Phantasy Friday: Author Catherine Mann, and A Tale of Crazy Neighbors

There are people who leave indelible impressions, and I’d like to share a quick story about one. While celebrating Southern Sizzle’s month-long,  one year anniversary, I’d left comments for each of our daily guests as encouragement for visitors to lose their shyness and leave comments of their own. For the most part it worked, and I met and made some lasting online friends over the course of those weeks.

Prizes were graciously awarded by each blog guest to randomly chosen commenters, with winners announced the following day. Somehow, my name was selected and announced online as the recipient of two autographed books.  A chapter member protested–quite justifiably–that in the spirit of fairness and group image, it didn’t look right if one of our own members won prizes.

I realized I’d flat-out woopsied, folks. But because I’ve always made a point of donating anything I win in contests to a local Senior Center that lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, I, regrettably, hadn’t considered how my winning something could be misconstrued. Embarrassed, I contacted the author with my error and the request to select another commenter, but her extremely efficient staff had already mailed the books. I returned them upon receipt with a written apology, explaining that though I was a (rabid) fan and appreciated them beyond measure, my fellow member was right and I didn’t feel comfortable accepting them. The author contacted me, concerned, and I explained the situation. I also explained the member who had protested felt horrible for doing so without talking to me first, going so far as to tell me she’d never have said anything if she’d known about the Senior Center donations. I was just relieved the author understood.

Do you know what that author did then? She shipped an entire box of large print editions to the Senior Center! I was so touched by her heart and depth of generosity that I cried.

That author was Catherine Mann—

and I am proud to say she will soon be guest speaker at one of our Chapter meetings. It had been planned for tomorrow, but scheduling conflicts (and her daughter finaling at a track meet!) have altered arrangements. Press releases inviting the public may expound her talent and success; notes and invitations to the writing community may laud one of their ranks. But none of them tell what a kind, conscientious, caring person Catherine truly is.  So, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share. If you can make the meeting when it’s rescheduled, I urge you to do so.  It’s an experience you won’t regret!

Since you’re here, I have a second story for you, and need you to post your determination: Did this happen, or did I make it up?


An aggravated “Don’t know if I should call the cops or not, Mom,” greeted me as soon as I fumbled the phone to my ear.

Relief washed over me. This child was alive at least, even if her voice carried that why-the-hell-was-I-woken-in-the-middle-of-the-night croak. She’s a grown child, but my mantra is I don’t care if you’re 32; get back in your crib where it’s safe!  I panic when the phone rings at 2am. I can’t help it. I’m paranoid.  I always expect someone to be wrapped around a telephone pole, upside down in a ditch, or kidnapped by terrorists.

Burglars I don’t worry about. Any that try her house would be classified as suicidal. She has two pit bulls who live to protect their mama. Even from the rare roach that may get into the shower. Screeching daughter once exited the cubicle so fast the  shower curtain fluttered perfectly horizontal, straining the rings on the rod.  Mako dove to her rescue, chomping, pouncing, snarling; splashing water everywhere as he annihilated the threat to his Mama. If the water spraying from the shower head made the bent, wingless, one-legged corpse circle the drain he killed it again.  All with Rachel sproinging up and down, then jumping from floor to toilet to floor and back, yelling encouragement, then sproinging some more, looking for all the world like an epileptic praying mantis as she tried to maintain enough towel coverage for modesty.

Back to the phone call. I could hear Deuce and Mako barking in the background. “What’s going on?” I asked her. I heard her stumble across the floor. She croaked, “Listen!” She must have thrust her arm out the door because the dogs faded and I heard a woman’s voice faintly wail, “You gotta help me! Help me!”

Her neighbor is a single guy with a rousing and varied love life, their houses separated by a lot with trees. But the neighbor’s is an older wood-floored home built on short pilings. You could hear two distinct sets of footsteps thundering back and forth through the house. “Dammit! Quit running! You gotta hold still!” a masculine voice panted. More thundering steps.

The dogs got loud again. Rachel says, “See?”

“No, actually I can’t. I can only hear it!” I snapped. “Are they fighting?”

“No. There’s no hitting or punching sounds, no angry exchanges, just her howling about it hurts and him chasing her. How am I supposed to sleep with that going on?” she griped. “Oh, wait! The front door just banged open! They’re in the yard now. I’m going onto the porch.”

The voices got clearer. “It burns! It burns!” was a feminine screech. Footsteps thudded in the grass now. A masculine warning sounded. “Stop running before you hit a tr– (audible thud). Aw, hell!” was a disgusted growl.

“You hit me! I can’t believe you hit me!” The shrill accusation dug into my ear even through the phone. I recognized the slur of alcohol.

“Well, unless I’m five feet thick, covered in bark and little green leaves, it wasn’t me!” the guy retorted. “Why do you keep running when you can’t see a thing?”

Did he hit her, Rachel?” I asked, worried.

“No. She ran full speed into that big oak. He’s helping her up now, being real careful with her. Carried her to the side of the house. What is he doing?”  A flood of sobbing, high-pitched curses filled the air. Rachel started snorting with laughter. “He’s squirting her with the garden hose! Spraying her down like she’s on fire. Oops! She got away again. He just slipped down in a puddle. You should see this!” (Wish I could. I wouldn’t feel so confused.) “There she goes, smack up in the middle of that azalea bush. He’s not even hurrying now. Just limping after her.”

The woman’s shrieks and curses suddenly muffled, I had to ask. “What’s going on now?”

“He has his hand over her mouth and is carrying her back inside.” There went the thundering footsteps again, fading to the far side of the house. “Hang on,” Rachel whispered. “I’m going to the other side of the porch.” Her report continued after brief rustlings. “He’s in the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator door.”

“What are you, a voyeur?” It just popped out.

“Mom. Really? Was that necessary?” (With that haughty tone I’m feeling defensive all of a sudden.) “He’s got something. A gallon of milk? What’s he doing with milk?” Footsteps pounding louder heralded their nearing the door. “She’s off the porch again. Oof! Bet that hurt. Dumb ass didn’t use the steps. Just ran off into thin air! There she goes, taking off across the yard again! He’s right on her heels . . . getting closer . . . getting closer . . . Caught up with her! What the hell? He’s pouring milk over her head!”

I could hear the woman crying now. “Stop it! Please, stop it!” sounded pathetic, and a little gargled.

Guess the guy ran completely out of patience because all but snarled, “You pepper sprayed yourself! I have to do this! Bet the next time I tell your drunk ass not to play with something, you listen!”

I heard Rachel try to smother a burst of laughter. I knew when she made it back inside. The dogs went up in volume again. Rachel was snorting laughing now. “My guess is his new girlfriend was messing with that pepper spray canister he keeps on the counter. Sorry I called you, Mom. I’m okay. You can go back to bed.”

I said the obligatory ‘I love you’s’ and hung up. Turned off the bedside lamp and laid down. Closed my eyes.

I opened my eyes and glared at the ceiling. Who am I kidding. After that, I’ll never be able to go back to sleep!

Hope someone gets some writing out of this!


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