Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Why I Stalked a Shopper in Hannaford

old-womanwigIt’s near impossible for a writer to go out in public without imagining characters for their next novels.

Once, while waiting at a bank’s drive-up window, I wondered about my teller’s hair–which was really a bad wig. Why would she pick a style from the ’60s? Was she threatened by the aging process? Or had she spurned the whims of fashion?

The drawer slid open with my receipt. I reached over my half-opened, stuck-off-its track window to retrieve it. My arm wasn’t long enough. While I tried not to stare at the woman, character names for her ran through my head: Paula? Nancy? Frances? 

I soon realized I’d have to open my door and half-step out to get my hand inside the drawer. I had one foot in and one foot out. Unfortunately the car was in drive, and the foot that was in was not on the brake.

I grabbed the receipt and hopped alongside my rolling car to the end of building. It came to a stop after it withdrew the bank’s downspout.

 All because of that woman’s hair.

Recently, I was developing a female character. It was important for this character to be recognized by her perfume, which meant researching fragrances. I tested a multitude of brands in department stores. All I came away with was a bunch of stinky samples and a whopping headache.

None of them were right for my character. I needed to simplify my method. I would sniff it out in a more natural habitat.

It worked. I was standing at the deli counter in Hannaford when I smelled the perfect scent: Clementine and cactus flower, bergamot, Hawaiian tuberose, spring honeysuckle, frangipani, musk, exotic woods, and nectarine. [Research, people research!]

I looked around and tried to figure out which woman owned it. The one in the Nike jogging suit? The lady with the kerchief and polyester pants? The one in the beige top and funky straw hat who looked a lot like Minnie Driver?

Minnie DriverI wove my cart in and around them, sniffing as subtly as I could, pretending to check out cheese. I quickly eliminated the kerchiefed woman, who smelled more like salami than the salami she was buying. I tucked her away for another day.

I tailed the other two women until I reached a fork between two aisles. It called for a quick decision. I chose the Minnie lookalike. I tried to get as near to her as I could without drawing attention to myself. I dropped a few items in my cart to throw her off. Each time I got close, I sniffed, surer than ever I was on the right scent.

Even when she skipped aisles and pushed her cart faster, I kept up. I had to have the name of that perfume!

At one point, she gave me a weird look. I wasn’t sure if I’d blown my cover or if she’d looked in my cart. I’d been in the store for forty-five minutes and all I had to show for it was a jar of Gerber strained peas, a box of matches, and a toilet plunger.

Before she called security, I gave up the hunt. I retraced my steps and found the makings for dinner. Rather despondent, I checked out.  All my research had been for nought.

Pushing my cart through the lot, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Loading groceries into the car parked right next to mine was my perfumed lady!

I sprinted toward her, then slowed to a stroll, blocking her only way of escape. I said, “Excuse me, you may have noticed me in the grocery store?”

“Ye-es.” She quickened her pace and scanned the area.

Before I could finish my explanation, she gave up the name of her perfume and took off faster than I could say Tommy Bahama.

Nice woman. Haven’t seen her since.

TB Perfume

 

Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:15 (MSG)

 


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If My Ears Could Talk . . .

women with finger in ear

For at least sixteen years, I’d been using the same medication for an allergy that made my ears itch like crazy. All I did was put a few drops on a cotton swab and run it around the outermost inside of my ear.

When I moved out of state, I had to see a new doctor before I could get a refill. After she checked my ears, our conversation went something like this:

DOCTOR: “Open your mouth wide and say, ‘Ahh’.”

ME: “Ahh.”

DOCTOR, after shining her light and depressing my tongue: “So how many drops do you put in each ear and how often?” She turned away to jot down some notes.

My mind curled into a ball of confusion. Drops? In each ear? For the first time—in SIXTEEN years—I thought about that bottle. It did have that tiny hole at the end of its long neck—just the right shape to put in my ear. I’d never noticed. I went dumb.

When the doctor turned around, she laughed. Not only had I not answered her question, but my mouth was still wide open.

DOCTOR, still laughing: “You’re funny.”

ME, pretending I was doing it on purpose: “Liked that, huh?”

DOCTOR: “So how many drops and how often?”

ME: “Well, depends on what you mean by drops. A couple. Maybe. Not that often. Sometimes. A month or two.” I did not answer well.

