What you want to see

Death and afterlife are one of the common unsolved mysteries of human reality. In popular media, ghosts and aberrations are regular protagonists or antagonists, giving credence to their existence and acceptance in popular culture. But can they really be seen?

Tales of ghost sightings are a plenty. There are whole commercial industries devoted to the pursuit. Skeptics continually question their operation, but some say undiscovered portions of the human brain do give people a sixth sense to see into a different plane. Or do we see what we want to see?

I’ve longed been intrigued by ghost sightings to the point of regular tours in historic areas that promise the possibility of witnessing a specter. Mostly they are historic tours full of fanciful tales of intrigue, murder, heartbreak and woe from a long gone time. Based on the storytelling prowess of the guide, they are often quality entertainment.

Visiting some of the most reportedly haunted areas in the country, each time I open myself to the possibility and garner the hope of actually seeing a ghost. Tour guides always point out where past guests have unknowingly photographed or actually reported seeing a ghost. This is usually followed by banter of one or two fellow tourists regaling the group with their proud personal accounts of spirit detection. But did they? Or was it a matter of boasting, wishful thinking and booze. Some areas do allow open liquor on the tours. This can make you more susceptible to many things.

In Gettysburg, there was the tale of the nightly light spotted in a nearby school dormitory that was used as a make-shift hospital during the Civil War.

New Orleans offered many opportunities of all manner of ghouls, as many believe the French Quarter is laden with magical aprons of mystic energy from voodoo practitioners past and present. I’ve been on that tour twice hearing new stories and visiting new haunts each time.

A small pre-revolutionary hotel in tiny Williamsburg promised aberrations with tales of heartbreak, scandal and murder by several former scorned occupants.

And even in my adopted home of Ft. Myers, a longstanding school and courthouse tell of the mean headmistress and affable judge who just never left their prior occupations and can be seen working overtime still into their afterlife.

The anticipation always added to the adrenaline rush of the exciting opportunity and likely the appeal of these tours, but unfortunately, I’ve never seen anything supernatural. So, while I leave each tour informed and thoroughly entertained; I am often slightly disappointed and left wondering why.

Is it that I want to see something no one else does? Or that I have an insatiable need to solve a mystery. Since I do write whodunit novels and plays, that could be part of the issue. But I also think it’s part of a bigger picture with most people. If ghosts do exist, does that mean there is life after death? Can you linger past your expiration date? A comforting feeling for some, a nightmare for others.

As for me, the biased part will continue to believe in the possibility that benevolent or even somewhat mischievous spirits roam this plane, one foot in and one foot out, to resolve some leftover business from their past lives. But the realist in me would like to see some empirical evidence, just once. My mind is open; my drink is full and I will continue to search for educational and amusement purposes. I am ready to be proven right.

(c) 2022 Suzanne Rudd Hamilton

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.

The Perfect Date

The beaming sun stretched its smile over the park, enveloping the lake. A comforting warm breeze coaxed ripples to dance across the surface in aimless joy to the beat of a full symphony of lilting melodic wonders playing the soundtrack for love in the band shell. Two swans sang an operatic aria accompianment while floating about in undisturbed harmony.

Add in a basket full of wine, bread and cheese and it was the perfect setting for romance. I even saw a butterfly go by. 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

Common Sense Perceived

Ali loved her Noni’s seaside house in Florida. The minute she walked off the plane, she could feel the warm sunshine on her pale cold and wind-battered northern skin. It was so inviting, it enveloped every pore in her body and made her smile. Whisking off her coat and putting on her sunglasses, she was in Florida mode again.

When they arrived, she immediately kicked off her shoes and ran around to the beach backyard to immerse her toes in the warm white sand.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to inhale the ocean. The salty balmy breezes and distant sounds of the seagulls bouncing off the gentle tide always welcomed her home. It was a feast for the senses and to Ali, there was nothing else like it. 

“Come on in,” Noni laughed. “You can’t start your vacation without my famous sandwiches.”

Ali walked into the aroma of the crisp turkey and ham Monte-Cristo sandwiches ala Noni. Her secret ingredient was parmesan cheese baked into the bread-machine bread, which gave it a delicious and unexpected flavor.

Noni’s home had been in the family for nearly 70 years. Each generation spent their vacations visiting the beach to escape the cold Minnesota winters.  Noni’s parents bought the house when nothing else was around it. Over the years, larger houses and condominiums sprouted up around it like towering weeds, leaving the strange spaceship-like house an odd oasis link to the past.

Inside, the house looked like a typical beach home with soft tan and white colors everywhere. Since Noni moved here full time, she completely renovated the home with its open spaces and wide curved walls to reflect her decorator tastes. Instead of the mismatched hammy-down afterthought it used to be as a vacation place, Noni turned it into a showplace dedicated to the beach. She added a big deck and full glass sliding doors to the back to enjoy the ocean breeze and spectacular multi-million dollar view. She usually kept all the windows and glass doors open to experience the beckoning warm breezes and ocean sounds at all times.

