Disability Crowd Fund “Book for a Buck”

For the last several days, I have been hosting a crowd fund via twitter and Facebook. To put it bluntly, we’re broke and in trouble. My job cut my hours down to around 20 for the entire MONTH. My son works full time at minimum wage to help with bills, but with my hours being cut so far down, we’re drowning. We have one car, and we’re still making payments on it. We had already fallen a little behind on the payments and the company gave us until this month to get caught up. If we don’t, they will repossess it. It is our only transportation for my son’s job, as there is no public transportation to the nearby suburb where he works. It is also heavily used to get us both to doctor appointments for our various conditions. We need my car.

We are also behind on several other bills (phone, electric, water) and groceries. With our current schedules, we also will not have enough money for January rent on the first. The State of Texas has decided that since I used to get unemployment earlier this year (but haven’t in months), I still should be fine. They have denied any food stamps, Medicaid/CHIP (for our disabilities), or temporary assistance to needy families.

Least importantly, my son and I will not be exchanging gifts. I know gifts aren’t important, but it stings knowing I can’t give him anything, even after all he has sacrificed this year to work full time and help with household expenses. He has given up starting college yet, participating in several hobbies very important to him, and free time to see his friends. All of his friends went away to college this year, so often, when they have been back home to visit and wanted to see him, he had to decline because he was working. It hurts that I cannot get him anything to show him how much I appreciate his sacrifices.

I had asked for help from friends and the general public before, but the response was sporadic. Also, I felt guilty for asking for help again. My internalized ableism was causing me to really beat myself up. So I hit on a plan. I am working on a collection of short stories and poems to be published in February. As of right now, I am planning on self-publishing on Amazon. So, I hit on the idea to raise money by offering a “book for a buck.” Each person who donated at least $1 to my PayPal link would receive a PDF copy of my collection no later than 02/01/17. When a PayPal notification is sent, it includes an email address for the sender. When I get notifications, I immediately send a “thank you” note and ask if that is the email address to which their book should be sent. Then, whichever email address they state goes into a database I am compiling of pre-orders. That way I don’t miss anyone.

I’ve had a few pre-orders from friends, and many retweets of my offer on twitter (thank you, everyone). But actual donations/pre-orders have been limited to close friends (many of whom are experiencing hardships of their own). Then it hit me:  The general public doesn’t know if I can even write. They are probably scared they’ll get a hot mess sent to them. To that end, please scroll down to my next post. Here, you can read an excerpt from one of the stories that will be included, The Wager. You can also read a rough draft of one of the poems that will be included, The List in another post.  If you like them and want to read more, please donate to my #disabilitycrowdfund #bookforabuck campaign. All it takes is $1!

You can donate/pre-order here.

When PayPal notifies me I have received a donation, it usually includes an email address. I will email that address and confirm that is where you want your book sent. Whatever email address you reply as your preferred method will be added to my database of pre-order email addresses. If for some reason there is no email, I will post a comment on this post and/or twitter to track you down to contact me with that info. No later than 02/01/17, I will send an advance PDF copy of my book before I submit it to Amazon. Thank you all in advance for your support!

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The Wager excerpt

It started out like any other winter day in South Texas. Gray, gloomy, not too cold but not warm – a hint of fog to add another layer of gray to an already blah landscape.

The first indication that something was amiss was the snow. Fifty degrees outside, and it starts snowing. At first it was just a few flakes here and there. Then the temperature started to drop, and the snow kept falling. Soon, wind began whipping at the flakes, sending them sideways. Before an hour had passed, the temperature had fallen 20 degrees and a foot of snow was on the ground.

All in a city that last saw snow 30 years ago, and even then it was a fine dusting that melted in hours.

In the chaos that ensued, no one noticed the lanky, tanned man standing in the middle of a Whataburger parking lot, staring in satisfaction at the sky. Drivers were too busy trying to control their cars as they skidded across streets suddenly slicked with ice. After all, in a city where drivers panic even driving in the rain, snow and ice were too much for their sensibilities. Even the snow birds, made lax by usually sunny skies and moderate temperatures, were having issues dealing with the sudden blizzard.

