Life is a Salad Bar

The salad bar is the quintessential object lesson for life. Seems weird, but follow me on this.

Life is full of choices. This or that. Do I stay or should I go. Each decision impacts other options made both before and after.

Maybe you like rabbit food and always belly up to the salad bar and imbibe generously, carefully avoiding and shunning any of the sweet perpetrators that lure people under the guise of balanced diets and rewards. Heathy eating is never gluttonous, right? But can it be borderline obsessive?

Or you take the things that are good for you even if you don’t like them. Lesson: Responsibility?

But admittedly, you often indulge or overindulge the Jell-O and the pudding. After all, you did eat a healthy salad and deserve a treat. Lesson: Moderation?

There are different kinds of cheeses, beans, sometimes even multiple varieties of lettuce and vegetables all equally presented on the salad bar open for all who pay the price of admission. And no overlord stands there and dictates that you can’t take both kidney beans and pinto beans or not to mix the cheddar cheese with the mozzarella, despite the cringe of your onlooking neighbor. Lesson: Freedom?

People may gag at the different stroke of blending the blue cheese dressing with the thousand island dressing, it’s a matter of personal taste. Lesson: Tolerance?

For vegetarians and vegans, it’s the bastion of the holy food land. Instead of constantly improvising on limited menus, picking, and settling for what they they can have, often everything is finally within reach without restriction. Lesson: Equality?

But while you may freely go back to your table and regale your group with the faux pas tale of the person who mixed the two dressings, you are free to laugh, but they are free to enjoy it.

And the conduct at the salad bar can offer unspoken behavior rules of the road. You don’t cross your reach in front of anyone or push and shove people out of the way, no matter if you wasted most of your lunch hour waiting at the Apple store or how close it is to your movie time or theater curtain. You politely wait your turn. Lesson: Manners?

Proper decorum dictates use of the utensils provided, instead of plunging your grubby hands into the food. After all no one would break a social norm and risk, making others sick for their own indulgence. Lesson: Respect?

But just in case you get careless or have an accident, there is a sneeze guard installed by the management to prevent you from spewing the contents of your nasal passages all over the heathy food. Lesson: Avoidance of lawsuits?

Oh, and there’s often soup. That’s just warm comfort food. Maybe it’s all a lesson that life is full of everything you need an want for yourself and others, if you just look.


Exclusive Santa Sighting

Like Superman and Clark Kent, my father and Santa Claus were never seen on Christmas Eve at the same time.

Every year the drill was the same. At our annual Christmas Eve extended family gathering, my dad would announce to all that he ran out of film and needed to go the store.

About 20 minutes later there was a rumbling on the roof and my uncle would loudly declare Santa’s reindeer up there. Then my mother would herd all the kids to peer out the window to see Santa’s sleigh. A minute or two later, the sound of jingling bells, along with a hearty “HoHoHo,” enveloped the room and the kids excitedly scurried to the man in the red suit.

Everyone sat on his lap as he asked what each wanted for Christmas and offered a candy cane as a deposit, promising he would be back later the same night with their wish.
Then he told us to look out the window and watch for Santa’s reindeer again as he mysteriously slipped out of the room.

Twenty or so minutes later, my dad would come back and my uncle will tell him he just missed Santa. He would loudly exclaim his disappointment, and everyone resumed the festivities.

The clever ruse was complete. It was masterful, but there were clues left behind. After running out of film one year, wouldn’t he be prepared the next? And if he was going out for film, why did he never have a bag or the film when he returned?

Luckily kids are not Sherlock Holmes. We were grateful for the candy cane and the exclusive opportunity to ensure our wish list was fulfilled. But one year as I ventured into middle grades, I wondered why Santa was visiting individual holiday parties prior to his big delivery event and posed that and the other questions to my uncomfortable mother.

So, when Christmas Eve came around again, to throw me off the scent, suddenly it was my uncle who ran out of film, and all the roles were reversed. My doubts were quashed, until the next year when I learned in the oracle of all information, the school bus, that Santa was not real. Shortly after reporting this information to my mother, she confessed, while asking me not to ruin it for the little kids.

The next Christmas I was in on the secret. I smirked satisfied at my grown-up deception, playing a leading part in the charade by participating in the distraction to conceal Santa’s entrance and exit. I watched the hoax unfold, amazed at the obvious clues I previously missed.

Years later, various people substituted when suspicions arose. And eventually the film had to be changed out to another last-minute purchase.

When my children were small, my father donned the cap once again for his grandchildren, until my very clever five-year-old son immediately recognized his voice and quickly unmasked him. The next generation must be smarter, as he could not be fooled.

Although until this day, I’ll never know how they made the rumbling sound on the roof. Some secrets are best left unsolved.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022


You’re My Density

As a movie buff, I’ve always been enchanted by the meet-cute, that’s filmspeak for when two star-crossed lovers meet for the first time. The formulas are tried-and-true giving romance movie lovers a treasure trove of meaningful hopes and dreams wrapped up in a bow.

In one instance, the couple find themselves in an unusual circumstance and sometimes don’t like each other, but later kiss and fall in love. Like The Backup Plan, when a would-be duo fight over a cab, she calls him a stupid head and the will they, won’t they romance tango begins. Or the meet cute ride to New York in When Harry Met Sally where he tells her men and women can never be friends because the idea of sex always gets in the way. They eventually fall in love, decades later.

Then there’s the meet-cute where one or both of them see each other across a crowded room, lock eyes and immediately know they will fall in love. In Serendipity, they both grab for the same gloves, electricity ignites and each take one glove for a future fateful meeting. And in the heartwarming scene in Sleepless in Seattle, corresponding lovers finally meet and instantly sparks arise with knowing eyes and glowing smiles.

And don’t forget the hook line, where one of them gathers courage and captivates the other with the best or worst line in history.

In Working Girl, she states “I’ve got a head for business and a bod for sin,” empowering many single women to come from the societal male-dominant shadows and approach men first. While the cheesiest introduction line ever uttered “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling,” from Top Gun, made some women in the 80s swoon and others gag when throngs of men tried to re-create the movie pick up in bars for months after its debut.

The worst lines evoke awkward encounters when someone horribly stumbles over their words, leaving you feel very sorry for them and waiting with bated breath in the hopes that they don’t get shut down, crash and burn. In Bridget Jones’ Diary she tells the object of her affection, “You like me just the way I am.” And the most pitiful line spoken by anyone in any movie, “You are my density” from Back to the Future makes us cringe at the verbal diarrhea start. But in each case, it worked and they fall in love in the end.

Movie meet-cutes are sappy, but reliable. And for many that’s a welcome opposition to the real world where very little is certain.

Sometimes I think the fantasy of movie romance gives a false representation and unrealistic expectations of love, allowing some hopefuls to look for their meet cute every day. But life isn’t a movie and love doesn’t go from nothing to something in 90 minutes.

Yet people fall in love all the time and sometimes life does reflect art. So, despite the odds, the true romantics cling to the faith that their love destiny is only one special moment away.

And despite the warning in Moonstruck when he professes his love, and she replies “Snap out of it,” those seeking love will keep anticipating a life-changing “density” event just around the corner.

(C) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

FOR MORE MEET-CUTE ROMANCE STORIES ABOUT LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT…. click the cover. Now available on Amazon paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited



As much as the native Americans and pilgrims came together to peacefully feast, the modern Thanksgiving table often becomes the dividing line in every family between political and generational feuds and sometimes great food wars. Sore points of who’s turkey or stuffing was too dry or who wants cranberry from a can or a stovetop, often engender bruised feelings and egos from passive-aggressive kitchen comments. And the endless debate over the superiority of pies from scratch or store bought that will never be surrendered.

         But when you live more than 1,000 miles away from family, choosing holidays to spend together becomes a much less impactful Sophie’s choice decision between two holidays that are only four weeks apart. We chose Christmas to spend as a family and that leaves the question of what do you do for Thanksgiving…and Friendsgiving was born.

  A few years ago, several of our Florida friends, who equally opt for Christmas gatherings elected to get together with each other. It was a happy revelation and could be a blueprint for others.

Instead of fights, criticism and debates, the holiday was refreshingly jovial and entirely pleasant. Everyone contributed a dish, which produced a wonderful smorgasbord of different Thanksgiving delicacies from traditionalists, regionalists and some who followed an eclectic path.

Of course, they was still football and wine, a lot of wine, but there were also friendly discussions and games. This year, someone recommended a dinner party game while eating. There was, of course, the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of playing “never have I ever” which almost gained traction until someone else proposed another game called “who would play me in the movie”.

You play by going around the table and everyone weighs in on what actor, living or dead, could play you in the movie of your life. Ideas are thrown out for each person and discussion ensues, based on what characteristics, personality, likeness and prior roles would garner that actor the job. Then each person gets to decide which actor they prefer, or by popular vote…majority wins.

It’s an interesting test of how different people view their counterparts and what makes a good biopic. Of course, there are cases for similarity in likenesses of the same facial structure, eyes, nose, etc. And, of course, with a group of seniors, the likeness test sometimes would degrade to… “You look like this Ryan Gosling, if he was older or you could be Drew Barrymore, but with blond hair and if you were thinner with a shorter, nose,” leaving the question of why they thought that actor resembled them in the first place.  

Other people made arguments for comparable personalities or like a similar character they played in a movie, which reminds them of you. In some cases, each perception of personality had the same response as likeness. “You would be like Rodney Dangerfield, if you were funnier. Or maybe Meryl Streep, or if you were smarter or more serious. Which begs the question…if you have to change everything, why did you pick this person in the first place?

It’s a fun game, though can be an odd way to peer through the looking glass at yourself, through a friend’s eyes. What other people see sometimes is not the way you view yourself.

  But I found the most fascinating proposal was one without any reason. For each person at the table, one friend said they wanted a particular actor to play them… just because. He would not defend his selections and they all seemed to have no rhyme or reason. No one looked like the other person and personalities or even age weren’t the same.

Their choices were eliminated immediately by the group. So, after the game ended with a lot of laughs and a few revelations, I asked this person…

“Why did you pick those people?”

“Because in my mind, that’s who I want them to be,” he said.

  And that’s the perfect encapsulation of the entire Thanksgiving table. Who thinks they can convert their crazy uncle to embrace their lifestyle or even hairstyle over one meal? Your aunts will never ever agree on the exact temperature of turkey or moisture level of stuffing. And the homemade group will never concede that store-bought is just as good. So is the table an arena to air grievances or a place where we can hope those sitting across from us are all we want them to be?


Friday Fright

Excited about Halloween, siblings Chris, Sarah and Nathan honored their annual haunted house tradition. Since childhood, they visited one haunted house to start the season off with a bang.

Each year they choose a haunted house to fit their mood. As youngsters, they liked ones similar to a Disney theme park with bright lights and a little spooky music, but nothing too scary. But later into teen years, they looked for more challenging adventures that left them anticipating each fright and scream until the exhilarating conclusion of relief.

“Let’s really get into it this year,” Nathan wrote on their group text.  “I want a haunted house that’s gonna make me wet my pants.”

As a psychologist, little sister Sarah briefly questioned his extreme need for excitement, but she knew her brother loved the adrenaline rush from a good scare and reveled in the challenge to frighten others. As a child, he’d set up elaborate Halloween pranks in order to catch others off guard.

 And as a teen, he enjoyed working at haunted houses each Halloween. At a towering seven feet tall, he was always placed in the role of the scary monster or the doorman with the intimidating voice to give people a taste of what they were about to experience.

With his insatiable appetite for a thrill, Nathan found a new haunted house that promised to be a truly horrifying experience.

As haunted house experts, it was difficult to not only achieve but exceed their level of excitement. So while they always went into it with open minds and hearts excitedly anticipating to be fulfilled, their bar raised high.

Upon entering, Chris, the artist of the trio, admired the level or intricate cobwebs poised atop the fake castle stones, crafted from Styrofoam and painted to show pitting and age. Big wooden doors that creaked when opened and sounds of the eerie music emanated from the speakers to set the mood.

“Welcome to Gregory Mansion said the booming announcement. Good luck.”

They all looked at each other with smiles and big eyes believing this could be something unique.

The first room set a dining room scene with a long table fully appointed with dripping wet wax candles and dull antique silver plates. The live zombies actors moved slowly with robotic repetition under a strobe light.

Sarah’s heart beat a little faster as she noticed mannequin heads spinning on plates in front of each person with the tops cut out and worms spilling out.

“Not bad,” Chris said. “They even sprayed the gummy worms to look like real worms, respect.”

“Yeah, but the lighting’s too bright,” Nathan sadly complained.

As they walked along a dark hallway, the eyes of the creepy portraits in the wall seemed to follow them.

“That’s the oldest trick in the book,” Nathan quipped with disappointment.

“Now that you’ve been fed. We invite you to join us for some entertainment,” the disembodied voice bellowed, and they stopped in a blackened room, looking into the darkness.

“Where do we go?” Sarah asked in a somewhat uncertain and frightened tone.

As if on cue, floating neon instruments played a baritone dirge.

“I can see the strings,” Nathan criticized.

“Our shy netherworld musicians will only appear if they feel welcome,” the voice scolded.

“Wow, this is strangely responsive,” Chris commented and began clapping, followed by the others.

The illumination sparked as a translucent ghostly band appeared before them.

“Your kind reception is welcome,” the voice said. “You have been invited to our main stage.”

The three glanced at each other with confusion and walked through the open door into a spooky laboratory. Clad in surgical garb, a masked audience silently watched a cloaked operating table. A surgeon entered and stood near the body as the sound of violins quickly screeched chilling notes. As the only girl, Sarah never exhibited fear in front of her brothers, but she felt uneasy.

The surgeon mumbled as he clinked shiny metal tools together, pretending to perform the operation, when the music abruptly ceased and a sudden shriek came from the lifeless covered lump on the table. The masked audience gasped and the lights flickered on and off. The surgeon ripped off his surgical gown, mask and cap to reveal a skeletal clown face and curly black and red wig.

A spotlight beamed on him as he cackled. “Aha. He’s alive.”

When the lights came back, they noticed the cloaked patient disappeared.  They quickly turned their heads back and forth looking for the missing person when Sarah let out a bloodcurdling scream.

Nathan and Chris unconsciously jerked back and saw the formerly lifeless patient holding a knife over their sister. The brothers grabbed Sarah’s hands and ran toward the glowing red exit sign. Once through the door, they found themselves in a small gray room, completely devoid of any décor.

“That was a close call,” Chris huffed from lost breath.

Sarah nodded, too upset to speak.

Smiling ear to ear, Nathan uttered a loud enthusiastic laugh. “That was great!”

The other two glared at him in disagreement.

“Sorry, not into the near-death experience performance, thanks.” Sarah said soundly.

“Really? I loved it.” Nathan gleamed.

“I agree,” the booming voice said. “We all need a little scare once in a while. Happy Halloween.”

And the outside door mysteriously opened on cue.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022


Everyone needs a Peter Pan in their life. Just as he opened up a new world to Wendy, in her own magical way, my aunt showed me a completely different way to live.

When I was about 10-years-old, I started to rebel against my mother. If she said the sky was blue, I said it was green. Clothes, music, attitude, we agreed on nothing. So for the first of what would be repeated many summers, my mother decided I needed a change of pace, and probably so did she, and she sent me to visit my aunt and uncle for two months.

My aunt and uncle were upscale bohemian hippies in the early 70s. They went to college in the 60s and protested everything. As a white-hat prosecutor, he fought for victims and her patience as a former special needs teacher benefited a new stay at home mom of two babies under three.

From the moment I got there, I knew it was going to be special. While my uncle went to work, my Aunt and I played. In the little tiny Volkswagen bug, she and I, along with two babies and a very large disabled German Shepherd dog, embarked on new adventures.

We visited estate sales for antique furniture or jewelry, picking up a few baubles here and there. And whatever didn’t fit in the small overcrowded car, we would come back to get later. 
With her babies in hiking backpacks, we daily walked around the University of Illinois campus Quad, stopping at Baskin Robbins for an ice cream or a milkshake afterward.

When my uncle got home, he often brought the same Baskin Robbins ice cream home for dessert. I ate a lot of ice cream those summers.

And after dinner the music blasted through the house at maximum volume while everyone danced around to Peter, Paul and Mary, Judy Collins, and The Eagles. All music I never heard before and have love to this day.

While folding the endless cloth diapers and clothes from two babies, she introduced me to a strange but compelling daytime TV phenomenon, soap operas or as I nicknamed them, soda poppers. She explained the labyrinth of complex character relationships with fervor, so I could keep up with the storyline.

And after the kids went to sleep, we would play cards and talk about everything…school, boys, parents, growing up.

But more than that, in the turbulent social and political climate of the times, I learned a completely different way of thinking. Without saying anything out loud, I learned by seeing through their eyes that people need to be put over property. That money isn’t everything. And that justice applies to everyone and the power of the people can affect change. Another lifelong habit I embraced.

And just like that, a few years in their presence and I became a lifelong liberal in a staunchly conservative family. Looking back, I’m not really certain how it happened, but I’m glad it did. It made for many oppositions to my parents to this day, but gave me a different view of the world I celebrate.

I remember those summers fondly and credit them not only as a great time, but the bare threads that wove the fabric of my existence.

I truly believe it’s the exposure I had in these two different worlds that gave me the unique and observational perspective that allowed me to choose my own path. Seeing and experiencing different ways of life can have a profound and beneficial effect on young people or people of any age, as long as they’re watching and listening.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022


Queen Sighting

As the airwaves are filled with stories and tidbits about Queen Elizabeth II, I’d like to add one of my own. 

On a 2014 London visit, I stood on a bright sunny Summer day at the gates of Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. As an American, this was a must, to experience the unique pomp and regiment of centuries old monarchal traditions.

Luckily, I got a wonderful front-row view on the flank of the guard, right up against the gates. As I stood there waiting for the time of the change, I took in the entire view. As a fan of architecture, I looked up and down admiring the palace and its opulence. Then I noticed the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom flag flying above the building. In my research, and by watching the movie National Treasure, I knew when that flag is raised, the queen is in residence. I smiled and felt rather satisfied knowing that when I was here to see her house, she was in there, maybe glancing out at the crowd…maybe even at me. 

Royal Standard Flag of the United Kingdom

Just then a car drove through the gates and pulled up to the side portico entrance. Some people got in and it turned around and stopped right in front of us while the gate reopened. 

 Out of curiosity, I couldn’t help peeking into the car.  No more than 20 feet away from me were the queen and Prince Philip in the flesh. I was sure if it. To the naked eye, it was an older man and elderly lady with a hat. But then as the car passed through the gates to leave the palace, I noticed the Royal Standard flag lower and immediately the union jack raise to fly above the palace. That confirmed it! The queen had left the building.

Union Jack Official Flag of the United Kingdom

Seeing the queen may be a semi-typical experience for Brits, but as an American visiting Britain, it was a highlight for my tourist list. 

An outsider looking in, I’ve always been fascinated by British history and have made it a mission to learn as much as possible about the intricacies and peculiarities of the British crown throughout the two millennia. Filled with many kinds of intrigue such as divorce, adultery, overthrows, feuds, abdications, strife, sorrow and several beheadings, the annals of their history read like an interesting soap opera. 

Now that she’s passed, I feel extra proud that I was able to glimpse the lady to match the myth and the memory of her Majesty.

But after nearly a century of her image on film, one question still remains – a secret that may go with her. What was in the purse she always carried?

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022


Give a Little, Get a Little

Sandy credited her superb organization skills for the planning of her wedding to her longtime boyfriend, Dan.

With her wedding binder in hand, she had everything from the flowers and banquet hall labeled, tabbed and categorized to tackle any question or mishap that would arise.

Dan went along with all the planning and decisions with complete agreement due to some sage fatherly advice.

“The girls always care about the wedding more. So just act interested and agree to everything. You better learn now—happy wife, happy life,” his father said.

Everything was running smoothly and a week before the wedding, she held a family meeting to go over the details of the wedding.

Sandy proudly ran the meeting with the efficiency of a corporate board presentation with handouts for everyone and a PowerPoint presentation of timelines, table assignments and room layout. But she wasn’t 5 minutes in before the first objections arose.

“Why are the parents seated at the bridal table? That’s only for the bridal party,” Dan’s mother said with stern disagreement.

Before Sandy could answer, her mother countered.

“The parents are part of the bridal party. They are in the processional and should be seated at the front,” Sandy’s mother explained.

“That’s not how it’s done,” Dan’s mother folded her arms in a huff. 

“After all, we’re paying for it, we belong at the head table,” Sandy’s mother folded her arms and glared at Dan’s mother.

“Oh, is that why my family has their tables by the kitchen and on the dance floor?” Dan’s mother strongly accused.

Sandy didn’t know what to do. Changing everything at this point would be difficult. She shot Dan a panicked look, as if asking him what to do. He nodded his head and smiled, so she ignored the quibbling mothers and continued. This was their wedding and she wasn’t going to change things.

As the wedding day approached, she emailed everyone in the bridal party, the caterer, the driver, the florist, the photographer and the DJ company detailed itineraries and lists of duties to ensure everything would go off like clockwork. She thought meticulous planning would lead to no mistakes and nothing would go wrong.

At the wedding rehearsal, the first mistake happened. Different candelabras were at the church and there weren’t enough candles. But Sandy had a backup plan and had more candles at home for the next morning.

“Crisis averted,” she sighed in relief.

On the morning of the wedding, the temperature rose to 92 degrees. Sandy smiled as she heard the weather.

“Good thing I insisted on an indoor air-conditioned banquet hall and church.”

But when the bridal SUV broke down and instead they drove up with an open air trolley, decorated for the wedding, Sandy took a deep breath.

“No problem.” She said and texted a friend to bring a few cases of cold drinks on ice for the bridal party. “Crisis averted.”

Things were back on track. They successfully got to the church and met the photographer. Sandy gasped when she saw him. He was nineteen years old, the son of the photographer she met with.

“I have your list of every shot you wanted and will follow your directions, exactly. I know I’m young, but I grew up in this business and I promise you’ll be pleased,” he said.

Sandy was taken aback, but his cooperative nature and adherence to her lists made her a little more comfortable, so she took a deep breath and moved on.

It was time to go down the aisle. Standing in a long line behind her bridesmaids, she looked down as she approached the door. The white runner was not down the aisle.

Sandy was annoyed.

“Those dingus friends of Dan’s were supposed to put the white runner down,” she said to herself.

She took a deep breath and sighed. It would be fine, she thought.

After a beautiful ceremony, the wedding party gathered in the vestibule to receive the guests as they exited. But soon Sandy noticed no one was coming to the end of the line, where she was. She looked around perplexed when her eyes finally fixed on the problem. Dan’s mother was at the head of the line talking at great length to each person and holding up the endless cue of people.

“Who put her at the front of the line? This is going to take forever. Do something!” she told Dan.

Dan just shrugged.  Sandy was frustrated, but what could she do. So, she rolled her eyes, sighed a lot and took a breath.

“Whatever,” she said.

A few hours and a few glasses of champagne later, a more relaxed Sandy and Dan were being announced into the reception banquet room. When Sandy entered and heard a crackling voice, she immediately turned her head to the DJ and was shocked. Instead of the vibrant young DJ they hired, a thin, pasty old, gray-haired, tales from the crypt, DJ was standing there holding the microphone.

Keeping in the character of the happy bride, Sandy pasted on a smile and walked to head table, waving to her cheering guests.  A few minutes later, the DJ came up to her.

“I’m sorry, but Jerry, the DJ you hired got sick and I’m his last-minute replacement. But don’t worry, I have your complete instructions and song list and will stick to it like glue to ensure your party is wonderful,” he said with a reassuring smile.

Sandy held her breath and nodded. It would be fine, she told herself.

After dinner, it was going all right. Despite the litany of old man DJ jokes from their friends, their exuberance and the DJ’s attention to the list made the party soar. Sandy was finally enjoying her reception.

“See I told you everything would work out,” Dan smiled.

Then a loud pulsating blare overtook the music and everyone froze.

“Everyone please evacuate the hall quickly and safely. We have a fire alarm,” a man’s voice yelled.

Looking at each other with concern, the guests filed out of the reception into the dimly lit parking lot waiting in hushed worry. It was a warm summer night, but luckily the bare arms of some of the girls were aided by the few gentleman who still had their suitcoats on.

Sandy was numb. Dan had his arms around her while they awaited the news. Was there a fire?

As fire engine pulled into the parking lot, everyone’s fears worsened.

“It’s going to be fine, honey,” Dan told Sandy as she stood silently watching the reception hall with laser focus.

Twenty-five minutes after the fire siren sounded, the fire fighters came out.

“All clear. Someone just pulled the fire alarm for a joke,” they announced.

Astonished, the crowd was mum when Sandy let out a big boisterous laugh…and kept laughing.

Dan’s eyes opened wide as he glared at her, stunned at her response.

“Are you ok honey?”

“Yes I am. It’s just too ridiculous to believe. I’d like to wring the neck of whoever thought that was funny, but what can you do. If you try to control everything, you don’t enjoy anything,” she laughed.

“You should have your picture taken with the fire fighters,” someone shouted.

“That’s a great idea,” Sandy laughed. “Not that we’ll ever forget this, but we need evidence so people will believe us.”

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022


A Doll Without

Author Note: There are those in this world who believe they’re entitled to see beauty all around them. The problem is beauty is in the eye of the beholder and sometimes its a person. We should see beauty within and without as one. A doll is not real and it shouldn’t be wished so by others.

People envy my life. I travel to exotic locations, meet interesting people and see the world.

My image is on billboards, magazines and all over the internet. But it’s not me; it’s a doll living a false fantasy in a fake sphere.

Just like the plastic Barbie doll I used to play with, I wear the clothes they give me and my hair and makeup is styled the way they want. Poseable in any direction, my arms, legs, head, eyes, smile and body are commanded and controlled by whoever is pointing a camera or shouting orders.

“Turn that way, look this way, feel it” they say.

It’s a job I chose, but it’s not who I am.

When people call me beautiful and applaud my outward façade, I cringe. I’m supposed to be gratified that they’re complimenting me. But it’s not real. It’s not me. That doll is only alive in the picture.

Beauty is an artificial image no one can uphold. And it’s a box that constrains and labels to fit neatly into societal reflections seen thru the lens of subjective perfection. It may be in the eye of the beholder, but it’s often unseen by the person within and can never live up to the taste of each person within its view.

I’ve seen vitriol thrown at fellow models who don’t fit the mold some people conjure in their mind. But they look like everyday people on the streets who buy the clothes and products. People don’t see us, only a doll.

No one really sees me. They see what they want in the pages of the magazine. A realized vision of their own making put on a pedestal to objectify and revere.

My outside doll. An empty shell.

But beyond the airbrush, makeup, clothes, hair and all the trappings, inside it’s just me. When I wake in the morning and go to bed at night, when everything is scraped off and removed – in the mirror, I see me.

For years, I struggled to find who I am, separate from the doll they see. But now each day I look at me. I’m full of thoughts, emotions and faults clear of the restraints of my physical form.

I’m not a tool to embody unrequited desires not achieved. And it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks I should be.

The doll is a casing that I discard when the job is done. Afterward, without the doll, I can be me. The me inside. And I’m enough.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022


Phone Panic

I remember a time when making a phone call took a dime and a search for a phone booth. But now, the convenience of having a phone, address book, email, internet, camera, calendar, photo album, stopwatch, clock, flashlight, and all the information that makes up your entire world in your hands has made us dependent on our phones. I know I am.

If my phone isn’t right at my fingertips, I panic, running all over to retrace my steps to find it. I often think if they invented some way for it to be physically connected to me, I’d be the first to sign up. And the incident that solidifies the importance of our phones is its demise.

I’ll admit. I’m hard on phones. There was the time I dropped one on the ground and a little tiny insignificant pebble broke the screen glass like a fantastic web that I couldn’t see through. That’s when I got a protector case and glass for the next phone.

The time it was in the sun too long and the LED screen went out, I lost all my contacts for the prior two years, all my memos and texts. From then on, I put in some backup systems.  

Each time I learned something to prevent the problem in the future or make it easier. And it was working, I was on four years with this phone.

But one day at my office, my phone was in my pocket when I went to the bathroom. Without getting graphic, let’s just say it slipped out of my pocket and into the toilet bowl just as it was flushing down.

All I heard was a plop sound, then I panicked, turned and looked down.

“Noooo,” I yelled and grabbed it out of the water quickly, as if saving a drowning person.

I ran to the sink and quickly pulled out the paper towels and dried it off. Then I held my breath and looked at the screen.

It was black.

Like a crazy person, I yelled no, no, no and pushed every button on the screen to get any signs of life, like an emergency room doctor employing defibrillator paddles to resurrect. I turned it on and off a bunch of times. Nothing.

By this time, a couple ladies in the restroom came to my aid with advice.

“Put it in rice,” one said.

“Use the hand blow dryer,” another offered.

“Take out the battery,” a third added.

Since I was at work, I didn’t have any rice, so I ran to the IT person’s desk and begged for help, as if I was asking Zeus to take pity on me and bring it back to life.

After she stopped snickering at the phone’s drowning, she took the battery out and gave me back the lifeless components. She liked the hand dryer idea, so I ran back to the bathroom to dry it out.

As I stood there switching my all too warm hands back and forth, I wracked my memory for the last time it backed up and then despaired at all the data on the phone I couldn’t do without.

I’m going to lose all my pictures and videos.

If I lose my contacts, I don’t know anyone’s phone numbers.

There was information on my texts that I needed. Many of my younger clients used it exclusively.

My memos and all my reminders and what about my appointments? I won’t know where to go or when?

That phone was my lifeline. I couldn’t live without it.

After standing there for a half hour, drying the phone and nearly scalding my hands, I took it back to the IT lady.

She put the battery back in as I stood there breathlessly wishing and watching as she performed some magical surgery on the buttons.

When I saw the look on her face, I knew the truth. The phone was dead.

“You can try some rice when you get home, but that’s a few hours away, so it may be too late,” she said.

I thanked her and took the phone back to my office, slowly and sadly, walking the last mile.

I knew I had to go to the phone place after work and replace it, hoping my backup app worked.

My work email was also on my computer and I optimistically reasoned that anyone important would call me on my landline, if it was urgent.

After work, I drove directly to the cell phone place and waited and waited and waited. Finally. I told my embarrassing tale to the guy. I could tell he was holding back laughter, as he asked me.

“Did you back up your data on the app?”

I looked down and shrugged my shoulders. “I hope so.”

For an hour, he diligently worked on his computer to retrieve my data and put it into a new phone as I sat there nearly numb from fear at what his prognosis would be.

“Well, I was able to retrieve the contacts that backed up to the app and your calendar, photos and videos were backed up to Google, so they are there,” he said and handed me the new phone with a matter-of-fact grimness.

He wasn’t saying it. My texts and memos were gone. They either can’t or didn’t back up. I was so despondent at the point, I don’t even know what he said.

The phone insurance protection money I paid monthly for the last four years covered most of the cost, with a $100 deductible, and I left. When I did the sum in my head, I realized the $500 I paid for the insurance over the past few years only saved me $100, but at least I got it back. I felt a little better.

But I was still upset about the lost data and what a hassle it was going to be to reload all my apps on the phone. That’s if I remember the passwords and usernames and which apps I had.

I dreaded the next few days of mourning and reconstructing the information lost without knowing how I was going to do it. But I needed to move on.

I guess next time I’ll make sure my backups are full proof and definitely take my phone out of my pocket when I enter the bathroom.

© Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022


The Light of the Moon

It was late one night and I took my dog out for her final business of the day. I waited as she did her usual search for the perfect blade of grass to drench.

It was pitch dark everywhere. The only light was the blue hued glow of the nearly full moon out that night. My dog kept venturing toward the neighbors’ house and I followed. Then I saw an amber light radiating from their lanai.

I don’t know if my dog was attracted by the light, but as she got closer, I heard a low tone of music, laughing and splashes of water.

I smiled and chuckled a little that my new neighbors were going for a little late night swim. Finally my dog picked a spot and assumed her position. I turned my back and first and blankly looked into the dark abyss, but I admit, I was a little curious. So, I took a peek at the neighbors and then quickly averted my eyes in shock. They were skinny dipping.

It was so unexpected a host of thoughts were swirling around my head. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I invaded their privacy. That soon translated to curious confusion – why were they skinny dipping? Not wanting to think about the answers to that question, I shook my head, picked up my dog and quickly moved back to my house.

When I told my wife, she laughed.  But I wasn’t sure whether she was laughing at them or at my somewhat indignant surprise.

For the next few days, my dog kept going back to the same sweet spot between the two properties. Hoping to avoid peeping and nervous for another encounter, I turned my back and faced the golf course and then went back into the house, gratefully without incident.

I usually take her for a walk during the day, but I was taking a break from the heat in our pool and just took her out the back.  I wasn’t thinking and started looking around. And there before my eyes was my neighbor lady, watering her plants with nothing on. The full moon was out even during the day.

Embarrassed again, I immediately looked down and began coaxing my dog to finish, when I heard a voice.

“Oh hi neighbor. I was hoping to meet you,” she said.

I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to be neighborly, so I pasted a smile on my red-blushed face and walked toward her.  

“Hi. I’m glad to see you…uh..meet you too. I’m Brad,” I muddled.

“My name is Inga,” she said.

She went on to tell me that she and her husband Lars are from Sweden and bought this as a winter vacation home. As she talked, I barely heard what she said. I mostly just nodded. I didn’t know what to do with my eyes. If I look down, I could offend her and if I look up and down, I could offend me and her. I probably looked like a crazy person as focused directly on her face the entire time.

But let’s face it. I saw. Inga was an older women in her 70’s, mildly slender with white hair and very pale skin.

As she continued with her friendly patter, I started to be aware of my own nakedness, as I was only wearing my swim trunks. I started to squirm a bit and folded my arms across my chest in a few different ways.

In all the confusion, I didn’t see my dog finish and go over to our lanai door. Suddenly, she barked in command for me to let her in. I was saved by the bark.

“Sorry, I have to let her majesty in the door,” I laughed. “Nice to meet you.”

Walking back to my house, I sighed with relief, but I felt stupid.

The rest of the day I kept going over it in my mind. Should I have done something different? Was I being childish?

When my wife came home I told her what happened and I felt better. She was equally shocked by the awkward encounter.

I know it’s silly, but from that point on, I took our dog to the front of the yard for her business. I was really uncomfortable and didn’t want a repeat occurrence.

A week or so later, we got an invitation in our mailbox. Our next door neighbor was having a housewarming party.

When my wife showed me the invite, I was starkly against going.

“How can I possibly face that lady when I have seen too much of her,” I protested.

“Come on. We have to go. She’s our neighbor. How would it look if we didn’t go,” she reasoned. “And don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll have clothes on.”

Logic and wives rule. So, we went. When we arrived, the house was full of the people on our street. I was relieved. I could just give a casual hello and avoid talking to her the rest of the time.

They greeted us and we came in the door and I introduced my wife Sarah.

“This is Lars,” she said. “Please enjoy, we have some wonderful wine and smårätt.”

“That’s Swedish for snacks,” Lars smiled.

I sighed in relief. I was in the clear.

As we walked into the kitchen, my mind conjured all the Swedish food I knew in anticipation of a familiar international cuisine. Meatballs, Swedish fish and those great crepe like pancakes they have at Ikea. They had a big spread of wonderful appetizers, but no meatballs. Actually, most everything looked fairly common for a party here. I was a bit disappointed, but hungry, so I made a plate.  

I walked around a bit to find a place to sit, but meanwhile, I was ogling and admiring their art and furniture. It was so different and interesting. I found myself gazing at an abstract painting with a lot of colors and shapes. I stared at it trying to make sense of the subject matter when Lars startled me.

“You like my work?” he said proudly.

“You did this? It’s intriguing. I love abstract art,” I said.

“Then you’ll love this,” he said and led me to the other room.

I nearly choked on my food. There was a painting of Inga, in the nude. It was abstract but I had no problem recognizing the subject.

“Yes, I’ve seen it before…uh her…uh you’re very talented,” I stuttered out.

I was sure my face was once again blush red or pink at my awkward foible.

He looked at me and let out the biggest belly laugh you’ll ever hear.

“Don’t fret, my friend. Inga told me she met you before.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I just nodded.

“Please don’t be uncomfortable. This is not our first trip to America. In Europe, people feel more open about their bodies. There’s no need for awkwardness. It’s fine,” he assured.

Later when we got home, I pondered the idea of nudity. It’s just their way; no big deal. And why do Americans feel differently? Why did I feel awkward? I thought of myself as a pretty progressive person, but I just couldn’t reconcile it in my mind.

I appreciate their free thinking and wish I could feel easier about it. But just the same, I think I’ll stay away from their lanai.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022


I Remember It Well

Suzy and Red sat together on the couch of their family’s home, surveying the “keep” pile, deciding what to take to their new condo in an assisted living center. 

At the age of 88, they were both healthy but needed a facility that could take care of any medical issues that arose. But they were melancholy about leaving the home that had been in their family for decades.

Their great-granddaughter Jackie spent days sifting through the boxes, furniture, keepsakes and junk in the attic and marked everything keep, donate, sell or garbage before she and her mother moved into the house.

The “keep pile” mostly consisted of scrapbooks, photo albums and other mementos. Suzy took one of the scrapbooks from the boxes and thumbed through it, fondly looking through each page.

She was a meticulous scrapbooker, chronicling every aspect of their 70 years together with programs from fairs, ballgame and amusement park tickets, postcards and posters from her life in the USO, dried flowers Red gave her, along with albums of pictures and piles of letters they wrote to each other during the war, carefully wrapped in ribbons.  

Suzy even pieced together remnants of the lives of Red’s family with relics and tokens left in the dusty old attic, including programs dating back to the 1893 and 1933 Chicago world’s fairs.

“Hey, I remember that. It’s in New York where we first met,” Red said glancing over her shoulder at the pictures in the scrapbook.

“Actually dear, that was the Hollywood Cantina where the girls and I performed. We met at the New York Cantina,” Suzy smiled, gently correcting him.

“Oh yes, you’re right, I think the bar and the stage in New York were switched,” he laughed.

“No, they weren’t,” she said under her breath, so he wouldn’t hear.

Red and Suzy met when he was a young sailor in WWII and she was a USO singer. While he navigated the Pacific on an aircraft carrier, she traveled the USA, singing a single night or two for the troops in USO cantinas from New York to Miami and all the way to Hollywood.

“Look, here are the pictures from our wedding. It was such a beautiful hotel. I still can’t believe all those nice people put it together for us in just a few hours,” Suzy smiled as she closed her eyes remembering the wedding in her mind, just like it was yesterday.

“Yeah, good thing that tourist at the hotel had a camera to photographed it for us,” Red said.

“Well, it was a newspaper reporter,” Suzy said sweetly and tapped his hand lightly.

“Oh, that’s right,” he laughed.

“Here’s a picture at Peg’s christening. I was so glad we could put her in the christening dress your grandma Maggie made for your father,” she said admiring it. “Jackie left the heirloom box in the attic. Maybe someday her children will wear it.”

“Yep, Maggie made it good enough to last and bring all the McIntyres into the world in stylish Irish lace. Look at Father Murphy, he looks so young there,” Red said.

“He does look young, but that’s Father O’Malley. Remember he left when Peg was a little girl. I think he went to Africa on a mission or something,” Suzy said gritting her teeth with a little annoyance, shaking her head at his forgetfulness.

“And here’s the first TV we got for the house,” Suzy said looking at the writing on the back of the picture. “This says it was 1950.”

Oh yeah, that old trusty Admiral. It was a lot of money for $250 but a great deal. We got the 12.5” picture tube, plus the Dynamagic, AM/FM radio with rotoscope antenna and the phonograph turntable. And it had great sound with the quad hi-fi stereo speakers and 20 watt amplifier,” Red said.

Suzy widened her eyes and looked at him puzzled in astonishment of the detail in which he remembered the television components.

“Wow, there’s a locket picture of Grandma Maggie,” he said.

Suzy took an irritated deep breath and looked at him. “That’s your daughter Peg, not your grandmother,” she said.

He chuckled. “Wow, I always said there was an amazing family resemblance. They look like twins.”

“Well, at least you’re right about that. The black and white picture doesn’t show the red hair or green eyes, but yes, even their faces were amazingly similar. And their Irish temper,” Suzy remarked.

After going through all the photo albums and scrapbooks, Suzy sealed the boxes to go to the new condo. She sighed, looking around the house for one of the last times.

“We’re leaving our family home, but will take all the memories with us.”

“Yes, I lived in this grand old house my whole life. I think my grandpop paid $2,025 for the Sears Honor Bilt homes kit and built it himself. But I’ll be glad to hand it over to our granddaughter, so it stays in the family. We had some great times here,” he smiled and pinched Suzy on her bottom.

She shook her head and kissed him.

“Well at least you remembered where that was.” Suzy laughed while Red puckered his brow with an inquisitive look.

“How can you remember the detailed specifications and cost of our first TV in 1950 and the price of your grandpop’s home in 1920, but you can’t recognize our old priest, where we met or the difference between your grandmother and daughter?” Suzy laughed.

“Easy, I have a brain for figures, like yours,” he said and embraced her.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022

Author’s Note: Everyone forgets things, but I’m glad Suzy and Red never forgot how they felt about each other. This is a snippet of the short story Epilogue from The Sailor and the Songbird: A Timeless American Historical Romance Book 1. This series features the sagas of love of the McIntyre family amid the backdrop of events in the 20th century. The full bridge epiologue story, referencing the first two books and previewing the third book is available to newsletter subscribers. Subscribe on the home page and it will be sent to you.


Karaoke Roulette

Author’s Note: This story was in answer to a writer group prompt to write a story about the wrong lyrics in a song. We all sing in the car. Sometimes we don’t know the real words. It happens.

Karaoke night was a favorite for Meg and her coworkers. Their watering hole of choice was a pizza pub near their office. Every Thursday night after work, they let their hair down and had a good time.

Most of them were fair singers, some good, but they all sang, so they played a high-stakes game they called karaoke roulette. Instead of selecting their own songs to sing, the singer would spin an empty beer bottle on the table and whoever it pointed to choose the song for that person. No complaints, no substitutions.

Being a friendly and malevolent group, everyone wanted each other to succeed, so no one committed malicious sabotage, but fun was never off the table.

There was the time Sandy made Matt sing I am Woman or when Meg and Carrie conspired to bet Jack that he wouldn’t sing Girls Just Want to Have Fun. They both killed it.

And the boys got in the act too, selecting a Summer Nights duet for Meg and Carrie. They even got into the spirit by holding hands, singing into each other’s eyes and pretending to be in love. When they were done, the place erupted with applause. It’s all in good fun.

One night, a newbie at work named Brett joined their group for the first time. He wanted play their game of chance, but Meg urged him to select his first song himself.

“Look, we’ve been doing this for a while, so don’t feel obligated to play our silly roulette game,” she said.

“No way. I’m part of the group now. I’ll play,” Brett insisted.

Meg, Carrie and the others looked at each other, shrugging their shoulders. They’d never heard him sing and had no idea what to select for him.

When it was Brett’s turn, he spun the bottle. The others watched as time passed in slow motion, each wishing and hoping the bottleneck didn’t point to them.

It stopped and pointed to Meg. The others breathed sighs of relief and smiled at her, grateful they dodged that bullet. She stared at the bottle for a moment in silence and shook her head. She couldn’t believe her un-luck. 

“Meg. What’s my song?” Brett eagerly asked.

As the others gazed at her in anticipation, she quickly raced through the Rolodex of songs in her mind. It had to be an easy one and should be a crowd pleaser, so everyone could join in, just in case. Her eyes lit up as she finally had an idea.

“Benny and the Jets,” she smiled.

The table all complimented her on her selection in agreement. Brett was elated.

“I love that song. I sing it in the car all the time. I won’t even need to look at the words,” he said.

Meg relaxed, feeling reassured that everything would go well. And when his name came up, Brett walked up to the KJ and told him the song.

