by Jemi Fraser
Just Jemi Books
Myla Esperanza grinned as Jar Jar led the teeny Elva Cunningham-Spears out of the vet’s examination room. The large Doberman moved with quiet dignity despite the name. Chewbacca the Pomeranian and Leia the Golden Lab trotted along behind. The elderly woman even sported a Star Wars t-shirt. A serious fan.
“Dr. Reeves tells me this is your last day, Myla. We’re going to miss you.”
Myla smiled. “Thank you, but you’ll be glad to have Heather back.”
The octogenarian sighed. “True. The pups have taken to you, though. We’ll miss you and the stories of all of your adventures.”
“I’m sure Heather will fill you in with tales of her new baby.”
Elva smiled. “She sure will. There’s nothing like a new baby to send one into spirals of panic. I don’t miss that part, but there is nothing quite as enticing as new baby smell.”
Myla nodded although she had no point of reference for babies. Even her own babyhood had been as far from normal as you could possibly get.
“If you decide to write a book about your adventures, let me know. I’ll be your first customer. You’ve got an amazing knack for story-telling.”
Myla flushed. “That might be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”
Elva waved that off. “I’m sure your family tells you that all the time.”
Myla wouldn’t know anything about that either, but that wasn’t something she was willing to share.
For the rest of the day, Elva’s words tickled her brain. In the past few years, she’d worked across the country, trying out a variety of temporary jobs for a nation-wide agency in hopes of finding her passion and her place.
So far, no luck.
While she enjoyed working with the veterinary team, the animals, and clients, office work didn’t fill her with joy. And she wanted joy.
Unless she wasn’t capable of joy.
Myla shook her head at her inner thought. She was capable. And she was going to prove it.
Maybe Elva was onto something. Her blog was fun, but she hadn’t thought seriously about writing as a career.
Maybe she’d find the answers in her next temp job.
She’d talk to the people at the temp agency and see if they ever had writing jobs. And if not, maybe she’d find the answers to her career questions in her next temp job.
Clumsy Girl’s Walk In The Park
On the lookout for the perfect job, I decided to take a stint as a dog walker for a week.
How hard could it be? I love dogs. I walk pretty well. Seemed like a perfect fit. I couldn’t possibly fail at dog walking…
Don’t keep snacks in the pockets of your pants. Not the front or the back. Neither ends well.
The dogs attempt to steal them and the wet spots on your pants will earn you some really odd glances and weird conversations.
Some dogs have a route they are determined to take. No matter what.
Giant puddle? No problem. We’ll splash on through the middle of it.
Construction blockading the street? We want to go that way anyway. And we won’t change our minds. And we’ll whine the entire time we’re being coerced in another direction.
If we can be coerced.
Great Danes cannot be coerced.
Traffic accident with ambulance and police cars blocking the intersection? We’ll try to walk right on through. We might even try to knock over the stretcher. We might succeed.
There is nothing quite so enticing to a dog as rolling in some other dog’s poop.
(Pick up after your dogs, people!)
Random strangers don’t appreciate friendly Bull Mastiffs who just want to sniff their butts.
Park benches are not suitable for dog walkers.
Apparently dog walkers do not rest for a very good reason.
Tangled leashes, ripped jeans, and paw prints all over my shirt.
Anyone know how to remove the smell of skunk from my hair?
Myla stared at the screen while her finger hovered over the key.
What was the worst that could happen?
A big fat no that would take yet another slice of her heart with it.
She’d promised herself she’d never be a coward.
After hovering over the keyboard for a full minute, Myla decided to do her stretches. The routine activity would help her think.
To keep her withered leg strong and her gait limp-free, Myla had to stretch it out both morning and evening. And sometimes afternoons. She’d been doing the stretches her whole life and the routine always soothed her.
Send or not?
Be a coward or take a risk?
Listen to Elva from Mississippi or forget the idea?
She’d read enough about the odds to know that getting any kind of writing job was difficult. But she couldn’t get a yes if she didn’t send the article.
Who was she to believe anyone would want to read her adventures?
Her Clumsy Girl blog was fun and anonymous. If she sent in the article to the magazine, it was with her real name. Which meant any rejection was all hers.
Coward, coward, coward.
Myla sat back at the laptop and read through the cover letter and the article one more time.
No embarrassing typos.
A solid article on the experience of hiking the trails for a newcomer to Colorado. She thought she’d achieved a good balance between talking about the beauty of the area and how to approach it safely from someone with limited hiking experience.
From her research, she’d read plenty of articles from the experts, and she hoped her approach brought something new.
Before she could waffle anymore, Myla clicked on Send.
