Chris A. MacKinnon

Author of "The Shoeman Curse" …coming July, 2017!

The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Can’t Get Home Fast Enough

At this point, I’m wondering if I’m the only person who finds it weird that I had to go through this ordeal to find an Enterprise car depot, but all seems well to the staff who are standing outside as if they are expecting me to arrive. They are all smiles as I pull up to the curb. As I get out, I notice I’m sweating a bit…I think my body is more anxious than my brain, which is still telling me I have time to make the flight.

“Hello, sir, welcome to Enterprise. How was your drive?” the young male attendant says. He looks like he’s about 12 years old.

“Fine, thanks,” I say…it’s all I’ve got. “Why are there no signs to tell me where this depot is? I’m running late and thought it would be with all the other rental car companies?”

He actually giggles and says, “Yeah, sir, a lot of people ask me that.” And then he starts walking around the car and checking things off on his list. “Looks great sir, have a great day.”

He looks smart and friendly enough but I’m seriously questioning his common sense.

“How do I get to the airport from here?” I ask.

“Oh sure, sir, you just go around the other side of the building and wait for the airport shuttle.”

“Wait? I don’t have time to wait.” At this point, I have about 30 minutes before the aircraft boards. “Can someone from here drive me? I’m late for my flight.”

“Oh no, sorry sir, you’ll have to wait for the shuttle, we’re not allowed to do that.”

Now I am convinced this is The Shoeman Curse in full effect. “How long before the shuttle arrives?” I ask.

“It usually comes every 15 minutes or so, sir.”

“Listen, I’ve got twenty dollars cash for you if you can get someone to drive me.”

He looks at the money, looks around, and says, “Gee, sir, I don’t know.”

“What would make you know?” I ask. “I’ve gotta get there now. I have to go through security still.” I reach into my wallet and pull out another twenty. “Here, take it, please.”

“Okay, sir, give me a minute.” He runs in the building, runs back out, and says, “Okay, follow me.”

He leads me to the back of the building and we jump in a nice canary-yellow, convertible Ford Mustang. He drives faster than anyone I’ve ever driven with and I wonder if I’ll get to the terminal alive.

“What airline?” he yells.

I can hardly hear him with the wind. “What?”

“Who are you flying with?”

“Oh, Delta,” I reply.

He kicks it into a higher gear and we’re almost flying as fast as an airplane. Why don’t we just go all the way home like this? Seconds later, he drops me off at Terminal 3. I jump out, grab my bags out of the back seat, and run into the terminal.

There are a crap-ton of people, and I see lineups everywhere. I spot an attendant, who’s about three feet tall, and she’s wearing a bright red jacket that says, “Ask me for help – I know everything”. So, I run up to her and say, “Hey, can you take a look at my ticket and tell me where I need to be, my plane’s going to leave without me.”

“Why, yes I can, sir, I’d be pleased to assist you today,” she says. I swear to god that felt like it took her three years to say.

“Thanks.”

She’s looking at the ticket and I’m ready to run in any direction she points.

“Oh sir,” she says, still looking at the ticket.

“What? What’s that?” I ask.

“You’re flying Delta, but Delta moved to Terminal 5. ‘They over there now. You in the wrong Terminal.”

The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Shooting Stars

I walk down the driveway and sit on the curb to wait for Stella. As I look up at the sky, I can see two stars starting to pierce what’s left of the sun’s glow. Then I witness a shooting star fly almost as far as the eastern sky is from the west. Shooting stars always amaze me, but this one was almost bionic…faster, stronger, bigger. So I decide to make a wish out loud. “I wish…I wish that life were easier. I wish that things weren’t so hard all the time. I wish this bloody curse would lift already, so I can get just on with enjoying life. You know what, star? I also wish I knew what the hell to write next about Janet. I wish things would fall into place in her life, too. Then my book would have relevance and direction, and maybe, just maybe, someday, tons of people would read it. Well, stars…maybe that’s all too much to ask for.”

“What’s too much, hun?” Stella asks, as she approaches me on the curbside.

I pause for a minute and decide to play the love card instead of the pity card. As I stand up and put my arm around her, I say, “You’re too much, my love.”

