Since I've been posting some of my writing, I thought I'd post a short story I wrote some time back based off The Wine Lover's Mysteries. This "short" stars the sidekicks in the series--Simon, Marco, and the ever-loveable Rhodesian Ridgeback Ollie. I also offer this short up on amazon but for some reason am unable to figure out how I can put it up there for nothing. I had to put a miniumum price of .99, so I figured i would just put it here on the blog.
I hope you enjoy!
“See, you don’t have to wear anything with a label on it to look divine,” Marco said, his Italian accent punctuating the end of his words. He pinched his fingers together. “Magnifico, mi amoré.”
His partner of five years mustered a smile that he hoped convinced Marco he was as happy to go along with this nonsense as Marco seemed to be as happy to give up designer duds, expensive champagne, and tuberose scented candles flown in direct from Hawaii. “Oh yes, I love the Goodwill specials,” Simon replied. He sipped his coffee while looking out of the bay window that showcased the vineyard where they lived. Rows of soil like spun brown silk lay the groundwork for tangled and twisted vines stretching toward the powder blue morning sky. Fruit filled with the juice from golden, red and deep purple grapes spent lazy days being cultivated into perfection. The kind of perfection that paid for Dolce and Gabbana, Prada and Kenneth Cole for God’s sakes and here was Simon drinking herbal tea craving a hazelnut (sugar free syrup) mocha from Bouchon Bakery and wearing a two dollar T-shirt from the Goodwill! It was out of hand. Where was Nikki when a man needed her?
Oh yes, Snow White had run off for the weekend with her Prince Charming, Simon’s brother. Outside of Marco, Nikki was Simon’s b.f.f. and she and his brother Derek Malveaux, who owned the prestigious Malveaux Winery, hotel and spa, had been shacking up for the last few months. Nikki and Derek had taken off for a weekend to Mendocino for some R&R and to plan their upcoming nuptials. And here Simon was in a dilemma.
He and Marco had been following The Guru Sansibaba for the last couple of years. The New Age spiritual leader had changed their lives for the better in many ways. Simon felt he could deal with past unresolved issues, plan a future and work through whatever needed working through with his soul mate—Marco.
The problem was (and Simon didn’t think Marco was willing to work through it because they’d already broken up over it once before) Marco had delved in far more deeply into the spiritual side of life. He’d taken their Guru’s messages to the extreme and these days acted more like a monk than the fun loving hot Italian guy he’d fallen in love with. The problem was Marco expected Simon to give up anything and everything that had some kind of materialistic connotation to it. However, Simon had held his guard when Marco suggested they sell the Porsche and buy a Prius. He was all about a green earth, but c’mon! Some things simply weren’t negotiable. But because the Porsche still remained in the drive, he’d had to agree to give a little. Relationships were all about compromise, right? Some compromise. He was wearing something called Safari Club.
He eyed Ollie sleeping on Derek and Nikki’s couch—also known as the dog’s bed. Ollie belonged to his brother and b.f.f, and he and Marco had agreed to take care of the one hundred pound Rhodesian Ridgeback while the two lovebirds were off being soooo in love. Simon knew that Nikki would never ask Derek to give up his ridiculous Levi’s he wore on a regular basis, and Derek would never ask Nikki to give up her pen chance for playing Miss Marple. Oh, oops, Derek actually had done that quite a few times. Nikki had a curious nature that had gotten her and Marco and Simon in trouble more than once or twice even. Snow White’s (Simon’s nickname for Nikki) trouble always consisted of a dead body or two and a lot of deception, manipulation and treachery. She was a regular Sherlock Holmes and Simon was her Watson, and right now this Watson needed his Holmes to go shopping with.
Ollie scratched behind his ear and yawned. Simon shook his head and rolled his eyes. “That dog…” before he could finish that thought, he changed it in mid-sentence. Initially Simon had planned to say something like this to his beloved. “That dog thinks he owns the place.” But something struck him mid-sentence—a brilliant thought. “That dog is really pretty sweet. He’s growing on me. I think I’ll take him for a walk.” He lifted up his mug of coffee to cover up the smug smile spreading across his face.
Marco took his hand. “Oh you are such a good man. Look at you now; you finally understand what it means to truly give to another soul. Wait until Nikki and Derek hear of this. But what about your allergies?”
Simon batted a hand in the air. “I’ve already taken my allergy medicine, hon. I am good to go. In fact, I think we’ll take a little tour through town. It’s the Farmer’s Market today and I think Mr. Ollie there would love to stretch his legs.” Ollie’s idea of stretching was apparent, as he was stretched out across the sofa at the moment and doubtfully wanted to move too far.
