An excerpt from
The third book in the Unbidden Magic series...
I bit my lip, but a little yelp of alarm escaped. It was officially time to panic. My panty drawer was empty.
Faye, my mother, was hovering nearby. Actually, she couldn't have been anywhere else but close by, because our home was a twenty-four foot travel trailer? Sigh. Long Story.
She tapped her forehead. "Well, duh, Allie. It is Saturday... laundry day."
Oops. I'd totally forgotten that my reign as queen of the annual Fruit Bowl Festival coincided with Designated Laundry Day. I mean, geez, can you blame me? It's not like I'd had a lot of practice being the queen of anything, much less the biggest deal in Peacock Flats, Washington, population 922.
After a prolonged sigh of disgust, Faye said, "Too late to buy new ones. You'll have to wear mine."
"Eeewww," I said.
"Beggars can't be choosers," Faye said.
I followed Faye down the short hallway to her bedroom. Technically, I guess it could be called a bedroom. It had a bed. What it didn't have was room. Faye and I were squished together between the end of the bed and a wall lined with built-in drawers.
Faye rummaged around in a drawer and pulled out a tiny scrap of nylon, a gift from her former boyfriend, Brain Dead Roy. Skimpy, bright red and two sizes too small for Allie.
"Get real!" I said, trying my best to keep the sneer out of my voice. "Like I'd wear something your boyfriend gave you for Valentine Day."
Faye rolled her eyes and muttered, "Ex boyfriend. This is my last clean pair. I can't help it if you don't plan ahead."
"Well, I'm not wearing those. They're too small."
"Fine," Faye snapped. "Wear dirty ones."
"I can't," I wailed. "I'm the queen!"
"For Pete's sake, Allie, it's not like anyone can see them under that."
That was a voluminous plum-colored gown spread out on her bed.
I sighed in defeat. She was right, of course, but I didn't have to like it.
An hour later, I was combed, curried, brushed and fluffed like a prize pony. Faye had even tamed my wildly curly hair, spraying, spritzing and coaxing it into a sleek up-do. I was a real work of art, clear down to my shiny pink toenails. My only accessory was the moonstone, which now hung from a beautiful sterling silver chain, a gift from my friend and mentor in all things magic, Kizzy Lovell.
Before we left for the parade staging area (the parking lot of Fred's Seed and Feed) I reached under my gown and gave Faye's panties a vicious tug, ordering, "Stay put!"
Faye dropped me off next to the John J. Peacock High School marching band, all twelve of them, and wished me luck.
Strangely, the crowd milling around was silent. All eyes were on Arthur "Mort" Mortenson, owner of Mort's Pizzeria and current mayor of Peacock Flats, who was engaged in verbal combat with Kay Elizabeth Peacock-Tuman. Ms. Peacock-Tuman, the last living relative of John J., had flown in from the east coast to act as grand marshal for our annual celebration.
I sidled up nice and close, so I wouldn't miss any of the juicy details.
"Sasha rides with me," said Ms. Kay Elizabeth Peacock-Tuman. Her eyes narrowed ominously as she stared at Mayor Mort.
The mayor's brows drew together in a ferocious frown. He scratched his head, releasing a dandruff storm that looked suspiciously like the parmesan cheese he sprinkled on his pizza. I shrank back to avoid the fallout, vowing to never again darken the door of Mort's Pizzeria.
Mort glared at the object of his displeasure. Sasha, a yellow Labrador retriever, leaned against Ms. Peacock-Tuman, gazing up at her mistress with adoring brown eyes. Ms. P-T patted the dog's head and gave her a reassuring smile.
Mayor Mort hemmed and hawed while he pondered the problem. I could almost see the cogs and wheels turning inside his head. It was painful to watch. When his gaze fell upon Mr. Peacock-Tuman, who was clutching an umbrella and gazing anxiously at the sky, the mayor's face lit up like a kid with a brand new skate board.
He pointed at a long, pink Cadillac convertible, the lead car in the parade. "Ya see, Miz Peacock-Tuman, this here's the way we always do it. Front seat: the driver, Captain McPherson, and the grand marshal - that's you. Back seat: our queen, Allie Emerson and one other person... er... passenger. Are you telling me you want that mutt in the car instead of your husband?"
Ms. P-T drew herself up and glared. "Did you say mutt?" Her voice rose to an indignant shriek. I was pretty sure wine glasses were breaking somewhere.
"I'll have you know, Mayor, Sasha is not a mutt. She is a pedigreed British Labrador Retriever." Her expression clearly said the dog's pedigree was far superior to Mayor Mort's. She folded her arms. "This discussion is over. Sasha rides with me. My husband doesn't mind, so why should you?"
She spun around, led Sasha to the Cadillac and loaded her into the back seat. The car belonged to eighty-eight-year-old Captain Joshua P. McPherson, retired naval officer. Vintage 1961, the Caddy was driven only once a year in the Fruit Bowl parade. Captain McPherson loved to bark out commands like, "Heave to, sailor. Look smart, now."
Whatever that meant.
