Friday, November 28, 2014

Mad Max Serialization, Chapter Two Part 1

Less than four hours after I spoke with Bette, I walked down
the center aisle of that last plane to National with a connection to
Richmond and found my seat. The last one in the middle of the last
row. I squeezed between a large woman in the window seat and an
even larger man on the aisle. I fetched the toy from my bag and held
it in my lap. I closed my eyes and leaned against the back of the
upright seat. I couldn’t recline an inch since there was a bathroom
right behind me. Before I realized what was happening, memories,
like an old movie, began their thousandth rerun in my head.

My husband Norm and I returned from a Friday night dinner
date. We laughed and talked about stopping at the farm store for ice
cream and cones for the kids.

I looked past Norm in the passenger seat. Two pairs of headlights
raced toward me. Before I could react, one car slammed into the
passenger side and spun us out of control. The second car braked
and veered to the right, rolled over in a corn field and exploded in
a fireball.

I was pinned to the driver’s door, my husband’s bleeding body in
my arms. The driver of the lead car stared at me out of dead eyes, his
body halfway through his windshield. I couldn’t see Norm’s face, but
his blood soaked my lap. I was sure I held a dead man. I screamed
and screamed before passing out.

I stopped the movie at the end of the first reel, unable to watch
it from beginning to end. I wanted to look out the window, but the
woman had pulled down the shade and stuffed her pillow into the
recess. I stared at the top of a balding head in the fully-reclined seat
in front of me and sighed. I was one second away from pitching a
fit and elbowing the people beside me. If either moved a hair, I’d be
squished. I wanted to cry and wring my hands, but I couldn’t. Not in
public. Instead, I stroked the toy, finding solace in its familiar worn

I revived as the fire department cut me free. I thrashed and
screamed, “Please. My children. Take me to my children!” My
stomach convulsed, and I thought I’d throw up. Instead, I hiccupped.
A doctor set my broken wrist, told me there was nothing he
could do for my ribs, and kept me in the hospital overnight to be sure
I didn’t have a concussion. The next day, my sister-in-law brought
fresh clothes and drove me home. I sleepwalked into the house to
deal with two distraught kids.

The jet bounced to a landing in Richmond so uncomfortable it
threw us against our seat belts and sent loose items racing down the
aisle. I might not have been able to move side to side, but nothing
stopped me from lurching forward. Had there been any room in the
overheads, sure as hell items would have shifted during flight.

I grabbed a cab, phoned the Colonel, and fretted most of the way
to VCU. When the taxi pulled up at the emergency room entrance,
I put on my I’m-wearing-my-big-girl-panties-and-can-deal-with anything
face and marched through the automatic doors. The
Colonel met me, held me in a worried hug, and took charge of my
roll-aboard. Door to door, it was less than twelve hours since Bette’s

“No news."

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mad Max Serialization, Chapter One Part 5

Eleanor and Raney talked over each other in their efforts to find
out what happened. I told them what little I knew. Our cab hit every
possible red light as we made our way uptown where shoppers and
tourists thronged the sidewalks in spite of the cold wind. Our driver
stomped on the brake when a couple stepped into traffic without
looking. When we stopped in front of my building on the Upper East
Side, my doorman hurried to help. Eleanor asked him to call my car

Raney took charge of getting my bag packed. “You find a flight.
We’ll do the rest.”

I worked my phone until I found the last seat on a US Airways
flight to Richmond through Washington National. I had just over
two hours to pack and get to LaGuardia. I glanced out the window.
Oh great. Snow.

“How long do you think you will be gone?” Eleanor moved
through my bedroom, selected clothes, folded them, and put them
into my roll-aboard suitcase.

“No idea. A week, probably.”

I stood helpless near the window and looked across Park Avenue
into the snowy park. Please don’t let Merry die.

With all that was on my mind, I forgot to change out of my
standard gallery attire— cashmere sweater, matching wool trousers,
scarf, and boots. I’d been channeling Ingrid Bergman, elegant and

I called the hospital but got the runaround. An emergency room
nurse told me she couldn’t give out patient information; it was
against regulations. I wanted to shout “Regulations, my ass! I’m her
mother!” but I knew it would do no good.

I called the Colonel. He hadn’t seen Merry. When he arrived, a
half-dozen doctors were in a curtained-off area at the back of the
emergency room. He used his colonel’s voice, but the ER nurse was

“Should’ve been a drill sergeant.”

The Colonel’s words made me smile for the first time since Bette

I called Emilie next. She was scared and worried about her

“I feel Mom’s dying.”

“I’m on my way. My flight leaves in a couple of hours. If you
find out anything, text. Okay?”


My phone buzzed again with a text from Alex. “I beat Em at Clue
last night. Mom wrecked her car.”

I held out the phone to Eleanor and Raney. “Trust a ten-year-old
to have his priorities straight.”

