Here's PJ to tell us about her book, which releases today.
Life in rural small town can dull the senses. A trio of gal pals—mired in middle age, Middle America, and other people’s problems—long to escape.
When Bonnie wins the Boffo Lotto, her circle of friends urge her to lawyer up, invest, and sequester herself.
But secrets are inconceivable in small towns, so Bonnie and Carl invite close friends to witness their Vegas wedding and honeymoon in Hawaii with endless vagabond beyond. The sky’s the limit!
The allure of travel is fun for a while—hilarious, in fact. But when the husbands are jailed, wanderlust is no longer a romp and things get complicated when you’re halfway round the world, untethered from all you know and love.
Life has its consequences… and there’s no place like home.
A trio of gal pals—mired in middle age, Middle America, and other people’s problems—long to escape. The Boffo Lotto funds wanderlust, but husbands misbehave, lawsuits proliferate, and conundrums get amplified when you’re halfway ‘round the world, untethered to all you know and love. There’s no place like home.
Unlike Jackie, Fran was irked by “Amazing Grace”. Especially when Bonnie’s ringtone interrupted steamy Tom Selleck dreams. She groped the nightstand for her cell, clicked it on, and croaked, “How—“.
Fran swallowed to regain her voice and attempt cordial. She needed to reply, “How sweet the sound, “ the obligatory response among friends, but just now the ritual undermined behavior management principles. One shouldn’t reinforce disruptions like nighttime phone calls. Though she was a late-in-life newlywed, who didn’t require beauty sleep, she did need peace. How did Jackie Breeden sleep with grandfather clock chimes every quarter hour through the night?
Fran opened one eye to sneak a clock peak: 10:33 p.m. In the jostling, her phone dropped to the floor, but their carpet prevented clatter. Gratefully she rolled over, mindful not to bump her snoring mate. His guzzle-snort camouflaged a phone call that would awaken him and ignite his potential to pray.
Joan Baez’s famed anthem resumed. Fran suppressed a groan. Her clumsiness had disconnected the call of a persistent friend. Rolling to a crouch on the floor, she scooped up the phone and clicked on.
“The new sweet sound will be cha-ching,” Bonnie said. “Write these numbers down!”
“Hold your horses if you want to remain friends. I didn’t hear please. Also, speak softly. Paul’s asleep and I need to locate paper and pen, plus my bookmark. I’m reading the new Jan Karon book.”
This was a half-truth, a misdirect to cover her irritation. Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good lay spread-eagled on the nightstand. A moment ago, it covered her phone.
“Trying to learn how to be a pastor’s wife?” Bonnie joked.
“Bad move, Bonnie. Thank your stars you’re long distance. Do you want me to write the number or not?”
Fran bustled into the robe draped across the foot of the bed. A double bed shared with a pastor who performed unpuritanically under the sheets, then cozied her onto the mattress edge where she tried to read herself to sleep. Marriage was unexpectedly exciting. Apparently abstinence did make a body grow fonder. Fran was considering an additional wedding gift: purchase of a king size bed to ensure her own space.
She grabbed her phone and held it low, amidst the rustle and swish of the silken fabric, hoping the noise would infuse sense into Bonnie’s head. Fran padded to her office down the hall and Brailled the desktop. A tablet and pen aligned in their always-place. The silver patina of her recent wedding photo’s frame twinkled in the moon glow.
Fran startled. She’d never noticed Paul’s tie skewed to spoon the folds of her wedding suit sleeves. Significant lust hidden in plain sight.
She smiled as she recalled squeezing her nosegay during the ceremony and the subsequent photo shoot. Moments later, she lofted the roses over her head backwards for a perfect landing into the hands of Bonnie, Paul’s secretary. The same, still unmarried woman who’d quit her job and left town a few days ago with Carl, Steve Breeden’s half-brother. California bound, they said. What an upended apple cart to accept, to explain, and, eventually, to embrace.
Bonnie Voss. The same woman who’d lost her morals and her mind. The same still unmarried woman who called her for a favor in the middle of the night. Please.
Fran’s chair rewarded her careful sit with silence. Her knees complied, noiseless too. She poised the pen and drew her cell to her ear. “I’m ready. Shoot me the numbers.” Fran cleared her throat to underscore her great effort.
“Please? 10. 11. 31. 41. 44. 14. 24.”
“Okay. Let me repeat them to make sure I got them right.” Fran adjusted her robe. “10. 11. 31. 41. 44. 14. 24.” After Bonnie’s confirming purr, she continued, “What are these? Sounds like high school locker combinations.”
“Good guess, girl! It’s Carl’s combination from his junior and senior years of high school. He was excited to have a locker in the jock block twice.”
“Is that the hell why he remembers the numbers?” Fran snapped so harshly, she almost bit her tongue. She nursed a grudge about entitled high school athletes, a remnant of fending off Coach’s over-protection when his star players missed grades. She smiled at a memory of hoisting her paddle in the general vicinity of his over-stuffed ass. Hell, she’d have whacked him, if her office door had been closed.
Emboldened by the memory, she pressed on. “What the hell am I supposed to do with these numbers? