February 1, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day...

What does Valentine's Day mean to you?  

We each have our own unique story of love and how we met "the one." 
Some have funny stories, strange stories, or simply humdrum stories that are special.

Here's how I met mine.

My cousin, Sue, married the guy's best friend, Bill. Sue and Bill had set me up on several dates that fizzled. I wasn't sure about this third one. However, I went along with it.
AND fifty some years later, I can report that it was a success. He was exciting, tall, dark, and handsome. A world traveler who'd been in the Navy (a Seabee), traveled aboard ships, vacationed in Hong Kong, stationed in the Phillipines, visited Hawaii and lived on Midway Island as a swabbie. He was, in other words, exactly what I was looking for. Someone who would take me away from my childhood home where I thought my life was the pits. (How is it we learn after we mature that our lives were pretty darned good growing up! In fact, real good!)

We started our lives in our home state of West Virginia. Then went on to jobs in Ohio and Michigan. Finally, we bought a retirement home in FL which we renovated and then moved back to Ohio.

Over the years, we kept busy with three daughters, three son in laws, eight grandchildren, and one pug named Sam.

Living, planning, moving, growing. Though my guy is gone now, I'm still a romantic. I'd love to hear your stories about your romance or romances and about where you are today. Some of you may have brand new loves, old loves, loves that left you heartbroken or loves that you found late in life. You can even add loves that never panned out. Like I said we all have our stories and I'd like to hear yours. All of them. And someday I'll tell you all of mine! 

Sue, Barbara, Bill, Raymond at Der Dutchman - their 50th anniversary dinner


If you're looking for a love story to read this month click on the link below and read Anne and Rob's story. Told in letter form, it's a soldier's letters home to his bride while he served in Vietnam. While war is never easy, this story is about having hope. And how true love can pull us through in times of trouble.


December 30, 2015

Holiday Clean-up: A Poem

with apologies to Dr. Seuss

Cleaning up after the holiday
Isn’t quite as much fun,
As on the day
When the decorations were strung. 

There was my family, all spruced, in the den,
With an eggnog toast, and a cheer, “Let’s begin.”
We set about bedecking every pillar and post,
Window and mantle - 
With ribbon, wreath, Santa, and candle.

By the end of the evening
The tree was aglitter.
The windows were glowing
WIth the candlesticks flicker.

The children were happy 
Mom and Pop, too.
To think we did all this.
You! You! and you!

But, then, the week after
Rolled quickly ‘round.
No time to un-trim.
We headed to town.

To return all our presents.
To see a quick show.
What? It’s the first of January
The trimming must go.

Undo each ribbon. Undo each bow.
Untie the wreaths
Get that tree in tow.
It’s out to the trash bin
Arms loaded, we go.

Away go the boxes.
The cards and the letters.
Out comes our list of “Things to do better.”
Resolutions. Affirmations.
Declarations. Proclamations.

Where’s that old diet?
By jiminy, we’ll try it!
It’s a New Year we’re facing. And face it we will.
Without eggnog. Or fudge. Or even a pill.
We’ll face it together -
Oh, taste buds be still!
Until, oh no, here comes the BILL.
Or, as in our case, it’s many - 
Giving the post man exercise aplenty.

At my house we’re still undoing the fun
Dusting and washing and rising and wiping
Trinkets and dishes and goblets, and griping,
“Next year, it’s a vacation we’ll take.

By Amtrak. Or horseback. Or roller skate!”
Who cares how we do it, we plan and we plot.
Next year it’s to the tropics.
Anywhere that's HOT.

But whatever we do, one thing is clear.
We’re wishing you and yours a VERY HAPPY

God bless!

December 17, 2015

Christmas photos and newsletter Dec. 2015

Merry Christmas!

My tree - 2015

The is the newsletter I sent to family and friends this year. Hope you enjoy reading what's going on with my life as I consider all who read my blog friends!
God bless you this holiday season.

Christmas Cookies
With decorating help from the kiddies

Hello Folks:

It’s been a few years since I’ve written. I hope everyone is well. It’s hard to believe 2016 is around the corner. I’m excited our family will be coming here for Christmas. I’m ready - just last minute cards to do and some presents to wrap.

