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First pages

Prologue

"Da. Tell me the story about the bull again."

"Fiona, Fiona, my silly little Fiona. You've heard the tale a thousand times."

"Again! Again!"

"All right. But then you have to promise to go to sleep straight away, lass, or your mum will have my head on a platter."

"Oh, Da. She never would."

"Stop giggling right now, lass, or no story for you."

"I will, Da. I'll be good. I promise."

"All right then, since you promised and all. Once upon a time, when I was a young lad no older than you, I loved mushrooms. Now, in those days we didn't waste money on buying mushrooms at the market. If you wanted some, then you had to go out in the fields and hunt them for yourself."

"But Da, you lived on a farm. Why didn't you grow them?"

"They are hard to grow, lass. Not like the squash and such in your mum's vegetable garden. Besides, the wild ones always tasted best. I remember it was a fine and sunny morning. My best mate, James, came by the house and we decided it was a perfect day for hunting mushrooms. Penny Buns were in season, and we knew a nice strand of oaks over by the cow pasture where we'd found them before. Now, to get to those oaks, we had to climb over a brace of stone fences and cross the dairy pasture. This had never been any trouble before. We were spry young lads and loved climbing fences and trees and such. What we didn't know our neighbor had gotten in a new bull."

"A mean ol' bull."

"It was, Fiona, it was the foulest beast of the cattle kingdoms. It had one horn which was crooked and one hideous eye glazed over a milky white. Maybe that eye was why it had such a temper...I can't imagine the bloody thing could see very well. James and I were about half-way to the fence on the far side of the pasture when this goblin of bulls spotted us. I remember I heard it snort, and then the pounding of hooves. I glanced back, saw the daft beast, and told James to run for it. Now, James, he was a handsome lad. He had fluffy blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He was a looker, all right, but he was so clumsy it made you want to check his shoes to see if he had two left feet. I dashed off, heading for the wall as fast as I'd ever run in my life. James, I don't know if he tripped or stumbled, but by the time I got to the wall and pulled myself on top of the stones, he was still yards away. And the devil bull was right behind him. I stayed on top of the fence and held my hand out for him. I hoped I could pull him up and over before the bull got to us."

"You always stop here, Da. Is it because it makes you sad?"

"I suppose it does. Now, lass, don't get me wrong. James grew up, got married, and had three little lasses like you. He has a good life, though a shorter life than some, and he never blamed me for what happened."

"For him hurting his leg, you mean?"

"He never blamed me for the accident. But he never walked right after the bull threw him. I always thought if I'd been faster, or not been so clumsy--"

"I wasn't your fault, Da. It was the mean ol' bull."

"It was the mean old bull what did it, but I still felt bad. There I was on the top of the wall, hoping to help my friend escape the bull. I guess I leaned out too far trying to reach James. I started to lose my balance, and I pulled back, trying not to fall, and I toppled clean over the stone wall and landed on my head on the other side. That devil bull, he caught James and tossed him over the fence almost on top of me. James broke his leg in four places. The doc did his best, but James had a limp the rest of his life."

"But you didn't know it yet because you fell asleep."

"Who's telling this tale?"

"You are, Da."

"I am. And I wasn't asleep. I hit my head and was knocked clean out."

"And that's when you had the funny dream."

"That's when I had the dream."

"Tell me."

"I dreamed I opened my eyes, and I was in a giant room. It was a strange room. It had a high, domed ceiling made of earth and rock. It was as if someone had hollowed out a hill and made a fancy room out of it. There were long tables with a dozen chairs at each one and fancy tapestries hanging on the walls. Gathered around me was crowd of the oddest looking--"

"Ronan! Are you keeping our girl awake! She's sick. She needs her rest."

"That's it then, Fiona. Your mum's caught us. Get you to sleep now."

"Oh, Da. Can't you finish it? Please?"

"No, lass. It's not worth a row with your mum. We'll finish it tomorrow."

"Goodnight, Daddy."

