The full eBook download of my first novel, Life without Harry, will be available Wednesday. Until then, something to whet your appetite …
Life without Harry
by Sara Dobie Bauer
Samantha Elliot was talking on the phone in the car on a Tuesday when she hit a large, white owl in downtown Phoenix. At least she thought it was an owl. They never found the body.
Her agent, Elaine Umbert, was on the other end of the line. Screaming. “Changing Hands Bookstore called me about a promo event once your new book is released. Me. Why would they call me?”
Sam had no idea, other than to say, “Well, you are my agent.”
“Not good enough.”
“Then, I have no idea?”
“Isn’t the owner a friend of yours?”
She used to be, before Sam acquired an anxiety disorder and basically stopped writing; not that her agent knew that. Her agent thought Sam was almost finished with book number two. See, Elaine Umbert was a positive thinker.
“I just need to know: is the book almost finished?”
Sam honked the horn on her 1996 Toyota Camry twice and shouted, “Stay in your own lane!” There was no one in front of her, but she needed a distraction.
“I love her.”
“And can you imagine what would have happened to her if she failed to deliver? What if Harry Potter seven never happened?”
“She would have been burnt at the stake as a witch.”
“Exactly.” Sam heard a telltale inhale-exhale, which meant Elaine was smoking again, somewhere in San Diego. “So just …” she sighed. “Finish the damn thing, and fast.”
“Stephenie Meyer rushed the last Twilight book, and everyone agreed it sucked.”
“You don’t suck, Sam. You can’t suck.”
“Yes. I can.” She turned her car onto Seventh Avenue on the way to her gym and almost rear-ended a handicapped driver, which made her scream and slam on the brakes.
“Sam! What is it?”
“I’m driving in downtown Phoenix at lunch hour. I shouldn’t be on a phone.”
“I’m almost finished. Look, I’ll be there in three weeks, and the manuscript will be done, and we will make an announcement at the literary festival.”
Sam stopped at a red light and refused to say “yes” to any of those things. “Uh … uh …”
A man in a black pickup truck pulled up next to her. He nodded and smiled when he noticed her looking at him, but she was really noticing his obnoxious mariachi music—which gave Sam an idea. She reached for the radio and turned to one of the high-100s. When she found the proper brand of Mexican, she turned up the volume and started to shout.
“Elaine! Some gang-bangers just pulled up next to me. I really need to get off the phone.”
“I think I see a gun!”
“I’ll call you later!” She hung up, wondering if her little act was enough to keep her literary agent distracted at least until tomorrow.
First, Sam turned down the music. Then, when the light turned green, she waved at the guy next to her and kept driving. If she got to the gym, she’d be all right. At the gym, her anxiety went away, beat beneath the soles of her running shoes. At the gym, she didn’t think about the manuscript, behind deadline—the manuscript that sucked, really. She just ran and ran and didn’t wonder if her fifteen minutes were up, because if anything, Samantha Elliot was famous: one of the rare best-selling authors who appeared on the late shows and with her favorite, Jon Stewart. But that was all two years ago.
At the next stoplight, she glanced through her windshield into the clear, blue Arizona sky and realized, huh, the sky was not clear blue. The sky was mostly blue, but a rim of dark clouds poked out between spaces in skyscrapers. As the light turned green, her fingertips returned to the radio to check the possibility of a coming storm in October, but as she did so, someone whispered her name—“Samantha.”
A white blur descended on the car. Sam thought it was all true, what the Bible said. The Rapture was in Phoenix, and an angel was there to take her away. She was mistaken, of course. Instead of some divine being, Sam recognized a round, flat face; big, yellow eyes; and a wide open beak Sam suspected was saying, “Shit,” before an owl crashed into her windshield.
Sam closed her eyes and shouted something like, “Whathfub!”
After the thunderous thwack of the bird’s carcass, her eyes opened and she watched her windshield crack-crack all the way across. She didn’t realize she slammed on the breaks until she got rear-ended, followed soon after by the sound of a million horns.
Sam knew she was supposed to pull her car to the side of the road in the event of an accident, but all she could think was, “Gotta find that bird.” She opened the driver-side door and stepped out. Cars whizzed past on either side. The driver behind her vehicle shook his fist and cussed in Spanish. Sam ignored him and scoured the pavement for a dead, white owl.
But the owl had disappeared.
(See Wednesday’s blog post for full Life without Harry download information!)