I glanced over at my mother. Faye was talking to Mr. Hostetler, the principal of John J. Peacock High School and chairman of the Fruit Bowl Festival. Last year, we'd had a hostage situation at school. Mr. Hostetler had convinced the festival committee I'd acted heroically that awful day and deserved to be queen despite my amazing lack of talent. In my mind, he was the real hero. Even though he was seriously injured, his actions saved many lives.
"Queen Allie!" Ms. Peacock-Tuman called. "Time to get the show on the road."
I waved at my mother. She blew me a kiss, mouthed, "Smile pretty," and scurried away. Her plan was to see me off, then drive to the rodeo grounds where the floats would be judged. One of my duties was to hand out ribbons to the winners.
As obedient as Sasha, I trotted to the car, taking care not to trip over my big dress.
Admiral McPherson was behind the wheel, revving the motor. He glanced over at me and said, "Step lively, mate."
Ms. Peacock-Tuman pulled the front seat forward so I could climb in. I scrambled over the dog--not an easy task since she was sprawled across the entire back seat-- and perched on the trunk as per my instructions. It was tradition. The queen always rode in the pink Cadillac and waved to the crowd. I fluffed my skirt and tried to figure out where to put my feet. I couldn't just teeter on my butt or I'd fall out of the car for sure. Finally, I placed my pointy heels gingerly on Sasha who was now concealed under yards and yard of plum-colored taffeta.
She gave a loud snort and reared up to a sitting position. Her head popped out from under my dress. Ms. Peacock-Tuman looked over her shoulder and smiled. "Oh, isn't that just adorable!"
I knew she wasn't talking about me since it looked like I'd just given birth to a giant yellow dog.
I forced a chuckle, "Yep, we're adorable all right. Sasha and me."
I'd just managed to straddle Sasha and plant my feet on either side of her when Captain McPherson shouted, "All hands on deck! Time to cast off!" and stomped on the gas pedal. The big car leaped forward. My head snapped back. Instinctively, I threw my arms around the dog who picked that exact moment to stand up. Therefore, I began my reign as queen of the Fruit Bowl festival sprawled across the back of a ninety-five pound Labrador retriever.
The sudden movement resulted in Faye's panties creeping into brand new territory. I desperately wanted to give them a yank, but, come on, I was the queen! How would that look?
As we traveled the parade route, Sasha and I fought a silent battle for territory. I made sure Ms. Peacock-Tuman was waving at the crowd and throwing candy before I gave Sasha a hefty shove and planted my feet on the seat. She immediately flopped back down. It took two more shoving matches to convince her I meant business. Finally, whiskers quivering with indignation, she heaved a huge put-upon sigh and turned her back to me. Her thick, yellow tail lay across my lap. I could live with that.
We circled the parade route twice (it was only five blocks) and headed for the rodeo grounds, followed by the float carrying the rest of the royal court, Princess Peach, Princess Apple Blossom and Little Miss Maraschino Cherry who happened to be Tiffany, the daughter of my Uncle Sid and Aunt Sandra. To set the record straight, we're step-relatives.
It's complicated. Uncle Sid's mother married Faye's father. Uncle Sid is Faye's stepbrother... no blood relation. He married rich; a fact Aunt Sandra will not let him forget. Aunt Sandra doesn't like Faye and me. She'd like to kick us off their property, trailer and all, but since the big write-up in the paper about my role in the school incident, she'd had a change of heart. Suddenly, she was all, "Oh, Allie! We're so proud of you!"
What a phony!
Tiffany was junior princess by default. If I had an amazing lack of talent, Tiffany was even worse. Evil tempered, spoiled and lazy, her only claim to fame was that her mother sold more tickets to the festival than any other human being in Peacock Flats. In an effort to be queenly and benevolent, I turned around and waved at her. She flipped me off. I blew her a kiss.
As we entered the rodeo grounds, I noticed the leaves on the poplars lining the field had begun to flutter in the breeze. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least the parade was over without a wind storm. At least, that's what I thought. Later, I would come to realize how two wildly different events converged to create the perfect storm of humiliation.
The first event happened last night... Friday. We'd had what the oldsters called "a hot spell." The hotter it got, the grouchier people became. Tempers flared as the humidity rose. Huge thunder heads piled up over the Cascade Mountains to the west.
I worked at my Uncle Sid's fruit stand during the summer. Every old geezer buying peaches said the same thing. "Is it hot enough for you?"
I had to bite my tongue to keep from screaming, "Hell, no! I want to be even more hot and sweaty!"
The storm hit when my shift was over. As I walked through my uncle's yard to our trailer, where it was parked next to the pasture, the skies opened up. Thunder and lightning rolled over the mountains and rain drops the size of pennies bounced off the dusty ground. I wasn't worried about the rain. The storm would blow over by morning. But, I was worried about the wind. In our valley, wind always follows rain. Always.
The second event? The aforementioned empty panty drawer.
Blissfully unaware I was about to make history, I scanned the packed grandstand until I spotted Faye and Kizzy. Beck Bradford, my hunky half-demon boyfriend, sat next to Kizzy. I stood and waved as the crowd cheered and clapped. I was so wrapped up in the moment, I barely noticed the dust devil whirling down the track. That teensy lapse of awareness would lead to the most embarrassing moment in my life.
Go to the Moon Spun page