Author Archives: zeven37

BOOK REVIEW: In the Woods

Author: Tana French
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Man has it been a while since I reviewed a book! You might ask, why is this? Well, honestly it’s because I haven’t really read a book that I felt was worth my time in reviewing in a long while. I’m a pretty picky reader and I don’t apologize for it at all : )
In the Woods is a mystery novel by author Tana French that takes place in a fictional Dublin suburb. The story takes off first with a gripping background history of the lead character, Rob (Adam) Ryan, as a child found in the woods near his house. He is unable to say what happened to himself – or his missing friends.
We then fast forward quite a few years and Ryan is now a detective working on the Dublin Murder Squad and is called to a case with his partner, Cassie Maddox, for a new crime committed in the same woods where he was once found. A gruesome killing of a young girl is immediately evident and questions speculate as to why she was left admist an archaeological dig site. The new case starts popping questions about the old one and brings several respectable theories as to the how and why that will keep you guessing.
I really enjoyed this book as it kept me entertained through the use of two mysteries, one cold and one hot, and French also took the time to really develop the characters. Most mystery novels I read today are very short and popularized so that the plot keeps moving at a non-relenting pace, which often keeps character development at bay. But this novel does a fairly good job at it. Watching Ryan’s character unfold is just as important of an element as solving the actual case(s).
My only complaint

**SPOILER ALERT**
is that French never actually has the cold case solved. You are just kind of left with a fleeting feeling that Ryan will find his peace, but the annoying angst that you will never know the true how and why. I personally speculate a stranger, homeless perhaps, that was living in the abandoned property in the woods with some mental issues. But I will unfortunately will never know…or perhaps French did this on purpose as so many cases in reality are truly left in this same manner? The families and victims just have to find their own peace even though justice will never be gained.
**END SPOILER ALERT**

If you are in the mood for a good, hearty mystery with a heavy Irish heritage and interesting characters, this one is for you. Enjoy!

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – 3

I mean, come on? It can’t be that hard. Pull the trigger. Slide the knife. Drop a forty ton cement truck on his head.

Okay, maybe the last one is a little eccentric, but…

Before you judge me just like everyone else – Tommy included – you should probably know the story first. Like actually take the time to understand. Don’t dismiss me or write me off for a stereotype. There is a lot more to me than that.

When I was ten, a bucking blonde brat that didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quiet,’ my single, trailer-loving mother met a man. Rodney.

His sudden presence in mine and my younger brother’s life was surprising. You see, my mother had always worked hard. She pulled two jobs and rarely ever took time off throughout the year. And the time she did have was filled with her collapsed on the sofa watching soap operas and filling her veins with booze. And I can’t forget the constant slurred shouting at us about her feet that felt like jello and the endless exhaustion she had felt since the day of my birth. It was, of course, our fault that she had to work so hard. Nevermind the fact that she chose risky sex in the back of sedans as a highschool past time.

With all this work my mother did, I was stunned in how she found the time to meet a man. And more stunned that any man took the time to notice her. Rodney was okay looking if you go for the tight wife-beater and pot-belly types. But what my mother really liked was his money.

He bought her things. Lots of things. Flowers, clothes, jewelry, cars. Yes, cars plural.  My mother even go to go to one part-time job with him around. She was in heaven.

So you’re thinking much like my twelve-year-old mind was one day after fixing me and Jake our third box of mac and cheese. Where does this guy get this money? And why on earth my mother? I mean, I heard the screaming and bed bumping game they loved to play at night, but was that enough?

It didn’t take me long once he found me old enough to start taking on responsibility. That’s really what he said. “You are now old enough to start taking on responsibility.” With that he shoved three pounds of cocaine into my Hello Kitty backpack and told me to stop at fifth and Lewis on my way to class. The guy there would know what to do. Just say Rodney sent you. I still remember seeing my mother standing behind him, smirking with white powder crusted around her nose. Now her kids may finally start knowing what working hard is all about.

And that was my first drug run.

I made out with a whole single chocolate bar from the ordeal. With each visit that continued after, the reward got sweeter.

