Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Paint Your Runner!

We're still clean--no prerace paint dumpage here.

Recently the Hubs and I did a paint run. I have to say it was a blast, or would have been if I'd have eaten anything beforehand. The thing is, nobody really wants to see a whale explode. (Okay I'm wrong. People would probably pay to see a paint-covered whale explode everywhere. Heck, I watched one on the Internet and laughed for days about it. And there was no paint anywhere.) Let's just say I didn't want to see me explode.

Pre-race shenanigans
So this was the deal. We got these tickets from our daughter's Best-guy-in-the-world-who-isn't-a-fiance-yet
for Christmas. I thought it would be a lark and the Hubs will jump at almost any chance to run in a Saturday race right here in town for free. 

I'll be right up there with the front runners.
So there we were in the park along with a whole bunch of other freaks awaiting our chance to run through bronchitis-inducing clouds of colored cornstarch. I felt considerably under-dressed wearing exercise pants and the race T and a bandanna in case paint-y sweat got in my eyes (ludicrous since by fairly soon it was covered in paint anyway). I wasn't sporting a Where's Waldo get-up, crazy socks, a tutu, a wedding gown, or even a stroller full of screaming kid. Clearly next time I run in armor. Or maybe goggles and fins.

B, my personal photographer and me
So after warming up, doing the Macarena and the Cha-cha Slide and downing a half bottle of water, we lined up at the starting gate. I knew ahead of time I'd never see the Hubs again, 'cause when he runs, he actually moves forward at a fairly steady clip (though he did get passed by an older lady pushing a wheelchair. Hah!)

I, on the other hand, am regularly passed by old ladies with walkers. I did see one large woman I knew I could probably take. (I should stop saying that. I prove myself wrong every time.) 

Personally, I set my sights low. I wanted to beat at least five people, preferably six. And I wanted to run more than walk. Last race I only ran around the corners. I know, lame, but I'm working up to it from a life of not running unless someone was chasing me with an ax and a bad comb-over.
We're in there somewhere

So at the gun I started a glacier-slow lope. Grass grows faster. I've checked. All too soon I felt like death stalked me at every step. Why hadn't I choked down at least some kind of breakfast several hours before the race? Madness I tell you. I chugged some water and just tried to beat the woman with the stroller who kept out-pacing me to fetch her five-year-old.

At one point I looked back and saw just a few people. That proved to be a mistake. It appeared that I had been beaten by...well...about everybody. I have to say that totally rotted. I was puffing like it was the last mile of the freakin' Boston Marathon instead of 100 yards into a 5K paint run. I swear I saw a guy lap us (I've seen him win other races, so I know he hadn't been behind me all that way unless he started in Guadalajara, Mexico.) That chubbier woman I mentioned before? Blew past me at the starting gate and I never saw her again. Yeah. Shots fired.

Anywho, I did my best to make up for the fact of no breakfast thus no energy. Also the fact that I didn't have my kindle, which always accompanies me on my runs so I don't have to think about how icky I feel. I didn't want to get paint all over it. Plus the lack of anybody at all to talk to. And lastly the paint stations where people tossed paint on you were fun, but there were clouds of paint a panting person sucks right down into their lungs for their breathing pleasure. While I did want to be fashionably paint-y, I didn't want to be hacking blue muck for the rest of the month.

Really. I was running full-out.
Somehow I managed to save something back for the last sprint across the grass. Just as I was about to make the turn in, the Hubs came and ran a few steps with me to give me a boost or something. He'd been hanging out at the finish line for about a day and a half and was likely bored. Must have run out of reading material or something. (He came in somewhere like 40th or something. He said he only took 28 minutes so it must have been a shorter course than they said. Didn't feel shorter to me.) I was marshaling my reserves for the last gasping lumber through the gate, so I didn't get all chatty and pour the tea.

I don't even look like I'm running.
I picked it up to roughly the speed of drying paint. I could see my goal in sight: shade and a bottle of chocolate milk. Oh and the finish line. I charged across the grass like a punch-drunk snail, weaving only slightly in the baking sun. My arms came up in preparation for my shower of blue paint. I must have looked like a very happy Special Olympics runner at the end of a long haul.

The blue cloud at the end
I turn, then, and Behold! Not only had I reached my goal of passing six people, but there were a LOT of people behind me! I asked and found out I was in the first 1/3 of the runners! I nearly died a second time of amazement. Boy did that feel good, I tell you.