"Goodnight, sweeting."

Chapter One

As we start down the first hill, there is an odd plunk of sound which echoes in my head as loud as a gunshot. It sounds as if the world's worst guitarist has hit the most dissonant chord in the universe. It isn't possible. Even if some nut wanted to play a guitar on a roller coaster, the park workers would never let him bring one on the ride.

I wonder for a moment if I imagined the sound. The coaster itself is the clankiest, most rattling thing I have ever ridden. It is an old ride, all wooden bracing and metal supports. The cars are old-fashioned as well, open cars and simple lap belts. It is my young cousin's first roller coaster ride, and we chose a simple one with no loops or fancy shoulder bars. My cousin, Brenda, is ten years old and sits in the car in front of me with my Aunt Tulia. Tulia's other two daughters are in the car in front of her. Odd man out, I thought I would have to ride alone. Right before the ride started, the staff seated a young boy next to me. The kid must also be in an odd numbered group. He's maybe eight years old--younger than Brenda, certainly--but he's a game kid. He bounced in his seat the entire time the coaster rattled and clanked up the first hill, shouting for it to hurry the hell up.

I think he's excited to be riding away from his parents. Every time he says the word "hell" he giggles like a loon.

We are cresting the second hill when it happens. I suppose I expect it after the strange plunk of sound. It always starts the same way. Time seems to slow to a crawl. I begin to notice tiny details, as if the entire world is in slow motion. In front of me, Brenda's braided hair swings straight up in the air. Aunt Tulia turns towards her daughter, laughing. The sun glints off of the top of a funhouse below us, creating a diffuse rainbow of light. A crow flies, dark against a backdrop of bright cumulus.

Sounds become stretched and hollow. Tulia's laugh sounds like the utterance of a goblin or troll from some low-rated horror flick. The clack and rattle of the coaster softens and fades. The screams and chatter of the other riders shrink to silence. All I can hear now was the beating of my own heart.

Beside me, the boy's lap belt lifts and writhes like a snake in slow motion. The coaster hits the third hill. As I stare in horrified fascination, the young boy begins to rise out of his seat.

My universe is now silent and ponderously slow. It is as if I have an eon of time to watch and react. As the boy floats up, as if to join the crow in the cloud-studded sky, I reach my right hand out with exact precision and grab a handful of his jeans at the back waist. It would be pure foolishness to try to hold the kid in his own seat. I use every ounce of strength I have to pull him sideways and into my lap. Somehow he's turned to face me, I think he twisted in his panic. I keep my right hand clenched in his waistband and bring my left arm around his back to squeeze him as firmly as I can.

"Hang on!" I shout, but I cannot hear my own voice.

His arms twine around my neck and he grips me with such ferocity I can scarcely breathe.

The world reverts to normal from one heartbeat to the next. I am pummeled by the fury of the wind and a cacophony of sound. In the car behind us, someone is shrieking incoherent words so loudly it sounds like a foreign tongue. The kid is screaming directly into my left ear, but I can't blame him. I felt like screaming myself. The coaster goes into a series of turns and it's all I can do to keep the boy from flying out into the world of the crow.

I don't know why my mind is fixated on the damned crow. I have my eyes squeezed shut in concentration, and in my head, I see the bird against the cloud so clearly, it looks like a photograph. Stupid douche-bag crow, get out of my head. I'm busy trying not to get this kid killed.

On an abrupt hill, the kid's head slams into my nose. Hurts like hell, but I've had worse. Mine is not a safe and cozy life. It is filled with insane shit like this roller coaster ride. It's dangerous and depressing, but what am I supposed to do? Watch some little kid fly out of a roller coaster and die? I have enough nightmares, thank you very much. I'd rather have the possibly broken nose.

My right hand feels like a claw, my biceps are aching, and there is a sharp, hot pain in my nose. This damned ride can't last much longer. It's an old school little coaster, not some modern behemoth. God, I hope my lap belt holds. Just a little longer. It can't be much longer.

The coaster screeches beneath us and the boy and I are thrown forward. I almost lose my grip on the kid, but my clawed right hand refuses to release its death grip on the boy's jeans. I clutch him tightly again with my left arm, and his grip on my neck tightens. No worries. It's almost over. I can breathe later.

Another screech, and a third, but I don't lose my hold now I know what to expect. The coaster has slowed so much by this point that we creep back into the station. There is a crowd of horrified park goers on one side of the tracks, and a small herd of over-excited park personnel on the other. The staff flows towards me like a frightened school of fish as the ride comes to a complete standstill.

The kid has stopped screaming and looks around with wide, dazed eyes. His grip on my neck loosens abruptly and I drag in a ragged breath. Air is good. I'd started to feel dizzy from the combination of too much adrenaline and not enough oxygen.

Behind me, a woman is still screaming her lungs out. It's probably the kid's mom. I ignore her, and so do the staff. Three of the brightly clad workers are trying to get the boy loose. I'd managed to let go with my left arm, but my right hand is still locked into its claw impression. One of the staff, a young woman, croons "It's all right. It's all right," over and over as she tries to rub some feeling back into my hand.

The boy bounces back from the ordeal with easy enthusiasm. He smiles at the workers and waves at the horrified crowd.

"Hey, Mister." The kid turns to me and gives me a gap-toothed grin reminiscent of a plucky street urchin. "Thanks for helping me."

"No problem."

He looks over my head at the screaming woman. "Mom, stop it! I'm fine. Look at me, I'm fine."

The volume of the woman behind me lessens greatly as she winds down to hitching sobs. Crooning woman manages to get my right hand to loosen up, and several waiting hands lift the boy off my lap. As they release my lap belt, I use my left hand to check my nose. It's sore, but it isn't bleeding at least. Maybe it was bruised instead of broken.

More helpful hands assist me from the car and steady me while I find my sea legs. The workers slap me on the back and express random bits of gratitude. I smile at them and nod, not feeling up to much more. I hurt, I still feel a little dizzy, and I need to sit down. I motion to Aunt Tulia to show her I am heading for the coaster's exit, and stagger away.

Not far from the exit, I find an empty bench and flop down in relief. Soon, a crowd of people flows out of entrance gate. I expect they've closed the ride until it can be inspected. None of the people who were waiting to ride the coaster were likely to chance it if they didn't. Folks who go to amusement parks want pretend fright, not the real deal.

When the riders begin to trickle out of the roller coaster's exit, I prop my elbows on my knees and put my head in my hands. I don't want to talk to any well wishers or deal with any more congratulations. I am beat.

It's always like this after one of my rescues. The rush of adrenaline and the unshakable panic I will be too slow or too clumsy to help whoever's life is in danger combine into a perfect storm of weariness. I'll be able to shake it off after a while, but for now, I need to sit and rest. Too much interaction with well-meaning but tiresome strangers would delay my recovery.

I remember my first rescue with crystal clarity. It was my eighteenth birthday, my celebration with my family was over, and I was taking a walk through downtown Indianapolis with my friend, Todd. I had decided since I was newly legal, I'd buy a cigar to celebrate, and Todd thought it was an awesome plan. We were coming up on the Walgreens on Meridian when I saw the old man.

He was ancient, this guy, and he had an oxygen tank perched on the seat of his walker. He was standing outside an apartment building smoking a cigarette. You heard me. The guy was smoking a cigarette while hooked up to an oxygen tank. The gas ignited and the old man's clothes sprouted fire like it was their job. I sprinted to the guy, ripped off my jacket, and put out the flames while Todd ran inside the building and got some girl in the office to call 911.

Old Guy was burned pretty badly, but he was still hanging in there when the ambulance left. I ended up not getting a cigar. The incident had put me off smoking for good.

I was eighteen then, now I'm thirty-four, and these days I have an incident where I have to intervene nearly every damn day. On some especially nerve-racking days, I get more than one. Sometimes an entire string of fantastical events leaves me beyond exhausted by bedtime.