The man smiled and thought to himself, “Humans are so easily distracted.”

He adjusted the straw cowboy hat incongruously perched on a head of long sunbleached hair, brushed a spec of lint off the lapel of his loud Hawaiian shirt, and made his way into the fast food chain. The fact that everyone around him was hunched over in the cold, pulling forgotten sweatshirts and jackets out of their cars, while he walked erect clad only in an unbuttoned shirt drew a few glances, but for the most part, peoples’ eyes slid right past him, the oddity forgotten in the wonder and worry caused by the snow and ice now bulleting down from the sky.

Instead of standing at the counter to order, he sat at a booth in the corner somewhat isolated from the few diners inside. Neither restaurant employees or customers paid any attention to him – their eyes were riveted to the winterscape that had suddenly appeared outside the windows.

He checked his watch, frowning as he noticed his expected company was already five minutes late. He hated wasting time.

A disturbance in the air drew his attention to the seat across from him. What was an empty seat a few seconds ago was now occupied by a woman. Her long black hair was pulled severely back in a bun, and dramatic make-up accented her eyes. Blood red lips curled with slight disdain as she looked around the garish orange and white fast food decor. Only the male patrons seemed to take note of her presence. Eyes lingered appreciatively, until she turned her gaze back upon them. She may have been gorgeous, but she was also intimidating as Hell. Hers was the expression most people imagined when one mentioned “Resting Bitch Face.”

An impatient huff escaped her as she turned back to the man.

“Well?” she asked with a wave of her hand. “You asked for a meet. Here I am, what do you want, G-”

“In this form, I am known as Kevin,” he interrupted.

She looked him up and down. “Well, Kevin, you look a little far from the coast in that get up, don’t you think?”

“It amuses me,” he replied. “Besides, I’m on my way to Hawaii. I just took this detour so I could handle some business before pleasure.

“And what should I call you?” he continued mildly.

She thought a moment. “Call me Lucretia.”

He snorted and caught himself before laughing outright.

“What?” she asked indignantly.

“Nothing, Lucretia,” he retorted, putting extra emphasis on her chosen name.

“Yeah, well, at least I don’t look like a surfer dude reject.”

“No, you just look like a refugee from an old Robert Palmer music video,” he snarked, miming playing a guitar woodenly while rotating his body stiffly from side to side.

“Fine, both of us need to work on our human guises. Now that we’ve established that, would you kindly tell me why I’m here?”

He looked around to see if any mortals were watching. No one paid them any attention; they still seemed mesmerized by the freak weather occurrence outside.

“We’re here because we need to discuss The List.”

She straightened in the booth, a scowl forming quickly on her face.

“What about it? You aren’t going to renege on our agreement, are you?”

“Of course not; you know I keep my word. It’s just that there has been an… unexpected development.”

“Pray, continue,” she said with a smirk. He raised an eyebrow and nodded in recognition of her pun.

“It would seem the same name appears on both of our lists,” he announced somewhat dramatically.

“That’s impossible!” she cried, a little too loudly. Several heads rotated to see what was causing the excitement. Twin glowers from both entities suddenly made any observers less curious.

“That’s impossible,” she continued more softly. “When we set this up, we made it nearly impossible for the same person to appear on both lists.”

“Apparently, ‘nearly’ impossible was not sufficient. The fact remains, we must do something about it.”

“Of course. Leaving things as they are will throw off the entire operation. We would have to nullify the wager,” Lucretia responded with growing horror on her face. “Who is this person, and how did they wind up on both lists?”

A small notebook materialized in his hand. He flipped the cover open, revealing a single name on the top sheet. Kevin slid it across the table to her.

“A woman?” she exclaimed in surprise.

“Yes, I was flabbergasted by that, myself. I triple checked the information.”

“And you’re sure her time nears,” she asked.

His look clearly expressed “duh!”

“How much time do we have until she expires?”

“According to our calculations, she will leave this world in exactly two weeks, 5 days, 20 hours, and 13 minutes.”

“Mode?”

“An unfortunate accident caused by one of her beloved pets and a set of stairs.”