“I could go with you,” Marco said.
Marco looked at him oddly.
“I mean no that’s okay. Really. You and the dog…I mean, Ollie have a bond already. I think we need to have some of our own bonding time, you know, kind of like a brother thing. We are going to be family soon.” He smiled and almost gagged on his sentiment.
Marco frowned. “Okay. Yes, of course. You two go and have a little bit time together. I do have some work I need to do around here.”
“Good. Alrighty then. We’ll be back before you even miss us.” Simon finished his coffee and stood up. “Come on Ollie, let’s go. Wanna go for a walk?”
Ollie opened his eyes but didn’t move. Simon patted his leg, “Come on boy. Let’s go!” He put every ounce of enthusiasm he could muster into his voice. He’d witnessed Nikki and Derek do this a million times with Ollie and the pooch typically at least gave them a wag of the tail, and not this stare down that seemed to say, “You’re kidding me, right?”
Marco walked to the kitchen and got something out of the fridge. “Try this.” He came over and handed Simon a piece of lunch meat.
Marco nodded. “It will work.”
Simon waved the meat in front of Ollie who perked right up, slid off the couch and followed him as if he were Cesar Milan. “You’re right. It does work.”
“Wait, wait a minute,” Marco said.
Simon stopped. Could Marco have figured out his little ploy? He batted his eyelashes. “Yes, darling?”
“A leash. You will need his leash. I’ll get it. It is hanging by the back door.”
As Marco walked to the back of the house, Simon closed his eyes and sighed. He was still on his way to a day of splendor and glory amongst rows of styles straight out of GQ Magazine. Nothing could stop him now. He patted his accomplice on the top of his head and whispered. “We’re going to have a good time, my friend.” Ollie eyed him with his big brown eyes; a wrinkle creased across the top of his brow. Simon shrunk back, frowning. “You could use some Botox in that area.”
The Ridgeback plunked down on the floor at Simon’s feet.
“Oh no you don’t. Get up.”
Marco came back with the leash, bent down and hooked it onto Ollie’s collar. “Okay, you must impart the energy in you that you want him to follow. Remember that you are the leader.”
Simon stared at him. “Excuse me, but you have been watching way too much Animal Planet.”
Marco shrugged. “I love Cesar.”
“I’m jealous. Come on dog. Let’s go for a walk.”
Ollie reluctantly stood.
“Remember your energy,” Marco yelled as Simon and Ollie walked out the front door.
“Energy, schmenergy. I’m taking my good doggie Ollie for a little jaunt. We’re going to have a blast.” Simon opened the passenger side on the Porsche and tilted the back seat forward and patted the smooth black leather. Ollie stood his ground and looked at him. “Come on, let’s go,” Simon ordered.
Ollie didn’t budge.
“Come on!” Simon said with a bit more force. Maybe there was something to this energy thing.
No. Ollie stayed put, so Simon made another plea. “Goddammit, get in the car.” Ollie put a paw up on the front seat. “Oh no, no, no. You ride in the back.” Ollie didn’t move his paw. Simon stared him down. “Fine! You win! Up, up!” He patted the front seat now and Ollie pulled his one hundred pound frame into the front of the sports car. Simon hustled around and got into the driver seat. He looked over at the dog. “Oh gawd. Okay if you insist on being a prima donna, then here.” He took Marco’s pair of Gucci aviator shades off of the visor and placed them over Ollie’s eyes. Simon donned his matching glasses. “Okay then. We are off.”
Speeding down the highway toward St. Helena, Simon decided to make a pit stop. He was sick and tired of coffee from the can. For goodness sakes, who made coffee from canned beans, and already ground beans at that. This let go of all the wealth and material crap idea Marco had just wasn’t working for him. Who on the New Age chain said that you had to give up gourmet coffee and freshly baked pastries in the morning? Simon shook his head as he pulled up in front of Bouchon to purchase a gourmet coffee that would cost as much as that stupid store bought can of tar that Marco said was a sound decision. No need to spend money on such frivolous things as coffee, he’d told him the other day. Well, why the hell not? They had the money! And as far as he was concerned good coffee was one of the necessities in life, not a luxury.
He patted Ollie and said, “Okay, now you be a good boy and I’ll be right back.”
The aroma in the bakery put an immediate smile on Simon’s face. Bliss! Fresh baked goods, organically grown coffee beans that took one straight to the fields of Colombia. Oh and the sound of that espresso machine. Couldn’t ask for more than that!