Contrary to what some of my ex-girlfriends came to believe, I don't go looking for trouble. I'm not some vigilante superhero looking for fame and attention. Trouble finds me. No matter where I go, or what I do, I always seem to be in just the right place at just the right time to help someone out.

Like a trip to a sleepy little amusement park in southern Indiana called Seaton's Kingdom for my little cousin's birthday.

I don't even like amusement parks.

An approaching sound of a woman crying breaks me out of my reverie. I lift my head and see the kid being dragged away by his mom, who has an iron grip on the boy's hand. The woman has a little girl as well, which explains why the kid was riding with me.

The boy sees me and waves madly with his free hand. I wave back. He's a cute kid. He tugs at his mother's hand and I can hear him telling her I'm the guy who saved him. The mom pauses and takes one brief look at me before rushing away with her kids as if I have the black plague and the black plague is hungry for children.

I don't take offense. It happens like this sometimes. You'd think folks who were saved from one catastrophe or another would be universally grateful, but people's minds are complex things. Some are grateful, sure. And then some people act like I am the cause of the problem instead of the cure. Everyone is different. Besides, I don't help people for the gratitude. I help people for one simple reason; so I can sleep at night.

Not that I won't have the odd nightmare of a small boy flying from a ride car to join a demonic crow in the sky, but I imagine it would be much worse if I had missed the catch.

I like being able to look at myself in the mirror and be reasonably happy with who I see looking back at me. I'm not willing to give it up, no matter how hectic and bizarre my life might be.

Chapter Two

My young cousins come dashing up to the bench where I sit, with Aunt Tulia lagging behind at a more sedate pace.

"Nice catch, Nick." Brenda sits down beside me and begins re-braiding her hair. It was looking a little bedraggled after the roller coaster ride.

"Thanks."

One short sentence is all anyone says about the rescue of the boy on the amusement park ride. My family is used to my interesting life.

"What are we going to ride next?" Cousin Theresa is fifteen, but she fidgets with as much excitement as her two younger sisters.

Why shouldn't she? They are happy young girls and an entire afternoon of fun stretches before them. I wish I could recapture such a sense of wonder and excitement in the world around me, but too many years and too many rescues separate me from their playful innocence.

"Let's go on the log flume ride...you know...the big one!" Kayla is the middle child and has recently become an official teenager, which pleases her no end.

"I think your cousin Nick has had enough excitement for one day." Tulia's green eyes sparkle with both amusement and concern. She's a kind woman who completely dotes on me, as do all of my aunts.

It's not always easy being the only male child in an entire family. My dad was an only child and my mom has four sisters. I have two sisters of my own, Taylor and Sonja, and fifteen cousins, all female. It wasn't all bad when I was growing up, though. I always got a ton of loot at Christmastime. Hell, I still do. It makes my sisters jealous. Me, I'm more philosophical about it. I figure if I have to deal with this crazy life of mine, I should at least get a few extra presents during the holidays.

"You are correct, Aunt Tulia. I have had more than enough excitement for one day, but I'm not about to spoil you guys' fun. Run off and ride some more rides. Why don't I meet you back here in a couple of hours?"

"Sounds like a plan," Aunt Tulia agrees. "See you then."

"Bye, Nick!" Brenda grabs her sisters by the hands and begins dragging them off.

"Try not to fall off of any rides!" I shout after them.

Their only response is a burst of giggles.

I wander around for a while and end up at a duck pond. The pond has a nice wooden deck around it sprinkled with benches and picnic tables. Happy families sit at the tables, refueling with carnival food and free sodas before they head back into the fray.

Their drinks remind me of the free soda the park offers its guests, and I swing by the nearest vendor to get a cup of Sprite. No diet soda for me. Between my daily rushes of adrenaline and my fairly vigorous morning exercise routine, I am prone to skinniness. I'm fit and strong, but gangly. I have to consume a lot of calories just to hold even.