The opening piano chords began and a confident Brett began to sing. His voice was decent, but more than that, he really performed the song. He took the microphone off the stand and strutted around the stage, engaging the audience, who replied by clapping and singing the chorus with him… BBBB Benny and the Jets.

Meg noticed he mumbled some of the stranger words in the beginning of the song. He sang “we’re in a California car tonight” instead of “kill a fatted calf tonight” and he called her a real queen when the words were really keen, but no one seemed to notice. After all, Elton John’s accent did make that line a little difficult. And who knows what keen is anyway.

She waved it off and happily clapped along with her friends and joined in for the chorus. He didn’t even hesitate, so it really didn’t matter. She beamed with pride on her brilliant song choice to start Brett on his way.

But then he sang the verse “she’s got electric boobs and mohair shoes,” and everyone at the table looked at each other in shock.

“Did he say electric boobs?” Carrie asked and Matt and Jack started laughing. 

“Yes he did.”

Meg nearly wrenched her neck glancing around the room with lightning speed. Some people were laughing, but most were still clapping and singing along.

She sighed in relief. Crisis averted. The song was over and Brett was cheered back to his table.

 “That was great,” he smiled and chugged his beer in celebration.

“Sure it was…electric boobs,” Matt teased.

“Yeah, I’d really like to know what electric boobs are,” Jack giggled and Carrie smacked him on the arm in disapproval.

“What?” Brett asked.

“Ignore these childish fools,” Carried assured. “Who’s singing next?”

“No, it’s fine. Elton John knows. I don’t. Maybe he meant she had a glittery shirt. I never really thought about it.” Brett answered, somewhat puzzled at the question.

Jack and Matt pursed their lips to avoid giggling again.

“Did I miss a joke? Wasn’t it good?” Brett asked, a little annoyed.

“Your performance was stellar, but I don’t think you really nailed the words… exactly,” she said gently and Carrie showed him the real lyrics on her phone.

“Are you kidding?” he laughed. “Oh man, I’ve been singing it that way for years.”

“No problem, we all do it,” Meg laughed. “Now we know what your karaoke nickname will be…electric boobs.”

Jack and Matt burst out laughing, followed by the rest.  

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022


Celebrate Women

Click the picture – 99 cent kindle sale this week

Not going to talk politics, really, but women took a hit this week. Just going to say it. We did.

I grew up in the wake of the women’s movement, but even with the strides of the women who paved the path before me, I’ve taken my hits. I have been told not to worry my little head about it more times than I can count. I’ve sat in board rooms where I was not heard because I had boobs, even though I had the right answers. I once had to pull a friend of mine off a man in a very big corporate board meeting because he referred to her as a “lady architect.” She was a tiger, I probably saved his life.

It got better as I got older and sometimes worse. I found, for the most part, the generations of men who came after were better. The generation of men who came before me, not so much.

That’s one of the reasons I write about women and girls in all my books and stories. Our stories need to be told and understood. Women need to read stories about other women to show they are not alone and to shine the light on a possible road they can take on their journey. And sometimes, we just need a laugh and to feel good about ourselves. That’s ok too.

And girls need to read stories about girls and women to show they can be themselves and do what they want. We need to empower them not to let anything stand in their way on their journey.

Recently I began a women’s fiction series about women in a small town and in a woman-owned retail mall called The Little Shoppes. Cupcakes. etc. on sale this week is the first in the series. Each book features a different woman’s business and individual origin stories, plus the people and town who support them. My editor said she wishes there were more fiction books about women’s friendships and women helping women. I thought she was mistaken as I’ve read a lot of women’s friendship fiction like Firefly Lane, Sweet Magnolias and recently Good Girls Revolt. All were very popular books and became TV movies.

But she’s right, statistically, there are less women’s fiction and specifically women’s friendship fiction books available. I am puzzled. Why?

Either way, I will continue to write strong, but flawed female characters and their stories win, lose or draw because they need to be told and they need to be read.

As my Cupcakes. etc. character Pamela says in her version of Georgia peach southern women’s lib, “Why would I want to be equal to men? I would never lower myself?”

Sorry to the men reading this, but please understand, sometimes we need to feel that way. As an old Virginia Slims commercial used to say…”We’ve come a long way, baby.” But there’s still a long way to go.


In Search of…Kindness

On Earth 22 in another part of the multi-verse, the ministers on Xena’s world sent several teen agents, including her, to observe high school students on different Earths.

Her one-week mission on E1 Earth was to try to find some key to break the stalemates between rival factions and bring an end to the horrible conflict. Her world has been shattered by years of civil war between people with desperate ideologies.

She landed in a typical high school in the US. Here are her findings:

Day 1:

My first impression is that kids are not much different than the way my world used to be. Now there are no schools, as everyone is either fighting in the war or sheltering. I found the typical pretty people,  sportos, smart kids, creative arts types and those who fall in between. The daily conflicts seem minor, but the strong still seem to prey on the weak in a feeble attempt to raise their standing and personal self-esteem. We went through this on my Earth. It was gone by the time I was in school. I wish I could just tell them that hurting others will not make them whole and will cause development stagnation and impair their personal growth. But, of course, I can’t interact with anyone. Rule one is we can’t interfere with the natural evolution of any world, whether is it detrimental or not.

Day 2:

Maybe E1 is not as typical as I thought. I observed an “active shooter drill.” An alarm was sounded and the students and teacher immediately locked and barricaded the door and hid under desks. My briefing was obviously not complete as I was not apprised of a war in this area. The students seemed very practiced and skilled at it. When the gun raids and bombing started in our schools, desks and tables did not prevent the killing. That’s why we no longer have schools at my home. Maybe theirs are made of bullet proof materials. Note to self to check on that.

Day 3:

I wanted to view the entire student body at once interacting with each other. I noticed large crowds of them gathering in a place called a cafeteria, so I stayed in there all day to watch. There were obvious divisions in the room where different groups congregated. I noted the collections I logged before, but this time I also detected some division by skin and hair color. I did hear about the ancients on our world separating by skin color before, which was later outlawed. I can’t imagine categorizing people by these differences. What’s next eye color or clothing? I was very curious about the hair color segment. Some had pink, orange, purple, green, blue and some with multicolors. They seem to be in an area with many colors while some only brown, black, yellow or orange-haired teens were on other sides.

I was very perplexed by the actions of several male teens who went by the hair table, spilling drinks, knocking things over. One young person exuded fluids from the mouth in their direction. That seemed highly unsanitary to me. Then they shouted various words at them in a loud hateful tone and left, smiling and clapping their hands together in the air. They seemed very pleased with themselves, but I did not see what they accomplished. The hair teens at the table did not engage them. The obvious disdain by one group for another is puzzling. Their obviously bullies, but I saw no difference in the kids, except for some of the hair colors. Has this Earth really devolved that much that skin and hair color causes ruptures in social behavior like that? I still don’t understand what they were doing. The minor conflicts I observed on the first day seemed less intense. And it was interesting that no one from other tables reacted. Were they ambivalent or just engrossed in their own situation?

Day 4:

I overheard several teens talking about an off-campus meeting place called a mall. I followed them to observe out-of-school activity and realized it was an assortment of retail establishments. This could be a good opportunity to examine a societal cross section. I meandered around and saw many familiar sites from my old world. It was nice to see people shopping again, just carefree buying clothing with friends, parents or family. They even had someone playing the piano in an echo chamber to entertain them. We don’t have stores anymore and people aren’t allowed to congregate. They became targets for mass killings by each faction.

I detected a couple of confusing observations. First, there seem to be armed patrol groups of teens and young adults in the stores. I viewed them walking back and forth a few times with no intended destination. I also monitored a few random people shopping who were carrying side weapons. I need to update the ranking on this area in our computer. It was previously ranked as yellow, but the presence of personal weapons may indicate otherwise. More study will be needed.

Day 5:

When at the mall, I noted propaganda mediums are still in use on E1. Finding conflicting information, I decided to investigate those mediums today to attempt to reconcile my personal findings with the data I was given.

Propaganda is disseminated through many electronic devices. I remember those from our archives. I believe they were one of the initial causes of misinformation and detachment in my world. They were abolished not long after the fighting began.

I watched many segments of their news. There was a lot of focus on different issues but very little agreement. And there was a lot of shouting. I need to check if the hearing levels are decreasing in the people here.

Their processing systems also had written and verbal news and something called social media. I heard some teens discussing the various outlets. I read some of the trending news but it seemed to be a very dysfunctional and disconnected series of arguments, echoing some of the yelling I heard on the their news.  

Personal Mission Log:

After 5 of my 7 days, I am abandoning this survey. I realize this mission is futile. I found no evidence of kindness that can help my world. Kindness died on my Earth a long time ago. I hate to see another Earth descend into the same ridiculous rivalries, corruption and cruelty toward each other. Despite rule one, I decided to leave something behind to spark some ideas. On my world, we developed a mantra to try and promote peace between are warring factions. I left my sign that says, “Open Mind. Open Heart. Accept.” I hope someone takes it seriously. I’m going to recommend we don’t visit E1 again for at least twenty years. Maybe the next generation will change things, but if not, this Earth could meet the same fate as mine-or worse.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022



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My friend Gloria and I were thrilled to start our long-awaited two-week European cruise. We’d enjoyed long weekend cruises to the Caribbean before, but this was going to be an adventure to view the architecture of the oldest places in the world and experience their culture.

We got to the ship, had our picture taken and found the stateroom. Looking around the room, it was a little cramped. It wasn’t any smaller than other cruise cabins, but measuring our two weeks of luggage against the closets barely designed for one person, we decided to make it work by doubling and tripling up our outfits on the few hangers provided.

We figured out the bathroom situation on the last cruise. Gloria used the vanity mirror to do her hair and makeup and I did mine in the bathroom. We took very short showers and washed our hair at night before bed, to maximize time. We made an agreement early on that nothing was going to dampen our excitement.

 At our first meal, we sat down at a table with eight other people. Everyone introduced themselves. There were a few Americans, Brits and one couple from Australia. Then it was my turn.

“Aloo, I am Peggine from Pari. I am happy to meet you all,” I said in my best Maurice Chevalier voice. I’ve seen Gigi about 100 times.

Gloria was dumbfounded. She looked at me with bulging confused eyes and just said “Gloria,” and waved with a blank expression.

All through dinner, I kept it up. Luckily none of them had ever been to Paris. Neither had I. But as a movie buff, I described ever scene I ever saw from Gigi, Charade, Moulin Rouge and An American in Paris. I talked like a native. No one would have ever known, except a Parisian, of course.

People asked me questions and complimented my accent. It was like holding court. I had an absolute blast. But poor Gloria, she kept looking at me bewildered panic.

After everyone left the table, she glared at me.

“Wasn’t that fun?” I chuckled.

“Not for me. What was that all about?” she demanded.

“I saw a TV show where they pretended to be somebody else for the whole cruise. And when everyone was introducing themselves, suddenly it hit me. I don’t want to be just plain Peg from retirement community Florida. And before I knew it, Peggine came out of my mouth,” I explained.

“Well, that’s interesting. But I wish I would have known, I felt stupid just sitting there thinking I was going to have to commit you to the looney bin,” she said relieved.

“Why don’t you do it too? You saw what happened. People treated me like a queen. And since we don’t eat with the same people or even see any of these people again, what’s the harm?” I said.

“It sounds like fun, but I could never do an accent like that,” she giggled.

I thought about it for a few minutes and then I had an idea.  

“What if you had a unique occupation, something really out there. What do you know enough about to fake?” I said.

She looked at me in silence for the longest time and then her eyes brightened in excitement.

“I love Indiana Jones movies, what if I said I was an archaeologist?” she said.

“That works, but remember you have to sell it. And make sure not to bring it up until they tell you what they do, so you don’t get caught,” I warned.

And for the rest of the cruise, the French Peggine and the archaeologist Gloria delighted our fellow passengers with our made-up escapades and interesting tales.

It was amazing. Gloria spun such incredible yarns. People treated us like celebrities. Everyone we met smiled and waved to us anywhere they saw us on the ship.

Keeping up the pretense was a lot of work, you had to stay on your toes, but it was worth it. We were having the time of our lives. No more boring retired ladies from Florida whose husbands were too stuck in their ways to travel. We were internationalists.

The real test came when the ship landed in Paris. I knew I would be revealed as an imposter if I tried my fake French accent to actual Parisians, so we went off on our own to explore everything. We would have done that anyway, so no harm, no foul.

We walked up and down the streets of Paris, gawking at the expensive fashions in the store windows, marveled at the Eiffel Tower and did everything a tourist would do. Then we sat at a street café and had some French wine and pastries for a treat. It was wonderful. Until someone we met on the ship found us. It was an American lady from Georgia who we ate dinner with on the first night.

“Oh look, there’s Peggine. She’ll help us,” the Georgian said.

Gloria and I stared at each other in panic. We were caught.

“Peggine, this French waiter can’t understand a cotton picken word we say. We just want some of their stinky cheese and some decent wine and make sure they give us French bread. Can you tell him please?” she explained, quite loudly.

If I wasn’t so terrified to be trapped in my own web of lies, I would’ve laughed. If someone from another country comes to America, we immediately shame them for not communicating with us in our language. And yet when we travel, we chastise others for not understanding us, insisting they should know our language too. After all, we are in their country. And what kind of bread did she think they served in France anyway?

I saw the look on the waiter’s face, pleading for help as if to say “please get these ridiculous Americans away from me.”

Luckily, even though I was guilty of perpetuating a false rouse, I was not one of those Americans. I brushed up some on my high school French before the trip. It wasn’t perfect, but I hoped to get by. So in my best fake French accent, I asked the waiter for wine, cheese and bread and held my breath, hoping he wouldn’t out me.

“Oui madam,” he smiled and left.

“Oh thank you. You’d think with all the American and British tourists, they would understand English.” She said and gratefully, they went back to their table.

Gloria and I sighed in relief. We were almost finished, so we quickly gobbled our remaining bites and sips, paid the bill and walked away as fast as we could.

“I can’t believe we got away with that,” Gloria said surprised.

“I know, I’m not sure if I was that convincing or if he was that desperate to get rid of them. I wonder?” I said.

Trying out my theory, I used my newfound high school French and my fake accent for the rest of the day. We both noticed a difference in the way we were treated by the Parisians. They were fine before, but now they were friendlier and more accommodating and cordial. It was amazing.

I knew they didn’t believe I was French. In fact, I made quite a few mistakes. But I guess they deal with a lot of people like our fellow Georgian passenger so often, they were appreciative of the effort.

All in all, the vacation was eye opening and enjoyable in so many ways. Gloria and I are planning a visit to Australia soon. We’re trying to figure out who we want to be. This time we’re going to plan in advance, study and look the part. Pretending makes the journey so much more memorable.  

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022


A View to Murder

It was a horrific sight. While having a Martini Monday happy hour chat with her friend Ramona, Carol and her friend’s laughter quickly faded to screams.

Ramona’s husband was difficult, to be generous. He was the star football player she swooned over in high school and they married young. But during her medical school training, she slowly realized that his bruised ego would never accept her intellect or success.

“He always tells me what to do. Even when it comes to medicine, he actually thinks he knows more than me. I guess he reached his peak in high school and can’t deal with me eclipsing him,” Ramona confided to Carol.

Over the years, Carol saw their relationship deteriorate through Ramona’s accounts and with her own eyes. Arguments, snide remarks, it was a battle of wills with no winner. Until that day.

Ramona’s husband Jeff came into the room, interrupting Martini Monday.

“Where’s dinner? I work hard and want my dinner when I get home,” he barked.

“Great—make it or buy it. I’m drinking my dinner,” she laughed sarcastically without looking at him.

But Carol saw his eyes turn red with seething pent up rage. He went over the cabinet and grabbed a heavy cast iron pan and slammed down on the table in front of her, shattering her martini glass. Shards of glass flew everywhere and one landed in Carol’s arm. It was a small piece of glass, but it broke the skin as dribbles of blood coursed down to her elbow.

Ramona’s face turned purple.

“That’s it. I’ve had enough of you,” Ramona screamed, picked up the cast iron pan and crashed it on top of his head with all her might, knocking him to the floor.

Carol stood there in shock and horror.

“Oh my god! Is he dead?” she said, panting in terror.

Ramona remained silent with the pan still clutched in her grasp.

“Ramona!” Carol yelled.

Leaning down, Ramona checked his pulse and looked at Carol.

“He’s dead,” she said devoid of emotion.

“Dead? What? Oh. No,” Carol said near hyperventilation, while Ramona pensively stared down at her dead husband.

“Don’t worry, I know what to do,” she said coldly and calmly retrieved her medical bag.

While Carol stared in confused terror, Ramona cut scratches on his arms and leg, tore some of his clothing and bandaged his head.

“Help me get him into bed,” Ramona smiled. 

Carol helped her get him into bed, but she was puzzled at the reason. She said he was dead.

“Just forget about this. Now let me patch up your arm,” Ramona grinned at her with wide eyes and squeezed Carol’s hand.

She sat holding her fear while Ramona removed the glass, stopped the bleeding, cleaned and wrapped the wound with steadfast proficiency. 

“Thanks. I better go now,” Carol mustered a fake composure and walked out the door. But as soon as she was on the other side, she ran to her car and quickly drove away sobbing and frightened.

She couldn’t report this or Ramona would know. But how could she witness a murder and say nothing?

Two days went by and Carol was a complete wreck. Her emotions on the edge of a precipice, she walked on eggshells waiting to hear something, anything.

She tried to maintain her daily routine and went to her weekly club bridge game. As soon as she entered the room, she heard the buzzing of the busybody bees rumor mill.

“It’s just awful,” one said.

“Can you believe he died,” another remarked. 

She walked through the room listening but avoid anyone’s gaze, wondering if Ramona confessed.

When she reached her foursome, they were discussing Jeff.

“Did you hear about Jeff?” Barbara asked the others.

“Just goes to show, you need to let the professionals handle these things,” Margaret said.

Carol was confused, as she was for much of the last 48 hours.

“What do you mean professionals?” Carol asked.

“Oh you didn’t hear? Jeff was trying to trim the tall palm tree in the front of their house and fell off the ladder into a bush below and cracked his head open on a rock. He’s dead,” Janet explained.

“I heard Ramona just thought he had a concussion, but he died in bed of a brain bleed. There was no way to know, even for a doctor.” Barbara added.

Carol’s eyes widened. Everything she saw and knew immediately raced through her head, trying to piece it all together. Ramona made cuts to look like he fell in the bush and then told everyone it was an accident. At first, she admired the cleverness of her scheme. She knew what to do and thought of everything to get away with it. He was always fussing with the landscaping, a lot of men did, so the story was completely believable.

Carol fumbled through the card game and went home. She turned on the TV so the noise would drown out her worry, but she couldn’t help thinking about it. If Ramona got away with it, was she in the clear? If you witness a crime and don’t say anything, does that make you an accomplice? The only thing she did was help her move him.

“I helped her move him!” Carol gasped. “I am an accomplice.”

Days went by with difficulty as her mind’s picture of the attack haunted Carol. She couldn’t sleep or eat as the images kept appearing before her eyes.  Then she felt sick and soon found herself in the hospital.

The doctors told her she was suffering from an infection from the glass wound and put her on a course of antibiotics.

“You need to remember to disinfect wounds like this. I’m glad we caught it. This could have been much worse if left unattended,” the doctor explained.

The doctor’s words “infected wound” rang in Carol’s ears.

She thought Ramona took care of it. Did Ramona do it on purpose to remove any threats to her coverup?

No, Carol thought. Ramona wouldn’t hurt her. This was a justified crime of passion and he pushed her too far. He was a horrible person.

The more she thought, the more paranoid Carol became. Sitting alone in the hospital, she created fanciful and dastardly scenarios pegging Ramona as a criminal mastermind pent on cleansing her trail. She became so harried with pale skin and skyrocketing blood pressure, the doctor ordered some sleeping pills to induce rest.

As she awoke in a groggy state part in and out of consciousness, she saw Ramona standing over her, calmly smiling.

“Everything’s going to be fine. I know just what to do,” Ramona said and Carol slipped back into unconsciousness.

The next morning, Carol was found dead in her hospital bed.

“The infection must have been worse than we thought and caused multi-organ failure. Her diabetes and age were contributing factors. At least she didn’t suffer,” the doctor told the nurse.   

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022


Memorial Day from the Heart

I was too young to understand the Vietnam war. I learned about it in school and watched movies about the pain and severity of war from all angles, both during and after. But it was a 30,000 foot view, to quote a pilot friend of mine.

Last year, I helped a friend write a musical play based on his music and memoir of Vietnam. As I read his stories, I empathized with his journey and those of the others he joined. It was my job to extract a story from the stories, to fit into a musical format.

How do you tell a story about war that doesn’t make the audience want to run screaming from the theatre at intermission for relief or drown in a pool of tears? Two playwrights before me couldn’t find a path. But after many discussions, re-reading the memoir and listening to the music on a continual loop, it all came together in my mind. Tell a story about the people… in this case the different men who were thrown together to collectively sleep, eat, fight, laugh, cry, live or die.  

The people he served with had unique stories. Some were from poor or rich families, big cities or small towns, high or low intelligence. Answering the call, some signed up and others were drafted. The war affected them all in different ways, during and after. And there were those who didn’t come home, leaving behind wives, children, parents or siblings to find a path forward without them.

The heart of the story is about those individuals the brotherhood immediately created under very extreme conditions. Writing their words was like virtually stepping into their boots, feeling and understanding their thoughts and actions.

Experiencing it performed on stage by young men, who barely knew what the war was, gave a new deep and cathartic understanding of the spirit of lives lived and others unfinished.

As for me, Memorial Day and Veterans Day are forever changed. I no longer see historical conflicts in the pages of a textbook or a documentary. I don’t see the ravages and aftermath shown in some movies about the war. I see the hearts of the individuals who served.

For many who were there, these stories go untold because of the pain of remembrance. But if any are willing to tell, I hope the generations who follow will listen. Not about the skirmishes, the points on the map, political maneuvers or battles, but about the heart and soul of the people who lived it, on behalf of themselves and those who didn’t survive.