He stepped up to order. “I’ll take a double mocha with hazelnut syrup. The sugar free syrup.” He patted his stomach. “Gotta keep the figure. Also I think I’ll take a buttered croissant.” The girl behind the counter nodded. The croissants at Bouchon were scrumpdeliocious—gooey, warm, flaky and so buttery. A rolled up piece of heaven.
He grabbed his things and got back into the car. Ollie with his shades still on glanced at him, his nose working over time. He nudged Simon’s hand causing him to nearly spill his mocha. “Hey! Stop that. This is for me.” He put his coffee in the drink holder and set the croissant on a napkin in his lap. Ollie whined. “Okay, you can have a bite.” Simon tore off a piece of the croissant and handed it to the dog. Nikki and Derek would have a conniption if they’d seen him do that. The Ridgeback was their kid and they only fed him that silly raw food diet. It smelled to high heaven. Who knew what was in it. He had to feed it to him last night because Marco was in town, and he could barely stomach the stuff. He’d had to use plastic gloves and breathe through his mouth. He almost puked from it. The dog looked to enjoy the croissant as much as that raw crap he ate every day. “That a boy. Now that’s some real food for you.”
They’d made it halfway to St. Helena when a sudden smell wafted through the car. Simon turned to Ollie who stared out the window aloof. “What the hell is that? Oh my God. Oh. God, Ollie! Ooh la la stinkapoop!” Simon rolled down the windows. It was to no avail because Ollie ripped another one, only this one was accompanied by sound effects. “That is toxic! Have you no couth? You should be ashamed.” Ollie tucked his head and tried to curl up on the seat, half of his large body off, his butt facing Simon. “Oh no you don’t. Sit back up, don’t you dare face that weapon in my direction.” Too late as Ollie continued to fire off his deadly farts. “Oh gross! Now I have to put down the convertible top and it’ll ruin my hair.”
Simon pulled off to the side of the road. He plugged his nose as he rolled up the windows and pressed the button that electronically slid the convertible top down. A creaking kind of screechy sound brought the convertible top to a halt in mid-air. “Oh hell! What now?”
He got out and went around to where the top was stuck and began wrenching with it. As he manually maneuvered it down, Ollie stood up and apparently figured that Simon wanted to play as he jumped out of the car. “Ollie!” Simon yelled and pointed to the car, “In!” He must have had his energy tuned to the right signal as Ollie immediately jumped back into the car. Simon got back in and looked over at the Ridgeback who wore an expression of, what’s your problem, buddy?
“Oh no! Look at what you did.” Simon got out of the car and ran around to the passenger side where he spotted a huge puddle, obviously filled by the sprinklers that had run that morning on the vines they were parked next to. There were now muddy paw prints all over the leather seats of the Porsche, and Ollie had the tell-tale signs of croissant crumbs on his mouth. He’d seized Simon’s moment out of the driver’s seat and finished off the rest of the pastry. Simon looked upward. “Why? Why? All I wanted to do was go and run my hands over a little Dolce. Maybe slip into something Prada.”
He found Ollie staring at him, his aviator shades askew, but oddly enough still on. Simon reached over and straightened them out. “A little set back is all. This has nothing to do with karma as Marco would insist. This just means I will only be that much more satisfied with my pending purchases. Onward and forward with our shopping spree.” He shook a finger at Ollie. “But from here on out, no more flatulence and no more shenanigans.”
They finally made it into St. Helena and Simon pulled up in front of his favorite store—Valentino’s. “I can’t take you in there like this. Look at you.” Ollie wagged his tail, shaking off some more mud. Simon frowned. “Oh okay. You know in a weird way, I sort of like you. God listen to me, I’m talking to a dog.” Ollie let out a low whine. “That’s right, you’re not just a dog, you’re a lion hunter.” Simon had been told umpteenth times by both Derek and Nikki that their pooch’s breed was initially bred to hunt lions in Africa.
Simon latched the leash onto Ollie and the two of them got out, heading into Valentino’s.
Before Ollie could get all four paws into the store, the lanky man behind the counter with so last year’s buzz cut came around shaking a finger at them. “Oh sorry, but no dogs allowed.”
Simon glanced down at Ollie who looked up at him and then faced the buzz cut. “This is not a dog. This is an African lion hunter.”
Buzz cut’s eyes widened. “Looks like a dog to me.”
“Nope. A very skilled, very highly intelligent lion hunter. An African lion hunter.”
“Australian, African, whatever… We don’t allow lion hunters in the store.”
“Well I…First of all there are no lions in Australia, and furthermore…,” Simon started to turn around and walk out when he spotted a perfectly gorgeous linen white sleeve button up that had an intricate design embossed into the white on white pattern. Again, he glanced down at Ollie. “Sorry pal. But looks like you have to wait in the car.”