Reminds me of elephants in the Serengeti
The kids converged with more bags of paint ('cause we were insufficiently paint-y for them, apparently) and dumped them all over us, including down my back and in my ears. Then we went over and the race officials dumped the rest of the paint from the stations on us all. It looked like Woodstock there (except none of us that I know were naked).

I survived!
On our way to the car I spotted Waldo and forced him to take a picture with me. You have to do that if you actually find him. It's in the rules of Waldo somewhere. I never did find his cane, though.
Found Waldo! No cane.

It took me a solid week to get all the blue paint out of my ear.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Here's a smidgen of YEAR OF THE HONEY BADGER:

The next morning Sabra went for a swim, riding the waves like a gull. She was out beyond the breaker line when she noticed a curious thing. A tent-sized kite rose from the beach in lazy circles. She looked down the strand wondering who was flying such a strange-shaped kite. But there was nobody other than a few bathers and some children building a sand castle. A wave broke over her head, filling her eyes and throat with salt water. When she got back up, the “kite” was bouncing back up into the air in a slow twirl.
    “Holey Cheese! That's my tent!” she screeched and beat back to shore. When she got to camp the vagrant tent had climbed about a hundred feet into the air. Stray papers floated lazily down from it. “My research papers!” Sabra yelled. She scampered around trying to gather them up before the wind blew them away.
    That's when she noticed the frowning man standing on a bluff overlooking the beach. He just stood there watching her scramble. “What?” she asked shortly as she ran past him. He probably didn't even speak English the way he simply stood there watching the papers fly around. “Any chance you could give me a hand?”
    The man smiled dryly and clapped.
    “Jerk,” Sabra said under her breath. She jumped for another wayward paper.
    “I was under the impression most people slept in their tents. This is an interesting new sport,” the unhelpful man said. He didn't even try to hide his amusement.
    “Oh, then, you aren't deaf and you speak English,” she said, out of breath from jumping around.
    He snorted. “Among seven other languages.” He reached down and put a pebble on another wayward paper. “There you go.”
    “Don't knock yourself out, Sir Speedy Helpsalot.”
    The tent had blown further along the beach but was now coming down again. Sabra broke away and flew down the sand to grab at the material as it headed back up and now out to sea. She made one last leap for the rain fly bungee. One fingertip caught the cord just as the last clip worked loose. She yanked it down, grabbing at the nylon. Her fingers slipped on the rip-stop, but she managed to catch at a tab and haul the tent and its fly back to earth.
    The man walked over and tossed a stone into the offending tent, anchoring it.
    She glared at him. “Thanks.”
    “What do you mean?” Then she looked down and saw that she was still only wearing a bikini. Yeah, it must have been a dandy show. Jamb your eyeballs back in your head, Dirtball.
    The annoying guy looked out to sea and then back at her face. “You've still got stragglers.”
    “I know. I know.” She tore off after another couple of sheets. That's when she noticed her sleeping bag washing ashore in a tide pool. She swore under her breath and dragged it out of the water. Now to find her clothes and pillow. One shoe lazily turned in another pool, its laces dragging the barnacle-encrusted rocks.
    The man plodded down the beach with a couple of papers clutched in his hand. “Hey, you wouldn't have seen a man around here—kind of geeky, looks like a scientist?”
    She stopped running and turned. “Why do you ask?”
    “I'm supposed to pick up my new research assistant and the guy at the airfield told me he was down here.”
    “You're from Niassa?” She had a sudden boiling feeling in the pit of her stomach.
    “Yeah. Sort of.”
    “I'm it.” She snatched her papers out of his hand and stuffed them into the tent along with the ones in her fist.
    “I'm headed for Niassa.”
    “The heck you are! I'm looking for a man.”
    “Good luck with that. You don't look the type.” She favored him with her own wry grin.
    “Johns Hopkins sent you?”
    “Only the best.”
    He threw out his hands, scowling at her. “Johns Hopkins sent me a bimbo for an assistant? How are you ever going to survive? We live with real wildlife, like right in the middle of it. We are the zoo. There's no way you'd be able to handle it. Go home and send the real assistant. Preferably someone who can handle a gun.”
    “What are we doing out there, shooting and stuffing them or studying them in their habitats?”
    “You won't be doing anything because you won't be there. Go home and send a guy back, fast.”
    Sabra stepped right up to the guy's chest and looked him in the eyes. “Look, mister. I don't care what your preconceived notions are about what women can or cannot do. They don't apply to me. I've been in this line of study since you were in diapers and I'm not about to go crying home again before I've completely finished my studies. I've got a—“ She stopped, not feeling like tossing him any more bones. She wanted him to twist in the wind for a while, hopefully until his air ran out. “Never mind.” She ran after a couple more papers and added them to the mound in the tent. By that time her hair was starting to dry in salty, ropey hanks and there was sand down her trunks.
    “Come on, then.”
    “Pardon. What?”
    “Come on. The jeep's waiting. I've got chores to do. I'm out of here.”
    “But I've got to get all these papers corralled. I need to change. I need to find my other freaking shoe for crying out loud.”
    He looked her up and down. She wanted to smack him but didn't want to wreck her chances for getting to Niassa even though the guy was one of the last men on earth she wanted to spend a bumpy ride with, let alone a year.
    “You've got fifteen minutes. I'll be in the jeep.”
    “Could you at least take my luggage? If I have to rescue the papers, you could at least get the bags.”
    He looked at Mt. St. Luggage and rolled his eyes. “You should have left the cadavers and the blow-up raft at home.”
    Sabra took in the purple and pink paisleys her mother had insisted would make stealing her bags harder. The guy probably thought she was hauling a pink feather boa as well. “Then get the papers. If you're afraid you'll hurt yourself, I'll get the bags in.”
    He gave another snort and stomped over to grab the giant suitcases.
    “Easy there! Don't toss them. I've got delicate instruments in there.”
    “Just so you know,” he growled as he hefted the largest bag onto his shoulder. “We have no plugs for your curling iron and boom box.”
    You have been out here a long time, she thought. They aren't boom boxes anymore. And by the way, I'm not even going to gratify you with an answer. She fixed him with a scowl instead, then turned on her heel and went to finish grabbing the last of the papers. The fifteen minutes were almost up when she dragged on her inundated jeans and a salty t-shirt. Luckily she'd found the other shoe and all but a couple of papers and a sock. The other had gone to a watery grave somewhere. She yanked down the offending tent and thrust it back into its bag along with the poles.
    It didn't take very long to catch up to the man as he labored up the road toward a mud-spattered, ancient jeep. Big dents scored the sides and it sported a huge roll bar. She got there just as the man dumped the biggest bag into the back. She flinched, expecting to hear shattering glass.
    “Thanks,” she said facetiously. “I'm sure I can get along just fine without all that expensive equipment.”
    “You lug it in there then.” He dumped the rest at her feet and strode around to the driver's seat and vaulted in.
    “Excuse me, sir. What is your name?”
    “I'd really like to know the Neanderthal I am addressing.” She carefully added the last of the luggage to the back and secured it with the webbing cargo net, using the time to calm down.
    “Stirling Darrow.”
    “Ah great. That's nice. Yeah I'm Sabra Houghton.”
    His eyes popped. “No! You're really S. Houghton?” He slammed his fist on the steering wheel. “Get in,” he said through gritted teeth. “So it wasn't ever going to be a guy.”

