Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Smarter Than You Look? Don’t Bet on It!

I read an article recently chastising people who grab a thesaurus to find a four-bit word when a two-bit one will do just fine. (bit: an amount equal to 12 ½ cents) Supposedly, the use of said four-bit word will impress the reader, and often it does—the wrong way! Although, when an author repeatedly uses the same four-and-five letter no-no (for me) words, I usually mutter, “Have you ever heard of a thesaurus?” just before deleting the unfinished book from my Kindle.
But I digress. A thesaurus is a wondrous instrument of word wisdom. I’m not much on writing rules, but the one I do follow in most instances is not using the same word twice in one paragraph—unless, of course, it’s done for emphasis or rhythm.
As a child, I loved words—the bigger the better. One day at lunch, I sought to impress my parents by casually mentioning a man who was a big business raccoon. In unison they stared, choked, and burst out laughing before informing me the word was tycoon. The man in question probably wouldn’t have appreciated being compared to a masked, ring-tailed bandit! It became the family joke, and caution became my watchword.
This week’s topic (loosely speaking) is the Bed and Breakfast or B&B, an alternative to the traditional hotel (hotel: inn, lodging, hostel, hostelry, lodge, hospice, motel, motor inn) See how neatly I worked that in? Aren’t you impressed? You’re not? Well, how about this then? (impress(ed): affected, influenced, swayed, moved, overwhelmed, electrified, bedazzled, overpowered) No? Moving right along then…
Back in the dark ages when I was in school—and all the way through college—the student’s best friends were her dictionary and her thesaurus. Now, of course, it’s all online, but I still prefer the real hardbound volumes. But wherever they are for you, they’re treasures you shouldn’t bury. A variety of good solid words goes a long way to making a book readable. 

And speaking of B&Bs (which we were—loosely), here’s another snippet from The Bogus Biker:

“Yeah, me. Open the door.”
“What are you going to do? Rob me? Ravage me?”
“Neither, but those dudes coming closer just might. Get inside.”
She heard him turn the deadbolt as soon as he closed the door behind them. The lock was purely for code compliance. No one ever locked their doors in Amaryllis, Arkansas, but maybe he didn’t know that—or maybe whatever was going on was more serious than she thought. In the light from the underside of the microwave, she caught sight of the raw, red scrapes on his left arm, but it was the cut above his right eyebrow, dripping blood that ran down his cheek like tears, that spurred her to action. “You’re hurt.”
“You noticed.”
“I was an ER nurse for fifteen years.”
“Well, well, versatile, aren’t we?”
His eyes ranging over her reminded her she wasn’t wearing a robe. She brought her arms up in front of her and said, “I’ll go upstairs and get something to take care of that cut.”
“Do I need to go with you?”
“I won’t call the police.”
“Good.” He dropped into a chair like a punctured balloon and leaned his head in his hands.
Upstairs, Penelope put on a terrycloth robe before gathering first-aid supplies from the bathroom. Tiny hadn’t moved when she got back to the kitchen.
“I could use a drink,” he murmured from behind his hands.
“Sorry, I don’t keep anything stronger than soda.”
She wet some cotton at the sink. “Take off the bandana and let me have a look at that cut.” Once she had the blood stanched, she cleaned the wound with peroxide and said, “It needs stitches. I’m guessing three at least.”
“Too bad. Just patch it up.”
“I can put some butterfly strips on it, but it’ll leave a scar.”
“Just another one for the collection.”
He howled and let out a few expletives when she used antiseptic spray before applying the bandage. “I’ve taken care of toddlers who didn’t complain that much.”
He glared at her, but before he could reply, Jake’s voice came out of the darkness in the hall outside his room. “Everything all right in there, Nellie?”
“Just patching up a skinned knee, Daddy.”
Tiny gave her a look between disgust and loathing.
“Need any help?”
“We’re fine.” She waited until Jake’s footsteps died away before cleaning the abrasions on Tiny’s arm. “When did you last have a tetanus shot?”
“Couple of years ago, I think.”
“Okay. Depending on what you cut your head on, you might want to check and get a booster if necessary. What’s your real name?”
“Tiny’s all you need to know.”
She shrugged. “How’d you get hurt? Your so-called friends out there?”
“You’re not really one of them, are you?”
“You’re too nosy for your own good.”
“So my son Bradley says.”
“He’s a good cop.”
“How do you know?”
“I know stuff.”
She took a canned soda from the refrigerator and poured it over ice. “Here. Want something to eat?”
He shook his head, then touched the bandage and winced. “That hurts.”
“Sorry. You need to keep it clean so it doesn’t get infected.”
“I guess you’d know.” He met her eyes. She had to look away before she melted.  
“I told you—I was a nurse for twenty years. Worked for a couple of doctors and then in an ER over in Little Rock.”
“Why’d you quit?”
“I got tired of commuting. Then after a while I didn’t want to see another mangled body as long as I lived. Like yours will be if you keep riding that ‘cycle without a helmet.”
“Bikers don’t wear helmets. Not this bunch anyway.”
“But you’re not one of them.”
He concentrated on the glass in his hand. “Whatever.”
“What were you doing throwing gravel at my window at 12:26 in the blessed morning? And for that matter, how did you know which window was mine?”
“Your curtains were open.”
She gasped.
“You were decent.” He grinned. “Unfortunately.”
“That’s not something you say to a lady.”
He leered at her.
“What were you doing out there?”
“Staying out of sight.”
“Of what? Or should I ask, of whom?”
“You shouldn’t ask at all.”
“What’s going on at the Sit-n-Swill?”
He ignored her question. “Got any place I can catch some sleep before the sun comes up?”
She nodded. “There’s an empty room.”
He got up from the table. “Thanks for the first aid.”
“Don’t mention it. And if you shower, which I hope you will before you get between the clean sheets, don’t sing and wake up the other guests.”
He almost smiled. “I wouldn’t think of it.”
She showed him the front guestroom. “And no smoking. Tobacco or weed.”
His eyebrows went up. “What do you know about weed?”
“I never smoked it, if that’s what you’re thinking.” She hesitated. “I found some in the wastebasket in the room next to yours. Those two men who stayed here last night…”
He grabbed her arm. “Here? Last night?”
She jerked away from him. “Two of them. They talked a lot like you do when you’re not trying to sound like a biker. The accent, I mean.”
“What did you do with it?”
“Put it in a baggie to give to Bradley tomorrow.”
“Be sure you do it then.” He leaned against the door facing. “What time will your guests be out of the way?”
“They’re going to a family reunion in the park about nine.”
“Then I’ll wait until they’re gone before I leave.”
“That’s not a bad idea. They might wonder what kind of place I keep if you show up at the breakfast table smelling like you do.”
He glared.
“Where’s your bike?”
“Behind your garage. Out of sight.”
“Well, go to bed. In a few hours I’ve got to dress and go downstairs to start breakfast.”
“Sorry I got you up.”
Penelope thought he didn’t sound sorry at all. And she knew she wasn’t.

What Penelope doesn't know now is that "Tiny" is going to become a regular at the B&B--and she'll wonder why she even let him in the back door to begin with! 

Read more in Book #1 of The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series!

And find out more about "Tiny" by clicking on Typed Tales above

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