Lucretia winced.

“Was that sympathy I see? Are you going soft on me?”

Her eyes flashed crimson. “Never. I can merely sympathize, as I know just how bad it can hurt when one takes a fall,” she replied sardonically, emphasizing the last word.

“Touche,” he said. After a pause he asked, “So, how do you want to handle this?”

“You’re sure she is perfectly balanced between good and sin?”

“Unfortunately, yes. I reviewed her life, and she is the most interesting mix of saint and sinner.”

“It won’t do, not at all. We have to do something to push her to one side or the other, or else our little game is ruined.” Lucretia tapped her chin, lost in thought.

As she contemplated, she became aware of the conversations going on around her. The humans seemed most distressed by the snow and ice. When she overheard a man’s voice state that it seemed like magic, her gaze snapped to Kevin’s face.

“Magic,” she blurted.

He cocked his head to one side, studying his companion for a moment. Slowly, realization dawned on his face.

“Ah, yes, what’s the one thing that all humans crave? Power. Giving her magical power would most definitely be a good test to see if she uses it for good or ill.” His eyes narrowed.

“But how do I know you or one of your minions won’t try to step in and encourage her to use it for evil?”

Lucretia slumped a little in her side of the booth.

“Unless,” he continued, “that were part of the game. If we each had a lackey there with her at all times, trying to encourage her to use her new power for either good or ill, we could not only make this more interesting, but we could also ensure the other does not step outside the bounds of good sportsmanship.”

“And neither servant is allowed to harm the other – physically, mentally, or emotionally,” she added quickly.

“Of course not,” he conceded.

Slow smiles spread across both of their faces.

“I didn’t think it was possible,” Lucretia stated with a satisfied grin, “but our little game just got more fun.”

 

Across the city, the woman in question burrowed further under the quilts on her bed and continued dreaming, completely unaware that the fate of the world would soon rest on her shoulders.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Hacker. This original work is the sole property of the author, and may not be copied or reprinted without express permission of the author. Promotional links to this site are allowed.

 

The Wrong Daughter – Chapter One

(This is an original work by the author of this blog.  Copying and distributing, whether or not for monetary gain, is not permitted without the author’s express written permission.)

Chapter One

San Antonio, TX – Modern Day

“And don’t forget your poetry projects are due next Wednesday.  Have a great weekend!”

The final bell and the sound of 25 chairs being simultaneously scraped across the tile floor drowned out Marissa’s last words.  She stepped quickly behind her desk to avoid being run over by a horde of eighth graders, aimed her eyes heavenward, and said a quick prayer of thanks that the week was finally over.  She couldn’t remember the last time she had been this tired.  A vertical line appeared between her arched eyebrows as she tried to think of a reason why she would be so tired.

“Hey, got a second?”  A head of dark, wildly curling hair popped through the swinging door that separated Marissa’s classroom from her co-worker and friend, Sophia. She kept talking as Marissa nodded and headed into the room next door. “I know it’s Friday and you want to get out of here, but my SMART Board stopped working. I’m going to need it first thing on Monday. If I call the Help Desk, they will put it in the queue and it will sit there for days before they send anyone out to look at it.”

“So, since I’ve fixed it before, and I’m right next door, I’m guessing you want me to take a crack at it,” Marissa asked with a grin tugging the corner of her mouth.

“Pretty please, with sugar on top!” Sophia was earnest and cute, with sparkling brown eyes, a petite frame, and a general sense of fun and goodness.  Marissa didn’t even have to think about it; she knew she would cave.

“Okay, fine. But you owe me.”

“Just add it to my tab for all the other electronic and tech stuff you have fixed, programmed, and set up for me,” Sophia said mischievously.

“You know, one of these days I’m going to collect on your tab,” Marissa began as she walked around Sophia’s desk to check all the cable connections on the wall.  She started to say more, but a sharp, stabbing pain in her back as she bent slightly to check the connections made her gasp out loud and grab the side of Sophia’s desk for support.

“Mija! Are you okay? You’re white as a sheet!” Sophia asked in concern.

