Friendly Fire is an oxymoron

“You think you can fill this out, Ell?” Eddie slid the forms
he’d written my name on at least a dozen times before across the desk, “I’ll
get us some Joe.” Station house coffee is about the best coffee in Pierce County,
so I readily agreed and set to penning in my information. Scribbling in the
answers faster than a slacker who’d memorized the answer key to a standardized
test, I tossed the pen onto the desk, sat back and closed my eyes.  Pictured Delbetter trying to start that truck
of his and cussing the air blue when he couldn’t.

“ So,” Eddie barked and I jumped, “why don’t you tell me
what you did to Delbetter’s beater?”  He
folded into the squeaky office chair and slammed down a manila file folder, my
name sharpied down the side.

I smiled. “Why, Deputy, I don’t know what you’re talkin’

“Cut the crap, Ell,” he leaned forward, “strictly OFF the
record.” He stared me down, and broke into a grin, “Spill.”

Look, I’m as vain as the next criminal mastermind, being
particularly proud of hitting the three-time, all-district star pitcher
Delbetter smack in his swollen ego. Truthfully, I couldn’t help myself.

“Alright, first? I pulled all his fuses and superglued them
to his headliner.” I laughed at the mental picture of him trying to pull all
those fuses without marring the vinyl. “Then I dumped a bunch of confetti into
the vents and set his fan speed on high,” the deputy laughed out loud, “so when
he DOES get his fuses back in and starts the car, the vents’ll blow the paper
all over his cab.” I sat back satisfied that Eddie appreciated the humor of the

He shook his head, and then struck me with a hard look,
“what were you doing under the truck, Ellen.”

Shi-take mushrooms. Deputy did it again. Disarmed me with
that ‘just one of your pals’ thing he always did. “It ain’t that bad, really,

“So you can go on and tell me, then.”

“I –uh, I wrapped a zip tie ‘round his drive shaft is all.”
I squirmed in my seat.

Deputy Eddie Bishop was no more’n four years older than
me.  He’d been a senior at the LaFoy K-12
school when I’d first transferred in during the first half of eighth grade.
He’d looked out for me during that first year when I was kind of kicked around
for being the new kid, appearing out of nowhere like some kind of cartoon hero.  He was always nice and I always repaid him by
telling him to stay outta my business. Even back then, he had a kind of
authority with everyone. Even the teachers.

He was a natural for law enforcement.

I cleared my throat and sat up straighter in the nicked up
wooden chair, “Alls it does is make a clicky noise, Eddie. Delbetter’ll be
scratchin’ his butt for a week and then he’ll figure it out.” Biting the inside
of my cheek to keep from laughing, I chanced a look at the Deputy.  A slow smile spread over his face. Not what I
was expecting. Finally he laughed and leaned back in his chair, stretching his
long legs in front of him.

“Nah, he won’t, Ell,” he stared at his coffee cup, swirling
the contents absent-mindedly, “he’ll have it figured out ‘afore he leaves the
parking lot.”

For a moment I just stared at him. “And how will he do that,
Deputy,” I glared at him, “thought this’s all off the record. You gonna rat me

He pulled his feet down and sat forward again, “First of
all, young lady,” he opened the file folder and pulled out a sheet covered in
tightly packed lines of print, “I’m a sworn officer of the law. You already
know,” and he held up the sheet which I now recognized as my list of
altercations with his department, “anything you say can be used against you.”
He slid the sheet in front of me, “So, I don’t ‘rat people out’.  And finally,” he stretched his arms up and
clasped his hands behind his head, “off the record means off the record, Ell,
how the hell long you known me?”

I glanced down at the list. “How else is he gonna figure it

“Ah hell,” he laughed again, “Gary Delbetter’s been ‘round
engines his whole life, first click, he’ll climb under that truck and spot that
tie right off.”  He turned to the
paperwork and made red marks beside the places I was supposed to sign. An
unnecessary kindness, as I was pretty familiar with them, but nice all the
same. “He’s prob’ly home right now.” He glanced up and slid the papers over toward
me. “Sign on the lines, initial at the check marks.”