Ray’s been gone for two years and I’ve experienced many adjustments and changes. I miss him terribly but realized after he was gone how very ill he was the last two years. My own health has improved greatly in the last year. Caregiving isn’t an easy job.
I moved to a condo in last year. I’ve reunited with friends and my church. I’m in a women’s Bible study group and a writing group. I still attend Hocking Hills writer’s group monthly, my forever buddies.

A few of our Hocking Hills 
team: Barb, Jill, Tina.

I do book signings and workshops occasionally. Love going to Tamarack in Beckley, WV. My novel Vada Faith, Ezra and Other Stories, a book of short stories, and Dear Anne: Love Letters from Nam, a short story, are available on Amazon.com. I'm hard at work on Missing: Sweet Baby James, sequel to Vada Faith, after taking time off in the last two years to regroup.

Book signing at Tamarack
Always a good time.

The big news is our youngest grandchild - Jill and Jason’s son - Austin, is ten years old. 

Tanner, Chase and Mackenzie, the triplets, are 14, growing up way too fast. Jill and Jason moved to Ft. Knox, KY in July. I love having them closer. I’ve gone to watch Tanner and Chase play basketball. They’re really good at it! And, they tower over me! Time flies.
Lisa and Jon are still in Hillsboro. Their son Daniel is living in Nashville. He works full time for Apple computer and does photography for special events. Their daughter Jillian is a student at the University of Cincinnati and does some modeling. 
Susan and Gary bought a new home and sold their farm. Samantha graduated from the police academy, from boot camp Army reserves, and from AIT school (military police). She’s a deputy in the sheriff’s department for Pickaway County. Steven is in his second year at Ohio University at Athens. I’m proud of all of them! 
My brother in law, Brownie, and his daughter, Deb, and I took a train trip thru WV to the mountains in the fall. The train cars were from the 50’s. A really fun trip.

All I miss about our home in the country is living near Susan and her family and the friends we made while there. Especially our neighbors, the Clarks.

Please know while I haven’t kept in touch, I’ve thought of you often. I’ll never forget our long distance family and friends, who’ve been there for both Raymond and I over the years. I wish you all the best. Love and Blessings!

Lighting a candle for Raymond at
La Salette Festival of Lights

Attleboro, MA
What an incredible experience

The Celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior

December 7, 2015

Pearl Harbor: My Visit

Memorial at Pearl Harbor

Dec. 7, 1941: The memories sear, the blame washes away

"War! Oahu Bombed By Japanese Planes." A few summers ago at Pearl Harbor, I read the shocking headlines from a copy of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, dated Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. I was waiting in line to board a tour boat to go to the USS Arizona Memorial. Finally, moving toward an empty boat, I noted that most of the people on the crowded platform were Japanese.
On the short ride across the harbor, I listened to a guide describe the events of that fateful day. As the small boat approached the white concrete building, the guide concluded, "The battleship Arizona still rests at the bottom of the harbor in 38 feet of water just eight feet below the water's surface. The memorial is an enclosed bridge that spans the sunken hull, but touches no part of the ship itself. Oil will continue to seep from the battleship for many more years."
When I stepped off the tour boat, I saw the American flag flying over a small part of the ship that is visible above the water.
Inside the memorial, I was swept back to the day of the disastrous bombing. From the walls, pictures of the battleship in flames and sinking, looked down at me and seared themselves on my mind. I couldn't appreciate the mementos salvaged from the ship when I knew that 1,177 men were entombed below in the battleship's blasted hulk.
A loudspeaker was effectively re-creating the day with the sound of bombs exploding and chaotic outcries.
As I stared out an opening in the wall at the calm blue water, I was lost in thought for a few minutes. Then black oil gurgled to the water's surface. Though the temperature was 85, I turned away, chilled.
From the middle of the memorial, I could see the ship through a large opening in the floor. I thought of the many men and all the ambitions and dreams that had gone down with the ship. I thought of the mothers, fathers, wives and children who had been left behind with the burden of unanswerable questions.
I wondered how the men would feel if they knew the memorial was filled with Japanese men and women. Silently, I suffered their indignation.
In the shrine room, where the names of the dead men are engraved on a marble wall, I stood in reverence, trying to wish away the horrors of the war.
Nearby, a Japanese gentleman, left his group and gravely studied the wall. Over the speaker, the names of the men were slowly being read. Almost ceremoniously, the Japanese man removed an orchid lei from his neck and placed it next to several wreaths on a marble platform. He backed away and was lost in the crowd.
Aboard the tour boat for the return trip, I tried to sort out my emotions. Before my visit, I'd thought of the memorial at Pearl Harbor as another historic place to visit. Yet, I'd been tremendously touched by the harsh realities of war and by the wasted lives and destruction.
Why, then, did I feel the need to condemn? Could I blame the Japanese man who had humbly offered the lei? Or the Japanese couple who sat on the boat in front of me? Or the somber young Japanese woman on my right?