Marissa couldn’t answer at first. It felt like someone was taking a knife and stabbing it right into the center of her spine, then twisting it around her ribs. Sweat popped out on her forehead and upper lip.

As suddenly as the pain came, it left, taking all of her energy with it.

“Marissa! Answer me!”

Marissa took a cautious breath and realized Sophia was talking to her, trying to get her attention.  A face that normally was full of fun was wreathed in concern and a touch of fear.

“I’m sorry, Sophia. I didn’t mean to scare you. Just…. Give me a minute, okay?”  She sat cautiously in the office chair behind the desk and took slow breaths.

“Do I need to call the office for the nurse?”

“No, I’m fine. It’s nothing. I just overreacted to a little twinge. No need to bother Miss Patricia.”

“Little twinge my ass,” Sophia retorted.  Her eyes were snapping with anger now, a darker brown than usual, and her cheeks were starting to flush.  “This is not the first time I’ve seen you have one of these ‘twinges.’ Last week you were walking down the hallway to your room using the wall to prop you up because you could barely stand. Now what in the hell is wrong with you?”

“I don’t know, okay? I’m sure it’s nothing. I don’t see the point in going to the doctor when they’re probably just going to tell me it’s all in my head or I’m too fat like they did a few of years ago.”

Sophia stared hard into Marissa’s gray eyes.  “I’m worried about you.”

“There’s nothing to worry about. I’m sure I’m fine. I’m just probably overreacting. Someone else probably wouldn’t have even noticed a little thing like that.”

“Just promise me you’ll think about going to see a doctor.  A different one this time.  You’re allowed to get a second opinion.”

Marissa mustered up a weak smile for her friend.  “Sure, if it keeps bothering me, I’ll go to the doctor.  A different one than before.”

“Thank you.  Now, go pick up Jack and go home.”

“But your SMART Board still doesn’t work –“

“Don’t worry about it. The kids will live. You’re more important.”

“No, I’m not. But I will admit this week has kicked my ass.  How about I come in and work on it this weekend? I was planning on coming in for a few hours tomorrow and doing some grading anyway.”

Sophia grimaced, considering.  “Only if you feel up to it, and only if you really do decide to grade.  I don’t want you making a special trip. If you decide to stay home and rest, it can wait until Monday morning before school.”

“Deal.”  Marissa slowly stood up and carefully made her way through the swinging door back into her own room.  Sophia watched her with a concerned scowl the whole way.

 

 

Marissa jerked her car to a stop in front of the high school technology lab, wincing as the movement of the car made her spine protest.  She looked down at the clock on her dashboard.  Only 20 minutes late. Considering she was often an hour or more late, she was practically on time today.  She parked in a free space and dialed her son’s number on her cell phone.

It went straight to voicemail.

She huffed and jabbed the disconnect button.  She considered maybe his phone battery died, or he had forgotten to turn it back on after school.  He was supposed to keep it turned off during school hours, except for lunch.

Marissa craned her neck to see if Jack was visible waiting inside either of the glass double doors.  She saw many examples of the male of the species Teenagerus Americanus, but no Jack.

Feeling really tired, irritable, and sore from her earlier spell, she picked up her phone and tried calling him again.

Voicemail again.

Jack was very forgetful, yet prone to hyperfocus on things of interest to him.  He was supposed to stay after school for Cyber Patriot practice – a cybersecurity competition with divisions for elementary, middle school, and high school teams designed to encourage youth to pursue Information Security jobs.  It had been of utmost importance to him all four years of high school.  Jack had been team captain the last two years.  She suspected his phone was off on purpose.

Smiling to herself, she pulled up the contact information for Jack’s best friend, fellow teammate, and Marissa’s “adopted” son, Scot, and hit the call button.

“Hello, Scot, this is Marissa,” she said when he answered.  “Is my wonderful, darling, forgetful son with you?”

Scot laughed. “Yeah.”

“I see. And are there a bunch of your friends with you guys, as well?”

“Yes….”

“So, I need you to give Jack a message for me, and I want you to repeat exactly what I say, exactly how I say it. Can you do that?”