On this Memorial Day, I remember the men and women who gave of themselves, despite the reason or rhyme. Their journey deserves reverence and honor, not only for their service, but in dedication to the memory of who they were, heart, soul, mind and body.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022


Check Yourself

Jennifer’s world was getting too hard to live in. Day after day, the state of life’s problems were too much burden to bear. Lying awake every night staring at the ceiling, her mind raced. When she came to work one day wearing a suit jacket and pajama pants, clutching the coffee pot like a lifeline, a friend offered her a CBD gummy to help her sleep. “Take half at first and then if it doesn’t work after a few hours, take the other half,” her friend Candice said. Jennifer took the small cellophane bag and put it in her purse, forgetting about it. When it was bedtime, she put the gummy bag on her nightstand and prepared for bed. She brushed her teeth and stared at it. She put on her pajamas and stared at it. She turned on late night TV and stared at the gummy bag again. She couldn’t get it out of her mind. There it was, the magical sleeping potion. It all seemed too absurd. “How can this piece of candy put me to sleep?” she chuckled with disbelief and put it down. Three hours later with no indication of tiredness, she changed her mind and picked up the bag. “It seems harmless. After all, it looks like candy. How bad could it be?” Jennifer said. In one gulp, she swallowed the gummy whole and laid down in bed waiting for its effects. Within thirty minutes, she began to feel light, like the weight of her body was gone. Slowly waving her arms around bewildered, she drew figure 8’s in the air with her fingers. “I can move, but I can’t feel anything. Is this supposed to happen?” she wondered in calm amazement. Then she smiled as she began to see objects in front of her. “Oh look, there’s a tree, but it looks like a cartoon. And there’s a purple dragon with big blue eyes and long black eyelashes sitting on the tree. In the sky, there’s a rainbow and a white unicorn with a pink horn riding down it like a slide.” Suddenly Jennifer sat up and shook her head. “Wait, dragons and unicorns aren’t real. Am I dreaming? Or maybe I’m hallucinating. I need to check myself and get my head clear,” she said getting out of bed. Jennifer walked to the kitchen to get some water, but the endless hallway didn’t lead anywhere. Confused, but unannoyed, she curiously put her arms out and waved them in front of her feeling no walls on any side. “I’m not getting anywhere, it’s like an infinite loop,” she said, turned back around and went back into bed, fearing she’d injure herself. She laid down in bed and closed her eyes tight while pulling the covers up to her chin. “I’m just going to lay still and drift off to sleep,” she said. Then she heard the song Dancing Queen and pictured herself floating in the stars wearing elevated platform shoes and a shiny gold jumper with blue-colored glasses on her face. As the music got louder, she shook her head again. “I need to check myself, again,” she said with a puzzled look. She opened her eyes and looked around the room. A hint of daylight was seeping on the side of her blackout curtains, when she saw her phone light up on the night table next to her and picked it up. “Where are you? You didn’t show up at work,” the caller’s voice said. “Candice? What do you mean? What time is it?” Jennifer asked rubbing her eyes. “It’s noon!” Candice shouted. “Noon?” Jennifer said looking at the time on her phone. “I slept for twelve hours. Wow, that gummy really packed a punch. I’ll be there right away.” “Never mind, I’ll tell them you’re sick,” Candice said. “At least you have the other half to sleep again tonight.” “Well…not exactly,” Jennifer said. “No wonder you slept so long,” Candice laughed. “I thought it wasn’t going to do anything. Boy I was wrong. I saw the craziest things. I’ll never call it candy again,”  Jennifer said.



Weird, Wild and Wonderful

I love to travel to Key West. It’s an eclectic place that fosters the last bastion of true bohemianism. It’s weird, wild and wonderful.

Every bar looks as though either Jimmy Buffet or a pirate are the proprietors. Dogs sit inside beside their owners on a stool with a bowl of water. They are all open and breezy without any doors, polish or pretense.  

They all have unique character and a story to tell. Some have antiques from boats long gone, sharks’ teeth or stuffed fish. Another is decorated wall to wall with dollar bills tacked up at random from patrons over many decades, with their signature.

But true to its laid back reputation, most of the bars are “take them or leave them,” your choice. While looking around, I once moved to a different table after observing cakes of dust built up on the ceiling fan above. It definitely deterred me from eating there, but alcohol kills everything, right?

On a pub crawl, a guide took us to many of the bars in the downtown area and regaled us with tales of murder, mayhem and debauchery, as well as a few ghosts who linger in their old watering-hole haunts.

Many accounts of the drinking prowess of one world famous classic author, Ernest Hemingway, are told in several bars. My favorite is the one where in the middle of the night, the original owner of Captain Tony’s told Papa H, his most loyal customer, that his landlord raised his rent, so he had to move to a new location down the street, now called Sloppy Joes. In a drunken escapade, Tony and Ernest and a few others moved everything in the middle of the night from the one location to the other, to stick it to the landlord. Hemingway took his favorite urinal, so he single-handedly pulled it off the wall to relocate it.

And in these bars, you can take your drink to go, as long as it is not in a glass cup. Was it legal? No, but as I was told by one barkeep. 

“We just follow our own path here. We don’t really pay attention to rules.”

That always summed up Key West to me in a nutshell. They march to their own drummer.

Walking down Duvall Street, you can find small shops with the usual tourist trinkets and printed t-shirts, but you can also find any number of artisans and their works for sale. They weren’t in a shiny gallery or shop, the works laid on the pavement, a chair or on anything to prop up and display. The art spoke for itself and need fancy packaging. The artists didn’t care about commerce or bottom line. They just wanted to do their thing and if they got money for it – great.

At any given time, you can see someone in a Superman cape and tights or any other Halloween costume. No special occasion, it’s what they chose to wear that day. And many people don’t even wear shoes, even inside the restaurants, shops and bars.

On one stroll, I saw a man with a lime green and yellow boa constrictor looped around his neck, just hanging there like a long necklace that hit the ground. It was his pet and he was just taking it to do some shopping. No big deal. Nothing odd to see.

Although, my husband, who is deadly afraid of snakes, would disagree as he made sure to conveniently jockey position to switch with me, so when we passed the snake, I was the one walking next to it.

Of course, there are the typical tourist spots for fun in the sun, boating and fishing, like most tropical places. But in Key West, there are also old buildings and architecture to see, some cared for, some not. But again, it’s non conformist and noncommercial, although most houses cost a cool million to own. And you can see Hemingway’s house, a random lighthouse with eighty-eight steps to the top and a museum where they unearthed treasure from a Spanish galleon beneath the sea.

Any number of walk-up outdoor counters serve conch fritters, gator and even shark. No four-star restaurants, just wrapped in a paper cone to taste on the go – sometimes with a frosty adult beverage in tow.

Like the bartender said, Key West is a place that made its own rules.

Each time I go, it seems different, weirder and more wonderful. But now that’s starting to change. There are less artisans on the main drag, less interesting costumed people on the street and with the Hard Rock restaurant and bar, corporate commercialism is starting to seep in. Although part of that restaurant is located in an old and somewhat haunted building, so there’s that.

Even Jimmy Buffet, the personification of an easy breezy beach lifestyle, has gone corporate with his Margaritaville bar and restaurant spilling over into a “hospitality company” with resorts and hotels. I guess nothing stays uncommercialized forever.  

I still believe the essence of Key West lives, but I just hope it stays that way. We need weird, wild and wonderful places just to ensure that bohemia and a lifestyle of “just go with it” never dies.


Mothers and Children

I’ve been a mother for over thirty years now and a daughter for nearly twice that. On Mother’s Day, I found myself contemplating the juxtaposition of being a child and a mother.  

When you were a child, you often do things your mother doesn’t like or makes it challenging for her to be your mother.

And as a mother, your child does things that leave you hoping their child does the same to them—just like your mother probably said about you. It’s a cycle.

I often write about how difficult growing up is, but for a mother, growing a child up is even more difficult. As a child you have to go through many trials and tribulations, some of which are beyond your control, but for most of which, you are in the driver’s seat.

However, as a parent, from birth through and past adulthood, a mother is a mere passenger in their child’s journey. Sometimes you can give directions. At times you’re told to shut up. And mostly you just have to let them drive. And if anyone has ever tried to teach their child how to drive, this fact is painfully evident.

Children, whether youth or adult need to learn and make mistakes on their own. You hope the lessons are not too severe, but you must accept the truthful fact that you not in control. You must sit back and hope that everything you’ve taught them and everything they learned by your actions and deeds permeates not only their lives, but what they do and say.

And if you’re blessed once again, your child will make you a grandmother, which is equally enjoyable and terrifying. You can be frightened for them, since they’re in charge of another life and must learn from the same experiences you did. At the same time, you get to sit back watch and wish they suffer some of the minor bumps and equally hope the ride is smooth for them. Other than the joy of grandchildren, though, the best reward is when they turn to you and say you were right.

Cycle complete.


Walk Like a Man

Author’s note: This was a writer’s prompt about identity.

The alarm clock rang and I hit it without looking. It fell to the floor with a loud bang, so I must have slammed it harder today. I hope it’s not broken.

As I was already awake, I decided to get up and start my day. Before putting my glasses on and still in a half sleepy daze, I went to the bathroom and turned on the shower. That usually wakes me up.

I soaped up my scrunchie loofa with cucumber melon body wash and started washing. But as the hot water woke me up, I knew something wasn’t right. I looked down and screamed. My body had completely changed. I pinched myself once, then harder a few times to see if I was dreaming. I wasn’t.

Still wet and soapy, I quickly ran to get my glasses. I looked down again with 20/20 vision and screamed. I felt like me, but I didn’t look like me anymore. I was in the body of a man.

I dried off with a towel and grabbed my phone.

“Siri, what happens when you wake up in the body of a man?” I asked frantically.

“I found the following articles on the web,” Siri said. “Body changes when you sleep and the science of sleep.”

This was useless, but what did I really expect? It occurred to me I rely on that phone too much for answers.

Then I saw the time. I was going to be late for work. But how can I go to work like this? How can I go anywhere like this?

I phoned my boss to call in sick.

“Hi, this is Pat,” I said.

“Who’s this? Pat? It doesn’t sound like you,” she said.

I heard my voice aloud. It was much deeper, like a man.

“Uh, yes, I woke up with a terrible cold and can’t come in today,” I said.

“Ok, feel better,” she said and hung up.

Do I call a doctor? And tell them what; that I used to be a woman? No, that won’t work.

I sat there in someone else’s body for several minutes absolutely blank as to what to do. I decided I needed some brain food and time to think, so I grabbed my baggy sweats and my bra. But then, I threw the bra back on the bed. No, won’t need that, which is nice. Honestly, I hate wearing it every day. It pinches everywhere and makes my back scratch.

When I got up, I walked funny and nearly fell down. I guess the weight distribution is a little different. More bottom heavy, less top heavy.

I wobbled to the kitchen table, made some cereal and poured coffee from my automatic Keurig maker. At least one thing was the same.

I sipped the coffee and guzzled the cereal like never before. I must have been hungry.

How did this happen? And why? How do I get back to myself? Nothing came to mind. I popped open my laptop, but just sat there looking at the blank Google search. What would I even search for? Turning into man syndrome on Web MD?

Now I started to panic. What if I’m stuck this way? I wanted to cry. Do men cry? Can they cry?

I wondered what would be different if I had to stay a man? What would I get and what would I give up?

I‘d spend less money on clothes, make-up, jewelry and shoes. And it would take much less time to get ready. That means more sleep. That’s good.

I’d make more money for the same job. I think they’d have to give me a raise for being a man, right? I couldn’t get pregnant. Oh, but I could get someone else pregnant. Forget that, I don’t even want to think about how that would work now.

And no one would treat me like a dizzy blonde girl anymore. They’d actually listen to what I have to say. Well, maybe. After all, since I’m still young, I don’t know if anyone would listen anyway. But it would be interesting.

I’m obviously stronger, just look at the poor alarm clock. Would I be better at sports? And maybe I could open jars easier.

But then again, I’d have to buy my own drinks at bars now and pay for dates. That sucks. Oh and men have to be the breadwinner, right? Well, I never thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom. I like my career. Wait, I wouldn’t even be a mom, would I?

Could I still watch Hallmark and Lifetime and read romance novels? Is that allowed?

What about dating? Do I still like guys? Can I like guys if I’m in a man’s body? Well, with politics today, I need to check the news on that one to make sure.  

What would life be like as a woman trapped in a man’s body? I always felt comfortable in my own skin. I was raised to be proud of being a woman and not to compromise myself for anything or anyone.

I guess I could get used to it, but I don’t think I’d ever like it. My natural instincts would always be off. I don’t know if I could feel right. And life would be so much more complicated.  

Then I felt tears rolling down my face. At least I can cry. That’s something.

When I went to get some tissues, I turned on the TV to put off thinking about this anymore.

I took the remote and started scrolling through the channels.

Oh, no; I’m obsessed with the remote control already. This is not a good sign. Am I’m going to completely lose my identity?

Flipping through the channels, I noticed they’re all either Hallmark or Lifetime. That can’t be. Oh, here’s a different one. The unicorns and flying horses’ channel? That’s not right.

I know. Last night I rented an old movie on the cable remote. It would be in my history.

Wait a minute! Victor Victoria was the last thing I saw before I went to bed. Maybe this is some kind of life imitating art thing. Maybe the Twilight Zone was real and the TV whammied me. Or what if it’s some kind of virus? I’ve heard of hormone changing therapy, is that contagious?

“Siri, look up hormone changing therapy,” I said.

“Pat, it’s time to wake up,” Siri said.

“Ok Siri,” I said and sat up quickly. I sounded like me. High-pitched and squeaky. Then I looked down. Everything was in the right place. Whew! It was a dream after all. No, it was a nightmare.

Thank God. After all that, I’m glad just to be me.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022


The Duel with Alexa

Technology can be both blessing and beast. There are so many new things to learn, it can be intimidating. But I choose to think each technological improvement helps our lives. Where would be without the internet or cell phones? They have made life easier. And so began my duel with an electronic minx called Alexa.

It came with our home, so at first, I ignored it. The technician set it up so it would lock and unlock the front door on command. Big deal. I keep the door locked all the time, anyway. I was unimpressed.

My neighbors used it to play music. They liked it, but I have a jukebox with my favorite tunes. So, didn’t need it. Another neighbor wired his whole house to do anything electronic by mere voice. That was impressive, but to me too many things could go wrong; then your smart house would turn into a dumb nonfunctional house, leaving you trapped and sitting in the dark. No thanks.

But one feature caught my attention. It’s such a simple thing, but Alexa can keep your shopping list for you. So, when you use the last of something, you just tell her to add it to the shopping list and when you’re ready to shop, you can have it on your phone and use it at the store. Easy, right? In concept yes, but in practice?

So, I chose to embrace Alexa, for this at least. I’m not a technophobe. I actually consider myself a little above the average of the curve regarding technology, but with Alexa, I had a bit of a fencing match.

At first, I just kept saying “Add butter to the shopping list, add orange juice to the shopping list, etc.”

I hadn’t tackled the app, yet, but I figured I would have her repeat the list and I would record it on my phone as a text to myself. Good idea, right?

“What is on the shopping list?” I asked.


My crime? I forgot to address her as Alexa each time. Lesson learned. Point Alexa.

“Alexa, add bran to shopping list,” I said.

“Ok I added bread to your shopping list,” she said.

“No, I said bran, not bread,” I countered. Silence.

Don’t speak so fast and annunciate. Lesson learned. But at least she repeated it back, so I know I was further than before. Another point Alexa and one point for me.

For a while, things were going well, we were communicating. So, I decided to level up. Since I purchased different things from different stores, I wanted to add shopping lists for each store.

“Alexa, add vitamins to Target shopping list,” I said.

“Adding vitamins to shopping list,” she repeated.

“No, not just shopping list, Target shopping list,” I said.

Oops, I forgot to say Alexa again. Point Alexa.

It took a little while longer, but eventually I figured out that I had to create the different shopping lists first, then add to them. Lesson learned. A point for me.

With that tackled, we were humming again. But there was one more mountain to climb. The Alexa app.

I downloaded the app and remarkably, there were all my lists with all the items I dictated. Yeah! I got this one on the first try. Another point for me. Right? Not so fast.

When I went to the store and opened the app, the items were gone. Now I was left at the store to rely only on my memory and yes, I forgot a few things.

Thwarted again, but undeterred, when I returned home, I looked at the app to figure out the problem. I even enlisted a YouTube tutorial to help. It turns out it was user error. It automatically checked the boxes of each item and I accidentally deleted them all. I won’t to do that again.

Luckily, perseverance paid off and Alexa and I developed a mutually beneficial relationship for the shopping list. I’ll call this one a draw.

And now I get to watch my husband going through the same fencing match with Alexa. Will I help him? Nope. Teach a man to fish, right? He has to learn the hard way. And after all, it’s a fun amusement for me.

Now I hear stories that Alexa is listening and recording conversations and watching and recording movements. I don’t about that, but just in case, I covered Alexa with a picture, so at least she can’t watch.

© Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022


Sixth Stage

Eve sat alone looking around her empty house. It was deafeningly quiet. In the year since her husband died, it had been a whirlwind of must dos. She went through every stage they say and busily performed all the never-ending diligence tasks to punctuate the paperwork end of someone’s life. Now she confronted the last stage—to live her life again.

Starting over in new surroundings without the echos and ghostly reminders of her past life, Eve moved into an adult community with facilities and planned activities.

“Mom, you have to put yourself out there. There’s a lot of things to do here,” her daughter Carrie said, reading the club newsletter.

“I just don’t know what to do. I’ve never done anything before,” Eve sighed.

That wasn’t the exact truth. When Eve was younger, she was very active with volleyball, golf and tennis clubs and had many “parents of her kids’ friends.” But her social life revolved around her kids and family-type events.

And since the kids were long out of the house and a broken-down body made most of her former past-times impossible or obsolete. She was struggling with ideas to get started.

“It’s like the first day in a new school. I don’t know anyone and have forgotten how to make friends,” Eve said frustrated and defeated.

“The best thing to do is just show up for something, try anything. Friends will follow, but you have to try,” Carrie said and left the newsletter with Eve.

“Just try…” Eve said mimicking Carrie’s words as they lay like a weight on her chest. “It’s easy to say.”

Eve put the newsletter on her kitchen counter and stared at it for a few days, taunting every time she passed it. She picked it up and then put it down a thousand times, exasperated at the challenge of creating a new life.

Since she was eighteen years old, she did everything for and with her husband and family. Now, sixty years later, it was a mountain she never wanted to climb. She really believed she would go first.

Her family’s words rang in her head like church bells chiming the new hour. Find a hobby, join a club, just pick one thing.

“Just one thing,” Eve said and picked up the newsletter.

There were a lot of activities. Movie nights, crafts, cards, everything at her fingertips, but nothing to get her to cross the threshold into her next act.

“I need to be brave and just pull up my big-girl panties and just go there,” she said flinging the newsletter to the ground.

She got in her car and drove to the clubhouse holding her breath but determined to try. Walking around she passed the fitness room and noticed a few people on exercise machines. Not a match. She peaked into the arts room and watched some ladies pouring paint from dixie cups onto canvasses.

“Looks kind of interesting, but arts were never my thing,” she puckered her face and moved down the hall to the dance studio.

Eve admired those who could still dance. As a teen, she loved to be bop until she dropped at sock hops, but bad knees made that reboot beyond possibility.

After she walked past the dance studio, she was still hearing music. Curiously, she looked around with no luck. Finally, she asked someone where the music was coming from.

“Oh, that’s the choir,” a man said. “They practice in the community room.”

The choir? Those words resounded in her mind like heavenly horns announcing a king.

Eve was excited for the first time in forever. Music was a long-forgotten friend from a bygone era. As a child, she sang in church and school choirs. She became quite good and even ranked number one in a state competition as a soprano soloist. It was a youthful dream to become an opera singer, but marriage, kids and everything that goes with it became her reality.

She loved her family and had no regrets, but always wondered about the path not taken.

As she got closer the music became louder and her heart beat a little faster as her eyes and ears widened.

“Maybe this is what they mean when they say unfinished business,” Eve thought. “But I haven’t sung in years, I couldn’t just pick it up. Could I?”

Reaching the room, she shyly stood on the other side of the door listening to the melodious tones of the choral music. She closed her eyes to experience the sound and let the music wash over her. She let out a deep breath and smiled, recognizing one song from church and unconsciously sang along.

“You sing beautifully. Would you like to come in?” a women interrupted her haze and startled her.

Eve nodded as they lady showed her in and offered her a seat.

She sat down and looked around nervously. After a few minutes, she found herself singing. It was like muscle memory; she just did it without thinking. It was natural.

As the rehearsal came to an end, she felt herself smiling.

“I hope you come back. You have a very nice voice,” said the lady sitting next to her.

“Thank you. I will.” Eve happily walked to her car. She was home.

  © Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022


The Case of the Deadly Dreams

Night 1

There he was laying on the kitchen floor. Next to him was the cast iron frying pan. But what happened? Who could have done this? I was sleeping; did I hear something? 

Barefooted, I ran toward the front door in my nightgown. It was still locked. Confused, I scurried around the house looking for an open window or unlock door. Everything was secure.

But how did the killer get in? And why?

Everyone loved him. Well, his friends did at least. He was the life of the party.

As for me, I wasn’t sure. Did I still love him?

It was a complicated question. To me, he was really two people. I remember the dreamy man I fell in love with. The man who swept me off my feet. The father of my children. Him, I loved.

But the man who questions my every word, ridicules my every idea and makes me feel less than. Well, him, I could do without.

Can I do without? I guess now, I must.

I hear something. It is the police?

No, it’s the alarm. Now I’m awake and he’s next to me. It was just a dream.

Night 2

There he was laying on the family room floor. Next to him was a knife. It looked like his prized hunting knife.

What happened? Who could have done this?

Dressed only in my robe and slippers, I ran into his den. The sheath for the hunting knife was empty. Yes, it was definitely his knife. I felt an unexpected chill and spun around the room. The window was open slightly.

That’s how the killer got in. But who would kill him?