With tears in my eyes, I realized I couldn't blame anyone. I remembered Hiroshima.

@copyright Barbara A. Whittington

Beautiful Hawaii

This was written years ago after my visit to Pearl Harbor. My thoughts on war haven't changed.  Too many lives lost and not enough gained. I pray for our military today and for our veterans for all that they have lost. I pray for world peace. And may God bless us all, no matter who we are or where we are.

November 30, 2015

The Red Christmas Cane/A poem

It's been so long since I've written a blog I'm not sure anyone will even come by. But if you do, know that I appreciate your reading. I was cleaning some files and found this Christmas poem I wrote years ago. So I'm recycling my work again. I love writing but have spent the last five months reading, reading, reading, hoping that by reading all sorts of different genres that my own writing will improve. I have to admit though when I get into a good/great story, I sink in and my writer self takes a leave of absence. I'm still working on the novel about Sweet Baby James, a baby abduction. Hoping I'm making the story stronger than any I've yet written.
So here's my poem. Enjoy! Have a lovely beginning to your Christmas season and God Bless!


I was walking around on an old cane that year
Grumping and complaining that the holidays were here.

I looked out my window and as far as I could see
There were lights, stars, and angels adorning every tree.

And I might as well tell you, it bugged the heck out of me!

If I hadn’t fallen and an ankle broken
I’d be out at the mall buying holiday tokens.

A scarf for the mail man, a tie for my son,
A big can of tuna for my old cat Bun.

Instead, I was stuck in the house that year
And didn’t expect Christmas to make its way here.

I sat in my rocker and let the tears fly
Thinking that the season was passing me by.

THEN I saw Mr. Mackey in his big front window
Holding a sign that said, “Happy Holiday, Belinda.”

Mr. Mackey, you see, was a wheelchair bound man
But, still, there he was, a greeting in his hand.

A smile was on this kind man’s face 
Though he was confined in a heavy back brace.

Well, I looked up his number and I called Mr. Mackey
Hoping what I had to say wasn’t WAY too tacky.

“Mr. Mackey,” I said, “PLE---ASE share my Christmas cake.”
(Since he lived alone, I was sure he didn’t bake.)

“Why, Belinda, my dear, all this time I’ve been waiting
To make sure some other fellow you were not dating.

“Come for a party and bring what you might,
A holiday fire together we’ll light.”

So, I set out later on my red Christmas cane
For Charlie Mackey’s house just across the lane.

And by spring, Charlie’d asked me to be his bride -
When I said yes, we both sat down and cried.

Though my red Christmas cane has been put away
Charlie Mackie and I celebrate Christmas every day.