Sensing he was going to enjoy this request, Scot started to snicker.  “Yes…”

“Okay. Tell Jack, ‘Your mommy wommy is outside in the parking lot waiting for her widdle snookums to come out so we can go home and have din-din,’” she said in an extremely annoying baby-talk voice.

Scot started guffawing, but was able to straighten up his voice enough to repeat her message verbatim. In the background, she could hear her son say “Oh my Gawd!” followed by the sounds of a scuffle and the phone line going dead.

Less than a minute later, Jack came charging out of the building, his dirty blonde hair sticking up like he had shoved his hands in it repeatedly in aggravation.  He arrowed straight for her car, threw his backpack in the back, then flopped into the front passenger seat.

“Was that really necessary, Mother?” he steamed.

“I wouldn’t have had to resort to that if you had remembered to turn on your phone,” Marissa replied primly.

“You are so freaking embarrassing sometimes!” he fumed.

“What’s the point of having children if you can’t embarrass them in public?”

“I’m not talking to you anymore.”

Marissa smiled.  “You just did.”

Jack crossed his arms and stared out the window. She could feel the waves of anger coming off of him. It filled the car, making the ten minute drive through the not-great but not-terrible neighborhoods to their home feel like it was taking an eternity.  She rolled her eyes.

“I saw that,” he growled.

“I thought you weren’t talking to me.”

“You know, sometimes I wonder who the adult is in this household,” he snapped at her.

“Oh, honey, so do I,” she laughed as she pulled into their driveway.

Jack jumped out of the car, getting out his own set of keys so he wouldn’t have to wait for Marissa. He moved to the front door.

“Wait! Aren’t you forgetting something?” She pointed at the mailbox.

“Can’t I check the mail later?”

“No, do it now. You are 50 feet from the box. It makes more sense to do it now.”

“Fine.” He stomped the whole way to the mailbox, jerked down the lid, snatched the letters in a fist, and started trudging back to the door.

“Go back and close the lid.”

“Jesu-“

“Now!”

Grumbling the whole way, he did as he was told.  By this time, Marissa had opened the front door and moved toward the kitchen to let the dogs out into the back yard to do their business.  They had been cooped up inside all day and were tripping over themselves to get out in the grass.

“Here,” Jack practically threw the mail at her, then raced upstairs and closed himself in his room.  Soon, Green Day’s “Dookie” album was blasting. “At least he has good taste in music,” Marissa thought to herself.

She stood and watched the four dogs do what was needed then frolic in the grass and sun for a while.  She couldn’t help but laugh when Ziggy, the smallest and oldest (10 lbs and 12 years), didn’t appreciate something George, the second biggest and youngest (65 lbs and 4 years), did and started barking at him.  Although George was six times Ziggy’s size, he still ran in fear when Ziggy started barking and growling at him.  It was just too comical seeing a Staffordshire Terrier running from an old, half-blind Bichon Frise!

As she laughed, she got a smaller pain in her back, reminding her that she needed to sit down and rest before she tried to cook dinner.  Despite her nonchalance in front of Sophia, she was worried and in pain, but also more than half-convinced she was just being a baby.  Her doctors hadn’t taken her seriously, after all.  One had even suggested she was exaggerating to get attention.  In fact, for most of her life, medical professionals had been dismissing her whenever she said she was in pain or sick.  It was second nature for her to doubt herself.

Marissa called the dogs to come in, then moved gingerly over to the couch to sit down.  The dogs assumed their usual positions:  Baby Girl at her feet, Buddy wriggled in between her and the arm of the couch, Ziggy jumped up on the back of the couch behind her head, and George jumped on the ottoman and settled down up against her legs.  Since she had brought with mail with her when she went to sit down, she decided to kill two birds with one stone and examine the day’s offerings.

The first three items would be stuffed in a drawer and left to be thought about another day:  A past due notice from an old medical bill for Jack’s asthma, the new electric bill, and a teacher’s union monthly newsletter.

But the last item made her heart start thumping in her chest.  It was the size and thickness of a greeting card.  Although there was no name in the left corner, and she didn’t recognize the street address, the city and state printed there made her feel like crying.