Simon escorted the Ridgeback back to the Porsche. “I’ll only be a minute. Be good and stay put.” He examined the convertible top. It might not be the best idea to leave him in the car. There was a light pole on the charming sidewalk and it was only feet away from the front door to the store. Simon hemmed and hawed about tying him up to the pole. He thought about the shirt. He wanted the shirt. He needed the shirt. He wrapped the leash around the pole. “Okay, listen here, you lie down and be a good boy. Don’t bother anyone and I’ll be back in a minute.”
He rushed back into the store and grabbed the shirt. But then he found a pair of jeans he liked and a belt, and another shirt and another one. Oh God, then there were these luxurious half silk and cotton slacks in this cream color that with a black silk shirt he found, could be nothing less than stunning--especially with his blue eyes and platinum blonde hair. Before Simon knew it, an hour or more had passed. As buzz cut rang up his items, he felt terrible about leaving Ollie tied up to the pole for so long, so he bought him a really cute T-Shirt with a cross bones and skull logo on it. Kinda cute. Not Simon’s cup of tea, but the lion hunter would have a little style to him, especially with his sunglasses.
Almost orgasmically overjoyed, Simon pranced out of the store swinging his shopping bags and feeling like Sara Jessica Parker ala Sex and the City. “Ollie,” he called out, “Wait until you see what I …” Simon stopped dead in his tracks. He turned from side to side and then all the way around. He blinked several times and shook his head. But he kept coming up with the same result. Ollie was no longer tied to the pole. “Oh no, no, no, no!” he cried. Passers by stared at him. He grabbed a woman by the shoulder. “Have you seen my lion hunter?”
“Come on honey, this guy is a lunatic,” her husband said.
“I mean my dog,” Simon yelled. “My dog. He’s about this big and weighs at least a hundred pounds. He’s the color of a cinnamon latte.”
“Bernice, get away from him.”
The couple walked on and Simon was certain he’d been dropped into an episode of the old show The Twilight Zone. No one named anyone Bernice. Her parents should be ashamed.
Simon threw his bags into the trunk of the car and walked up and down both sides of the street asking anyone if they’d seen Ollie. Walking past Williams Sonoma, Simon spotted a set of amethyst colored wine glasses that were simply perfection for an excellent glass of Cabernet, and before he knew it, he sauntered on into the store. Picking up one of the glasses and looking at it into the light, he twirled it around.
The clerk came over to him. “We just got those in.”
“They’re lovely,” Simon said. He set one down and began to pick up another one when his cell rang. It was Nikki. Oh no. Ollie. Oh no. How had he gotten sidetracked so easily? Well, amethyst colored wine glasses in this particular shade were not exactly a dime a dozen. Crap! What if she knew Ollie was missing. She did have this weird sixth sense thing about her. He had no choice but to answer. He needed to sound normal. “Hi Snow White. How’s my favorite lovebird and my brother doing?”
“Great. The coast is beautiful and we’re having a really good time. How about you? I called the house and didn’t get an answer and then I called Marco on his cell, and he said that you had taken Ollie out for a walk. That’s so sweet. Where are you guys?”
Simon bit the side of his lip. Think quick. She’s no dummy. “Oh you know, out and about. Just in town for a little exercise.”
“Good. He’s not dragging you around, now is he? Sometimes he can do that when he’s on the leash.”
“Oh no. He’s great. Just a peach of a dog. A lion hunter. Love him and I’m like a regular old dog whisperer.”
“Okay. Are you sure everything is alright?” Nikki asked.
“Of course it is. Why? What are you asking me? Why wouldn’t it be? It’s not like I would lose him. I mean I know he’s like your child and all.”
“Right. Good. Well, I’m glad you two are out having fun together. Be careful. And don’t feed him anything that’s not on his diet, okay? He has a very sensitive stomach.”
“Oh you don’t have to worry about that, and trust me, I am always careful. Careful, careful, careful. Careful is my middle name. Alrighty Snow White, gotta run. Doggie needs me.”
“Gosh Simon, you really are the best.”
“Damn,” Simon said flip shutting his phone. “I need to find me that Ridgeback and fast or else, or else, oh God, Nikki will hate me and Marco will know I lied and my brother will kill me.”
The clerk in Williams Sonoma spoke up, “Would you like the glasses?”