Her heart raced and she just stared at the screen for a few minutes before closing the laptop and grabbing her bag.
Leaving the motel room behind, she patted Freddy on the hood than climbed in. “I did it, Freddy. I sent it. And I didn’t even throw up.”
Her neon green car didn’t respond, but she was used to that.
Clumsy Girl’s Fall Dance
When Mother Nature puts on her finery, I just have to accept her invitation to the ball.
Her ballroom is glorious.
Reds, yellows, oranges, browns, greens.
So many hues, so many shades.
The slightest wind sets them to dancing.
Bird song provides the music and the floor is covered in dancers who’ve drifted down from the heights.
In the mountains, the ballroom extends forever. The blue overhead is glorious, so blue it almost hurts.
Around every corner, new steps to see and learn.
Stately birches bow to sturdy firs.
Strong spruce step in time with the fiery aspens.
The maples show off their fancy dress to anyone and everyone. Who needs a dance partner when you look this good?
The trails and the dance lead me higher and deeper, my camera working overtime.
Suddenly the dancers part, leaving me a view of ballroom after ballroom of glory, filling my greedy eyes with their beauty.
Snap, snap, snap went the camera.
Turn here, look there, how about overhead?
Stretch a little further for the best pic of all.
My shriek silences the birdsong as I tumble over the edge of a ridge.
(You didn’t really think we were going to have an adventure without at least one mishap, did you?)
Crash, bang, and thump.
As different a contrast to the graceful dancers as it is possible to be.
Nothing broken, except my pride.
Lots of bruises and scrapes and still a ridge to climb to return to the path. Thankfully some of the dancers were also climbers and offered hands to hold as I regained the trail.
(We won’t talk about how long that took.)
But the sun was low and the dancers weary.
As was their clumsy guest.
When I left the ballroom, the moon and stars were sharing a new view of the dance.
One I left for another day.
Myla arrived for her lunch shift at Hammy’s House of Breakfast five minutes early. It was her third shift, and a lot of the reason she’d had to work so hard on her leg stretches for the last two days. Waitressing was not for the weak of mind or body.
Especially on Hammy’s Half-Price Breakfast day.
Myla smiled at Hammy as she pulled on her apron. “What smells so good today? I wasn’t sure anything could top your breakfasts from yesterday.”
Hammy’s craggy face broke into a wide grin. “You ain’t seen nothing yet, lassie. Every day is better when I’m cooking.”
Ayisha placed an order on the counter and grinned. “Confidence has never been an issue for our Hammy.”
“And that’s why you love me, lass.”
Ayisha blew the older man a kiss then turned to Myla. “Today is mac ’n’ cheese day.”
Ayisha rolled her eyes then snapped a salute. “Correction. Today is Hammy’s Famous Mac ’n’ Cheese with a side of Hammy’s Totally Terrific Tomato Soup Day.”
“You love it, old man.”
Myla grinned. The two couldn’t have been more different, even their ages were at least forty years apart but their friendship was firm.
“Hope you brought your A-Game, Myla. You’re going to need it.”
When the last of the lunch rush—the over-three-hour lunch rush—left and the tables were wiped down for the early dinner crowd, Myla and Ayisha flopped into chairs at the small table in the kitchen.
“I hadn’t thought anything could top half-price breakfast.”
Ayisha grunted out a laugh as she stretched her long arms. “Just be glad you have tomorrow off. It’s pierogis and cabbage rolls.”
Myla looked over at Hammy with his Scottish brogue and grizzled features. “Pierogis and cabbage rolls?”
Hammy walked over with two plates full of mac ’n’ cheese. He plunked them down in front of them. “All good cooking has its basis in Scottish cooking.”
Myla’s laugh turned into a groan of pleasure as she tasted the dish. So good.
Hammy joined them at the table with his own dish. “What have you planned for your day off tomorrow? You’re only in Colorado for a few weeks, what are you going to see?”
“I’m thinking zip-lining might be fun. I’ve never done that before.”
By the time she left, her phone was filled with the best places to zip and who to speak with to get the best deals.
She couldn’t wait.
Clumsy Girl Zips Along
Sounds like a fun, safe adventure, right?
Well, the blog is titled Clumsy Girl for a reason.
After two, okay three, wrong turns, I finally arrived at the base camp with no time to spare, not even time for a bathroom break.
I snagged the last seat on the all-terrain vehicle heading up the hill.
As everyone knows, the last seat left is always the worst seat.
Bouncy, bounce, bounce, bounce.
Every rock on the path vibrated its way through the tires, up through the frame, gaining momentum and landing right in my bladder.
My full bladder.
My full vibrating bladder.