Suddenly I remembered the fight he had with his business partner the other day. I heard them loudly arguing about the accounts but didn’t hear any specifics. Could his partner have killed him over money?

Then I saw a suitcase in the corner of my eye. I opened it. It was filled with money. Oh no, did he steal money from his company? There was a plane ticket in the sleeve. Was he going to escape and leave me destitute?

I heard a sound. Is that the killer? Oh no, is he still here? Did I see too much?

Terrified, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“It’s time for breakfast. I’m hungry,” he said.

I sighed. It was just a dream.

Day 3

There he was laying in bed. Still. No snoring. No snorting. Not a sound.

I noticed he still had his clothes on. He does that sometimes, either too drunk or tired to change, so he just staggers up the stairs and falls into bed.

Next to him I saw some pills laying on the nightstand and scattered on the floor.  

Could he have overdosed? Would he do himself in?

No, it must have been an accident. These days he’s taking so many pills and with his eyesight going, maybe he made a mistake?

I looked down at the pills. They looked like his heart medication. Maybe he forgot to take them? The doctor warned him not to miss even one pill or he could have a heart attack. His health had been declining. His last checkup was not great. The doctor told him to turn his lifestyle around immediately. No booze. No sweets. No fatty foods, but he refused. He was a ticking timebomb.

I decided to clean up the pill mess and got dressed.

Climbing down the stairs, I noticed a half empty bottle of bourbon, empty glass and some empty candy wrappers on the table in front of the TV. He stayed up late watching a movie last night after I went to bed. When he drank, he often got the munchies.

I started to make his breakfast and set the table to eat. Every day he insisted on three poached eggs, bacon, sausage and toast with orange juice. While waiting for the eggs, I checked my phone and sent out a text to my friend to confirm our lunch appointment and returned a few emails for work.

Everything was ready, so I called for him to come down. I heard nothing. 

I went upstairs to wake him, but he wouldn’t rouse. I checked his pulse. He was dead.

Now… I’ll call the police. I’m prepared. I have something to tell them.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022


A Miracle in Lighthouse Cove

I sit outside my church wondering if I should go in. I hear the melodic sounds of the congregation singing Christmas hymns. It sounds much better from here than inside. Together, they combine to create a singular chorus of joy and community. But from my pew, all I hear is offbeat, out of tune shrill from certain people in high and low tones drowning out the beautiful notes.

When the preacher begins the sermon, I barely hear bits and pieces of words. He’s a nice man, but he doesn’t exactly project to the last pew. You have to get to church early to get a good seat. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s his intention all along. Pretty clever.

As the door creaks open a bit, I listen. I think he’s telling the tale of the miracle birth of Christ. Lighthouse Cove could use a miracle like that right now.

My town is a simple sea town on the isle of Northhampton Virginia. We’re not even a dot on a map, but our lighthouse is very important. It lies at the entrance to the cove that leads up to Delaware and Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay. Ships don’t stop in our small village, but they heed the lighthouse to find safe passage up the waterway. Without it’s continual beacon, they could lose their bearings and easily perish on the rocky land and miss the smooth secure bay waters.

For the last week, extra shifts of two men with binoculars were scheduled, searching the seas for one of our own, the Pearl.

She was a typical whitefish and halibut trawler run by a small crew of local men and boys. They went out to catch Winter Flounder for our annual town Christmas celebration. It’s my favorite time of year. The whole town gets together and celebrates with music and dancing. The feast of fish and vegetables with hot apple cider and the most marvelous cakes and pies anyone has ever eaten is legendary. But not this year.

The trawler didn’t return. For days, the men on the lighthouse have been watching and the women and children in the town have been worrying and waiting. They’ve been holding candlelight vigils on the waterfront after praying in the church every night for their loved ones to come home safely. They even decorated the church with anchor-shaped garland to honor the men who work in the sea to feed everyone.

As the head watchman’s daughter, I’ve had to act as the town crier more often than not. I sound a bell when the ships come in to alert the townspeople. And when any good or bad news regarding a ship is needed, my pa sends me into town to make an announcement. I don’t enjoy the job, but it’s my duty.

I dread telling these people the news. Pa and the others found some planks on the coastline. One was marked “The Pearl.” He told me to inform the others. I just don’t know how to say it. Should I burst in and blurt it out or wait until after the service?

I opt for waiting. I don’t want them to fret any longer, but a few more minutes of hope is better than despair. I won’t rob them of that. 

The preacher ended and I hear the short proclamation hymn followed by the final prayer. It’s time. I put this off long enough. I open the door slowly, trying not to make a sound, but I see a young boy caught me. He was playing with a toy while everyone was praying.

“She’s here!” he yelled and everyone else turned around, staring at me in sheer silence. Looking into their worried eyes, I tried to speak, but at first, no words came out.

“They found some planks washed up on the shoreline,” I said softly. “And one said…”

Just as I was about to finish, a loud humming sound came in the distance and distracted everyone. The entire congregation gazed at the large oak doors of the chapel, perplexed by the distant noise.

As it grew louder, it was clearer. It sounded like a group of men singing a sea ditty. I was shocked at the insensitivity and impertinence to disturb a solemn occasion with a silly shanty. I walked toward the door with the intention of hushing the men, when the big wooden doors flew open.

The congregation gasped in a chorus with their eyes widened. It was my pa and the other watchmen with several other men covered in black clothing. It was the crew of the Pearl! They made it.

The mass of people ran to individual men hugging them as the organ mistress played a happy Christmas tune. I was very happy to see the men alive and well, but I was puzzled.

I waded through the sea of gleeful smiles and tears and found my pa. “What happened?” I asked.

“It’s the darndest thing. They got lost in the fog and crashed on some rocks further north, but they nursed the boat back, even with a good chunk of her gone,” he told. “It took a while to find their way back, but they said the lighthouse shined their way.”

My heart warmed peering at the joy all around me. I was happy that I waited so long to speak. I don’t know what made me waver, but I was glad. I guess it was another miracle for Lighthouse Cove.

©2022  Suzanne Rudd Hamilton


New Kindle Vella Romance Series

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Love is powerful, fulfilling, and redeeming. It makes you feel a sense of comfort, peace and pure enjoyment in life. Like most things, when it’s right, it’s very right and when it goes wrong, nothing can make you feel worse. 

Does real love last? Can it last forever? And if it does, how do you know it? When do you know it? And is it possible to fall in love at first sight or is it a euphoric fantasy? 

Is it possible to look across a water cooler, a bar, a street or a crowded room and fireworks ignite or at least flicker?

The search for love is as curious to us as the need to know how people achieved great wealth. Both accomplishments, both sometimes seemingly unattainable. After all, when you meet a new couple at a party, often don’t you ask – how did you meet? We all have an insatiable need to know.

In this new Kindle Vella Series, the pheomenon of love at First Sight is celebrated. These are REAL stories of REAL people (the names have been changed to protect the innocent…and not so innocent) who at first meeting experienced sparks, fireworks, trumpets and lightning bolts and fell in love. 

Much has been written about love as one of the most encompassing and enlightening feelings that most people will ever experience. Different for everyone and yet mesmerizing and illusive for some who still believe in the depths of their souls or who just hope in their consciousness that at the end of the day, it can happen to us all.

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What If? Peace in Serene Scotland

Author Note: This was a writing group challenge to write a story with a fictional “what if” scenario about a historical time or event. I am enamored with history and the idea of alternate realities. In this incarnation, a time loop changes the scenario but protects the timeline. It’s interesting to consider how choices mold and alter events…

Surrounded by her loyal corgis following her every step, Lilibet walked along the rolling green and amber hills of her family’s Scotland estate looking for a buck. They’ve been tracking it for a week for a hunt later in the day.

The highland grounds of the Castle of Mey were her favorite place in the world. The early morning mists slightly levitating above the fields. The crisp smell of the heather waking up with dew. And the yellow sun gently rising from the horizon. It was a quiet and peaceful.

It was her twenty-first birthday and Lilibet’s mother, father, sister Margaret, and her new beau, Phillip, were all gathering for a family birthday breakfast before the hunting party arrived. They were all glad to be together once again for this momentous occasion.  

The war years were difficult for everyone, especially the royal family. It was a roller coaster of uncertainty, pain and heartache for years. When it began, in her shelter of their tranquil estate, the blitzes in London seemed so far away. She felt for the poor families and worried for her father, who moved to London to help her uncle, the king, and the prime minister deal with the war. Luckily, for the worst of the Blitz her father was in Churchill’s underground bunker. When they heard a bomb hit Buckingham Palace, they were certain it was the end.

For many nights, Lilibet, Margaret and her mother laid awake listening to the solitary night crickets in the deafening silence of safety, wondering what would become of their country and the world, while feeling helpless in the turmoil.

After the bombing ceased, her father and Churchhill worked together with the Allies to defeat Hilter, but her uncle, the king, was terribly shaken. The shell that hit the palace convinced him failure was the only possible result and he retreated into a debilitating melancholy state. He even dispatched Queen Wallis to Switzerland for her safety.

Churchhill didn’t trust the king or the queen, so he had agents watching them and his suspicions were right. The agents found the queen engaged in seemingly innocent parties and meetings with people who knew people the Nazi hierarchy. When they infiltrated from the inside, they uncovered the queen was trying to forge a secret treaty to spare England in exchange for information on the Allied plans.

Luckily they were able to intercept and squash the dastardly alliance in its infancy. The queen was escorted back to England under close supervision and she and the king stayed under house arrest in Windsor Castle for the remainder of the war to avoid any further unseemly conduct.

Once Hitler was defeated, her uncle was forced by Churchill and Parliament to abdicate, claiming health reasons, but only a few knew of their deep deception. Now with her father as king and her mother as queen, they faced the task of rebuilding the country and building the people’s faith.

Lilibet shuddered just thinking of what could have happened. She was disappointed and ashamed of her uncle’s cowardice, but proud of her father and his steadfast resolve to serve the people. The sacrifice of her father and mother resonated with her and inspired her to spend her life in service of the United Kingdom for the day she would be queen.

Walking back to the house, Lilibet and the dogs strode through the maze of the proper English gardens to admire the beautiful blooms her mother planted. Her mother Elizabeth doted for hours year after year to sculpt it to perfection. She paused to consider the dedication required to create and keep something so wonderful.

For now, her path was clear. She looked forward to minimal royal duties and a happy life in their serene Scottish home. Maybe one day she would be the proud Navy wife of her first love and raise a bunch of children, along with her dogs and horses. Maybe she’d become a horsewoman owning a stable of wonderful prize steeds. She always had an eye for a good horse and loved to care for them.

Eventually, she would learn the family business beside her father. But with the worst behind them, she felt content with her glorious future and ready for what it would bring.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022


What is Emotional Bullying?

Most people agree a bully is someone who physically assaults another by pushing, hitting, punching, grabbing, knocking books out of hands, stuffing someone into a locker or a dumpster, sticking a head into a toilet, etc. But physical bullying is not the only brand of terror; emotional bullying often leaves as many and deeper scars, especially since it’s not as easily detected.

But there’s debate over what is and isn’t bullying. Especially for some who have never been bullied, the outsiders and even insider’s view of bullying can be murky.

In its simplest explanation, emotional bullying is when someone makes another feel lesser, while asserting their dominance by belittling or giving orders or commands. And many people, adults and kids, don’t even realize they’re doing it. This can be a semi-regular or habitual occurrence, leaving no place for the bullied person to breathe.

Intent is communicated in words. “I didn’t mean that,” “you know what I meant,” and “you are reading too much into it” are arguments often used when someone verbally and emotionally bullies another, but in actuality may reveal that person’s inability to effectively communicate.  After all, communication, by definition, is when a message is sent from one point to another. But it’s the sender’s job to communicate the message to the receiver, not the other way around. If someone doesn’t receive your email, you don’t tell them they should have expected the email and should have intuitively known and understood the message that never came.

Differences of opinions can also degrade into emotional bullying. If you call someone “stupid,” most people would concur… that’s bullying. But what if you say… “you’re wrong,” “you’re making too big a deal of this,” or “you’re being too sensitive” –  is that bullying? Yes, it is. Those statements are directed at the person, not the disagreement. Opinions are in the first person… “I think.” If someone changes the opinion into “You don’t, shouldn’t, etc.…,” it exposes a need for supremacy to win the debate without merit by belittling the other’s opinion. There’s a difference between disagreeing with another and diminishing them.

Everyone has a right to their opinion and the right to disagree with another’s opinion, but no one has the right to tell anyone their opinion is less than. If I say, the water is blue and you say the water is green, that’s ok. It’s a difference of opinion. But if I say “you’re crazy, that water is blue, you don’t know what you’re talking about”…that’s bullying. Often people resort to bullying when they want you to agree with them and can’t get you to change your mind.

Psychologically, bullies declare superiority in physical or verbal forms over another to compensate for something lacking in their own esteem or to claim control. These people will sometimes use commands to diminish another while elevating themselves. Commands like “Forget it,” “Get over it,” “Move on,” “Get off of it,” “Don’t worry about it,” especially when prefaced by “You need to…” is one person ordering another what to do.

Anyone, any age can bully another and anyone, any age can be bullied. Parents, teachers, spouses, partners, friends, siblings, significant others or even strangers can all stealthily and even inadvertently cut emotional scars into others. This can cause resentment; lack of self-esteem and can fester into long-term issues which often lay dormant until they erupt, creating division which can break the person or the relationship. 

 Several tools can be used to prevent bullying…

  • Clearly communicate your message and intent in words; don’t expect another to understand your meaning if you don’t say it.
  • Stay on topic in disagreements and express YOUR opinion. Use “I” not “you.” And sometimes you have to agree to disagree or find a fair way to arrive at an agreement, like flipping a coin.
  • Respect everyone’s opinion and feelings. Only they can decide how they think and feel.
  • Don’t try to make yourself taller by standing on someone else.

It all comes down to this…making someone feel inferior can never make you superior.


Happiness is NOT a Warm RV

In a pandemic world of limited safe travel, two girlfriends and I decided to take an RV trip to visit another friend a few states away who was isolated, depressed and in need of a boost.

With the best intentions, we rented a small RV to minimize contact with the outside world. It was the perfect plan. We’d stay at RV campgrounds to sleep and reduce nighttime driving and we brought food, so the only stops were for gas once a day. But, if you’ve ever been trapped in a tin can for 72 hours with even very good friends, you’ll discover what I did – friendship has its limits and nerves don’t.

We tried to anticipate problems by agreeing to “going native.” With limited storage space and the normal accruements of three women, we decided room for food must be prioritized over makeup, hair styling devices and large luggage. We each were allowed one medium-sized duffle bag with three changes of clothes and would do laundry on arrival. This alone nearly torpedoed the trip.

My predisposed picture of an RV trip comes from wacky scenes in Lucille Ball’s movie, “The Long Long Trailer” where she is thrown out of an unlocked door into mud and pummeled with flour and other ingredients out of unsecured cabinets. Unfortunately, my lens was fairly accurate.

Our first hazard came quickly. Within a few minutes, we heard a piercing alarm, as the other two annoyingly questioned the newbie driver…“What did you do?”

After we pressed all the buttons to no avail and could no longer stand the stabbing noise, we pulled over and called the RV shop. The first of many calls with a quick fix that I’m sure had them laughing at we three dim old ladies. Turns out the carbon monoxide detector was located in the banquette table, right where any normal person would put their feet. Needless to say, this was not the last time that sound plagued us. What dimwit thought of that brilliant location for a heart stopping alarm?

We drove in shifts to give everyone a break, but driving the RV proved challenging. We all underestimated the crosswind and the wide load of the RV which had each of us frequently riding the rumble strips on the shoulder. The first time it happened, we were terrified, holding on for dear life and yelling at the driver, who was also screaming in fear. After we realized this was one of many perils on this trip, the horror subsided, but the discomfort didn’t. The road rash and bad shocks left an impression on our bottoms and our waning anxiety.  

Life inside the RV, or the rolling turd as I began to call it, was not much better. The first time we tried to make a sandwich, I was having flashbacks to the dreaded Lucy movie, but in real time. Standing and performing any job amidst the rumble strips and swaying cab took practice that geriatric ally challenged knees don’t favor. You get bumped and bruised a lot. Even simple tasks seemed difficult and required multiple attempts in slow motion. Just buttering bread you felt like a malfunctioning robot with a loss of full kinetic operation.

Then with one slight break for traffic, the bread, butter, meat and cheese slide off the counter like they’re fleeing while plastic cups, breakfast cereal boxes and other pantry items fall on your head from the cabinets above. Lessons learned. You need to hear two clicks on the cabinet to ensure they are locked, not one. And sit down when making a sandwich.

The slight braking mishap continued to be a cruel test, though. Anything on the table like cards, laptops, glasses and cell phones would regularly plunge to their doom with each press of the brake pedal, even light ones. And there was a lot of traffic. After day one, the driver tried to shout warning while the others gripped everything like octopi attempting to ride out an earthquake. Good thing there were cup holders for drinks or else we would all have been sticky and drenched.

Outside foibles aside, I think the most surprising annoyances came from inside the RV. Actually, three fifty-five plus women are not the best company when trapped. For the sake of brevity, I will list the infractions and save the commiseration. Snoring; CPAP machine noises; horrible driving (especially next to mountains); endless negotiation of the heat and cold settings which would never please anyone; and continual absentmindedness regarding turning on and off lights and water pumps, resulting in one odorous day with no water and no showers and several nights in complete darkness.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back and my head was the chattering. The unanticipated volume and clatter of the RV was menacing, to say the least. Everything creaked, rattled, banged, jangled and clanged, creating a symphony of irritating sounds. My headache began at one in the first hour and reached Defcon five proportions by day three. And because I was in the driving pool, I could only drink myself to sleep at night, which was never peaceful. I direct you to the previously mentioned snoring and CPAP machine noises. If I were a cartoon, my head would’ve been too big for the RV by day two.

And the loud unabated road noise caused every conversation to be at a volume of eleven. Loud one-sided cell phone conversations were aggravating, but the maddening prattle of nonstop nervous and bored chatter left me wanting to hurl myself out of the RV into the Smoky Mountains below to escape. My only measure of passive resistance was when driving. At least I could roll my eyes, make faces and silently mock them undetected. It turns out the wonderfully fun discussions we always had over afternoon wine or game nights turned into empty idle babble when forced in a continuous loop. Maybe wine does improve banter and friendships.

When we finally arrived at our friend’s house, I was tempted to rush out the door and kiss the ground for safe arrival, but I settled for being the first released out the door. I have a sneaking suspicion that even though our remote friend was desperate for company; we all were frantic to get out of that tin can.  The only problem, in a few days we had to go back home and do it all over again.

© 2022 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton


The White City

From her first step off the el train, Maggie’s eyes widened in wonder. The newspaper accounts and word-of-mouth tales of the grand White City paled in comparison with her green eyes looking at the real thing.

After seven years in America, she was accustomed to the sight of buildings tall enough to reach the sky, but this was different. It was magnificent – the most brilliant collection of crisp and clean white buildings she could imagine.

The expansive, elegant neoclassical Court of Honor buildings created u-shaped mirror of glistening reflection in the water basin in the center. Behind the sparkling fountain stood a series of roman columns topped with alabaster statues that overlooked the lakefront, as if standing guard. A giant glittering gold Grecian lady towered over the spectacle like a golden key welcoming entry.

Among the sea of black bowlers and straw hats, Irish immigrant Maggie and her new beau, Scottish arrival Davey McIntyre, moved in a daze marveling at the magical city created in less than two years to celebrate the 1893 Columbia Exposition World’s Fair.

Over the last several months, Maggie heard the other servants in her Lake Shore Drive household tell fanciful tales they read about of the beautiful and mysterious wonderland, wishing for a chance to see it with her own eyes. Her employers attended the grand fanfare of opening day and regaled the staff with first-hand accounts of the glorious firework display over the basin and the miraculous dusk illumination of thousands of electric light bulbs dancing to shed beams of light over the exhibitions, tricking nighttime back to day.

“What do you want to do first, me lassie?” Davey asked taking her hand. “I’ve a pocket full of nickels and the world is your oyster.”

                Maggie knew he saved for two months to spare the cost of several days’ wages to give his best girl this once in a lifetime experience. But with the train fare and the fifty cent per person admission, she feigned interest only in the free exhibitions to see as much as they could and save their pennies for a special ride or two.

                For hours, they viewed the art and beautiful pieces of grand china, glass, and glamorous textiles from all over the world. They walked through many pavilions displaying the latest innovations in machinery and invention, which were expected to usher in a new century of prosperity.           One of the most memorable was the hulking Edison tower of lights which was choreographed in time to the Blue Danube waltz.

                Touring “Little Europe” to sample the architecture, music, food and drink from abroad, Maggie felt a comforting warmth she hadn’t experienced since she left the Emerald Isle.

                “Try this beer,” she boasted, “Me dad said there’s nothing in the world like an Irish stout.”

                “Maybe, but it doesn’t top a Scotch Whiskey and a bag pipe ceòl mòr ,” he chided.

“If you don’t mind me saying, it sounds like when they killed the cow,” Maggie laughed.

And so started the playful but proud banter arguing which display was better, Ireland or Scotland. The tie-breaker was the Gallery of Beauty visit between the pretty Irish maid and the handsome Scottish lass. They finally agreed that the dainty maid would carry the day. At least they both got a taste of each other’s homeland.

The exotic Midway plaisance recreated the lands of the far east with realistic buildings, food, marketplaces, music and native dances.

“Can ya imagine the beautiful dresses that could be made out of this silky gold fabric,” Maggie wondered as she draped the cloth over her arms.

“Well, I can’t afford enough for a dress, but could ye make a scarf outta a wee bit?” Davey said as she smiled and nodded.

“Are you a seamstress?” a young girl standing next to her in the market asked in a harried voice.

“Well, me ma is a dress maker and taught me everything she knew,” Maggie boasted.

“Maybe you can help us.” She grabbed Maggie’s hand and whisked her to a nearby tent. There she saw a gaggle of young half-dressed Egyptian girls in revealing harem clothing.

“Fatima ripped her pantaloons in the last performance and we can’t fix them,” the girl said handing Maggie the garment, needle and thread.

