Either way, it's time to reward those who've been helping me decide, or fail to decide, with a sneak preview of the first few pages of the book, as they currently stand. There are still two or three more steps to go through before this is ready for release (another overall edit to check the changes I made, a read-aloud to find things that just don't sound right, and a final proof reading at the least). But this is far enough along to share. So, in place of Flash Fiction Friday, I offer. . .
Sneak Preview Friday! (Bet you thought I'd go for the alliteration and make it Sneak Preview Saturday. Ha! Fooled you!)
DEATH BY ICE CREAM
Chapter One: Everybody Wanted Her Gone
“Curse it, Kitty, do something about that woman!”
To emphasize my point, I pounded my fist on the battered and scarred table between us, banging hard enough to make Maddy’s cell phone jump. Kitty Padgett flinched, her chair scraping as she tried to shift a bit farther from me. My hand stung from the blow. Instead of apologizing, though I felt bad for startling her, I glared at our PTA President and waited.
“But—” Kitty waved her hands vaguely. Kitty was my best friend, but I couldn’t deny that sometimes she was way more mouse than cat. Her lack of spine increased my irritation, so I pushed on.
“If she quits the Yearbook, fine, we’ll manage. I’ll do it myself it I have to.” Everyone gasped, shocked by what I had just said. But it was too late to take it back. Desperate cases call for desperate measures.
A chance gripe session among friends had morphed into an emergency meeting of the Orcaville High School PTA. We four—me and Kitty, Maddy and Carlos—had gravitated to the teachers’ room to plot damage control, and now I’d put my foot in it. I took a deep breath and stuck to my guns. I didn’t like to back down, even from myself. “Letitia LeMoine is boorish, overbearing, and opinionated, and she’s alienating everyone in the PTA. Heck, everyone on this Island!”
“She sure is.” That was Carlos Hernandez, our Secretary. We all looked at him and he shrugged. “She tells me I am not smart enough to run the Spring Faire. And that my English is not good enough to be Secretary.” Carlos spoke with a slight accent, but his English was better than that of most people who post opinions on the Internet. “I do not need that crap.”
Carlos’s complaint unleashed the feelings Madeleine Takahira had been keeping politely bottled up. Before Kitty could offer Carlos reassurances that his English was quite good enough for us, Maddy was airing her own gripes.
“She thinks I’m no good! She says my books are a total mess.”
Kitty and I exchanged glances. We’d known Letitia LeMoine’s opinion about Maddy’s bookkeeping, but hadn’t known she’d insulted Maddy to her face. Matters had gotten even worse than I’d thought. It didn’t matter that Letitia was right about Maddy’s skills as Treasurer. If anything needed saying, it was Kitty, not Letitia who should have brought it up. Kitty hadn’t, because Maddy knew she had a problem. What on earth was LeMoine trying to do, anyway?
“She said she didn’t know anyone could be so incompetent!” Maddy sniffed and swallowed hard. I hoped she could keep her tears under control. Sloppy emotions make me cranky. “I can’t help it if I have trouble with numbers,” Maddy nearly wailed. But she didn’t cry.
I took a deep breath, tapped into some store of patience I didn’t know I had, and reached out a hand. “Okay, Maddy. I’ll help you straighten out the books. I just wish you’d come to me sooner.” She pulled out a tissue and blew her nose. For just a moment, I wondered if she was bothered by more than accusations of incompetence. I dismissed the idea as soon as I’d thought it. Mrs. Loudmouth’s bullying was justification enough for tears, at least for someone as sensitive as Maddy Takahira.
“We were just fine until That Woman came along.” Maddy’s thoughts echoed my own.
“Yeah,” Carlos agreed.
“Like I said, Kitty,” I began.
Kitty Padgett sighed. She knew we were right. She just hates conflict even more than I hate tears. “Okay, okay. You guys are right. But I hate to do it.” She eyed me. As her VP, I’m supposed to do whatever needs doing. “Can’t you talk to her, JJ?”
“Do you really think that’s a good plan?”
“No.” She sighed again. Kitty’d known me for seven years, ever since I came to Pismawallops Island. She knew tact wasn’t one of my strengths. She might even have wondered if it was in my vocabulary. “Okay, I’ll talk to her. She really does need to back off and let other people work in their own way.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” I encouraged. “You’re the President. We do not need someone who makes everyone else want to leave.”
I must’ve been a little firmer in tone than I’d realized, because Annette Waverly, the principal, stuck her blonde head in the door just then, an unseemly wrinkle of concern creasing her carefully made-up face.
“Is everything quite alright? I thought I heard someone, ah, yelling?”
Nobody was yelling. Just being . . . emphatic.
“Everything’s fine,” Kitty assured her before I could say anything to further upset the principal’s equanimity.
“Okay, then.” Annette’s face reorganized itself into something like a smile. “I’ll leave you to it, then.” She withdrew, closing the door gently, in exaggerated contrast to my banging and raised voice.
“Should I have told her about Ms. L?” Kitty wanted to know.
We all shrugged. Ms. Waverly was new that year and still, in April, something of an unknown quantity. Nor was the Vice Principal, Elvis Fingal, likely to be much use. If he were, it would be a first.
“I think it would not be helpful,” said Carlos. As the school custodian, he was in the best position to know how the principal would react. “It would just upset her. You talk to Mrs. L., Kitty, and it will be okay. You are good with people, you know.”
Kitty sighed, unconvinced by the compliment. “If only she’d at least learn to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ But there you are. If she did, she’d be someone different, wouldn’t she?” Kitty got to her feet. “The Orcaville PTA is not going to kowtow to Letitia LeMoine, even if she is from the City, and we’re just Islanders.” Out here in Puget Sound, Seattle was the Big City, even for those of us up closer to Bellingham.
From what I’d heard, Ms. L. probably was a bit more local than she let on, but I wasn’t going to bring that up just now. It was enough that Kitty was ready to stand up and put the woman in her place before she could make a complete mess of our PTA. I just hoped she wouldn’t get all huffy and quit the Yearbook, because I really, really did not want that job.