Copyright (c) 2002 by Barbara A. Whittington

July 10, 2015



“Dorene, if you don’t hold still, I’m gonna hog tie you to this chair!” Vada Faith whipped the pink salon chair around to face the big woman. She shook her comb under Dorene Moon's nose and the woman’s eyes grew wide as china plates. “I’m a nervous wreck! I’ve had customers up the wazoo this morning! Since Joy Ruth left to take Mama to the hospital for a test, I’ve had a dozen walk ins.”
“Well, forgive me for living!” Doreen snapped her tabloid closed.
Vada Faith swallowed hard and bowed her head in front of Dorene. “Whew!” She took a big breath and sighed. “I’m sorry, Dorrie. This day’s been a disaster. To start the morning off, the girls both needed panty hose for a school project. That meant a trip to CVS. I had to wake up James.” She smiled when she thought of her baby boy at home. “I had to take all three kids with me. Then, I learned from a note in their book bag the girls volunteered me to make pancakes on Monday, of all days!” 
She turned Dorene around so the woman could see herself in the mirror. She started sectioning off her customer’s hair. “The twins are going on a field trip to a farm. Mrs. Dibbs is buying maple syrup there. Thus, the pancakes.” She frowned at Dorene in the mirror. “I dared them,” she pointed her comb at Dorene in the mirror, “to volunteer me for one more thing!”
“Calm down, honey.” Dorene reached up and patted Vada Faith’s arm. 
The beautician wrapped another piece of gray hair around a roller.
“I’m praying for your Mama, honey. I heard about her tests. I’m sorry I jerked. It’s this story.” She held up the tabloid. “Someone has spotted an alien down on Bourbon Street. I hope it’s moved on by the time they have that Mardi Gras. Imagine! An alien in the middle of that mess. Who-wee.”
“That story isn’t true, Dorrie.” Vada Faith glanced down at the tabloid. “Yep, that’s the one. They make up those stories.They print tall tales.”
“This tabloid is called The Latest News, Vada Faith.” Dorene closed the magazine. “Aliens is everywhere, you know. I saw it on TV.” She shook her head. “Oops, I moved again. I do hope your mama gets well, honey. Sassy, over at the coffee shop, said she wasn’t feeling good. Sassy goes to my new church.”

Vada Faith put in the last roller and directed Dorene to a dryer. 
Thankfully, Dorene would soon be combed out and gone. The woman had the most stubborn gray hair Vada Faith had ever encountered.
Besides, one of Joy Ruth’s fussiest customers was due in any minute for a perm. Vada Faith prayed her sister would be back in time to do the perm.
“When you see your mama,” Dorene said, popping her head out from under the dryer, “tell her I put her on the prayer list over at the New Believer Baptist Church. It’s where I go now.” She opened the tabloid. “When they got rid of Brother Bow Shannon at Heavenly Tabernacle I switched my membership. They said he was a big flirt.” Dorene grinned. “Well, he was not. He was just real friendly is all. Besides too many young democrats go over there. You know those liberals. Always wanting to change things up. Don’t forget to tell your Mama.” Her words trailed off as she pushed herself back under the dryer.
“I’ll tell her.” Vada Faith wondered how the waitress at the coffee shop knew her mama had a test today. What was the old saying? Telegraph, telephone, tell a friend. It sure applied in Shady Creek.

Just then Cindy Mahan, her baby sitter, pushed through the shop door pulling James in his stroller behind her.
“Well, look who’s here.” Vada Faith smiled as she went to help Cindy guide the stroller through the doorway. Her ten-month old son grinned up at her. His chubby hands gripped the front of the stroller and his eyes sparkled.
“We got bored,” Cindy said. She plopped down in the nearest chair. “Me and Sweet Baby here couldn’t find a thing to do. He got tired of peek-a-boo and of his ABC blocks. We thought we’d come and visit his mama. Didn’t we, James?” She ruffled his blond hair. James smiled up at her and batted his big blue eyes. He was already a little flirt.
He clapped his hands and drooled down onto himself. He leaned over the stroller and stared at his new blue tennis shoes. He wore his blue shirt with the yellow bulldozer that read, “Daddy’s Little Man.” 
“Did you check out this little guy’s new Levi’s.” Vada Faith patted the baby’s leg. “They fit him perfectly.”
“I did.” Cindy leaned over and hugged the baby. “Little Fashion King of Shady Creek, West Virginia.” Cindy smiled. “James has a fan. An elderly lady in front of the diner. She leaned down and patted him on the foot. He kicked and squealed. The more he squealed, the more she laughed. Then she patted his leg and called him Robert. I told her his name is James. She frowned and headed across the street toward the drug store. She acted kinda odd.” 
“Well, buddy, are you collecting girlfriends already?” Vada Faith said, as James chewed on his hand and clung to his brown bear. She grinned as she watched him. He dropped the bear and gave her a smile. He put his fingers over his eyes, hiding from her.
  “Peek a boo!” She covered her eyes.
James squealed and kicked his feet. One of his blue shoes came off.
Vada Faith’s heart swelled. She leaned over and put on his shoe, tying the lace. She picked up James and hugged him. He jabbered over her shoulder and pointed at the overhead lights.
She walked him around the shop showing him the new children’s magazine with Mickey Mouse on the cover. She would take him to see Mickey someday.
She leaned down so Doreen could see James.
“Hey, little guy,” Dorene said, smiling and patting him. 
When he started yawning, Vada Faith put him back into his stroller. He promptly snuggled with his bear. “Nap time big boy.” She kissed his cheek and tucked his blanket around him. “Don’t forget, Cindy, I’ll be home early today.”
Cindy nodded and buckled James into his seat. Vada Faith helped her get his stroller through the door and out onto the sidewalk.
She waved them off and then went to the counter to pour a cup of coffee. There was a lull in the shop so she picked up a magazine and leafed through it, thankful for the quiet.
When Dorene’s dryer stopped, Vada Faith styled her hair and hugged her on her way out the door. Glad the shop was empty, she swept the hair from around her chair and added a few items to her grocery list.
Joy Ruth arrived just ahead of her customer, Candy Flowers. 