The sheer fabric was tricky to work with and mending the break in the middle of the pant would take a skilled hand. Maggie learned to sew lace at her mother’s feet, so her needlework was second to none, In just a few minutes, she restored the tear perfectly.

The girls thankfully ushered Davey and Maggie into the tent to watch Little Egypt’s show in gratitude.

Most of the gossip about the fair surrounded the risqué costumes and “impure” indigenous dances by bellydancer Little Egypt. Her “hoochee coochee” dance was the hit of fair and equally scorned by the “church ladies” of the city.

Maggie was entranced at the astonishing way she could twist and move her body. But when she saw the enormous smile on Davey’s face, she said grabbed his hand to lead him out of the tent.

“Wait,” said a man standing next to the girls.  “Do you need a job? We could use a good seamstress.” He handed a confused Maggie a card and told her to come back tomorrow if she was interested. Maggie smiled and put the card in her purse, waving goodbye to the girls.

As dusk peaked, they cued for the soaring Ferris Wheel, a new engineering phenomenon. Rushing in with crowds of others, they garnered a perfect view through the metal webbed windows in the steel framed cab car to see the sun set on the unique White City and a day they would not soon forget.

(c) 2022 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

Note: This is a short story adaptation of a small part of a new historical romance book Irish Eyes, which is book 2 to the Timeless American Romance series of books to be released in Spring 2022. Sign up for my email list on the home page to get updates and sneak peeks on this and more books.


A Starry Night

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One of the best things about being a kid is exploring and noticing the little things in life. Tyler and his friends were no different. 

On a warm summer night, they enjoyed a rite of passage for eleven-year-olds, the backyard tent sleepover. Tyler and his dad pitched a small pup tent in the backyard and laid out some of sleeping bags and other camping equipment acquired during the family’s all too brief camping experiment.

They stacked some firewood in the pit to roast marshmallows for S’mores and cook hot dogs on a stick, the essential menu for camping.

Tyler was excited to have his friends, Billy, Cole and Mel, short for Melinda, for the sleepover outside. He had wanted to camp out for a lot time, but his dad said they had to be eleven before they could sleep alone outside.

Billy and Mel were neighbors and the three played together for years. Cole was a school friend who lived a few blocks away.

Tyler wanted to host on his own, so his mom and dad went through all the steps with him and promised to leave them alone, but kept a watchful eye on them through the windows.

Most of the culinary camping techniques were improvised, such as the use of the long wooden hot dogs sticks as Jedi light sabers locked in battle. Unfortunately, the fired hot dogs did not fare as well as they were flung two and fro in the skirmish. The kids just wiped them off and ate them anyway…five second rule. 

The methods of roasting marshmallows ended in a contest of who could keep their marshmallow on fire for the longest time, which made for some charcoal flavored S’mores.    

Not unlike most sleepovers, there was very little sleep, so they all settled into their sleeping bags, staring up to view the clear sky and bountiful nighttime landscape of stars.

“Look, I saw this in a book. There’s the big dipper and the little dipper,” Mel exclaimed, tracing the heavenly figures out slowly with her finger.

“What’s a dipper?” Billy said.

“I don’t know, it just showed the pictures of these constellations in the book?” Mel snapped a little.

“What’s a constellation?” Cole asked.

“The pictures in the sky made up by stars, I guess,” Mel answered quickly.

“I don’t see anything. Just a bunch of stars,” Billy said.

“Look, they’re right there, see?” Mel insisted and traced the pattern in the sky again faster this time.

“Ok, if you say so. I don’t see anything but stars,” Billy shrugged.

“Oh, I see them now,” Cole said. “That’s cool. You say you found it in a book?”

“Yes, there were some other star pictures too, but I don’t see them now. Just the dippers,” Mel answered.

“I think the stars are like a painting in the sky,” Tyler said. “Tonight it looks like a bunch of puppies playing in a yard to me.”

“I didn’t read anything about puppies in the star book,” Mel answered skeptically.

“Oh, I can see the puppies now,” Cole said.

“I don’t see puppies,” Mel crossed her arms.

“I still don’t see anything,” Billy sighed.

“It can be anything to anybody or different things to everyone,” Tyler explained. “It’s just what you see through your own eyes and with your imagination. It changes every night.”

“That’s not what the book said,” Mel maintained.

“My dad said imagination is all in your head,” Billy said.

“Imagination is in your head, dummy,” Cole laughed.

“It’s in your eyes and your head. It’s what makes us all special,” Tyler said. “It would be boring if everyone saw the same thing all the time.”

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022


NEW RELEASE! PUZZLE AT PEACOCK PERCH Secret Senior Sleuths Society Mysteries Book 1

Why have one detective when you can have a whole secret society? This group of seniors is making time amid their bridge and mahjong tournaments, bingo games, arts and crafts, and tennis and pickle ball matches to solve mysteries together in their community. They put all the knowledge from their former occupations to work together to crack the case.

In this first book in the Secret Senior Sleuths Society of Peacock Perch Series, these seniors are tasked with a genuine puzzle and their original investigation of many “The Case of the Vanishing Vixen.” Their neighbor, Willow Wisteria disappeared, but not without a trace. They’ll use all their cunning, life experience and the knowledge from their former occupations to follow the trail of gossip and social media posts about Willow to gather clues and find suspects with means, motive and opportunity.

People think retirement communities are quiet with sleepy residents, but in fact, Peacock Perch is a typical senior village full of misdeeds and mystery that keeps the detectives very busy. And they know just where to look.

Now Available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and Large Print Edition paperback on Amazon.

Subscribe to the newsletter on the Home page to receive exclusive videos of the secret camera footage discussed in the book.


 Select-o-matic Husband

Author Note: The Twilight Zone was a popular show in the 50’s and 60’s that peered through the looking glass at a skewed way to view certain issues in our society in a fantastical way.

In the year 2200, women are now the dominating force in the world. After the nuclear WWIII, women around the globe banded together in an unprecedented solidarity of different races, creeds, nationalities, religions and ideologies to create a new order. Removal of politicians, lawyers, sports, the stock market and the restructuring of corporations to eliminate greed, ushered in an age of absolute peace and prosperity. With complete cooperation and efficiency, female leaders are able to administer and govern the world from a multi-jurisdictional board with all decisions made by popular and instant vote. Without poverty, crime, disease and corruption, it was Utopia, except for one problem – men.

 In the 22nd century, men are now free to pursue anything they want. Without burden of breadwinning or governance, they can fulfill any dream. Unfortunately, the remaining men all chose to become explorers and adventurers with most going out to far regions of the globe, sea or space to study and create new worlds.                   

“Ladies, we have solved today’s problem of male companionship. Our new device, the Select-o-matic Husband, allows you to input data into our computer with your ultimate preferences in a mate and select from unlimited possible choices. In just 24 hours, your new husband will be delivered right to your door with an easy-to-read instruction manual, ready to be integrated into your home environment,” the commercial said.

As Myra and her friends viewed the commercial one night, most were immediately on their armband computers, creating their perfect mate.

“Wow, you can put your interests in and what you like. This is so easy,” Jenna said.

“I know exactly what I’m going to get, no surprises afterward,” Brenda added.

“And there’s a money-back guarantee with a no-questions return policy,” Tilda said excitedly.

But Myra was reluctant. Gazing at the locket around her neck, she looked at the pictures of her parents and remembered the loving, happy home she grew up in, before the war. Now everything was so efficient and orderly, she missed the unexpected surprises and even the perils in life. She wondered if a computerized mate would make life so right, she would never experience anything exciting or wrong again.

“Done,” her friends all said in a confident simultaneous completion.   

“What about you Myra?” Jenna asked.

“I need some time to think about this. It’s an important decision. I’ll order mine later,” she falsely explained to divert the conversation. She doubted that she wanted this type of perfect arrangement.

The next week the friends gathered at Glenda’s house for their weekly girl’s night. Glenda gladly showed off her new mate, bragging of how perfect her life was now.

“R-ex is beautiful, Glenda,” Jenna said. “My T-om is not that muscular, but I wanted a tall and slim model.”

“He looks and cooks like a dream and even has my glass of wine waiting for me when I get home,” Glenda said.

“My K-en agrees with everything I say and always wants to do exactly what I want to do, when I want to, without argument. We spend the whole day discussing history, art and music. I made sure to select a genius IQ who was well-versed in all subject-matters. He even plays the piano and guitar, so he can serenade me,” Tilda boasted.

Myra listened to her friends gushing over their new playmates and watched R-ex creepily smile as he went back and forth, serving them snacks and drinks. They seemed happy, but to Myra, it just wasn’t real.

“Do you girls ever want to go back to the days when things were uncertain and a little messy?” Myra asked.

“Not on your life!” Jenna loudly exclaimed.

“Are you insane? This is the world we all dreamed of,” Glenda added.

“We are much better off this way. Why mess up a good thing?” Tilda agreed.

“I don’t know. Everything today is so perfect; I miss the excitement and thrill of the good and the bad, not knowing what will happen next,” Myra confessed.

The others stared at her a long time, silenced by their disbelief.

“That’s it, no more wine for you,” Glenda ordered. R-ex, get her some coffee and sober her up. She’s absolutely mad.”

© 2021 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton


Which of These Things Don’t Belong Together?

SNEAK PEAK! This is a character introduction to an upcoming YA/middle-grade book “Popularity”.

Certain kinds of combinations like spaghetti and meatballs, movies and popcorn, and shoes and socks are famous pairs, but socks and sandals or spaghetti and tuna are definitely not.  

What if people were like that? Meredith was. She was movies and milk. She just didn’t think she fit. 

When her school district closed her high school, they redrew the district lines to split up the kids to neighboring schools. Suddenly, her friends since elementary school were no longer in her class. And even worse, living in a depressed part of town, she was now enrolled in the “rich kids” school.

The first day of school was right out of the pages of Seventeen Magazine and Teen Vogue. Designer shoes, clothes, backpacks… the bling was literally blinding. Fancy phones and even the cars parked in the drop off area smelled of money.

Meredith looked at her head-to-toe Goodwill hammy-downs and felt like Cinderella going to the ball in rags instead of a beautiful gown.

“No fairy-god parent here,” she said and walked through the hallway with her head down.

Unfortunately, she didn’t see someone on her direct intercept course and crashed right into them, spilling her drawing notebook on the floor.

“Those are spectacular,” a girl shouted and grabbed one drawing.

The girl’s name was Alyssa. She was one of the “popular” crowd.

“Did you draw these?” she asked Meredith.

“Yes, they’re just doodles of things I see.” Meredith replied in a soft voice and picked up the other drawings and put them back in her notebook.

They were doodles to her, but to most people, they were wonderfully detailed representations of people and things showing their innermost feelings and true colors. The picture of her father reading a book showed the depth of his interest in the subject in the wonderment reflected in his face. A drawing of her dog showed an older dog with a ball in his mouth, but the eyes of a young pup who always wanted to run and play.

“Draw me,” Alyssa said excitedly and thrust her hand on her hip, striking a pose.

“I don’t draw people posing like a model. I usually draw them while they are doing something,” she said.

“Ok, eat with us at lunch and then draw me while I’m not looking,” she said and bounced down the hallway, motioning Meredith to follow her.

Meredith never saw anyone bounce like that and she definitely never ate at the “cool” lunch table. She watched them from afar, sitting on the bleachers in the cafeteria/lunch room drawing. Secretly, she scribbled a couple people laughing and talking, but never showed them to anyone. No one ever saw her work until today. It was private; it was personal.

The popular girls were the most beautiful, richest and most talented in the school. Homecoming princesses, prom queens and most of the dance cheer squad. She looked at them sitting at the table like they were perched on a glittery cloud with pastel-colored auras all around them. They had everything in the palm of their hands.

She stared at them awestruck, forgetting everything in her head until Alyssa told her to sit across from her, so she could draw her face.

Meredith pulled out a notebook and gel pens out of her bag. She liked the pretty colors and sparkles of those pens to give her drawings a pop art kind of feel. She sat at the table looking around. The girls were talking loudly, all at the same time. She wasn’t really sure who was saying what or how they were eating, as none of them seemed to take a breath.

No one noticed her. She was like the table or the air; she was just there. But she noticed them, every facial expression and every movement. Their hair flowed back and forth and eyes seemed to glow while they talked with their hands, expertly drinking their soda with one hand and eating with the other. To Meredith, it was electric. She drew with a speed and enthusiasm she never experienced before. She grabbed pen after pen in rapid succession drawing not only Alyssa, but everything she saw. 

This was it, she thought. She didn’t fit in now, but someone, someday, she dreamed maybe she could.

(c) 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton


Talk to the Hand

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Before “talk to the hand” became popular, I believe I used and saw the idea of that gesture many times.

As a parent, you often feel that many conversations with your child, back and forth, can be illustrated with one hand held affirmatively in the stop position.

With young children, you want them to quickly stop doing things that will hurt them and you need them to understand immediately. You need the “hand in the face” gesture when they are hurling themselves out of their crib to the floor, climbing over protective baby gates like Spider-man scaling a building and to not peel the wallpaper off of the walls.

Sometimes it works, although when they completely ignore you or respond in a rebellious “no,” there is more work to be done. 

When they get older, and can talk back, the dynamic changes. Like the time my five-year-old definitively told me “no” when I told him he had to go to bed. He furred his brow, pursed his lips and, with a defiant glare, put his hand up in my face and said “No.”

He obviously saw me make the gesture before and now emulated that behavior. Now I wished I never used the “hand in face” because now it boomeranged back to me, over and over again.

Fast forward to teenage years and it seemed every question and non-answer session could have used the long-retired “hand.”

Any inquiry about where he was going, what he was going to do or who was he going with met with a huge sigh and swift non-reply.

“Mom, just stop.”

But I didn’t stop. After all, these types of interrogatives were my job as a mom to protect him. This went on and on for years. No “hand in the face” but the message was the same.

Over the following decades, adult debates over holiday gatherings found me using a similar motion to my father as he often loudly pronounced rather explicit off-color jokes, racial slurs and ideologies very opposite to mine. And on more than one occasion, with one hand covering my nodding head, the other went up asking him to stop.

Fast forward a few more decades and the tables have turned once again. Now the adult children want to tell me what to do. If I want to close a bar once or twice, protest an injustice, go on an adventure or enter a beer drinking contest, I clearly heard their response once again. “Mom, stop.” Although distance requires the command to be on phone conversations or sometimes over face-to-face computer interactions, the message is similarly communicated. But this time, I get to use the hand to face gesture showing I am not listening. Talk to the hand.


Waiting for a Reply

“Another email about Mary’s game night? What to bring, what time, what day, you think we were Congress trying to negotiate a bill, right lol. It’s not rocket science.” Caroline quickly replied to the email and went back to work.

Then she heard another ding notifying her computer that she had an email. When she checked it, she found an email from her friend Tara.

“Caroline. Did you mean to send that email to everyone?”

She read the email, panicked and then looked back through her sent emails.

“Oh no! I clicked reply to all by mistake. I wish this email chain was easier to use. I get mixed up with all the threads. I sent this to everyone in the group, including Mary. Yikes.”

As Caroline worked throughout the day, she barely kept her mind on her accounting as she received several responses to her mistaken email. Ding after ding, like the bell tolling, a constant reminder of her mistake. Others were smart enough to reply just to her email with their responses.

“Wow, Caroline, didn’t think game night was that taxing on your busy day, haha,” Jim emailed.

“Caroline, seriously, we’d all be too old to play games if we waited for Congress to act,” Mark chided.

“Hey, I thought some of our games are like rocket science, lol.” Carrie replied.

“Oooo, did you get an email from Mary yet?” Debbie emailed with a string of shock emojis.

She didn’t get an email from Mary yet. The waiting was the worse. She toggled between her work and her email, checking for the bell to toll for her. 

Hours went by. Nothing. Caroline went over the message again in her head, judging every word and phrase for the possible response.

Ok, the first line could be a joke – but the rocket science line, that probably nailed my coffin, Caroline thought.

Mary was a meticulous host and took her turn for game night very seriously. There were drink menus, snack suggestions and game choices all which required everyone to weigh in an opinion. She coordinated times and dates, which alone was an endless series of emails to sync schedules. Then there were the emails about what everyone would bring. Mary wanted to ensure there were no duplications.

Caroline appreciated her attention to detail and thought if everyone brought chips, that would be bad, but there were more emails during her game night week than any other week.

The fiftieth email check in the last few hours showed no email from Mary, which made Caroline even more nervous. She knew Mary was usually very quick with email replies. 

Maybe she’s busy and didn’t check her email, Caroline thought. Or maybe she doesn’t want to respond.

The suspense was killing Caroline. She heard every noise in her office amplified by ten. The coffee pot drip, computer keys typing and the water cooler gurgle echoed in her head. Then she realized she typed the same numbers into four different columns on her spreadsheet and had to figure a way out of the torture.

Can I delete the thread or the email? She thought, Googling the answer. Nope.

What if I reply and head her off at the pass, like it was a joke? Caroline stared at the email crafting the perfect response.

“Lol, just kidding. Can’t wait.” She replied to all and stared at the computer for a response. Silence. Then finally, a lone ding. It was from Mary.

“Lol. Bring nuts,” she emailed.

 Caroline was stunned. She obviously read the email thread. Was she taking the high road or mounting her attack to ambush and punish her at game night?

“Arrgh, now I have to wait three more days to find out.” Caroline plopped her head on her desk.

“Alexa, remind me to buy nuts at the store on Thursday,” she said.

(c) 2021 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton


Pick That Up!

Should I pick that up? I think the better question is… Why should I pick that up?

My new husband of one year started as a dream. He’s kind, respectful and a lot of fun to be around. But I recently found his fatal flaw. He’s a slob! Not a pigsty slob, but he doesn’t pick up after himself. It’s infuriating!

It started small. He left coins and mail on the kitchen counter, magazines on the coffee table and left his lap top everywhere. But now it seems like every flat surface in our house is his dustbin for anything and everything that comes out of his pockets or lands in his hands. His nightstand, his vanity, the end tables, the countertops, the coffee table… they all have stuff on them and it’s driving me crazy.

 I should have known when it took him a month to put away his suitcase from our honeymoon. I accidentally kicked it five times. I reminded him the first week, then the second week, then daily for the next week, but there it sat. Finally, I shuffled into his small closet. He didn’t even notice.

Thankfully, he puts away his clothes most of the time, but everything else is habitual. I’m not a neat freak or anything, but everything has its place. Why do we have closets, cabinets and drawers if we put nothing away? When we were dating, we either went out or to my place, since he lived in a cramped apartment with a few other guys. I never knew. I can’t resolve if he’s absent-minded, untidy or just completely oblivious.

It’s been a tug of wills for months. He leaves things around. I wait a few days, and then gently remind him -but nothing. And every day I look at the mess seething with pent up rage. Finally, when I’m about to burst like Krakatau or when we have people over, whichever comes first, I tidy it up. I’ll put everything in drawers beneath or nearby wherever things land.

Frankly, I’m at my wit’s end. I’ve tried to help make him organized. I bought him separators for his drawers so he can easily put everything in them. I got magazine holders for his magazines, labeled them and put them on the shelf. I even got a new end table for the living room with a cabinet for his laptop. When I showed him how easy it was, he thanked me and said they were great. Still, they remain empty.

I even got a little passive aggressive once and took all his things and put them in a box to teach him a lesson. I figured if he couldn’t find anything he needed, he would learn the reason you put things away is so you can find them. At first he didn’t even notice, but when he was blindly looking around for his things, I caved and told him I took them and gave them back. And he just thanked me!

Is this my life—to be Cinderella and pick up after him constantly or live in a hoarder house, embarrassed to have anyone I know come in? Is that fair? I work too; we’re supposed to split the chores. And what happens when we have kids? If they’re like him and follow his example, I will spend my life in servitude up to my eyeballs in stuff.

On a recent trip to his mother’s house out of state, the clouds cleared, and I got some clarity. It took me a few days to notice, but I realized she followed him around, picking up his clothes and folding them on the bed, taking his dishes from him, and each morning we found things he left around neatly stacked near the bed. And as soon as we got out of the bed, it was magically made. Aha!

He never had to pick anything up his whole life, so he never learned that’s what he’s supposed to do. He doesn’t think this is any different. But it is. 

That’s it! Now I’m going to have to break him of this mommy-coddling habit right away. Maybe I’ll take a page from Pavlov’s book.

Now I’m wondering what other habits I’ll have to break. I hope Pavlov’s theory works on husbands too. 

© Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2021


Newtakes not mistakes

Albert Einstein said “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.” After all, one person’s mistake is another’s invention. That statement was never truer than with my childhood friend, Skizitz. Others saw everything she did as a mistake, but to me, it was creative and amazing. She was definitely an original.

As an Army brat, I moved around a lot, which was not conducive to making friends easily, until I met sixties. In three short years, she showed me how to try new things, ignore naysayers and bullies and completely be yourself. Words I’ve lived by my whole life.

She not only made lemonade out of lemons, it was a sweetest lemonade you every tasted because it was unique. Nothing was impossible, because to her it wasn’t right or wrong, it was just different.

When we went snowboarding the first time, we failed miserably. We went down a couple of feet and both fell. It was hard to balance. We thought if we held hands, we could help each other balance. That worked for a few feet, but then we both face-planted in the snow. We sat there in the snow as others glided down around us and knew we either had to try again or walk down the hill in defeat.

Skizitz smiled and kneeled on her snowboard in her patented butterfly pose sitting with her knees in front of her and her legs on either side like wings. “Try this Emmy, we can shush down the hill like a sled and use our hands to make us go.”

I know that’s not how we were supposed to snowboard, but we moved fast with the cool wind in our faces. It was fun and we got down the hill in style, with less bruises.

I’ll never forget the food concoctions she would come up with and the interesting way she ate everything. Popcorn with ranch dressing mix and butter a la Skizitz was her signature snack. And she ate her Skizitz-style peanut butter sandwiches by separating the two pieces of bread, splitting Oreo cookies in two, licking the white filling out of the Oreos and scooping all the peanut butter from each bread slice with the chocolate part of the cookie. Then she took the slice of cheese and put it between the bread and ate the sandwich. Is that the way to make a cheese sandwich or a peanut butter sandwich with cheese and peanut butter Oreos? I think they even sell peanut butter Oreos now. She was ahead of her time.