“Oh, am I now?” she asks, wanting to believe me.

“You really are, you know,” I reply.

I’ll worry about real life tomorrow. Tonight, I’ll just enjoy my wife and maybe a butter pecan ice cream, too.

The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Caught in the Act

“Do you know how to start a barbecue?” she asks. “Brittany’s trying to light it now, but it just keeps clicking or something.”

“Yeah, sure. It could be out of propane,” I say.

“I guess so. I don’t know much about barbecues,” she replies.

I’d wager she doesn’t know much about much. “Ah, they’re pretty straightforward, let’s give it a whirl.”

She jumps up as if to get ahead of me. “That’s the spirit, Dusty.” She walks in front of me, intentionally wiggling her behind, as if to give an old fella a treat for helping her out. Not my cup of tea, I just try to look at everything else. “Hey, girl, this is Dusty,” she says to Brittany.

“Oh, hey.” Brittany says excitedly.

For god’s sake, a long-haired, tanned blond in a skimpy red bikini with white edges? This can’t get any worse.

“Oh, ha,” I say awkwardly. “Did you happen to check the tank?” Did I really just say, “Oh, ha?”

“C’mon, seriously?” Brittany replies. “Do I look like a tank-checker? That’s sooo cute,” she says, in true California Valley girl fashion.

What’s with this girl?

“Can you just get it going for us mister Dusty, sir?” she says pouting and batting her eyelashes.

“Well, let’s see,” I say, grabbing the tank. “You can tell, first, by the weight of the tank. This one feels like it’s border line. So if you shake it from side to side, you can tell there’s propane in it. This one’s got a little left. What did you girls do to try and start the barbecue?”

Brittany looks at me and starts moving her hips from side to side and says, “I moved from side to side like this, Dusty.” She’s obviously had some alcohol or she’s just very confident in her hips. “Am I doing it wrong?”

“Uh…no…uh…yes, if you are trying to light the barbecue,” I say with a nervous chuckle.

“Are you nervous, Dusty?” Summer said. She walked closer to me. “There’s no need to be nervous with us. We don’t bite.”

“On the first date, anyway,” Brittany adds with a grin and a wink toward Summer.

“I see, yeah that’s interesting,” I say. God I’m as flustered as I don’t know what.

“We’re totally playing with you, don’t worry, we’re just having some Friday night fun,” Summer says with a smile.

“Yeah, no, that’s…I get it. Let me try to light this puppy,” I say as I start turning knobs. My god there’s a thousand knobs. Apparently Landon’s barbecue is not your run of the mill family barbecue. It’s some fancy multi-level catering barbecue. What a shocker. Holy crap, I’m nervous. Gosh, I guess I haven’t been around pretty girls like this for a while; it kind of feels nice.

“Dusty, do you really know how to light this?” Summer says. “It seems like you might forget how to heat something up, maybe?”

Okay, now I know I’m not in Kansas anymore. And these girls are getting a big kick out of my nervous schoolboy routine.

“Yeah, Dusty, maybe you need a little help yourself,” Brittany says, as she winks at Summer and moves closer to me, placing her hand on my shoulder.

“I, uh…no, I’m good, I’ve lighted, or lit many barbecues,” I reply. Seriously? Lighted? God, I can’t even talk, I’m so nervous. But I have to say, it’s bitter sweet. Sweet because I am thoroughly enjoying the attention, but bitter because I’m twice their age and I should be in my own living room watching sports.

“AHEM.”

Holy frigging mother of shit-balls! I know that throat clear anywhere. I look over at the fence, and Stella (MY WIFE!) is standing there looking like I’ve been doing something wrong—very wrong. I feel like a cat caught in the blinds when its owner walks through the door. Or a middle-aged man talking and smiling with college girls who have their hands on his shoulder. This is NOT what it looks like. Wait, it’s totally what it looks like. DAMMIT.

“Oh, hi Stella,” I say, “Uh…how was the meeting?”

“Not as good as this one, apparently” Stella says, without missing a beat.

The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Therapy Session

Janet uncovered her eyes, and immediately started laughing.

“You’re amused,” Logan said.

“Amused?” she asked, “I don’t know what I am, to be honest. What do you mean the door of denial?”