Returning to the pond, I notice bright red machines which dispense what looks like round pellets of dry cat food. They look like gumball machines with the most unappetizing gum ever invented. I'm not sure what the pellets are made of. For all I know, it's Purina Duck Chow. Sitting my soda down at an empty table, I fish a couple of quarters out of my jeans' pocket and purchase a giant handful of the brown pellets.

I sip my soda as the ducks swarm to the newest victim of the bright red machines. As I sprinkle the food among them, giant, colorful koi swim to the surface of the water and compete with the ducks for a mouthful of kibble. This amuses me so much I return to the snack vendor to get change for a buck and feed them more. I refill my Sprite while I'm there. I'm thirsty and it's free, so why not? I wonder how many Indiana families flock to this park instead of the larger King's Island in Cincinnati because they save so much money on soda. It seems to be an effective marketing strategy because the old park is packed with amusement seekers.

It's a nice park. We'd picked the old wooden coaster because it looked tame enough for Brenda's first experience, but the park has newer, more modern rides with bright metal structures and enough loops to please even the most discerning of enthusiasts. They have an extensive water park as well, and my cousins had enjoyed the water rides through the morning. It might not be as gigantic as King's Island, but it is a fun park and less expensive as well.

The ducks and fish seem to know instinctively the second I run out of quarters and swim off to find more suckers. To my right, I see some children begging their father for change, and the ducks eye them hopefully.

Finishing my drink, I throw the cup in a nearby can and amble off towards the midway. While I don't want to ride any more rides, perhaps a game or two would kill some time while I wait on the girls. A little girl jostles me, and I run into a twenty-something man causing him to drop his corn dog into the dirt. He is wearing one of those Homburg style hats and scowls at me through an impressive handlebar mustache.

"Sorry, man. A kid bumped into me."

Unhappy hipster man continues to glare in silence as he makes a big production of picking up the wayward corn dog and throwing it into the nearest bin. His disdainful facade breaks briefly as he misses the can and has to retrieve the corn dog a second time.

"Let me buy you another one."

Again I am ignored. Hipster man turns his back on me and disappears into the crowd.

"I probably saved your life, you ungrateful bastard," I mutter under my breath.

It could be true, for all I know. My "curse," as I like to call it, isn't all heroic rescues atop speeding roller coasters. Sometimes weird things happen, seemingly at random, and I never know what would have happened if I hadn't been there. Take hipster dude. Maybe he would have choked on the deep-fried treat, or maybe it had been tainted with botulism. A little girl runs into me, I run into Disdainful Man, and the corn dog terror bites the dust. I don't always get to know the outcome of my curse's intervention.

It's damned annoying, but what can I do?

I play a couple of games, but the angry hipster has spoiled the mood. I do win a stuffed toy turtle dyed a rainbow of colors by popping a balloon with a dull dart. I threw it hard enough the midway worker had trouble getting the dart out of the board. The plushy is small but cute. It's girlie enough I think I can get away with giving it to Brenda without her sisters being too jealous.

I meet up with my family at the designated time, and Brenda is delighted with the small stuffed turtle. Her sisters coo over it appreciatively but don't seem offended I have only one plushy offering to make. They're good kids, my cousins.

It's late in the afternoon and the girls are getting tired. We've got an hour and a half drive back to Indy, so we decide to get an early start.

We're almost to the front gate of the park when I stop in my tracks.

"Tulia, I know it's a little early for dinner, but can we get something to eat before we head back? My treat. I'm starving." Despite the big lunch we'd had a few hours ago, I am suddenly ravenous. The thought of making a long drive before I had dinner was not to be entertained.

"Well, sure Nick, if you want to. You girls hungry?"

They are growing girls, so of course they are hungry. We head back towards the duck pond and its convenient picnic tables. Along the way, we stop at a red and green stand selling Italian sausage and I buy us gigantic sandwiches covered in onions and peppers and dripping with grease. The same stand sells deep fried green beans, and I buy an extra large order so we can pretend we're eating something healthy.