I walked toward my apartment door then stopped and took a
detour into a guest bedroom. I rummaged through a drawer until I
found a battered toy, which I tucked into my shoulder bag.

Raney opened the door, and we left my apartment. The ten
seconds we waited for the elevator seemed like an hour.

“Try and keep things on the ‘on’ side with Merry.” Raney put
her arm around my waist. I heard “before it’s too late” even though
Raney was too diplomatic to say so.

“Make this a wake-up call.”

I hugged my friends, promised to call, and stepped into my car.

“I’ll do my best. Just hope it’s good enough.”

Raney blocked the door. “Did you ever think we’d see Maxine
Davies have a Mommy two-dot-oh moment, Eleanor?”

“Certainly not.”

“Merry’ll tell you I wasn’t good at Mommy one dot oh.”

“Well, now you have a second opportunity.”

“Life is giving you a ...,” Eleanor fumbled for a word, “doo-wop.”

“Do over.” Raney laughed.

“You guys are giving me a do over?”

“Don’t blow it.” Raney shut the car door and stepped back. Both
women waved goodbye.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mad Max Serialization, Chapter One Part 4

Eleanor tipped the coat check girl, and we walked out into the
New York winter cold. Crosstown wind made me pull my trench coat
tighter around me. Raney stepped off the curb and flagged down a
taxi. The skies had dropped since we entered the gallery, and the
smell of snow was in the air.

I gave the girls a thumbnail account of Bette’s call.
“Could she be overreacting?” Eleanor knew of Bette but not how
she might behave in a crisis.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen her in an emergency.”
Before I could press the recall button, a text came through.

“Mom’s hurt bad. I’m scared. Please come home.”

I sent my granddaughter a text and called Bette. “What

“The police called this morning. Her car ran off the road last
night. She’s hurt real bad.” There was fear in Bette’s voice. “The
Colonel is at the hospital, but he doesn’t know much more than I do.
All the police could tell us was that they found her car this morning.”

“I don’t understand.”

"I’ll tell you more later. She’s in surgery. A herd of specialists are
working on her.”


“Just hurry, please.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can.” I clamped down on my emotions
and tried not to panic. “Where’s Whip?”

“He’s been in the Middle East for several weeks. He’s due home
today. We’ve tried reaching him, but no luck. He’s probably in the
air. We had the kids overnight and got the call this morning when
the Colonel and I were driving them home.”

“How did they find you?”

“I don’t know. Anyway, the Colonel dropped the children and
me at their house and went straight to the hospital. Call me here. Oh,
here’s the Colonel’s cell number.”

Bette rattled off a series of numbers. Before I could fumble for
a piece of paper, Eleanor held up a small notebook and a silver pen.
I repeated the number to be certain I heard it right. Eleanor jotted
it down.

“One more thing. The EMTs airlifted Merry to Virginia
Commonwealth Medical Center, not County.”


“VCU has a better trauma center.”

“I see. I’ll be in touch. Thanks.” I shut the phone.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mad Max Serialization, Chapter One Part 3

And the saga continues.

I milled around wall-to-wall people who sipped wine and talked
about the new hot artist having his first New York showing at
Primary Colors.

The crowd churned and whirled, groups forming and reforming
near the artist holding court in a rear corner. Servers danced around
patrons and offered wine and hors d’oeuvres on silver trays. Tiny
napkins and toothpicks drifted to the floor in a rain of elegant litter.
New guests brought welcome cold air into the room’s stuffy heat. It
was nearly February. Had the opening been earlier in the winter,
expensive perfume would have warred with mothball-protected
coats. Mothballs would have won.

Nancy Blair, owner of Primary Colors, worked her way through
the crowd and gave me the requisite number of air kisses, two near
each cheek. She did the same with Raney and Eleanor, who then
moved off to look at the paintings and drawings hanging on matte white
walls. Nancy linked her arm through mine and led me toward
the artist.

“Wait till you meet him, Mrs. Davies. He’s positively the most
amazing painter I’ve had in the gallery in years.” Nancy’s breathless
delivery was all gush.

As we struggled through the crowd, my cell phone buzzed. I
didn’t recognize the number, frowned, and flipped up the cover. I
shrugged an apology at Nancy.


“Maxine? Is that you?”

“Yes.” I pressed a finger against my free ear to block the ambient

“It’s Bette.”

Bette? It took me a second. Right, Merry’s mother-in-law. She
rarely called.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s Merry. She’s been in an accident.”

Merry? Hurt?

“Come home, Maxine. She may not make it.”

I hitched my handbag up on my shoulder, my brain spinning
from Bette’s message.

“I’ve got to get out of this noise. I’ll call you right back.”
I shut the phone, waved at my girlfriends, and pointed toward
the coat check.

“I have an emergency,” I apologized to Nancy. “I have to leave.”
“I’ll hold Two Sisters for you.”

“Maxine, you look like a ghost crossed your grave. What is

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mad Max Serialization, Chapter One Part 2

We continue with Chapter One. Remember, all I ask is to tell your friends if you like the book.

Truth be told, I let Merry dictate the terms of our contact with
each other, even though I knew I was taking the coward’s way out.
I’d asked Merry more than once why she seemed distant so much of
the time, but she refused to discuss it. I couldn’t force her to forgive
me for whatever infractions I committed while raising her. All I
could do was maintain as calm a demeanor as possible.

“Hey, I scheduled my annual ski trip.” I wasn’t in the mood for
a discussion on something so touchy.

“Changing the subject?” Raney winked at me.

“Sure am.”

Henri brought our salads and disappeared. We ate in near
silence for a few minutes.

“What do you think about this new artist? He’s supposed to be
all the rage in Europe.”

We always ate at Le Bistro when one of our favorite art galleries
had an opening. Otherwise, SoHo was way too far off our beaten

“Did you see his catalog?” Raney asked.

“I did. He is too avant-garde for me. I prefer more conventional
art where I can actually recognize what the artist painted.” Eleanor
pulled the catalog from her handbag and flipped it open to a couple
of abstract pieces. “Take this one. I do not see ‘Forest and Trees’ in
this swirl of orange, yellow, and red.”

“Maybe it’s a forest fire.” I didn’t like the painting because the
colors were too vivid. I was, however, interested in a mid-sized
portrait of two sisters in more muted colors. I pointed to the painting
in the catalog. “I really want this one. So peaceful.”

“Where would you hang it? You don’t have much wall space left.”

Raney was right. I’d hung way too many prints and oils
throughout my apartment.

“Probably in my bedroom. I’ll move something.”

We lingered over lunch and gossip until half an hour after the
official opening of the gallery to avoid the crush of patrons pushing
to enter.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kicking Off Mad Max Serialization, Chapter One

Beginning on November 16, I will serialize Mad Max Unintended Consequences through this blog and its subsequent links in social media. Why? Three reasons, actually.
  1. I want to attract new readers.
  2. My publisher Koehler Books is offering the e-book for $1.99 on Amazon until further notice.
  3. Book two in the series, Mad Max Uncharted Territory is set for publication in June 2014.
I will release bits of the first novel on this blog on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays to entice you to pick up the book on Amazon. I track my sales carefully. I'd like to see them bump up before the holidays and continue until Max 2 comes out. Only you can help.

Please tell you friends about the serialization. Writers, please share the posts with your readers. Readers, please tell other readers. My thanks in advance.

We begin with Chapter One.

Raney and Eleanor, two of my dearest friends, sat at a small
table in Le Bistro in SoHo, gossiping about their grandchildren. I
tossed my ankle-length mink trench and fedora atop their coats and
slid onto an empty chair. Henri placed a cup of coffee beside me,
offered a short list of lunch specials, and vanished into the back.

“Why do we call him ‘Henri’?” Raney asked. “His name’s Barney.”

“Same reason my grandkids call me Mad Max. It fits.”

We scanned the menu we all knew by heart. Henri returned,
took our orders, and left. Talk returned to our grandchildren. Raney
brought me up to date on what her darlings were doing: school
dances, track meets, mid-year tests. All the usual stuff.

“My granddaughter’s pregnancy is not going as well as it should.”
Eleanor’s perfect, slightly old-fashioned diction revealed her uppercrust
British upbringing. “I may go to Phoenix to help.”

“Oh, dear,” said Raney. “I hope it’s not like her first one.”

“We will not know for a month or two.”

I felt a familiar itch of envy for the easy relationships Eleanor
and Raney enjoyed with their daughters. So normal.

“How are your grandkids, Max?” Raney asked.

“Great. Alex can’t stop buzzing about his ice hockey team.
They’re having their first winning season. He’s so psyched. Em texts
about her next school break. She wants to visit.”

I talked to or texted with Alex and Emilie every day since their
father, Whip, gave them cell phones for Christmas. I had more fun
with my grandkids than I’d had with my own two children. Maybe it
was because I had almost no responsibility except to love and spoil
them. Maybe it was because I could send them back to their parents
when I got tired.

“What about Merry? When was the last time you talked to her?”

“Last week. She complained about how cold January has been.”

“She should live in New York.” Raney shook her head and

My daughter and I had an off-again, on-again relationship,
which started after her father’s death when she was eleven. I wanted
us to be more “on” than “off” and worked hard to pick my words so
she wouldn’t take offense. It didn’t take much to set her off at times.

“I was in Richmond over Christmas and spent all my time with
the kids. They have their own phones now, so I call them directly. I
call Merry just once a week. I don’t want to meddle.”

“Why do you let her get away with placing such restrictions on
your relationship?” Eleanor asked.

“She reminds me grandparents have privileges, not rights. I
can’t lose contact, so I play by her rules."

Chapter One continues on Tuesday,