“No. Of course not. I have to find a dog. A lion hunter to be exact.” Simon ran out of the store and again began cruising the main street in St. Helena. After two hours of walking in and out of stores asking anyone if they’d seen the Ridgeback, he felt defeated. He’d had to work really hard at not touching all the incredible merchandise his itchy fingers wanted to handle, and of course buy.
He turned the corner and decided to start looking down one of the side streets. About a block away he spotted a big brown dog. He squinted. Could it be? Oh yes, please let it be Ollie. He ran down the sidewalk yelling Ollie’s name, but as he reached the large animal who turned around, Simon realized he’d come face to face with none other than a pit bull baring his teeth at him. Simon turned on his heels and ran back the other way with Cujo in tow. His arms pumping, the beast barking and growling, Simon just knew he was a dead man running. He made it all the way to the Porsche, jumped in and was pulling out of the parking space when the monster jumped up and definitely scratched the side of the car. In hysterics, Simon sped away, sans Ollie, and now what had to be a few hundred dollar new paint job on his beloved sports car. What next? At least he had his new clothes. But as he thought about his purchases, he realized that not even Kenneth Cole nor Gianni Versace could heal his woes. He’d lost man’s best friend, and not just any man, but his b.f.f.’s dog and she was not a he. She was Snow White and had never done a mean thing in her life to Simon, and now he’d have to tell her that he’d lost Ollie, and how, and why. Derek would disown him, Marco would leave him, and Nikki would despise him. All to be dressed to impress. It wasn’t worth it.
He flipped the car around and decided that without the love of his life, his Snow White and his brother, he would have nothing. The dog, the lion hunter, Ollie was gone. Tears blurred his vision and he choked back a sob that stuck in his throat. Simon had a destination. He jammed the car into fifth and sped down the highway until he reached St. Peter’s Shelter, where he promptly took the bags from Valentino’s and set them on the receptionist’s desk.
She looked up at him in surprise. “What’s all this?”
“Some new clothes for some deserving soul.”
She peered in the bag. “They’re brand new, and well they appear to be rather expensive.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
He nodded again.
“Let me write you up a receipt for your taxes, at least.”
“No. That’s not necessary.” He walked out and drove home, knowing he was headed to his very own persecution.
By the time he rolled up to the front gates at Malveaux he’d cried himself out while repeatedly listening to Celine sing, “Got Nothing Left.”
As he turned into Nikki and Derek’s drive praying Marco would not be there so he could have some time to pull himself together before he had to face the music, he slammed on the brakes. “Holy…” He jumped out of the car. There was Ollie standing next to Marco whose arms were crossed. The downturn of his lips meant he was likely not happy.
“Ollie, Ollie! I have been looking all over for you! I have been up and down and all around and here you are.” Simon bent down and rubbed the dog who gave him one big sloppy lick across the face.
“Do you want to tell me how you lost the dog?” Marco asked quite coolly.
Simon stood and for a second thought that maybe the way out of this one was a little white lie. But no, he’d already wracked up one too many bad karma points in the last few hours. He told the truth and nothing but, except for the part about getting sidetracked and nearly buying the wine glasses at Williams Sonoma.”
Marco stood there, arms still crossed, shaking his head. “You know I had a feeling today that you were using the Ridgeback to be devious and I was right. I followed you this morning.”
“Yes. I watched you go in and get your coffee and croissant, then the fiasco on the side of the road, which was rather funny. And I knew where you were going from there—straight to Valentino’s.”
“How come I didn’t spot you?” Simon asked.
“Is that really the point? I drove one of the old trucks we use around here.”
“Oh is right.” Marco shook a finger at him.
“So do you hate me?”
“I thought about it. But after kidnapping Ollie, I came home and reread some of The Sansibaba’s latest book. I can’t change you and I shouldn’t try. Love is truly loving the person for who they are. So you happen to be a clothes whore and a champagne whore and everything that costs over a hundred dollar whore, but you’re my whore and I love you.”
Simon hugged Marco and then bent down and hugged Ollie. “You are the best lion hunter ever.”
“I also know what happened to you after you couldn’t find Ollie,” Marco said. “I got a call about fifteen minutes ago. Apparently you left your wallet in the clothes bag at the shelter. That was a good thing you did.”
“You think?” Simon asked.
“Yes. Now we get back in the car, and we go back to St. Helena, and we buy you another new wardrobe. Only this one you keep.”
“Really?” Simon clapped his hands.
Simon, Marco, and Ollie climbed back into the Porsche. Marco plugged in his Ipod and turned on “All You Need is Love,” by The Beatles. Simon and Marco sang along with the band as Ollie stuck his nose up into the wind and howled along with them-- aviator shades in place as they sped back to St. Helena.