© 2015 H. Linn Murphy

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


You can ask my kids. There was dancing in the Murphy house today when I woke to find my book SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO had been born on the same day my daughter had. I can't say it was painless, but like real babies, it was all worth it. I'll probably break out into dancing several times during the day. Happy birthday to both my gorgeous daughter, J, and my book.
So to answer questions:
(My daughter is about as beautiful as the girl on this book, by the way. Same gorgeous hair but blue eyes.)
*Where the heck is Scipio?
It's a tiny town just off the highway near Richfield, Utah.
*What's the book about? 
Tamsin Tucker wonders what kind of future there is for a champion barrel racer who has lost her husband, her leg, her horse, and her way. Luckily she has Someone watching over her who has big plans for her life.
He steers her towards a hunky doctor with his own ghosts to lay to rest, and a nurse who feels she's going nowhere fast. Together they find a way to shine in a town the size of a rodeo arena. 

*Where did you get your inspiration for the story?
A few years ago our family took a trip up to Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. While in Utah, we drove through Scipio. It took about as long as it took to hunt for the map under the seat. When I saw the back of the population sign, I figured someone had to write a story about that town and it had to be me. The story just seemed to gel, as if Tamsin, Travis, and Sarah were pounding on the window in my head yelling, "Let us out!"
Also, I used to do a tiny bit of barrel racing. I never got even close to being competitive but I really enjoyed it. I love being around horses and riding. I never get enough time in, though.
And lastly, I have a great respect for people who push through the pain and hardship of a handicap to rise to the top--people who don't let embarrassment and naysayers and depression pull them back down. They speak to me of what a person can do if they really put their mind to it.
 * Where can I find this fabulous book?
It's currently at deseretbook.comAmazon.com , and latterdaycottage.com, and is also coming to other bookstores near you. Adopt my book! It wants a good home.