Logan crossed his legs and clasped his hands together on his knees. “This is the easiest door of all. Anyone can get through it because it’s so easy for human beings to deny something that is happening…especially when it’s something that they cannot bear.” He continued, “Can you think of something that’s happened in your life that you cannot bear?”

Janet looked at him. She suddenly realized something. But she just kept looking at him.

“What are you thinking, Janet?” he asked.

Janet suddenly felt a deep, deep pain. It was a sadness she could not put into words. She looked up at the tree tops; she had tears in her eyes as she gripped the arms of the chair. Her consciousness was flooded with the memory of her son Logan, and she couldn’t help but cry out loud.

“Janet, what are you thinking about right now?”

Janet wiped the tears from her face. She paused for a moment, looking at the ground.

Finally, she said, “…………….

The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Teenage Girls

For some reason, I notice I have a spring in my step this morning. It’s as if I’ve been depressed for years and my new medication is starting to work. I’m whistling as I walk. I’m hearing birds chirping outside, singing songs of happiness. I have purpose. I have ambition. My god, I haven’t felt like this in a long time. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m down south at an all-inclusive resort. It’s a real-life Irish Spring commercial.

Then Georgia suddenly appears in front of me in the hallway, dressed to the nines, and says, “Dad, I need you to drive me to the soccer complex at 8:30. I’m meeting the girls there and we are watching a boys’ soccer game at 9:00.”

“Why are you dressed like you are going to the prom at 7:45 in the morning?” I ask her.

“Hardly. Anyway, please don’t drive anyone anywhere until you drive me first.”

“Sure, Georgia. I’ll just stop the presses for Vicki Vale.”

“Who?”

“Never mind. She was a character in Batman and—“

“Dad, seriously.”

“Well you asked. Anyway, I can’t drive you anywhere because I have to take Lucas to the library. You’ll have to ask mom, or see if Molly-Jo can drive you.”

“What? No. I told them I’d be there and you could drive us.”

“And you checked with me, when, to see if all that was doable before you told them?”

“Ugh. That’s not the point.”

“Yes, Georgia, that’s a pretty big point.”

Please, somebody shoot me. I can’t hear birds chirping anymore—they’ve probably all being eaten alive by teenage girls.

The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Session Therapy

After working most of his life helping grieving parents, Dr. Koslov teamed up with two Russian scientists who invented a virtual therapy, called “Session Therapy”, where clients are placed in virtual situations and their brains are essentially tricked to think and feel differently about real circumstances in their lives. The therapy consists of a strict program with few sessions as possible to achieve a desired level of success, or, in Janet’s case, be able to cope with life after the death of her eight-year old son, Logan.

The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Nitwit

As I pull into my driveway after work, the first person I see is my neighbor, Landon Rossiter. I don’t even know where to begin to describe this pretentious nitwit. Actually, that’s pretty good. Just go to any online thesaurus and search for “pompous”. Landon’s a single, kid-less guy in his early 50s, who inherited tons of money from one of his grandfathers. He hasn’t worked in 8 years, has a pool in his backyard, and has parties almost every weekend. I’ve never been to one of his parties. If I’d known him before I moved into the neighborhood, I’d be living on another street.

At any rate, Landon is my neighbor who exudes pretentiousness. And here he is watering his shrubs in his flip-flops, yellow short shorts, and bright pink golf shirt. The worst part of his attire is the flipped-up collar on his shirt. And mirrored sunglasses…seriously? God, what a bonehead. My car can’t go fast enough up my driveway. If only I had an underground parking garage, I’d never have to listen to him.

The Shoeman Curse Excerpt – Family Fun

I can almost touch the tension as everyone gets ready for school and work this morning. All I want to do is escape from having to save everyone but myself, as the arguments spew from Stella and the kids, whizzing by me like bullets on the beaches of Normandy. The argument enemy is powerful. I know if I can just get the hell out of the deep water, to the car, I’d liberate myself from the onslaught of the enemy that is pretty much fighting with itself at this point. “Run, Dusty, you idiot,” I think to myself as I round the corner to the front door, and slip on a smear of yogurt someone had spilled.