DOCTOR, looking at me suspiciously: “You’re not sticking anything smaller than your elbow in your ear, are you?”

ME: “No, if anything, I’m conscientious about warnings.” I just don’t read directions.

DOCTOR: “Good. Here’s your prescription.”

PS: Whaddya know? Putting drops in my ears allows me to use them less often.

Fast forward three years. I’m in my office downstairs in the middle of writing a scene. My ears start to itch, but my drops are all the way upstairs. I look around my desk. A shiny, metal paperclip looks like a promising medical instrument. I half-unfold it and carefully stick the smaller, rounded end into my ear and scratch. “Aaaah.” My itch is relieved and no one is the wiser.

I go to remove the clip, but it hooks on a part of my ear I can’t see. (I can’t see any part of my ear, but you get what I’m saying.) I try again, but fail. I twist, it catches. I reverse the twist, it pinches. I pull, it sticks me.

For a while I just sit there breathing quietly with the paper clip sticking straight out of my ear. If only I can get my ear to relax, I think, the clip will fall out. How do you relax an ear? Listen to Yanni?

The doctor’s words taunt me, “You’re not sticking anything smaller than your elbow in your ear, are you?” I make an ugly face at the memory of her.

I climb the stairs and prepare to humiliate myself in front of my husband—who would never do anything this stupid because he is an engineer who reads and follows all directions.

HUSBAND, when he sees my face: “What’s wrong?”

ME, now crying, not out of pain but embarrassment: “I haa a prclip stck in m er.”

HUSBAND: “What did you say?”

ME: “I said, I HAVE A PAPER CLIP STUCK IN MY EAR!”

HUSBAND, sighing [pfft] like I do this kind of stuff all the time: “Come here. Let me see.” He performs the delicate surgical procedure and removes the offending object. Then he informs me that I pulled so hard I pierced the inside of my ear.

So, whaddya think? Earring or no earring?paper clib earring

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” ~ Isaiah 30:21 (NIV)

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. ~ 2Timothy 4:3-4 (NIV)


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God Didn’t Make Me No Ballerina

3 Great Danes I dont know3How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter! Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of an artist’s hands.~ Song of Solomon 7:1 (NIV)

Graceful. Not a word ever used to describe me. Don’t believe me? I can show you the bruises.

I used to believe my lack of athleticism and coordination could be reversed. One day it hit me. God didn’t make me no ballerina. I’m okay with that. Most of the time. Until I’m in the presence of graceful people—which I was while recently visiting in-laws.

My husband’s sister and her husband [I shall refer to them herewith as “Darleen” and “Peter.”] are gracious hosts and lovely people. (Well, Darleen is lovely, Peter is blessed—and he knows it.)

Now, Darleen and Peter are ballroom dancers. I think they’re the inspiration for the Lladro dancers collection. Okay, not really, but you get the picture.  

Darleen is thin and tall–just over 6 feet. Peter is thin and taller. My husband David is not as thin, but the tallest. I am short and chubby. When all three of them sit on the furniture their feet touch the floor at the same time. My legs stick out straight–unless I sit on the edge of my seat and pretend they’re telling an exciting story.

As a former model, Darleen has perfect posture and walks like she’s floating on wisps of air. No matter how soft I tried to tip-toe, every time I entered a room, the crystal in their cabinets jangled. When Darleen poses for pictures, she angles one leg in front of the other and it looks natural. I tried that once and fell over. Even the way she moves her hands is graceful. She could hand me a used tissue, and I would feel blessed.

So, you can see why I was mortified when this happened. The four of us returned home from lunch out, entering through their garage. I was first to the back door. (What I lack in grace, I attempt to make up in speed.) Unfortunately, I underestimated the height of the step and tripped. Falling in a heap, I landed with a thud on an area rug just inside the door.3 Great Danes I dont know4

It knocked the wind out of me, I tell ya. I couldn’t speak. But I could hear the tall ones conversing: “Where’d she go?” “She fell.” “Is she okay.” “What happened?” “Don’t know.” “I can’t reach her.” “Let me see.” Their mutual height had blocked their view. (I should have seen that as God’s grace at work, but missed it at the time.)

Embarrassed, I laughed it off and tried to get up. Instead, like a clumsy, chubby Pug, I pawed and scrabbled at the rug–which kept slipping and sliding beneath me atop the shiny wood floor.