She found her own way to do everything from her made-up words to her banana-peel way of tripping, falling down at kicking a winning soccer goal. The unusual way she created costumes with on-the-spot back stories for every character like the half man-half clown, clownman, the princess pirate, or the frogbee are neighborhood legends.

Yes, kids made fun of her and teachers and parents always told her she was doing things wrong, but it wasn’t a mistake for her. Everything she did was unapologetically her way. I never forgot that.

Now I own an environmental sustainability company that has changed the face of our climate for the better, allowing affordable renewable energies to progress and thrive to produce clean water and air. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I was really just finding ways not to invent my process. Without those mistakes, I would have never achieved my goal. And even though it was years ago, every time something didn’t work or fell short, I remembered how Skizitz would call it newtakes and make it different. And I did.

Note: This is a character preview of a new middle-grade book The One and Only Skizitz.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2021



“Hi Mom, I need to ask you something about your crockpot.” Jamie called her mother on Facetime. 

“I can see you, can you see me? Isn’t this Facetimes thing fun?” her mother laughed.  

“Mom, hold the phone back, I can only see your mouth. Good. I’m using your old crockpot.  How did you get it to the right setting again? Warm for 1 hour than high for an hour? Mom you’re muted.”

“Oh sorry. I didn’t mean to hit it. It’s warm for 30 minutes, high for one hour and then warm for 30 minutes again. I can’t believe that old thing is still working. It was your grandmothers. Why don’t you get a new one. Maybe one of those instapots I hear about. That thing’s got to be on it’s last leg. It’s…”

“Mom, you’re on mute again. Anyway, I like it. They don’t sell ones this big anymore and I can fit a whole chicken, plus potatoes and vegetables in it. Those new ones don’t fit half that. Sometimes it’s worth keeping. Mom, I see your lips moving…but I have to go anyway, I hear the kids making noise in the other room. Love you, bye.”

 Jamie laughs, sighs and walks into the living room holding a basket of laundry and sees her two young daughters Avery and Alex dancing to a familiar tune and begins to move to the music a little.

 “Mom, we’re making a TikTok video,” Avery sighed.

“You’re in the frame, mom,” Alex said. 

“I could swear I know that song.” Jamie quickly hopped out of their way and started folding laundry, humming the song in her head.

With her back to the girls, Jamie kept humming the song and moves her head, shoulders to the beat.

 “Mom! What are you doing?” The girls both stopped and stared at her as if she was crazy.

Then a light bulb went off in her head. “I know that song.”

Jamie started to sing and dance a little to the song. The girls’ jaws dropped.

“How do you know that song, Mom?” Avery asked.

“That song is new,” Alex said.

Jamie laughed. “That song is not new. It was popular when I was a kid. I think I may still know the whole dance.”

Jamie put the laundry down and stood next to the girls and sang and danced the whole song. The girls were dumbfounded.

“That’s better than what we were doing,” Alex said.

“Mom, can you teach us that dance,” Avery asked.

Jamie and the girls laughed as she taught them the moves to the old song.

“Let’s put it on TikTok,” Avery said excited.

“Oh no, I don’t know about that girls,” Jamie said and walked back to the laundry.

“Come on Mom, you’re better than most of the people we see on there,” Alex coaxed.

“Well, ok, I guess.” Jamie smiled and checked her hair in the mirror.

It took a few takes, but they finally all agreed and uploaded the video to TikTok entitled “Old School Dance.” It has ten thousand likes, and counting.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2021


Attic Adventures

Cammie was bored. The ten-hour car trip with her mother, grandmother and aunts was bad enough, but when they reached her great aunt’s house, there was literally nothing to do. No Wi-Fi, no TV, nothing.

Her great aunt Gertrude recently had a health scare, so they wanted to visit her while they could. Gertrude lived alone in their ancestral home and was the keeper of the family line. She kept the family stories to pass onto stories other women in the line to ensure they would not be forgotten. Cammie’s mother included her on this all-girl tour to get some first-hand knowledge of her heritage.

For hours, the women talked, drank tea and looked at picture scrapbooks. But Cammie rolled her eyes and counted the tiles on the kitchen walls while she pretended to look.

These are just a bunch of old pictures of people I don’t know, she thought. Why should I care?

She excused herself to use the bathroom and found a hallway full of doors. Her aunt said the bathroom was on the left, but there were two doors on the left. Cammie opened one and saw a narrow stairway. She flicked the light switch and climbed the stairs. The steps were so narrow her feet were nearly too big for them.

“This is the most exciting thing that happened to me in two days,” she laughed.

 She followed the stairway to the top and looked into the room. It didn’t look like attics she saw in the movies or on TV; it just looked like a room. It had bright lights, as there were no windows, white linoleum floor, white walls and ceilings and different colored sheets thrown over mysterious objects.

“Now this is more like it. Let the adventure begin.” Cammie ran around the room taking the sheets off one by one.

First, she unveiled a beautiful wood dressing table with an attached ornate three-way mirror. Cammie looked into the drawers and found a beaded purse with fringe, some small gold metal boxes and a silver comb and brush. Next to that was a bookcase full of old leather books.

Then she found a chest full of fabric and clothes, an old record player with a big horn, and a weird square treadmill with a big while belt attached to it. With each new item, she looked with fresh interest and anticipation until the next find. After she was done, she surveyed the room again and wondered what they were all used for? How old they were? And who they belonged to?

“There’s a tale for each one of these treasures,” great aunt Gertrude said as she hobbled up the stairs with her cane. Cammie was so entranced in her adventure she didn’t even hear her coming.

“Is this an attic auntie?” Cammie helped her sit in a big velvet chair she uncovered. 

“It was an attic when the home was built, but when there were more kids in the family than bedrooms, it was used as a bedroom. Over time, it became the final resting place for all their treasures.”

“Who?” Cammie asked.

“The Cole women, of course. Each piece tells a tale of the women in our family.” Gertrude pointed to the vanity.

“That dressing table belonged to Victoria. She was a flapper in the 1920’s and was the life of the party. She was killed in a car accident at 22. They found those little gold boxes of snuff powder on her.”

“The chest was brought here on a stage cross-country from Pennsylvania in 1870. It contained everything Mary’s family owned. Can you believe that? She became a seamstress and made custom dresses for all the richest women in town.”

“What’s with the horn on this record player?” Cammie asked.

Gertrude laughed. “It’s called a Victrola. It was Emily’s most prized possession. She took it all the way to California in 1910 when she tried to make it as a singer in Hollywood. She sang in movie theaters during silent pictures.”

“And oh, the bookcases. Aren’t they marvelous? Lillian was the librarian until 1950 when she died at 85. She kept her favorite books in that bookcase. She was considered the smartest women in town – like a walking encyclopedia. It was Lillian who started the golden book of Cole women.” Gertrude motioned to the giant book lying atop the bookcases.

Cammie brought the book to Gertrude. It was covered in shiny gold leaf and had the word “Cole” engraved on the top.

“In this book is one page for every woman in our family. Each generation had a record keeper who passed down the stories mother to daughter, aunt to niece. Lillian decided to write each story in the book to preserve them and handed the book to a special girl in the family to continue the line.” She handed the book to Cammie.

Each of the creamy pages had a woman’s name and year at the top and told the story of her life. And there were many blank pages for the future. Cammie looked at each page with wonder. These women were all chronicled in this book. How they lived, who they were and how they died.

 “I’ve kept the record for the past 60 years, since my aunt gave it to me. It’s time for new blood.” Gertrude smiled and gently handed the book to Cammie.

“I can’t do this. I wouldn’t know what to write.” Cammie looked at her with big-eyed fear.

“Just listen and tell their stories. You can start with your grandmother and I.” She said.

For the rest of the trip, Gertrude told Cammie stories and showed her pictures of the Cole women. Cammie took notes to write the stories in the book later. Now she saw the women in the picture scrapbooks as people. Through the stories, she felt she knew them. They were family and now she could keep them alive until it was her time to bestow the book upon the next generation of Cole women.   

© Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton


An Unexpected Wind

Emma dreamed of visiting the Hardie Casino baths. Hardie’s two-story building with big arched Greek columns was the fanciest and the largest bathing casinos in Miami. Her mother, Carla, recently began working there as a sandwich maker, since their move from New York. Emma would sit every night entranced as Carla told her about all the people she saw that day sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the big salt water baths. She pictured fancy ladies in sunglasses and big-brimmed hats lying under beach umbrellas in the tropical sun and dozens of heads donned with bathing caps bobbing about in the deep salt water. And she imagined men diving from boards high in the air plunging into the pool below. But a casino pass was too expensive for their little struggling family, so Emma would have to live through Carla’s daily tales.

“Emma, Emma, I have a wonderful surprise for you.” Carla excitedly ran up the stairs to their 2nd floor apartment. Emma smiled and met her at the door just like every day before.

 “Mr. Hardie gave this to me himself as a bonus.” Carla smiled and handed a yellow ticket to her daughter.

Emma looked down at the ticket and cheered, jumping into her mother’s arms in glee. It was a day pass to visit the Hardie baths tomorrow. She would finally get to see everything she imagined with her own eyes and get to sunbathe on the golden beach and swim in the sea water pools. It was a dream come true.

Richard was taking measurements and recording hourly findings in the ledger. He volunteered for the twelve-hour night shift, relieving a work friend who left to attend his mother’s 60th birthday party. September 17th 8pm: 19 mph wind speed, barometer mostly steady slight drop, mild rain. No signs of any disturbances, he wrote, filled up his coffee and tilted back in his desk chair until his next report.

Emma fell asleep that night smiling with her wool bathing costume and cap next to her, dreaming of the next day’s event.

At midnight, Richard wiped the sleep from his eyes, filled up his coffee cup and read the wind speed and barometer again. The wind picked up to 30 miles per hour speed, the rain increased and the barometer dove again. Additional drop in barometer, probably due to rain, he wrote. No other disturbances.

Unaccustomed to the night shift, Richard fell in and out of sleep for the next few hours draining the coffee pot. He dutifully managed the hourly reports with no incidents, but at 5am Richard noticed a curious plummet in the mercurial rate of the barometer with the rain and winds increasing. Precipitation and wind speed steadily increasing to 50 mph, barometer dropping, he wrote. Still within parameters of rain storm-will monitor pattern.

Now Richard was wide awake. The rain and wind didn’t bother him, but the barometer was a concern. The barometric pressure and wireless reports from ocean steamships to Washington DC were their only indication of a tropical storm.

By 8am the barometer had jumped up and down like a ball, but the rain diminished and the wind was down to 10 mph. The barometer pattern is uncertain, could be within margin of error. Rain and wind speed depleted, no disturbances noted, but will continue to monitor barometer.

Emma and Carla awoke to overcast conditions, but no rain.

“Do you still want to go today? There’s no sun.” Carla asked. Emma’s eyes and smile grew big as she quickly nodded in response. Nothing could keep her from visiting the bathing casino, especially not a few clouds. Since Carla had to work anyway, they headed out the door to be there for the 9am opening.

After leaving her mother in the back-door kitchen, Emma quickly dressed in her bathing costume and wool cap and walked through the restaurant into the bath area. It was beautiful, just as she pictured. The long deep pool lay in the middle of the deck filled with chaise lounge chairs and fresh towels rolled on the seat. Her eyes turned skyward toward the three diving boards of various heights which seemed to reach to the heavens. Walking on the beach, she saw lounge chairs with umbrellas resting near the ebbing tide. All it needed was people to fill in the blanks. By 10am, despite the lack of sun, there were water bathers in the pool and ocean and sunbathers occupying the chaises. Emma happily went back and forth jumping into the bathing pool, watching the divers and running up and down the tide line.

At 10am, Richard noticed a big drop in the barometer again, but there was no rain and wind speed held at 10-15 mph. He looked at the wireless and saw no reports from the sea.

Suddenly at 10:30am, the wind speed reading picked up to 40 mph. Richard called the anemometer reader at the Federal building to double-check. They were also reading 40 mph, but he knew their margin of error was 15 mph because the three-story building was surrounded by newer buildings 10 to 12 ft taller in Miami’s growing metropolis. Richard was concerned. Checking the wind speed constantly, at 10:45 he noticed the wind increased to 60 mph. He tried to call the Federal Building to check the readings, but the phone lines were down. Protocol dictated posting the only public warning flags on the beach at 65 mph. Without confirmation, he was hesitant to make the solo call, but felt it was imminent, so he gathered the red and black-squared flags and walked three blocks to the beach.

Emma saw workers on the beach, hurriedly lowering the umbrellas tussling in the wind. Some people retreated to the pool area where the building provided a windbreak.

“Due to the wind, please exit the beach area immediately and take shelter in the building,” a man walked along the beach shouting into a megaphone.

Emma quickly walked toward the restaurant where Carla was waiting at the back door and hugged her. “I was coming to get you. We lost power in the kitchen, but I have a light. I think the freezer is the best place to be until this blows over.”

Richard reached the empty beach and posted the flags at 11:15am and ran back to the office fighting against the amplifying wind gusts. By 11:50, the wind speed was 95 mph. The category 4 hurricane hit Miami at 12:05pm at a velocity of 100-115 mph with a 15-ft storm surge.

The front half of the Hardie Casino building caved like a melting bar of chocolate with the 2-story building tiers and front columns atop each other. As the wind lulled, people came out on the street to see the damage, but a second wave hit a half hour later at 60 mph, killing more people and toppling the front of the building and the big Greek columns to rubble. Emma and Carla were safe in the kitchen’s walk-in freezer. The back of the Hardie building was the only part left standing.

Author’s Note: Those of us who live in hurricane paths are grateful for the notice and preparation provided by technology. 100 years ago, very little notice or public warning was provided.

© 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton


The Perfect Date

Free Online Dating Clipart

The beaming sun stretched its smile, enveloping the lake. A comforting breeze swept ripples across the surface dancing to the beat of a full symphony of lilting melodic wonders playing the soundtrack for love in the band shell. Swans sang an operatic aria floating in aimless harmony.  

I even saw a butterfly go by. Add in a basket full of wine, bread and cheese and it was the perfect setting for romance. Neal left no stone unturned to create a beautiful first date.

He was attentive. He was kind. He was generous. It was everything I could have asked for and more than I expected from a date on harmoniousencounters.com.

I went into online dating with a lot of skepticism. This site asked every question except my blood type and promised to use their groundbreaking algorithm to find my perfect match. Well, it worked.

Neal and I had everything possible in common from the choice of wine and type of music to books, politics… and on and on. We talked for hours about every manner of topic from travel and wines to architectural styles and classical music preferences. He was a simply perfect match. Yet I sit in this perfectly wonderful setting with this charming man across from me and all I can think of is… “Meh?”

It was pleasant, but I was not attracted to him in the slightest – not at all. I don’t understand it. He was smart, good-looking and funny, but that spark, the joie de vivre, just wasn’t there.

I dreaded the end-of-date kiss like the plague. Everyone puts so much emphasis on the fireworks of the first kiss. But if there are no embers the entire day, the pressing of lips together can’t create a fire. They’re not flint. Unfortunately, I was right. It was like kissing a friend or relative; it was just pressing lips, nothing more.

That night as I cozied into a cup of hot tea and my romance novel du jour, I started to think I expect too much from a first date or any dates. In all these novels I read, its instant chemistry. They either hate each other or love each other at first site, then sparks fly. Of course, it’s fiction, but after a lifetime of reading books and watching sappy movies, I think I’m programmed to believe in love at first site and happy endings.

Maybe the perfect person is the wrong fit. Opposites attract, right? Maybe you need someone who’s your exact opposite and makes your blood boil to get your gears running. Neal was too perfect. Instead of Prince Charming, maybe I’m more of a dashing rogue girl. Where do you find them? Is there an unharmonious.com?

Well, for right now, I know where to find them – right in the pages of this book. But first, I need to cut the cord. Even if my happy ending isn’t easy, it will never happen on a computer. harmoniousencounters.com—delete account.

© Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton


Time Capsule

It was the last day of high school in the year 1971 in a small Midwestern town. Four best friends secretly buried time capsules under the tree in front of the high school to commemorate their time there and vowed to meet fifty years later to dig it up.

All agreed to put three items each in individual tin coffee cans; something that represented what they did in high school, what they wanted to be and how they saw themselves at the time.

Over the 50 years, the four eventually went their separate ways. At first, they saw each other occasionally, then less frequently. They called on birthdays and sent letters and cards at Christmas. And when social media came out, they shared pictures and milestones on that. But life took them in different directions, so they were never again the best of friends. 

Margie was the first to leave. She went to college in California, lived in a commune for a while. Then she became a public defender and was elected as a democrat to Congress. She never married; she always said she didn’t want someone else trying to run her life.

Evie, who’s now called Evelyn, stayed in town for a while and went to work as a teller in the bank. She fell in love with the head banker who rose up the ranks to in JP Morgan Chase and moved to New York to head up their corporate division. So basically, she’s rich.

Fran married her high school sweetheart and lived in town for 20 years. It was a bad situation. Her husband mentally and physically abused her and cheated on her all the time. She kept having children, seven in all to keep things happy, but it didn’t. Everyone in town knew; it’s a small town. She finally withdrew and became a shut-in from the embarrassment. He died of a heart attack at 40. It was very sudden. Most people thought it was a suspicious death, but nothing was done. She got married to an insurance salesman moved away to start a new life with the kids. It was better for her to leave; too many bad memories and too much gossip.   

I stayed in town the whole time. I worked in my father’s grocery store for a while and avoided marriage and kids for the longest time. Finally, I met my husband, George. He was the guy who brought the bread every day. It was a long courtship where he pursued me for years and after we got married and had kids, he helped me run the store.

Fifty years to the day, we all met in the high school courtyard. The tree was huge, but the campus was basically the same. The reunion was nice. We all looked older, of course, but at least we all made it. I had my grandson dig up the tins for us. Let’s face it, none of us wanted to dig in the dirt anymore.

After the hugs and introductory greetings, we walked up the tree and all stared down at the tins. No one moved.

“Let’s just get this over with,” Margie said and grabbed her can, scraped off the dirt and ripped open the tin lid. She pulled out a program from the school play where she played the lead, her young republicans Nixon pin and her hand painted flower child peace headband.

“Check out the Nixon pin. Wow, you came a long way baby,” Evie laughed.  

“This is ridiculous. I never voted for Nixon! I’m a liberal.” She flamed and threw down the can.

With the tension broken, Evie smiled as she took out her old band baton cap and cheerleader bow, but grimaced when she saw her 4H farm medal for raising chickens.

“You can take the girl out of the farm, huh Evie?” Margie laughed and Evie pouted and quickly put the tin down.

 “This is not mine. Who put this in here? Funny joke.” Evie took a wipe from her purse and cleaned her hands with a puckered look on her face.

I opened mine and laughed out loud. There were photographs of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Pyramids and a picture of myself with a camera, all inside a grocery bag from the store. Yes, I wanted to travel and photograph the world.  

“Well at least the grocery store bag was right. I knew I’d never leave anyway.” I shrugged and put the pictures back in the can.

Everyone looked at Fran as she put her hand in and retrieved pictures of her and Bert, her first husband, with a card that said “Fran and Bert Forever” and began to cry.

“I was so stupid to give my life up for that jerk!” Fran covered her face and let the pictures and coffee can fall to the ground.  

Time is funny. We took separate roads and left behind who we were then and what we thought about life, when it didn’t turn out as we planned. Some out of necessity, some from convenience and some just changing life as it went along. They always say looking back in a mirror, objects are closer than they appear. Our time capsule experiment seemed to show the opposite. Seems the past is buried deep and far behind. Maybe that’s where it should stay.

© Copyright 2021, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton


I am an Island

Author note: I wrote this for a challenge to finish another writer’s prose. It took an interesting turn for me to give a look into the mind of the everyday writer.

“The descending sun painted the sky in an amber glow. Soft white clouds danced to a gentle breeze’s beat. The ascending moon tossed a quiet light over the plains, that separated the wilds of nature from what passes for civilization. The birds bid farewell in a rhythmic chorus. The lovers smiled at each other, in peaceful content. Twigs crumble under pained stress. Footsteps draw closer, stilling their thoughts, and chilling the night…”

“Rascal, lay down, I’m in the zone.” I scratched his ears and he sat on his pillow at my feet.

After reading this passage describing a scene of isolation on my half-blank computer screen, I realized something. This is my island; my oasis of calm in an ever-changing sea of still glass or turbulent crescent waves. No matter what’s happening in the world outside my very small window, I can escape into a sphere of reality which I create.

 In my little office, my writing takes me on a journey where I listen to the characters in my head and they tell me their stories.

Yes, I hear them. I know that sounds weird to non-writers, but as a writer, you become the observer in the world you create. With every word on your glowing screen, you weave tales and build a universe where people live, love, learn, thrive and survive. And you hope someday readers will share that world with you and enjoy their stay.

It’s a strange omnipotent power to create a fake reality. You wield fate like a god and hold the lives of your characters in your hands. With a sentence or paragraph, I can give this one true love, put that one in danger or even kill someone off. I think that’s the toughest part. I feel like a parent to these fictional children I formed.

Sometimes I feel responsible for them, although I often think they’re in charge of their own destinies and I’m just the one with computer chronicling it all. But even as witness, I’m servant to the divined natural science of our story world. Not unlike real life, there are rules in the tropes that must adhere. Certain stories must have a happy ending and in some, death is assured. I travel through their existence, sensing everything as they do. I guess just like the civilization I see outside my window, my island also experiences both calm and rough seas. Maybe my little island isn’t that different, but at least here, I’m still in control.

Ok, I’ve procrastinated long enough…I’m listening lovers, whose footsteps are chilling you in the night? I’m in the zone again. I hear the footsteps too.

“Again Rascal? Ok, let’s go potty.” I walked toward the door and took one more look at my screen.

Lovers, you’ll have to wait a little longer to find your stalker.


99 cent Kindle Countdown Deals This Week!