Outside, the strange round spaceship shape perched on the pillars still resembled a UFO on a launchpad waiting to erupt into outerspace. Whenever anyone asks about the unique look, Noni says,

“My father was obsessed with space travel and it was the 1950’s, after all.”

The family laughed and accepted the shaped of the home as city rules did not allow any major outside changes without complete demolition as it was “grandfathered” into the old codes. Noni just barely got the deck put up without a fight.

The village people were lucky. Noni was a one-of-a-kind force. She was fearless, funny, creative and formidable. Her 60’s hippie roots never went gray. She tried anything, fought for everything and explained nothing. You never knew what she was going to do next.

For Ali, it was a home away from home. For five weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter, she lived with Noni in the spaceship beach house and bummed around swimming, collecting shells and most recently boogieboarding sailing. Last summer she worked for weeks to get up and stay up before she went home. Now, she could zip up and down the surf into the yellow and blue horizon.

Away from the beach days were spent reading, painting on canvasses with Noni, and exploring the area looking for interesting sights or antique sales. Over the years, they had many fun adventures getting lost on nearby islands searching for out of the way tourist spots and the elusive glass dolphin figures that Noni and now Ali collected.  

It was fun. It was easy. It was comfortable. And when her friends all talked about the places they were going on vacations, Ali would smile and say “Just going home to the beach.”

For her, coming back to the beach home and grandmother she loved was just common sense.

Following Detours

Life was pretty normal, structured. I like predictable, no surprises. As an accountant for 30 years, I guess it’s an occupational hazard. I think that’s why I like numbers – you can count on them. They’re ever steady, reliable. I live my life by the numbers, so to speak, every day running like a Swiss clock.

However, this daily routine started with an immediate slow down. My expensive cappuccino machine died, so I need to take a detour and get my morning coffee. Coffee is my big vice. I love everything about it. The aroma fills the air with the rich abundant smell. I always wondered what it would be like to lay in a field of coffee beans. And the flavor bathes your tongue in a warm blanket of smooth creamy milk mixed
with a little sweetness and savory espresso shot to welcome your tastebuds. I guess I’m having a relationship with coffee and I am very particular. I drink the same blend, always.

The coffee shop near my office made a decent cappuccino, but on my way there, I was stopped by a picket line on strike for better working conditions. There were signs everywhere about unfair wages, cheap management, and lousy health care. Anytime I saw these types of protests, I was just glad to work at a stable company that offered excellent benefits. But the large gathering blocked the street and the coffee shop, so I detoured a few blocks down the road. Siri said there was a coffee shop
there who boasted the perfect cappuccino. I’ll be the judge of that.

I found The Coffee Bean a few minutes later and unbelievably lucked into a parking spot right in the front. The sign said it was free parking at this time and day. That never happens. I went into the small shop. It was quaint and offered several different cappuccino blends.

““You don’t have just a straight cappuccino?”I ask the barista across the counter.
“That’s no fun,” she laughed. “It takes a true vision to take something great and make it unique”
“I guess, what’s your most popular blend,” I grunted a little. I just wanted a regular normal cappuccino.
“It’s a matter of taste,” she explained. “Sweet and salty has a shot of salty caramel. Dicey Spicy adds nutmeg and cinnamon and Nutty about Numbers includes three nut flavors in the mix. But my favorite is my personal Fruitti Tutti blend with a hint of orange and cranberry juices, instead of sugar.

“I don’t like too much sugar or spice. I’ll take the nutty one… to go,” I decided.
I sat at the counter looking around the room. People from table to table were talking to each other, laughing. The different scents whiffed through the air, permeating every square inch in the place. It felt warm and inviting.

I grabbed the to-go cup and looked at my watch. I was going to be late anyway, as I had to traverse the obstacles on my way back to the office. So I threw caution to the wind and stayed. Cappuccino is always best hot and fresh.

I took a sip. It was wonderful. The textured layers of the additional nut blend gave way to the subtlety of the creamy, sweet taste. This coffee was good. In fact, it was the best I ever tasted. I stopped and sipped some more and looked around again. I listened to a few conversations. They weren’t talking about much. The weather, gardening, kids; no one was shattering the earth. Some were funny and some were serious, but it wasn’t about what they were saying, it was them. They were enjoying each other’s
company. Slowing down and taking the time to hear each other’s stories. It was chaotic and pleasant at the same time.

“They can be a little raucous at times, but it’s a community,” the barista smiled. “I’m going to miss it.”

She pointed to the “For Sale” sign in the window. It was like a beacon, a spotlight to another world. She explained that she had to care for her sick mother in another part of the country.

I couldn’t believe my own thoughts. I couldn’t. Yes I could. No I couldn’t. But I could. I wrestled with my own mind. Before I knew what happened, I blurted out – “I’ll take it!”

“Another coffee?” the barista asked.
“No,” I said confidently. “I’ll buy the shop. Yes, I want to buy this coffee shop! And oh I’ll take another coffee too. Give me that spicy one this time.”

That was a year ago. I quit my job and used my savings to buy the shop. And I haven’t regretted one minute. I’m even experimenting with some new blends. Who knew, life happens when you follow detours.

 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