Happily, Vada Faith grabbed her purse and headed for the door.
Barbara A. Whittington, author of:
Vada Faith
Ezra and Other Stories
Dear Anne: Love Letters from Nam

June 25, 2015

Elvis, Niagara Falls, and Fuzzy Dice...

Hoot and Marla: A short story
                                           BEAUTIFUL NIAGARA FALLS

Hoot and Marla are on their way to Niagara Falls. Hoot's sister, Betty Sue, has talked Hoot into letting her come. She has brought along her boyfriend, Nick. 
Hoot is driving the black Monte Carlo he bought last week for $800. Everyone is to chip in on the gas.
"All-my-x's-live-in-Tex-as," Hoot sings along with the radio, "that's why I hang my hat in Tennessee!" He taps his hand on the steering wheel in time to the music. 
Hoot loves George Strait. Not as much as he loves Elvis though. Hoot is an Elvis Presley look alike. He's never traded on it or anything. But he can sing and play the guitar, too. Marla nearly dies when he sings, "Love me Tender." He's that good.

Now, as he sings, Hoot dusts the dash with his middle finger. Then he smacks the fuzzy blue dice hanging from the rear view mirror and they bounce back and forth.

For the last hour Nick has cracked his knuckles and studied the road map. The map is from triple A and so detailed Marla feels even she could get them to New York with it. But Marla isn't interested in any road map.