Question. Is it possible to re-fall when you haven’t gotten up yet? If so—as the trio of sleek, graceful Great Danes looked down from above—I re-fell twice. [Sigh to the 3rd power.]

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Tell me about it. Make me feel better. Please.

PS: Darleen and Peter, thanks for a most memorable trip. 😉 Love you both.

 


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Ego Deflate Gate

brush stuckWords not often used to describe me: Graceful and genius. Am I okay with it? I have to be. I’ve proved it o’er and o’er.

Years ago, while getting ready for a lunch date with some friends, I decided my style could use a boost. I planted myself in front of the bathroom mirror with my new electric styling brush, then grabbed a clump of hair.

At first, while trying to manipulate the brush, I blamed my awkwardness on being left-handed. But after I rolled my hair in the wrong direction, I realized my reflection was the problem—it was not cooperating with my brain.

In an effort to correct my error, I tried to unroll the brush. That was my second mistake. Or was it my third? In either case, now it was rolled so tight it was burning my scalp.  [Ah, some of you have done this, haven’t you?] After a Mississippi minute (on a mid-August day), I was smart enough to unplug it.

The styling tool of the century was stuck in my hair. Stuck good. I tried to untangle it for an hour—okay, maybe it just seemed like an hour—until the strength in my arms gave up.

Stalling for time I didn’t have, I stared at myself, pondering whether the curling brush was actually hanging on the left side of my head or the right. Did it really matter? Denial had set in.

I thought about letting it hang there as an accessory. No, too big. I thought about wearing a hat. Still too big. I thought about telling my friends the truth. Not a chance.

I reached for the scissors and cut.

My friends never said a word–even when I used one hand to eat and the other to hold my comb-over in place.

PS: Stayed tuned. I’ll tell you how I unintentionally pierced the inside of my ear with a paper clip.

“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” ~ 1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG)


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Which Character Would You Like to See in My Next Book?

I’ve been saving some character sketches for my next novel. I need your help. Which one (or ones) of the five characters below do you want to learn more about in my next novel?

1.  USED FOREIGN AUTO DEALER FROM MISSISSIPPI:

Besides having a serious lisp, USED FOREIGN AUTO DEALER has three daughters named Shelby, Solara, and Sienna. And naming his sons Yugo and Yukon was not without its challenges. The name Yugo turned out to be a name-fulfilling prophecy, for even in his adult years the kid wasn’t a self-starter and seldom went the distance. Yukon was more industrious. He patterned his life after Sergeant Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounties from the 1950’s TV series. Yukon patrolled the wilds of Fayette, Mississippi, population 1,604, on his horse Rex with his faithful dog Fayette King, battling both the elements and criminals. He shared a few rooms with Yugo, Rex and King in his father’s basement.

 RCMP and King
2.  BUCKET LIST WOMAN: [In case you’ve been living in a bomb shelter since 1955, a bucket list is a description of the things you want to do before you die.]

The first item on BUCKET LIST WOMAN’S list is to finally try Popeye’s Chicken. The second item is to find a good home for sixty pairs of shoes that never did fit her, most of which had belonged to a dead woman she had never met. Third on the list, win the storage war against her plastic storage containers.

 messy storage
3.  IMPORT DEALER HUNTING FOR A VACATION HOME:

IMPORT DEALER from Lawrence, Massachusetts, looking to buy a vacation home in Columbia, South America close to his suppliers. It has to be near the beach, have an airstrip, and have bullet-proof glass–you know, to eliminate the noise from the airstrip.

 1268236358_top-10-drug-kingpins_flash
4.  EAR CANDLER: 

Within the cosmetology profession, her specialty was ear candling. In what moment in time did EAR CANDLER decide on ear candling as her major? How did this fascination with ears and their wax build-up begin? What was the pivotal moment? And were her parents proud as peacocks?

 shrek
5.  FATALEST PHILATELIST:

Thirty years ago, the FATALEST PHILATELIST could depend on a good stack of envelopes in his mail each day. Rummaging through the post office trash bins had been a lucrative sideline, too. He’d found some of his most precious and valuable stamps at the yard sales of the elderly. However, with the coming of email, his fate was sealed.

Submit your vote and I’ll choose the winner!

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. ~ 1Co 12:12-14 (NIV)

 no email