Having just won over $900 million after taxes in the Powerball, an obscure accountant named Howard Rosen develops a plan to hold onto his celebrity status longer than just 15 minutes, in Fame Island, a satirical novel about our obsession with celebrity. Howard’s Plan? Step One: disappear. Step Two: finance the overthrow of a corrupt Caribbean island dictator. Step Three: reemerge a hero, buy an island, and throw parties for celebrities. Enter guinea pig Jude Johnstone–a tabloid writer for Celeb-Ration Magazine, and the first person narrator of the story. Middle aged, fat, luckless, and broke, Jude has a huge incentive to take a risk on Howard’s scheme, and he has his own plan, too, to get inside the governor’s graces by posing as a reality show producer for “The Celebrity Factor.” Hiring his old traveling buddy Grover, Jude is soon off on an island adventure that could either net them a million bucks, tax free, or get them eaten by sharks. What Jude is counting on is a turn in the weather, a turn in his luck, and a return favor from George Clooney or Jimmy Buffett, in exchange for donations to their favorite charities. First an audiobook narrated by Emmy winning actor Kristoffer Tabori, the novel is now in ebook and trade paperback formats. “Very enjoyable, lots of twist and turns…it would make a great film,”—Kevin Reem, indy film producer, formerly with Disney.
Fame Island
The novel was inspired by the true story of John Caldwell, who developed Palm Island in the Grenadines after sailing his own boat around the world with his family from Los Angeles, where he was a social worker. They ended up in the Grenadines, where John approached the government of St. Vincent with an audacious plan: to develop the island called Prune, and hire natives on neighboring Union Island to do it. They spent the next 20 years developing the place “from a mosquito infested hellhole,” as he told me, “into a paradise.” I was there on assignment from a travel magazine, after seeing an ad for the Palm Island Beach Club in a magazine in Barbados. His story of fighting off renegades who had taken Union, and came for Palm, (together with sailing tales told in his book Desperate Voyage, plus experiences in the Grenada invasion) sparked my idea of telling the story of “Coconut Johnny” in fiction. (He planted over 8000 palm trees by hand.) John always wanted a movie to be made on his story, but several attempts at getting a good producer failed. This audio movie novel wasn’t published before his death, but his ambition and hard-working attitude continue to be appreciated by those who visit Palm Island today, as an upscale resort.


James Garner

Just heard James Garner’s biography on audio, and was struck, not just by his honesty, candor, or his anecdotes on movies, but his generous attitude and lack of ego, despite being labeled as a “curmudgeon.” The Rockford Files is one of the few TV series that I truly enjoyed, due to its offbeat yet believable writing, its humor, and its lack of bling. (One of many surprises, Jack Warner of Warner Brothers was a foul-mouthed mini-Hitler who hated actors, writers, and agents…but he was afraid of Garner, thinking he might pick him up and throw him out the window, as Errol Flynn once threatened to do!) Garner appreciates writers, unlike many other actors, and never tried to change scripts as bigger egos tried to do.

Sopranos Rockford Files

Latest revelation is that The Sopranos began with The Rockford Files…the Soprano’s writer was the same guy who wrote two episodes of Garner’s hit series.

If you can’t live up to “What would Jesus do?” as a motto, don’t descend to “What would Joel Osteen do?” but instead consider “What would Jim Rockford do?” In a world of hustlers and con men, Rockford maintained his honesty and dignity, was loyal to his friends, and treated everyone as equals. Modest, yet unimpressed by fame or fortune, he gave everyone a fair shot, yet never fell for a sucker punch twice, and had a nose for deceit. A man of his word, even if he bent the rules, Rockford was nobody’s fool, yet he had a heart of gold. Women depended on him, even if they never took him seriously in the end, living in that trailer, and often betrayed him. But he never used them. Simple and sincere, Jim Rockford was one of a kind, with his own thoughts and values, which were unshakable. Often the victim, the good guy who finishes last, he reemerged intact, able to enjoy the sunrise of the next day. How many men in the real world can go through what he went through, yet remain true to themselves?  —JL

James Garner dies

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