From June 21 thru 26th, two of my ebooks will be ON SALE on Kindle for only 99 cents. It’s a great opportunity to try these books, both the first in their series. If you have Kindle Unlimited, they are both always available.

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The Question

Looking through the glass window, Cathy paced on the floor, sat down and tapped her pencil on the table waiting. Tap. Tap. Tap.

 “This is taking forever,” she complained, got up and looked through the window again.

“What are they waiting for – divine inspiration,” she barked and sat down again, tapping her pencil. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Impatient, she got up and looked at the window again. “You’d think I asked them solve the meaning of life. Even a Rubik’s cube would take less time.” She yelled and sat down again, tapping. Tap tap tap.

“Cathy, here’s some decaf, give them a moment, this can be a difficult question to answer,” Rick said calmly handing her a cup.

The warm coffee helped for a minute. Cathy swirled it around in her mouth, trying to identify the flavor du jour. Since her ad agency only offered focus group participants coffee and donuts, both had to be pretty good. They gave a variety of sugar-topped cake donuts, cream and jelli-filled frosted selections and the most popular glazed donuts in town. And a gourmet coffee house in the area provided a different unique blend of coffee every day.

“Sometimes I think they take so long just so they can suck up the coffee and donuts,” she barked again and began pacing. “After all, they have nowhere to go.”

Cathy was anxious; this account has been a difficult challenge. As a 30-year-old marketing assistant, she couldn’t get her head into the fifty-five-plus brain to figure out how to sell to them. She successfully marketed everything from sneakers and cell phone cases to beer and perfume to her age group and was bucking for a promotion to marketing manager, if she could come up with a good campaign to sell to this target market. 

“What do they want?  Don’t they know what they want?” She said sitting down and tapping her pencil again. Tap. Tap. Tap.

“Here you go,” Jean said opening the door and handed Cathy a stack of surveys.

“Finally, let’s get some answers,” Cathy handed some of the papers to Rick and excitedly sifted through them.

With each paper, she anticipated more and more and was satisfied less and less.

“Where did we find these people – asleep in a nursing home?” She tossed the papers across the table. “Grandchildren! More free time! Reading! Playing Mahjong all day? This was a useless waste of time.”

“Now, wait, there are some good ones here,” Rick console her. “Here’s one that says more money.”

“That just says they can buy, but it doesn’t tell us how to sell them ultra-caffeinated energy drinks!” Cathy objected. “All we asked them was the best thing about getting old is________? How hard is that?”

Their client sold caffeinated energy drinks to a younger market and wanted to expand into the senior market by only changing the packaging, branding and advertising, but leaving the drink the same.

“If you ask me, I think our biggest problem is the warning labels,” Rick added. “After you remove diabetics, heart and cancer patients, and people with varicose veins, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gout, there’s not a lot of people this age level in the buying pool. We don’t want to kill anyone.”

“Some of these people have to be active,” Cathy said feverishly looking through the papers again.

“I know, Rick said.  “What about this for a slogan…Drink Caffi energy drinks…you’re not dead yet!”

(c) Copyright Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2021


The Hum

A friend came over for dinner and we watched what I call a scary movie. I’m not a fan, but she liked it, so I went along. After it was over, I was less scared and more confused at the unbelievable actions of the characters. I mean, if you’re scared, you run away, not investigate and go toward danger. Who does that?

My friend left and I was cleaning up the remnants of our impromptu fondue platter. It was not my finest cooking hour. Then I heard a strange dull humming sound. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. Like maybe the refrigerator running? I didn’t think much of it and just continued my clean up duties.

When I took everything into the kitchen, I was puzzled. I couldn’t hear the hum anymore and there was the refrigerator right there. 

Looking at the piles of mess in the kitchen, I decided to finish the bottle of wine and watch a little TV. The old Dick Van Dyke Show was on and it was my favorite episode, the one with the walnut aliens. That show was a laugh riot with a funny take on aliens. Why do aliens portrayed in media always take on a weird vibe and shape?

Oh well, the wine spent for the evening, but I still wasn’t tired. So I decided to read a little. There it was again. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. But this time it was a little louder and sounded like an engine. I thought maybe a motorcycle was passing and looked out the window. There were no lights, but I did see some bugs buzzing around the window.  That’s it, bugs, I thought.  

I continued to read, but the sound kept getting more intense. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. It almost had a rhythmic cadence.  Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. It seemed mechanical, but the sound kept getting louder and softer, louder and softer.  Maybe it was the TV?  I hoped.

I don’t mind admitting, I was a little freaked out now. I needed a distraction, so I decided to do the dishes. I turned up the water and clinked the dishes and glasses as loud as I could to drowned out the sound, but I couldn’t quell the moaning noise in my head.  Hummmm. Hummm. Humm.

I went back into the living room and heard the sounds of rain. I scolded myself for my silliness. I let that stupid movie get into my head. I was imagining things everywhere.

So, I sat down to read again, but after a minute or so, it started again. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. It was louder now, haunting. And I could swear I heard breathing too. I focused on the noise. It was under the couch – right under me. It sounded like a cat purring. But I didn’t have a cat.

Maybe something got in when my friend left. Could be a cat or even a bobcat? I heard sightings of some recently in the area.

I shirked back to the corner of the couch huddled in pillows. I was afraid. No, I was petrified. It was taunting me. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. It was getting louder.

I wanted to run, but I was trapped-paralyzed by fear. I couldn’t move. It was getting faster, egging me on, tempting me to look. I didn’t want to look, but I had to.

Ok. Think, be smart. I needed a plan. I’d drop my book and the loud noise will coax it out. Good. Ok now drop it, I told myself. But then I hesitated, do I really want to know? I was fighting with myself back and forth in my mind. Yes, I had to know. I couldn’t stay on the couch cowering forever. It would not rule my life. Then, the humming was softer. Hummmm. Hummm. Humm. It was telling me I should look.

1-2-3, I dropped it and quickly retreated to the top of the couch. Nothing happened. Curious. Now I really had to know. I dropped the remote. Nothing-just the Hummmm. Hummm. Humm.

This is getting ridiculous. I can’t go on like this. Now I was mad. I needed a new plan. A proactive approach. Defense. I took a few of the pillows on my lap and quickly shoved them under the couch for a barrier. Still nothing.

I saw my phone next to me and stuck my phone down under the couch to take a picture between the pillows and see what was there. There was a glow-like two shining eyes.

OK, I was dealing with a wild animal or something. They always say when dealing with an animal, you need to seem confident. They smell fear. So I yelled aloud Get out! Get out! to inform it of my presence. Still nothing.   

Now I had to act. I armored up by wrapping myself in the afghans on the couch, grabbed the metal art piece on the side table and the lamp next to the couch, removing the shade. With one swift move, I told myself, I needed to poke at it and then I could hit it with the heavy art. It wasn’t a great plan, but it was a plan. It had to work.

With catlike agility, I jumped from the couch to the floor screeching like a warrior and stabbed underneath the couch to and fro.  Nothing.

So I sliced with the lamp like a sword sweeping it under the couch and heard a swirl and a thud. I got it. I darted my eyes toward the wall and saw my offender. I couldn’t believe it. There it was creepily grinning at me from ear to ear with blue eyes and a big red nose. How could I be so stupid? I shook my head and picked it up. It was a clown doll my niece left the last time I babysat. The batteries were running out. That was the Hummmm. Hummm. Humm.

I plopped back on the couch laughing at the fuss I made. I guess I’m one of the idiots from the It movie I watched earlier. I went toward the danger. But I know one thing for sure. Yes, I definitely hate clowns.

Copyright (c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton


Mad About Mars

I just can’t believe we’re going to Mars. Aren’t you excited? We’ve been watching the coverage of this ever since the first shuttle brought tourists 10 years ago.  Of course, we, that’s my husband Marty and me, waited to make sure it was safe…and when we could get a reasonable Groupon rate.  No, we aren’t the first people to do anything. We just got our first microchip phone, the IOS 2000 and the 2124’s just came out.

“Passengers, please clasp your harnesses and put on your oxygen inhalers, as we are descending into the Mars atmosphere,” the shuttle pilot said.

This is so exciting. I just got this inhaler. Its designer Fauci – well, it really says Fuci, but who notices. Ya gotta breathe, right? I got it in the back of a van in New Jersey. It has faux leopard vinyl skin. That’s the second best kind, since real faux leopard skin is nearly extinct. 

Where are you staying?  We looked at all the resorts, but we decided to stay in New Vegas. They have a really fun package there – tours, gaming and concerts.  It’s the green-man group’s tenth farewell tour. We’re staying at the NANASA resort. We wanted to stay in the Mars Rover building, but it is down for repairs. We are staying at the Curiosity building. At least we’ll get to go on the Mars Rover roller coaster inside the resort. People say it breaks down a lot, but I don’t believe that.

I’m looking forward to the Mad about Mars tour the most. Two days of really digging into the history and colonization of Mars. It shows how happy the Maritain people were to have their planet turned into the biggest planetary resort in the galaxy.  They are so much better off now. I mean, they all have jobs as servers, maids and hover drivers now. We really made a difference in their lives.

“Madge, come on, we’ll miss the front seats on the tour hover,” Marty said. 

It was nice talking to you; we start our tour right away. Have a good time.  

“Thank you for visiting Mars.  Our Mad about Mars tour starts with the beginnings of ancient Mars and brings you right up through the first contact with Elon Musk and the colonization of the people through the Space Force initiative and building of the largest luxury resort playground for humans with Trumptopia,” the tour guide turned into the gates of a sandy area.

“This is where first contact took place and where the great Elon Musk and the tribal Martian leader J’onn XX shook fingers for the first time.  Before SpaceEx and Space Force took control of the planet, the Martians lived in caves like this one.”

Marty, look at this cave, it’s so primitive.  Stand next to that Martian, I’ll take your picture like you’re entering the cave with Sir Elon exploring.  Marty, make believe you’re giving him the sign of peace.

“And here we have some ancient Martian hieroglyphs. We think they are a pictorial representation of that first meeting.  Since the native language is now extinct, no one can translate it, but it’s great to have the historical record. Let’s move onto the first groundbreaking of the Space Force Trump landing area, which is now the largest fast food court in the world,” the tour guide said.

Hey Marty, take my picture with the ancient carvings.  I wonder what they say.  Google, translate this picture from Martian to English. 

“Ok, according to the twentieth edition of the Mars English dictionary, the translation says Eat at Martian Joes,” the computer voice said. Oh that reminds me, I wonder if they have that green Martian milkshake I’ve heard about.  I have a  coupon for that.  Let’s go.

@ Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, Copyright 2021

The Chump

“You were supposed to be dead,” a bystander screams glaring at my formerly lifeless body resurrect from the ground.

“I feel like it,” I mumble, patting my hands over my chest taking stock of my body.

I think I’m ok. But how? When someone shoots you in the chest, you’re usually not ok.

I look for something in my breast coat pockets that could’ve stopped a bullet, like you see in the movies. But there’s nothing.

Sitting there amongst the now busy city streets I realize, I wasn’t shot at all. But it wasn’t my imagination that knocked me down. It was a force. Maybe it was a warning or a horrible mistake.

It all started a few nights ago. It was a regular Friday night at the bar, until she came in.

She was put together in all the right places, as if someone drew her on a canvas or erected her as a skyscraper. She was built.

Even though my stool didn’t spin around, my head did a quick 180 when she walked through the door.

And did she walk. Not just putting one foot in front of the other, she glided like an angel on gossamer wings. I was captivated.

She sat down next to me and asked me for a light. I was happy to oblige and shot her my best come hither smile. She returned the favor.

A couple hours later, we talked about everything under the sun, including the kitchen sink. I’m not subject to romantical flights of fancy, but in those moments with her, my head pictured a little Whitney color house with a picket fence and a new Ford in the garage. It was the perfect dream.

She asked me for a ride home. I was happy to get a chance at a good night kiss. Or maybe something else, who knew. But something else is what I got.

I realize now, I was a chump. A stooge that fake femme fatal easily wrapped around her little finger and led right into the gates of hell. She was good alright.

She spun a tale worthy of a golden man named Oscar and I fell for it hook line and sinker. I was a willing piece of putty in her manicured hands.

She said her former boyfriend was stalking her and wouldn’t let up. I have no problem understanding why he wouldn’t let her go.

She was afraid to go home unaccompanied and asked me if I was packing. That should’ve been my first clue, but again, my dumb imagination conjured a steely knight on a cream horse. I should rap myself in the jaw for being so gullible.

She went in for a kiss to thank me and the next thing I know, I wake up to a screaming broad in the street outside her apartment building. Boy was I a patsy. 

I must’ve just been knocked out…and good. But I could’ve sworn I heard a gunshot.

Then I see two cops in my scope.

“Officers, I’m OK. No permanent harm done,” I say getting to my feet.

“That’ll be for the judge to decide. You’re coming downtown with us,” they order as the handcuff and throw me in the paddy wagon.

Now I’m in the soup for sure. I have no memory of what happened. And even worse, I don’t know her name. What a sap.

They put me under the glaring bulb and tell me I murdered a man in cold blood and left the gun with my fingerprints next to the body. That was news to me. They say it’s an open and shut case. I could fry and I don’t know why. They’ll never believe my story. Even I don’t. No one could be such a stooge to be fooled by a beautiful dame. But I was. Now my goose is cooked.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton,2023

Author’s Note: This story is written in noir style of 1930s to 1950s urban slang. I enjoy these movies and this type of storytelling.

Out With the Old; In With the New

Traditions abound in the small town of Hope. Over the years, the town has been through many struggles, including opening and closing of factories, hard financial times, and personal losses, but nothing reduces the spirit of their community.

Every Sunday people gather after church for ice cream socials.

On the Fourth of July, the volunteer band muddles through the Star-Spangled Banner and Yankee Doodle Dandy until no one could take it anymore. Luckily, people sing so loud they drown out the tinny sound.

At Christmas, they sing carols and decorate the tree around the town square.

And every Easter, the Hopians have a parade showing everyone in their finest dress.

But the biggest annual celebration is on New Year’s Eve. The stores of Main Street line the streetscape with glowing white balls of bright lights, drawing a path to the town square, where they erect a giant disco ball to drop at the stroke of midnight.

Despite the cold sleet or snow, everyone in town congregates in the downtown area, drinking hot chocolate and spiced apple cider while listening to the high school band and dance troops display their talents. With the glow of every storefront, the streets are as luminescent as day.

But the most wonderful tradition of all is the ringing ceremony. Everyone in town lines up along the street ringing bells one by one. Then each person deposits papers in two different buckets, with the best and worst things that happened in the year. When full, the mayor lights the bucket of the worst of the year ablaze.

“May we leave the worst behind us and ring in the new year with love and laughter and celebrate a new beginning for all to share,” he says.

Then everyone in town goes up to the best bucket and grabs a wish for the new year from the best experienced by others. And once they have their wishes, each throws it into the air and a confetti gun explodes as the ball ascends to usher in the new year sprinkling wonderful wishes of joy and happiness.

Because no matter what each year brings, the hope of the future shines on everyone for the promise of tomorrow.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2023

A Window to Your World

Author’s Note: This story is an excerpt from The Peril at Peacock Perch, Book 2 in the Secret Senior Sleuths Society Mysteries, just released.

When investigating a mystery, you have to break a few eggs and a few rules. One of them is a thorough search of the victim’s home. Some detectives are squeamish about snooping, but it is extremely essential. Many things in a person’s home displays a window into their world. To the experienced investigator, our homes can tell about our hobbies, proclivities, medical situations, etc. It’s a treasure trove of information.

          We are currently investigating a death in our community. The police ruled it a heart attack, but we found evidence in the home through their artificial intelligence technology that led us foul play. When the victim collapsed, he doubled over and grabbed his throat. We suspect poison, but the toxicology report proved useless.

          Our research reveals a number of possible organic poisons or drug interactions could have been the means of murder. In order to continue that path of deduction, we must know what medical ailments our victim suffered from and what medications he was taking.

          To gain access to the home, we enlist her neighbor, one of our sleuths, to take the widow out to play bingo at our recreational center and depart from her domicile so we can detect any clues.

             “Why can’t I just ask her about the medications? I hate deceiving Laurie. She’s my friend,” Mrs. Instinct says.

As usual, my sleuths are not thinking like detectives. It’s elementary. If you want to find out what inopportune illnesses someone has, the answers are no further than his medicine cabinet.

          “Mrs. Instinct, may I remind you this is an investigation? If we begin barking the truth at everyone, we’ll get nothing accomplished. Remember, anyone can be a suspect,” I declare.

          “Oh, that’s silly. Laurie is the least likely person to commit a crime. She’s a sweetheart,” Mrs. Instinct insists.

“Don’t see it as a deception, darlin’. Think of it as helping out a friend find out what really happened to her husband,” Magnolia Mastermind adds. “Besides, your penance is the torture of Boring Bingo with Barry.”

With everyone in agreement and the widow finally out of the house, we use the neighbor’s spare key start our subterfuge.

I tell Queens Quister to hunt in the bedside tables while I search the bathroom. I find these two inner sanctum areas are the nucleus of our prying probe. After all, it’s the most secret place in your house.

I examine the vanity drawers and medicine cabinet for any prescriptions, pill bottles and other over-the-counter medications. I take pictures of everything we find with my camera—for the evidentiary trail.

I find a myriad of medicines and a plethora of pills and other prescriptions. But then again, it’s not that different from most medicine cabinets I see. As a naturally curious person, I’ve harmlessly peeked into my friends’ bathrooms before. You never know really someone until you’ve been in their bathroom. 

It appears our victim suffered from diabetes, proven by the testing kits and pills. I see those a lot in the bathrooms I observe. And he also had high cholesterol, as noted by the statin medicine. But I think those prescriptions are in most of my neighbors’ drawers. It seems like everything goes well until you hit a certain age and then you inherit a pharmacy in your bathroom.

I don’t see any heart medications, though. My father had a heart condition, so I would recognize anything like that.

As I suspected, the police heart attack theory is less than plausible. I knew they were making a quick excuse to push the death on, so they could close the case. No dedication.

After shooting photographs of all the medicines, I restore everything as it was and proceed into the bedroom to see how Queens is doing.

“Did you find any medications?” I ask.

“Not really, just some antacids and over-the-counter pain medications—pretty standard,” she says. She puts the piles of odds and ends she had stacked on the bed back into the drawers.

But then I notice a bunch of small receipts on the bed and pick them up. They are for downtown parking and ATMs, and all in the same place on Piper Avenue.

“What about these receipts?” I ask.

“Oh, yes, I saw those, but didn’t think anything of them. Many people like to eat out downtown. They have so many wonderful seafood restaurants and live music all the time,” she says.

“Queens, must I remind you that in an investigation, clues—even seemingly normal ones—often present themselves in plain sight? We must deduce the unusual and the usual,” I instruct her.

I continually have to school my sleuths. I guess they don’t have the investigative intuition that I have. It’s a gift. I’m not sure it can be taught, but perhaps I need to offer some orations on deduction and detective work 101.

I photograph the receipts to examine later, and Queens returns them to the drawers.

With everything back in place, we still need to go through the kitchen pantry. What we consume articulates a lot about our health and habits.

But so far, this spying session has borne fruit and provided several leads to point our path towards suspects with means, motives and opportunity. The victim was diabetic and had high cholesterol. When combined with or without outside elements, there could be potential drug interactions.

And those receipts are for the same area with such frequency that my investigative instinct indicates they could reveal a habit or maybe even a suspect. The truth is often hidden in plain sight. It’s our job to find it.

The Secret Senior Sleuth’s Society will not rest until the case of the Peril in Peacock Perch is solved.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton 2022

From a Frustrated Florida Driver

Florida driving should be considered a contact sport. But upon further examination, I can see why we are among the worst drivers in America.

After looking at it from the other point of view, I understand why you don’t stop at stop signs. The California roll is much easier and affords less undue stress to your body, in lieu of the prescribed full stop and three second wait.

And I realize that you don’t want to use turn signals to merely indicator the drivers behind you where you are going. It’s none of their business. 

To those who follow so close they are practically in my backseat, I believe you are insatiably curious about what’s going on in my car or maybe you like to look at the color or style of my car and need an up close look. And you can’t let any gaps in traffic or people will sneak in and you will be one car behind. That’s anarchy. They need to wait their turn.

I forgive the drivers who are in such a hurry that they must weave in and out of drivers at high speed.  It is a daily test of your driving prowess, and you must practice it, avoiding cars like orange cones on a test course. 

And speaking of those in a hurry, I don’t blame you for driving recklessly fast and slamming on your brakes in traffic.  You have places to go and people to see. Especially if you’re retired, your time is valuable. The few seconds you save will definitely reap dividends in the long run. There’s no chance that you will get in an accident and will spend numerous hours filling out police reports and insurance claims, plus the inconvenience of dealing with fixing a broken car in the body shop.  Don’t worry, your insurance rates won’t go up. That’s just what they say.

It’s understandable to race through the left turn on a yellow arrow. You have waited in that cue for a few minutes and you deserve your chance to turn as soon as possible, regardless of the light’s duration or if you have enough time to get through the intersection.

I know you can’t possibly wait until you’re at your destination or even pull over to look at the text or the funny meme that someone sent you with a cat riding a motorcycle. That takes precedence over anything else that you’re doing, like operating a vehicle. Besides, you can easily multitask driving and looking. It’s not rocket science.

To the seniors who have been driving for most of their lives, perhaps even seeing the evolution of cars, I understand that if you are too small to see over the steering wheel – that’s not your fault. Go ahead and drive anyway. And if the brake and the gas seem interchangeable to you. No problem. Keep driving, no matter what anyone else says. It’s your right. 

And the tourists who feel the insatiable need to stick your toes in the sand as soon as humanly possible when you arrive in our town. We acknowledge it’s beautiful here and you want to look around. So, if you feel the need to go too slow or violate any other rules, I’m fine with that.

Considering these new rules of the road, I give up. You will find me bubble wrapping my car and wearing a football helmet when I drive because you people are crazy.  My mantra for driving in Florida is break early, break often. Stay safe out there.

(c) Suzanne Rudd Hamilton, 2022