She has come on this trip strictly to be with Hoot. Instead she is sitting in the back seat with Betty Sue who has filed her long red nails ever since they left West Virginia. That was seven hours ago.
They have already come through Cleveland and are heading East on I-90. Hoot says Erie is their next stop. Marla is glad. Several hours ago they ate the bologna sandwiches she packed and she is hungry.
She pulls a tortoise-shell mirror from her purse and looks at herself. She pats her face with a tissue to take the shine off. She dabs some Paris Pink on her lips and blows her blond bangs off her forehead. She wishes it wasn't so hot. Hoot has the air-conditioner off. He says it saves on gas. Marla puts the mirror away and turns back to the billboards and signs.
That's how she is keeping busy. Reading billboards and signs. For what seems like hours now they have traveled past vineyards. 
"Bob's Winery five miles ahead," Marla reads aloud in a monotone as they pass a billboard featuring a giant glass of bubbling champagne. She brightens, "Oh, let's stop!"
"Bob's Winery! Three miles ahead!"
"One mile
They come to the exit for Bob's Winery. Marla's eyes light up. A neon sign is flashing "Bob's Winery Here." 
Hoot doesn't even slow the car. If anything, he speeds up. Marla closes her eyes and tries to imagine what a winery would be like. But even trying hard, she can't. 
Now she fluctuates between reading signs and staring at the back of Hoot's head. She would love to touch his soft black hair but doesn't. He hates having his hair touched. He carries a comb in his back pocket and won't let one hair get out of place. Marla catches Hoot's eye in the rear view mirror. She smiles but he doesn't let on that he sees her. More and more lately he doesn't let on that he sees her. Sometimes she wonders if she is invisible. One day she was in the IGA and he looked right past her. 
Between his long hours at the fire station and his singing gigs they are lucky to be together every other week now. When the idea for the trip came up, Marla was glad. This could be an investment in her future.
Betty Sue is busy highlighting certain passages in a True Story Magazine with a lemon-scented marker.
The air is heavy with HaiKarate. Hoot's. Marla loves smelling it on him. Especially when he is beside her on the blue shag carpet of her apartment watching Days of Our Lives. Hoot isn't hot or cold on any of the stars. But, Patch and Kayla are Marla's favorites. They are so much in love it hurts Marla to watch them. Something always happens to keep them apart. Patch is so open with his emotions it makes Marla want to cry. Marla can't imagine Hoot ever acting over her like Patch does over Kayla. Sometimes she wishes she wasn't so crazy in love with Hoot. She isn't so sure his feelings for her are all that deep. Particularly these days. He seems so preoccupied.
Suddenly Hoot slams on the brakes and Marla and Betty Sue are nearly thrown into the front seat. A flat-bed truck has come to a complete stop on the highway in front of them. The driver of the truck is an old man who seems to have missed his exit and is starting to back up toward them. 
Without pause, Hoot passes, laying on the horn and giving the old man the finger.
Hoot and Nick get into a big discussion of fishing for bass. Marla knows for a fact all Hoot knows about fishing for bass is what he has read in the Outdoor Journal of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia which he reads from cover to cover. As far as Marla knows Hoot has never been fishing and he lives near the river. 
"I want to be a pro at it when I do go," he said to her once when she complained that he should be fishing not reading. He is the only person Marla knows who wants to read about everything. Just the week before he read a dozen books on the Falls.
"Hand me one of them Cokes, Marla," Hoot says now and she takes the lid from the red and white plastic cooler at her feet, opens the can and hands it over the seat. Her older sister, Shirley Jean, says Marla lets Hoot boss her too much. Maybe she does. But she wants to marry Hoot so bad she will do almost anything he asks to please him.
It was the invitation to her class reunion that really got her thinking. She is the only girl from her class who is still single. Her mother laughs and says she's only 23 and why worry. But she does.
She has heard Hoot laugh and say that the life of a firefighter isn't one for a married man. He says the job is too dangerous. But, Marla doesn't buy any of this. If there's any danger it's in Hoot's head.
The Chesterville fire truck hardly ever leaves the station except when Hoot drives it up to the IGA for groceries. That's how she met him. In the express check-out. They'd struck up a conversation over a can of Chefboyardee Ravioli which was on special and exactly what they'd both come there to buy. That was last summer. They have been seeing each other off and on ever since. 
Marla is hoping when they get to the Falls they can be alone. That somehow there will be a turning point. Something tells her this trip is more than just a simple trip. She's brought along a bottle of Andre Champagne and two plastic champagne glasses from K-Mart just in case.
At the Falls they plan to get two rooms. She will have to bunk with Betty Sue. But somehow or other she plans to get Hoot alone.