By the time I was sixteen, I was running the system with Rodney and we worked well together. Really well. I handled the clients and delivery. He handled the cash and product. He was never late in meeting my customers demands, and I was never late in bringing in the profits. My own brother even became my top runner. (It’s hard to believe those sweet kids could do any harm.) It became the family business. Sure, mom had a little concern every now and then but a new bottle of Captain Jack would always shut her up.

The money was amazing. True it was hard to leave and take a vacation on it, but it could still get you what you wanted to make home that much more comfortable.

Everything was smooth sailing. I even became popular at school. “Paging Paige,” they would say. Highschoolers were constantly in need of a fix. Something had to transcend them out of their boring, suburban lives. And they would pay you close to anything to make it happen.

At one of those parties is where I met Trevor – this red head, geeky kid with dad jean’s and a plaid button up. He looked so out of place in the crowd, just standing with his hands tucked neatly in his pockets. Everyone around him drunk or high and shouting to speak. But his voice was calm and smooth – he had everything under control for a teenager. Or so it seemed.

Trevor was unlike the other boys I had met before. That usually started with a nod and ended with a quickie on the bathroom counter. But Trevor was shy and was actually more interested in me. You have to understand that was a total shock. Everyone else just wanted to know what I could do for them. Never would they ever ask about what they could do for me. Or even about me for that matter.

And so we started dating – me and Trevor. I told him a lot about myself. Rodney, Jake, my mother. Everything from age one to present day. And he just soaked it up. Nodding, smiling, offering advice. Listening – it was a new part of human life for me.

He would park his bike in the drive at five sharp and we would take off for our daily walks. Down and back my street, stopping sometimes at a small park; enjoying a streak of normal in my otherwise strange life. I learned a little about him and he learned a lot about me. For months this continued, just me and him.

Funny thing is, Trevor never forgot a word of our conversations. No, it was near possible for him to. Oh and he just played it so well on the witness stand, spilling our secret words and amusements to every fucking reporter, judge, attorney, and god-forsaken juror in the courthouse. You see, every time we met he wore a special little wire that fed our magnificent lovebird voices to a DEA van a few blocks away. For him the whole thing was just another undercover job.  I was the mouse and he was the cat, tenderly waiting to sink in his teeth. And sink them he did.

All said and done, our operation was raided and picked bone dry. I missed out on the action, being cuffed and sitting in a cell at the time, but word has it that Rodney fought back, firing all the AK’s that we kept lying around. He didn’t win, but did manage to accidentally nail my brother in the back of the head during the commotion. They say he died instantly with my bereaving mother dwindling between tears and vomit beside him. I have always felt regret for my brother – it should have been me beside him instead of the trainwreck called mother. His thirteen years were short and ugly.

Since that day, I never trusted anyone again.

 

 

 

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – 2

Fuck!” I exclaimed loudly, almost dropping the burger flat to the floor.

Tommy looked at me with searing eyes. The old grump crossed his arms and gave me a smirk, clearly proud of what he had just accomplished. My other customer just stared from the booth, eyes wide.

Tommy turned back to the grump and whispered something while giving him a quick pat on the back. His turned his attention back on me, closing the distance with a restrained walk while grinding his teeth.

I gathered my composure and then tossed the burger to the man in the booth. He looked at it warily. Onions had fallen off the patty to the plate during the whole scene.

I gave him a curteous smile and said, “Sorry about that. We can make another if you’d–” but the man brushed me off and gather edhis coat.

No thanks,” he muttered. “That old man was right about this place.”

Sir, would you like….” Tommy’s wirey voice stated from behind me, but the man waved him off and continued out the door.

I watched him go then casually slid into the booth, pretending that Tommy’s eyes weren’t trying to bore through my skull. I took the basket and started eating some of the fries, balancing a bit of greasy onion on a few.

Tommy sighed loudly and slid in across from me. I sighed back, waiting for a reaction but he just stared through those ridiculous round glasses. I gave him a once over, secrectly glad he at least decided to not wear his fedora today. The skinny jeans with suspenders was enough. Sometimes I thought he dressed that way to make up for his lack of hair.

Paige, Paige, Paige, “ his voice dwindled. “What are we to do with you.”

Jane made it wrong, “ I snapped. “You can’t blame me for that.”

Tommy cocked his head. “True, true. But what about serving the coffee or that little offensive blurb you let out a bit ago? Hmm?” He pushed his glasses up his nose. I hate that habit.

I finished off the fries, giving no reply.

And the woman yesterday that complained about your attitude? Or the man last week that said you spat in his food because he said he liked Coldplay?”

I chuckled. That guy needed a wake up call.

Tommy let out a long sigh. “See that’s just the problem with you. You don’t care about anyone but yourself.”

I kept my eyes trained on the vinyl booth behind him, not daring to look up. I had heard this one too many times before. You would think at some point I might actually listen, but there was just something wrong in the way everybody said it. What was so wrong in being selfish sometimes? So what that I cared a little more about myself than others.

Tommy snapped his fingers in my face. “Hey, Paige. I’m trying to talk to you – to understand – but you’re not helping me here.” He bit his lower lip. “I think I’m going to have to fire you.”

I finally turned to him, more amused by his choice of words than the true weight of them. I think, that is how Tommy would phrase such a thing. He squirmed in his seat, moving his hands from the table to his face. I watched as the discomfort rose in the form of small bumps radiating on his neck.

Jesus Christ, Tommy. Are you getting hives from this?” I said, suddenly alarmed.

Maybe,” he mumbled and began scratching furiously at his neck. Clearly half firing someone was even too stressful. Tommy might really be the delicate man I had ever known. How had this guy ever come to run a restaurant?

Okay.” I stood up and began taking off my apron. I ran my fingers across the border then tossed it to him. “I will save you the trouble. I quit.”

Tommy gave a slight nod, as if he considered this option and began folding the apron. “I’ll have your last paycheck tomorrow. Just come by around one.”

I grinned and squeezed him on the shoulder. He gave one last somber look as I walked towards the door. I saw Jane standing in the kitchen door way shaking her head. I waved, knowing we would talk later.

I could not have asked for better timing. Not having a job would only lend itself to more time to plan. In some strange way I owed the grump a thank you. Easy stuff, I repeated the phrase in my head. That’s all I had to keep telling myself. Killing a man could be easy, right?

SUMMER RAIN

Summer comes roaring.
The clouds swell,
pregnant with moisture.
White streaks lick at the ground.
A warning.

Trees have blossomed
spreading their green hands high.
They wait,
as the sun takes cover
and thunder continues to rumble.

Sweeping through the limbs,
the wind begins to whistle.
There is static in the air.
A creeping tension.

First just a patter,
so gentle and light.
Then the sky releases
a powerful fury.
And the ground absorbs
every
merciful
drop.