Staring at the forms, I kept my still-cuffed hands folded
best I could over my chest. Only thing I had to look forward to, and Bishop had
to go and ruin it. “How’m I supposed to sign anything with these things on?” I
raised my hands and shook the cuffs.
“Dang Deputy, I ain’t done nothing illegal-,”

“Uh- Ellen, you broke into a vehicle belonging to someone
else, and that means-,”

The big door in the back swung open and the Law of Pierce
County, Sheriff JT Forks, stood framed in it so the late afternoon sun lit him
like an old time Hollywood star. “Well, Ellen Wiel,” he shook his head, “this
is a surprise,” he said. He jingled his way into the room, money and keys in
his pockets announcing his approach. He grabbed a paper coffee cup and poured
up the last dregs in the pot. “What’s it been, a week, week and a half? Some
kind of record for you, idn’t it?”

Bishop’s head swung around and he cast a wary eye on his
boss. A much repeated rumor around town said Bishop and Forks didn’t care none
for each other. Something about Bishop’s outsider attitude and tendency to keep
to himself, although I suspected it had more to do with Forks’ general attitude
of superiority to anyone and anything not directly related to him or his way.

Eddie shifted around in his seat and gave me a cautionary
look. “I was just finishing up processing a minor complaint, Sheriff.” That was
another reason Forks had no use for Eddie Bishop. He was about the only person
in LaFoy who didn’t address the Sheriff as “sir”. Well, aside from me.

“Yeah, Forks, Eddie just brought me in on a formality, it’s
not like-,” another warning look and I shut up.

Forks eyes narrowed and he studied me like something on the
bottom of his shoe. “A formality, huh?” He walked over to the desk and flipped
the cover on the manila folder, “Bishop, I’d like to see Ms. Wiel in my
office.” Not a request, an order. Eddie’s brow knitted and he glanced back at
me and bit the inside of his cheek.

“Yeah, sure, Sheriff.” He stood and fished the keys to the
cuffs out of his pocket and started toward me.

“That won’t be necessary, Deputy.” Forks stared
hard in my direction, his lip practically twitching with disgust.  Eddie nodded and stuffed the keys back into
his pocket, then fell in step beside me toward the office. We reached the door
and the Sheriff stopped Eddie with a hand to his chest. “Alone, Deputy.”


Free giveaway – Chicken Soup for the Soul…

If you are a tween, teen or young adult, you might find a wealth of good stuff from the latest edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Just for Preteens.  As a contributing author, I received a box of ten books and I’ve had a chance to read some of the stories.  The ones I’ve read so far are inspiring, uplifting and full of hope and good advice.  Even as an adult reader – and mom of a tween and young teen – I found some encouraging words as well!  I would recommend Chicken Soup for the Soul, Just for Preteens to anyone who happens upon this post.  Pick one up when it hits stores on Tuesday, July 26, 2011.

I’d also like to give one copy away.  Leave a comment, tell me about yourself and leave a link to your blog, twitter, or homepage.  I’ll randomly select one of the commenters to receive the free book!  (We’ll discuss how to get it to you in email) One commenter will save 14.95 + tax retail or 10.00 online and get some encouraging words, too!

The view from the underside of a truck

Me and trouble, we’re on a first name basis.

Before the age of 16, I’d been hauled in and questioned on charges
of arson, destruction of property, B&E with intent to cause bodily harm,
disturbing the peace, and countless “police encounters” – the name with which
Sheriff Forkes gussied up routine police harassment. Oh, and I was pulled over
by Deputy Benz – during Driver’s Ed class
–for speeding.  Everything dismissed for
lack of evidence. Except for the speeding ticket. That cost me thirty bucks and
a stern talking to by Judge Patterson.

I’m good at getting into trouble, but I’m better at getting
out of it.

But this?  A whole new
dimension.  I’d enjoyed a long streak
skating outside lawful society, but I’d hit the end of the road.  Maybe I shouldn’t be putting this down on
paper, but I’m afraid if I don’t do it now, I won’t get another chance. So,
here goes.


A strong hand latched onto my booted foot and yanked me out
from under the truck. “What the hell you doing under Delbetter’s car, Ellen
Weils?” Deputy Eddie Bishop looked down at me, blocking the sun.  I squinted, trying to make out just how mad
he was. “I’m driving through the school parking lot and I see these little
boots stickin’ out from under Gary Delbetter’s pick-up,” he shifted, and the
sunlight blinded me, “I said to myself, ‘Eddie, who’s boots you suppose those
are?’ and only one name come up, Ell.”

