Pepper’s a spunky survivor still a bit wobbly from her recent chemo treatments, a disappointing past love life, and unsure about the future until the ‘scope shows her something that changes everything. Her kick-butt philosophies and skittish mutt called Glenda send Harold reaching for the pause button, but neither of them can stop events that send them on an adventure they never imagined facing together.
Here’s a scene featuring Pepper:
Ruddy complexions were like skywriting, a girl in high school had told him (Harold) once. The message may appear slowly, but everyone can see it for miles around and remember it for days. “I have to get back to work.” He gathered up his trash and headed for the can. When he turned around, Pepper was standing close, nose to his chin. “Tell Glenda hello.” Before he could go, she grabbed his arm.
“Harry, I really mean it. I am glad I saw…what I saw. Where did you get it again? Could I get one like it, or is that a one-of-a-kind thing?”
He told her about the encounter in the park with the homeless man. “It’s a mystery why he picked me.” He pictured the day of the handoff, the police hurrying the old guy away before he could explain himself. The police responding to his own complaint about the vagrants camping out. She was the first person he shared this with.
“You have been given much responsibility in many areas.” With that, she stood on tiptoe and pecked him on the cheek. “You have been given a gift. Thank you for sharing your magical looking-piece with me.”
“Um. You’re welcome. And thanks.” He demurred, dropping his hand from her grip. “But I don’t believe in magic.”
“A man of science and numbers, I get it.” She tipped her head sideways, considering him. “The mysteries of the universe reveal more than we see with our eyes or hear with our ears. If we slow down and really absorb what it’s trying to teach us, we might be surprised and delighted.” She poked a slender finger at his chest. “I choose to keep my mind open to the possibilities. What about you?”
She yanked off the scarf and dropped it into his lap, climbed up on the bench and began leaping from one bench to the next, her sandals slapping the concrete.
Harold was afraid she would slip and fall, and wondered whether he should first call someone, or check her for ABC’s if she did. But she jumped lightly, a sprite among the forest of potted birds of paradise. Airway, breathing, c…what was the C for?
“I’ve always wanted to do this! Haven’t you?” Where the benches were too far apart, Pepper scissor-kicked to the ground and danced. Harold could breathe as long as she was safely on the ground, her arms aloft, her body swaying. Then she would leap up again, the sun reflecting off bald spots between shags of spirally hair. And she laughed. Not a scary, maniacal sound, but a child-like whiffle that whisked Harold back to the elementary school when Edna Velasquez had tried to jump around the lunchroom but fell and broke her arm when she slipped in pudding. Harold was the only one Edna didn’t pester to sign her cast. Circulation. That was what C stood for.
Pepper collapsed next to him, panting, her caramel skin aglow. She was a china doll with kewpie lips and taffy-pulled earlobes. “That felt good, Harry.” She dabbed at her upper lip with the scarf, a tiny rattle in her breath. “You should dance more. We should all dance more.”
The warmth from her body awoke something in him that had long been dormant. Confused emotions tangled somewhere in his soul, and he met her gaze.
“What makes you dance, Harry? What stirs your soul?”
She’d dared to pull at the thread he’d buried underneath years of proving himself worthy, smart. Sane. “I find satisfaction in my work.”
“And what is that? No, wait. Let me guess. You’re a Pez-head designer. No, a sign spinner for discount plastic surgeons. I could use one of those by the way.”
He knew better than to acknowledge her cosmetic surgery remark. Honest answers to conversations beginning with “Am I pretty enough?” and “I’m thinking of getting work done” had never gone well with Georgia. “I’m a fraud investigator.”
The Kaleidoscope – paperback and e-reader.