For the entire thirty-seven minute trip up the hill.
Thirty-seven vibrating minutes.
While the rest of the group headed to the trail that led to the platform I asked the driver where the bathrooms were. He pointed down the trail. “Back at the base. They’re supposed to warn you before you head up here.”
Apparently, it pays to be on time.
Knowing my poor bladder didn’t have a chance of surviving a zip down the mountain, I headed into the bush and found a thick copse of spruce trees to hide myself from prying human eyes.
But not squirrels. Did you know that squirrels can leap like the Wicked Witch of the West’s flying monkeys on a mission to scoop up Toto?
Guess who was Toto.
After I picked myself up, pulled my clothes together, and brushed off the twigs and leaves, I sprinted around the trees to catch up with the group.
I found out humans aren’t the only ones who need to use the forest for matters of personal hygiene.
My foot slid in a huge pile of what I can only assume was bear poop.
Thanks to those water-skiing lessons last summer, and some sturdy spruce branches, I managed to keep the damage limited to one shoe.
My cute neon green sneakers that match my car.
Well, one sneaker that matches the car. One that matches what a bear does in the woods.
So that was my day.
Oh, the zip-lining?
That was awesome. Highly recommended.
Just use the bathroom first!
“Who’s the guy?”
Myla looked up from her phone to find Ayisha trying to peek over her shoulder. “What guy?”
“The guy you’re texting. You’ve been checking that phone every chance you get. Gotta be a guy. Is he hot?”
Myla laughed but didn’t tell her friend that she’d been checking for a response on her article. “There’s no guy.”
Ayisha raised one eyebrow and shot her a disbelieving look. “He’s a secret?”
Myla laughed again. “Seriously, there’s no guy. I’m never in one place long enough for there to be a guy.”
And she wasn’t quite brave enough to stay in one place long enough to find one.
“Girl, are you oblivious?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Blue suit, striped tie, gold cufflinks? He’d be that guy for you in a heartbeat.”
Myla remembered the man from her last shift. Gorgeous. And so far out of her league.
“Or construction dude. With the curly hair. And those biceps. He was looking at you like you could be dessert.”
Myla waved that away. “Not a chance he was looking at me. Plus I’m only here for a few weeks.”
Ayisha’s laugh filled the room. “Oh, girl, you can get a whole lot of dessert in a few weeks.”
Myla laughed and her face flushed. Hammy hollered from the kitchen, saving her from the conversation.
Maybe that was the way to do it. Maybe she should try it out with a random guy just before she left town. That way she’d know what it was all about and she could leave before the rejection set in.
Something to think about.
Clumsy Girl’s Waving At You
From a river.
From a raft on the swiftly moving river.
From the water, too.
I have to start by saying this: Listen to your guides. Every single time. Every single piece of advice. Every hint or innuendo.
All of it.
Especially, “Keep all property on your person at all times.”
I thought she meant while we were on the raft.
Turns out some of the wildlife has a penchant for theft.
One beaver in particular.
One second, my pink ball cap with the polka dots sat on the log beside me. The next, it was clutched in the furry thief’s teeth as he scurried to the water.
I chased the scoundrel into the river hoping he would drop the hat, it really didn’t match the decor of his dam. FYI, those teeth are scary close up! However, my wading skills were no match for the furry little guy.
And the slap of the tail to the water that soaked me to the skin? That was just showing off.
Keep all property on your person at all times.
I’d learned my lesson. My poor hat was gone, but everything else was locked down in my backpack.
Well, my sunglasses stayed on my face.
I’d bought them at a thrift shop. Gorgeous cat-eye shaped lenses. Rims and arms covered with rhinestones. A look that Sophia Loren would have totally rocked.
Apparently some of the birdlife in Colorado wanted to rock the look as well.
When we stopped on the bank after the afternoon run, I kept my pack beside me with my foot on the strap. The sunset was spectacular so I shoved my glasses to the top of my head and focused my camera on the sun.
The shriek of one of my fellow rafters didn’t come soon enough.
Just as the oranges and pinks were morphing to deep rose and purple, claws landed in my hair. My frizzy, never-to-be-tamed hair.
I yelled and swatted and screamed and danced but those talons dug deeper and deeper. And then the bird started pecking at my hands and head.
The screaming and swatting continued.
One of the guides took my hands and got me to stand still while the other tried to remove the bird from my hair.
Let me repeat. Remove the bird from my hair.
That went as well as could be expected. Somewhere in the mountains a bird is building a nest with my hair and rocking the Loren look.
So if you venture into the mountains of Colorado, watch for the wildlife and listen to your guides.
P.S. The rafting was fabulous. Highly recommended.