“Eddie,” squeezing my eyes tight, I groped in the air,
“gimme a hand up, ‘fore you yell at me?” He grabbed my hand in his rough one
and pulled just as hard as he had on my foot, nearly yanking my arm out of
socket. “Dang – how big you think I am?”

“Quit avoiding the subject, Ell.” He gathered his sinewy
arms over his wide chest and just squinted at me.

I shifted, raked a hand through my hair and tried, “I heard
a funny sound comin’ from under it,” I gestured out to the overgrown field
bordering the school lot, “thought it might be a ‘coon or a skunk.” His face
didn’t move, only his eyes got squintier. “I swear, Eddie, that’s all I was doin’.”

“Heard that all the way in the classroom, then?  School’s not over for another,” he yanked his
pocket watch chain and glanced at it, “another hour and a half.”

Oh. “Well, uh,” I
thought hard, keeping my mouth running, “I had a uh,” and it came to me, “a
science paper due and I left it out in my-,”

Bishop caught my slip the same time my brain did. He just
shook his head, losing the battle with a smile fighting for possession of his
mouth. “Out here to the parking lot, huh?
Where the cars park.” His
mouth lost the battle and forfeited the war as he laughed out loud. “You ain’t
got a car.”  He shook his head again,
“Nice try, kid.  Wanna go for another?”

Now he was making me mad. “I got a bike, Deputy.” I swung my
arm over at the bike rack, “Right there, in the bike rack.  See the one with the saddle bags?”  He swiveled his gaze in the direction I pointed, and squinted back at me.

“Huh. You heard a tiny varmint paddin’ around over here in
the dirt parking lot from all the way over there.” He pursed his lips and
rocked back on his heels. “That’s some powerful hearing you got, there.”

I was about to spin a powerful story of how my failing
eyesight actually made my hearing more acute, when the school bell announced
free period. At the top of the front steps I spotted Gary Delbetter – owner of
the vehicle in question – looking first to the Deputy’s cruiser, then to
me.  His face clouded over, “Hey!” he
stalked towards us.

“You know what,” I grabbed the handcuffs on Eddie’s belt,
“you should haul me in.  I was up to no
good,” I yanked at his cuffs and pulled on the back door handle of the cruiser
at the same time, “you gotta take me in, Eddie!”  The Deputy just stood there, so I pulled open
the door and dived into the back seat just as Delbetter reached us. He lunged
at the back door and Bishop finally moved. Not much of a move, just a step to
the side, but his powerful body effectively checked anything Delbetter had in
mind.  Like pounding me into chopped steak.

“What did she do?  What did she DO?” Delbetter’s face turned purple. The Deputy talked in a
low voice I couldn’t make out through the safety glass, but Delbetter’s came
through loud and clear. His red face showed off white nostrils flared out like
a bull’s. He jabbed at the glass, fighting to get around Bishop as my
gossipy classmates pressed in for a better look.  I bit the insides of my mouth to keep from
laughing.  Watching the King  of LaFoy School lose his cool amused the hell
out of me.

The good Deputy had enough and stepped around the car, slid into the
seat, started the car and backed out carefully. As we pulled out, Gary shoved
his face into the glass separating us. “You’re goin’ down, Hell-on!”  He jabbed a finger at me, “You’re goin’ DOWN!”

Delbetter ain’t no prophet, but he spoke more of the truth than
even he knew.

“So, what are you working on?”

You walk in, punch your floor number and just as the doors close, the Big Name Agent speaking at the writer’s conference you’re attending steps over the threshold to join you.  Big Name Agent turns to you and says, “So, what are you working on?”

You? Break out in a cold sweat.  Yeah – you’ve got less than a minute or two to convey your entire opus in the span of an elevator ride and you stammer, “Uh, uhm, well, see there’s this girl…”

That’s right. The dreaded “Elevator Pitch!” Have you figured yours out yet?

Here’s mine: A girl in Juvenile Detention for a crime she didn’t commit fights to escape and uncovers the truth about the Sheriff who put her there.

Story Title: Hell on Wheels

It took me most of seven months to come up with that one. Seven months for so few words. But that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Fine tuning, cutting to the bone, smelting away all the excess until you’re left with concentrated writerly goodness. (I’d like to tweak mine still…)

Are you afraid of the Elevator Pitch? Have you tried to come up with one and given up? Or do you have a killer pitch you’re just itching to try out?