Hoot is interested mainly in the Elvis Presley Museum. Marla doesn't care about seeing a living room lamp from Graceland or the first dollar-bill Elvis ever made. But she would never tell Hoot that. Elvis is more than Hoot's idol. It spooks Marla to think about it. How much Hoot is like Elvis. Down to how he lifts his lip when he sings. Even his mother's name is Grace. 
Hoot and Marla's relationship has developed mostly in Marla's apartment on Main Street over top of Charlie's U-Call-We-Haul Trucking Company in the few hours she isn't working the McDonald's drive-thru. That's how she was able to come on this trip. She takes every hour she can get.
Earlier, as they were loading the car for the trip, Marla mentioned riding the Maid of the Mist. And visiting Tussaud's Wax Museum. Charlie, from U-Call, said George Burns looks real and Marla wants to see for herself. Hoot didn't say one way or the other. All he said was he heard you got wet riding the Maid of the Mist. 
He was in the middle of telling Nick  about the Elvis Museum and how they were about to see the largest private collection of Elvis memorabilia in the world. Nick wasn't even listening, just tossing suitcases into the trunk as fast as he could and blowing bubbles with a wad of Juicy Fruit.
In Erie they gas up at a Sunoco and then Hoot parks over to the side of the station and they all go to use the restrooms. On the way back they get ham sandwiches out of a machine and Marla buys herself a Zagnut and gets a Zero for Hoot. He loves Zeros. They are hard to find. She decides to buy two.
Nick stares at Marla as they get back into the car. She is wearing a red halter top with her navy shorts and her new leather sandals. She has the best tan she's ever had. She's been twenty times to the tanning bed. She just hopes she doesn't get skin cancer for being so vain. 
Hoot has never noticed that she is evenly tanned all over. She notices everything about him. He only gets a tan on his face and arms. He never wears shorts. She is surprised he will wear muscle shirts. But he does. He has one on now and she loves him in it. It is red to match her halter top. She has asked him specifically to wear the shirt.
In the front seat Hoot and Nick are arguing over the route they are taking. Hoot says he bets there is a more direct route to Buffalo. He said they probably didn't need to go through Cleveland at all. He accused Nick of wanting to go through Cleveland just to say he'd been there. Nick has people in Euclid.
Marla doesn't care which route they take. She just wants to get there. 
She has brought enough clothes to stay two weeks but they only plan to be gone for four days. The trunk is packed full and Hoot even has one suitcase tied on top of the Monte Carlo. 
Shirley Jean, who used to work for Reynolds Aluminum, has lent Marla all of her clothes. They both wear a size 7. Her mother has said to enjoy being small because the women in her family tend to pick up weight when they have babies. Marla doesn't particularly like babies. She isn't sure she wants any for herself. 
"I bet if you marry Hoot and he wants a dozen kids you'll probably jump right in and have 'em," Shirley Jean teased Marla as she folded clothes for the trip. Marla just smiled.
Shirley Jean is dating a man called Eddie from Virginia. He drives over almost every week-end. He has a boat back in Virginia and he has offered to take them all out in it. Hoot can't swim. She thinks this may be why he always turns Eddie down. She can swim and has been begging Hoot to go.
Eddie is the opposite of Hoot. He started getting his tan early at a tanning bed too and now is golden brown. His brown hair is streaked with gold and much of the time he visits Shirley Jean he wears only swimming trunks. He has a 14K gold chain around his neck and wears a nugget ring. Marla has asked Hoot to wear a gold chain but he refuses. She bought him one for Christmas but he took it back and got some flannel shirts with the money.
Betty Sue has been massaging Nick's neck over the seat. Marla is sure they have an intimate relationship just by the way they act when they're together. At least Nick has told Betty Sue he wants to marry her. He has talked about going to Cleveland to look for a job. He is laid-off from his construction job. He is a welder, a good one he says, and can get work anywhere. Hoot says Nick is all talk. Marla wonders.
Hoot pulls into a roadside park. The Monte Carlo is starting to heat up. Betty Sue and Nick disappear laughing into a grove of trees. Hoot appears agitated as he swings out of the car and puts the hood up. He leans against a tree to smoke.
Marla sits in the car for a minute before getting out to lean against the tree with Hoot. She moves over and kisses him. He kisses her back. But for only a minute. 
"Hey," he says, looking over his shoulder, "there's people around." She sees one man at the far end of the park. Otherwise they are alone. She puts her arms around Hoot again and he pushes her away, this time Marla loses her balance and nearly falls.
  Just then a semi pulls in not far from them and the bearded trucker that gets out looks Marla over from head to toe. He smiles and winks. Hoot has his head under the hood of the car and doesn't see.
The thought that he wouldn't care if he did see makes Marla's breath catch in her throat. It is at that exact moment that she knows for sure what she has suspected all along. Hoot has no intention of riding the Maid of the Mist. Or visiting the Tussaud's Wax Museum. Or marrying her. Not now. Not ever.
A cold wind whips across the parking lot and Marla shivers. She reaches into the back seat for her sweater and notices the brown bag with the champagne. She takes it from the car and heads to the rest room. Inside the cubicle she stares at the Andre Champagne and the two plastic glasses for a moment before pushing them through the lid of the trash can. They hit the metal bottom with a loud clatter. 
She unwraps a Zero and eats it as she walks back to the car.
"How far have we got to go?" she asks as Hoot closes the hood of the car.
"Not far," he says. He slides into the car, turns on the ignition and the radio at the same time. "Wasted days and wasted nights," Hoot sings loudly, nearly drowning out Freddy Fender.
Betty Sue and Nick smile as they get into the car.
Nobody notices Marla as they head down the highway. She is ripping the brochure for the Elvis Museum into the tiniest pieces and is letting them blow, one by one, out the window and into the hot air.            
                                            the end