I scarf down my sandwich, eat more than my share of the green beans, and finish Brenda's sandwich when she gets full.

"You're like a garbage disposal," Kayla teases and the girls all laugh.

"Hey, I'm hungry." I grin back at the giggling trio. "I'm still hungry, actually."

I eye the rest of my aunt's sandwich, but she shoos me away, which makes the girls laugh again.

"Hey, look." I point at another nearby food stand painted a gloriously garish mix of blue and orange. "They sell elephant ears. I haven't had one of those since I was a kid. Who wants one?"

Aunt Tulia agrees to an elephant ear while my young cousins opt for the more modern funnel cake. I have both. The funnel cake comes with a thick blanket of powdered sugar and the crispy deep fried dough of the elephant ear is sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Both are delicious.

"Nick, I honestly don't know where you put it," my aunt says, shaking her head.

"Hey, I'm a growing boy."

My cousins burst into giggles again, and we throw away our trash before heading out of the park. I'm finally full, though I do stare wistfully at a stand advertising deep-fried Twinkies as we pass it.

"No more, Nick!" My aunt is shaking her head again. "You'll get sick on the ride back."

We make a pit stop at the restrooms before we leave, and then stroll out to the car. The girls pile into the backseat and Tulia rides shotgun. I drive a four-door Accord because of my job, and while the girls are a little cozy in the back seat, they have enough room to get by.

As we pull out of the parking lot, a traffic report comes on the radio. There's been a sixteen-car pileup with casualties on the highway we planned to take home. All northbound traffic has been at a standstill for forty-five minutes, and it's anyone's guess how long before the authorities can clear the road. I pull to the side of the road to consult my phone for a good route to get us to state road thirty-one. It's a smaller road, only two lanes most of the time, but it will get us back to Indy.

As I get ready to head for thirty-one, I hear Theresa talking in the backseat.

"It's a good thing cousin Nick got so hungry. We could have been in that accident if we'd left when we were going to."

I look over at my Aunt. She looks at me with the same serious expression I imagine is on my own face. I pull the car back onto the road and we head for home.

Two hours later, thanks to the poky little state road, I drop my aunt and cousins off at their home near Avon. The girls give me sleepy waves from the front door. I continue to my apartment in Speedway. It's not a fancy place, but it's cheap and the neighborhood is all right. My feet drag on the stairs up to my second-floor apartment. I am beat. Between the fun in the sun at the amusement park and the adrenaline rush from the boy's rescue, I feel like I could sleep for a week.

Chapter Three

Despite the fact I went to bed relatively early the night before, I wake up late the next morning. A quick text to my friend, Todd Clarke, and our breakfast plans become our brunch plans. As we set a new time, he jokes about whether I'll show up this time.

He's a good friend. I can't tell you how many times we've had plans and I have failed to show up because of some bizarre coincidence or another. Just last week we were supposed to watch the game over at BW3s, eat some wings and drink some beers. I got a flat tire on the way. While I was standing on the sidewalk looking at the tire and trying to decide if I wanted to change it myself or not, a man rushed out of a nearby shop and ran right into me. I got the breath knocked out of me. The thief broke his ankle and ended up being an easy catch for the security guard chasing him. I called roadside assistance. By the time a nice dude in a local tow truck got my tire changed, the game was over and Todd was back home.

I apologized, but he wasn't huffy about it. He knows more about my crazy life than anyone outside of my family, and he accepts me as I am.

After the text, I turn on the coffee pot and head into the living room to do my morning workout. While I'm laid back about most things, I am nearly fanatical about my workout. I rarely leave home before putting in at least thirty minutes of exercise and weight lifting, and when I do skip my routine, it makes me cranky the rest of the day. It makes sense, I suppose. I'm thrown into intense situations on a nearly daily basis and I often have to rely on my strength and dexterity to handle them. I don't think anyone can blame me for wanting to keep in shape.