PAIGE ANDERS CHRONICLES – ONE

What did he say?” Janet’s face suddenly loomed between the stainless steel counter and shelf. Her eyes were wide, larger than normal with her hair tucked into a cap.
I shook my head. “Nothing you need to know. I split the order ticket and slipped it over to her. “Don’t put onions on that burger. The guy is allergic.”
Come on, don’t avoid the subject.” Janet smirked, her upper lip curling in that distasteful smile. Why did I always tell her my secrets?
I clicked my tongue and tossed my hair over my shoulders. “He said he’d do it. ‘Easy stuff.’ Says it’s actually a pretty regular request.
Janet’s jaw dropped open and she gave a little yelp. “Really? Boy, I would never…” She dwindled off, her thoughts gravitating in that little head of hers.
Hey!” An old man appeared just inside the swinging doors, his face crude and unshaven. “I’ve been waiting fifteen minutes out there just to get a cup of coffee. Do you think that’s a possibility or what?” Spit flew from his mouth as he spoke.
Sorry about that, sir.” I replied, forcing a smile. “I’ll be right out.”
Good,” he grunted, swinging the door hard behind him.
I rolled my eyes and took a seat on the old wooden chair we leave in the kitchen for breaks.
Aren’t you going to help him?” asked Janet, the sound of popping grease started to fill the room.
That grump can help himself.”
Janet laughed. “Just hope that Tommy doesn’t walk in. I’m sure you remember what happened last time, “she added with a serious undertone.
I shrugged. Tommy was as horrible a manager as she was a waitress. I sat back and pulled my cell out, maniacally scrolling through my friend’s latest updates.
So that’s it. You’re really going to do this?” Janet peeked back through the counter. “Don’t you think, you know, there are other ways?”
I shrugged. “It’s gotta be done. Easy stuff,” I repeated with a grin.
Hmph!” I heard the rattle of a basket and paper as she plopped the burger in. I stood up to retrieve it, happy that at least would have one satisfied customer when I walked back out. Maybe even a decent tip for once.
Janet range the bell giving me a sharp look then slid the order over. I hated that damn bell and she knew it. As I grabbed for the basket, she kept her hold firm on the other side until I finally looked up at her. “Just remember,” she said in a low tone, “once it’s done, there is no coming back from it.”

I pinched my lips and gave her a slim nod. Janet may be nosy, but she was always looking out for me. I often wondered what I would doing if she had never moved in next to me. Probably still laying on my couch waiting for my mother to call. A few bottles on the floor, a few pills down my throat. 

She let go of the basket and turned back into the kitchen, giving out a loud sigh.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I can handle it. One more week and it will all be over. I promise.”

She looked up and gave a a weak smile. “I hope so.”

I left the counter, feeling somewhat better about our conversation.  It wasn’t until I had crossed through the double doors back into the main room that I realized the burger had onions on it. And the grump was talking to Tommy.

AGE

I caught my reflection today.
The face was older than I remembered.
Lines stretched from corners.
And blotchy dots lie just below the surface.
I think what startled me most were the eyes.
Coarse, green circles that seemed to bore right into me.
There was still quite a bit of light to them.
But age had altered them, too.
It’s a funny thing,
my reflection.
My body continues to become defunct and rigid.
But my mind feels as though it has grown younger
and vivid.

MESA VERDE CAMPFIRE STORY

(This was for a hitrecord.org challenge to write a campfire story in regards to our National Park system.)

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a bill creating Mesa Verde National Park. Situated in Southwestern Colorado, the park houses handfuls of canyons that cut the through the dry mesa revealing the ancient clay cliff dwellings that are built into its sides. Although varying in size, none of the structures come short of extraordinary. The limits of construction and accessibility to create these hidden Ancestral Puebloan palaces is wonder of its own to observe.

Guided by park officials, you can walk through the abandoned abodes, manageable only through a series of ladders and steep canyon ledges. And yet, as you pass through the key-holed doorways and circle the ceremonial Kivas, one tends to get the feeling that another may be watching, hidden within the dark caverns that you don’t explore.

There are many theories as to why Ancestral Puebloans left their skillful and strategic homes. Though it is called Mesa Verde, green is far from the color you see when exploring this park. Overrun with mountain shrubs, junipers, and pinyon pines, the mesa appears to thirst for water. Is that what drove the people away?

Or is there another reason? Evidence shows that many of the “spiritual doorway” of the dwellings had been sealed shut and even Kivas burned. Was there something these people sought to destroy or escape from but found the only way out was to leave? Perhaps fear drove them out of these magnificent homes? And if that’s true, could this dark spirit still remain among the ruins?

Some say to never stay close to the canyon’s edge on a full moon’s night. For when the moonlight crosses the doorways left unsealed, something shadowy rises from beneath it. Upwards, it climbs the vertical walls, clinging to the gasping roots that sprout from the clay. They say it seeks the living to partake in a drink of the soul.

The unsuspecting are always the first to be caught in its murky haze. Left paralyzed by the darkness, they surrender to the spirit, joining it to forever dwell in maze of caverns below the solid ground. Never again to look upon the face of the sun.