When another waitress sprained her ankle, Myla took over extra shifts at Hammy’s.
Her leg hated her but her bank account approved. The leaves were gorgeous but beginning to fall. Only another week and she’d be on the road.
South. Well before snow arrived. She had no intention of experiencing the white stuff. Give her the heat any day.
“So, what adventure are you going on for your last day off?”
Both Hammy and Ayisha stopped in the cleanup to wait for her answer. They’d become invested in her adventures. They’d probably enjoy her Clumsy Girl blog, but she wanted that to remain anonymous.
She was always anonymous.
She ignored the little voice in her head that said she was always lonely too.
“I haven’t decided yet. Any suggestions?”
“No more hiking. Your poor leg wouldn’t like that after all of the extra shifts you’ve been working.”
Everything in Myla froze for a few seconds until she could control her reaction. They’d noticed her weakness. She’d worked so hard to keep it hidden. To appear normal.
Once again it looked like normal was out of reach. At least she only had a few days left. She could avoid the questions for that long.
“That probably rules out Mesa Verde. Too bad. It’s stunning and you could take great pictures.”
“You should head to the hot springs. They’re relaxing.”
They threw out more suggestions and Myla listened as the ideas turned away from the adventures she craved and towards the tamer side of life.
She didn’t want tame. She could do the tough stuff. Hadn’t she proven it time and time again?
But these people she’d considered friends didn’t think she could do it.
Exactly why she remained anonymous.
Clumsy Girl Turns Red
Red rocks sticking out of the ground. Look like clay.
It’s anything but. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
Red rocks rise from the ground. Layers of enormous rocks.
As if a giant has been trapped below for millennia, shoving from the earth’s core. Pounding his fists upwards, trying to reach the sky.
Trying to reach the air to breathe.
And he did.
Pushing the rocks to the sides as he exploded up and out.
Then the giant toppled one rock to rest and contemplate.
Where to go next?
With each departing step, the earth trembled, the rocks shifted. Until the steps were only echoes and the land settled into peace.
Where the giant had erupted, man eventually arrived and discovered not only the beauty of sight but the beauty of sound.
For where the rocks tumbled has created a natural bowl with sublime acoustics.
Seventy rows of seats. Not a bad seat to be had.
Now for my best Clumsy Girl tip.
Keep your eyes on the steps instead of the landscape.
Myla sank into the chair at the kitchen table and sighed. Today’s final shift had only confirmed that waitressing was not her passion. Another job to cross off the list of potential careers.
Her leg ached. Biking the trails at the Mesa Verde the previous day had been a lot of fun, but she was paying for it. Especially that topple from the top of those seventy steps.
Myla flinched and looked up to find Ayisha coming out of the walk-in fridge with a cake. Hammy brought over plates and forks.
“We’re going to miss you, Myla. Wish you could stay on.”
Hammy nodded. “You’ve picked up the job in no time. Friendly and efficient. The customers love you.”
“You sure don’t let that leg of yours slow you down.”
Myla’s smile wavered but she managed to keep it in place. Maybe one of these days, she’d make it to normal.
“Where are you off to next?”
Myla forced herself to relax and enjoy her last minutes with these people. They weren’t going to pry. She wouldn’t let them. “I’m heading down to Texas.”
“What kind of job this time?”
“I’m going to be a companion for a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s while her son and daughter-in-law are on a cruise.”
That turned the conversation and she enjoyed the company along with a slice of Hammy’s World Famous Tiramisu.
She was going to miss them.
Two hours later, Myla’s phone binged with the sound for an email. She pulled Freddy into the next rest stop to check it out. She didn’t get a lot of emails unless she was negotiating for her next job through the temp agency.
A quick look showed it was from the magazine. “This is it, Freddy. Was it a dumb impulse?”
She took an extra minute to stop her finger shaking and then opened the email.
Dear Ms. Esperanza,
Thank you for your interest in our magazine. Unfortunately, we have several articles similar to yours in our upcoming issues.
Your writing style is a good fit for our magazine and we would be happy to look at any other work.
Myla read the short message four times before she believed it.
“It didn’t suck, Freddy.” She patted the steering wheel and read it again.
“Your writing style is a good fit for our magazine. A good fit. Did you hear that, Freddy? I’m a good fit.”
Myla didn’t think she’d ever been a good fit before. With anyone or anything. But she was a good fit for an adventure magazine.
A good fit.
Maybe she could do an article on one of the other outings she’d done in Colorado. Or maybe something waiting for her in Texas.
“Okay, Freddy. Let’s go. Our next adventure’s waiting.”
Copyright @ 2020 Jemi Fraser
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