Dogs yearn to run free! Our story mutts are no exception! They will be unleashed on March 3 when To Fetch a Scoundrel hits the sales floor. This week we're offering “treats” to the reader, in the form of insights into why the author chose a particular setting, and a brief excerpt of the story.
“RUFF GOODBYE” by Rosemary Shomaker
We asked Rosemary why she chose to set her story where she did:
What prompted me to set “Ruff Goodbye" in a bar and a funeral home? I set the story in a bar and a funeral home because the contrast in settings interested me. When I think of funeral homes, I think of decorum, seriousness, and containment. As the ashes or body of the deceased are “contained” in an urn or a casket, so are the grief and emotions of funeral home visitors contained—until, for some, the bareness of death causes true feelings and honesty to leak or flare. We’ve all seen it. The sobs, outburst, or physical crumpling of one attendee dissolves the composure of others.
In contrast, in a bar, patrons are not restrained. They relax. Feelings and truth flow with the outpouring of libations. Sometimes ill-advised plans hatch in a bar, as with the P&P Club in “Ruff Goodbye.” Trouble starts for Len Hayes in The Beacon with his Port & Poker Club friends. At the Last Respects funeral home sendoff for one of their own, the major characters’ secrets, emotions, and questionable conduct color the funeral home red.
And now read this:
Len Hayes planned this would be the club’s last meeting. Now to tell the others. He slowly rapped his knuckles on the oaken bar three times as he often did to cut through the din of the establishment, although at eleven o’clock this Wednesday evening The Beacon was mostly empty. Four men sat on barstools and two tables held late diners.
Len spoke softly to the two men at the end of the bar. “Gentlemen, please retire to the P&P Club, and we’ll toast our fallen member.” Perry Lambert and Charlie McFadden pushed off their stools and headed for Len’s office in one of the bar’s back rooms. Len stopped The Beacon’s young waitress Marsha, once she cleared the men’s glasses from the bar and before her circuit into the fresh blue and white dining area.
“Marsha, please let Joyce know the P&P Club members are gathering.”
“Yes, I’ll let her know. I was about to hand her today’s mail anyway. And Len,” Marsha continued, “You might want to check on Clarion. Perry may have knocked him over. I saw him handling the statue earlier. He said his jacket got hung up on it.”
Len nodded. The black Labrador retriever replica, in its alert guard position, was The Beacon’s sentinel. Leave it to Perry to knock over the bar’s mascot. He’d check the statue for damage later. He didn’t want to add defilement of The Beacon’s faithful friend to his list of grievances against Perry.
He turned away before Marsha listed all her observations of the day. That woman could talk and talk. Before he took one step in the direction of his office, George Yeonas blew in. A low-pressure system colliding with a cold front worsened the fickle April weather, and swales of diagonal rain followed George in The Beacon’s front door.
“Safe port in a storm, eh, Len?” George said.
Len chuckled. George’s comment and dramatic entrance, along with the rainsquall, complemented the bar’s nautical theme and decor.
George hung his dripping windbreaker on a hook along the entry wall. He let his hand drop to stroke the head of the twenty-seven-inch dog statue beside the hostess podium. Clarion, the stoic black Labrador retriever, looked on. Beacon regulars formed emotional bonds with the hand-cast stone sculpture of a seated Labrador, especially George, who had won the name-the-mascot contest nine years ago, soon after The Beacon opened. After one last pat on the statue’s head, he joined Len in the aisle.
“I’m not late, am I?” George asked.
“No. We’ll have a short meeting tonight, though,” Len said. “We should have done this earlier. Maybe gone to Curt’s house and had a meeting there.”
George shrugged. “There’s no good way, Len, when someone is dying. And no easy way to know what’s best.”
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