This morning, I take it a little easy on the dumbbells. My arms are still sore from the grab and hold on the roller coaster yesterday, and my right hand is stiffly clumsy. I do fewer push-ups than usual but the normal amount of squats and sit-ups. After the calisthenics, there's ten minutes of basic yoga and I'm done for the day. A shower, a quick cup of coffee, and I'm off to meet Todd.

It's a short drive to the Waffle House, which is our favorite place that serves breakfast twenty-four hours a day. Since nothing unusual happened on the trip, I arrive early and snag us a booth near the jukebox. I order a cup of coffee and feed the jukebox a few bills. By the time Todd joins me, Twenty One Pilots is playing and he gives me a thumbs up.

We order quickly. Both of us know the menu by heart. I get my usual hearty breakfast special. It's pretty cheap, and it comes with eggs, choice of meat, hash browns, toast, and a waffle. They'll put stuff in the hash browns as well, and I get mine with onions, tomatoes, and chunks of ham. Todd orders his usual as well, a double order of hash browns with everything but the kitchen sink on them plus a side order of bacon.

The waitress who takes our order flirts shamelessly with Todd. I'm not surprised; he's a good-looking dude. He looks short when he stands next to me, but Todd is six foot tall. It's not his fault his best friend is a giant. Todd's got the blackest hair you've ever seen and a neatly trimmed goatee to match. In the midst of all the hairy darkness, he has startlingly pale blue eyes which are usually crinkled in the corners from his perpetual state of jolly amusement. He's a good guy, and I count myself lucky to have him as a friend.

"Say, sweetheart." Todd can get away with calling women he doesn't know by pet names because anyone can see he's completely harmless. "Why is it hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs?"

"I don't know. Why?" The server is cute, blonde, and smiling at Todd with good-humored indulgence.

"Because they always take things…literally!"

She laughs with greater enthusiasm than the tired joke deserves. Todd has a way about him which makes people want to be part of the fun. She steps away, giggling, and puts in our order before bringing Todd a large cola. Even I don't drink soda before noon, but Todd is an around-the-clock soda addict.

"So, did you have fun with the girls yesterday?" Todd takes a long pull of his cola and closes his eyes in pure sugar-high bliss.

"I did. For a while anyway. Then something happened."

"That's what she said."

I roll my eyes at the outdated line. It's so Todd. If you want to hang with him you have to get used to the bad jokes. "Really? That line's so last millennium."

"Hey, there's old, and then there's classic."

"And there are some folks who obviously can't tell the difference."

"Cool story, brah. So, what happened yesterday?"

He listens patiently while I tell a tale of roller coasters, angry hipsters, and massive pile-ups on the interstate. Todd loves these stories and regularly threatens to write them down in a book some day. I'm not concerned about it. Even if he did, who would believe it was anything more than a fantastical tale?

"Looks like the Callaghan Curse was in rare form at the amusement park. Good catch with the kid. A little guy like him wouldn't have a chance of surviving a fall from even the tiniest of coasters."


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Julianne Q Johnson writes in a little Indiana house when her two cats, two ferrets, and one fiancé will let her. Her favorite stories to write are modern-day, realistic worlds with a supernatural or paranormal element. She enjoys taking otherwise ordinary characters and giving them a paranormal gift or putting them in fantastical situations to see how they will handle it. Though her works are not comedy, there is a touch of humor in all of her books. Visit her website at JulianneQJohnson.com

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
I have a blog at JulianneQJohnson.com. There's a sign up button on my blog for my newsletter. Everyone who signs up get a free book of short stories as well as writing news and free content in the newsletter. I also have a facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/JulianneQJohnsonAuthor
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
I have long been a fan of Dean Koontz. I love the way he weaves a realistic world with paranormal elements. He has certainly been an influence on the types of stories I most enjoy writing.
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
While my main character has no superhuman powers, he is certainly a reluctant superhero of sorts. I wanted a cover that reflected the superhero element in my book.

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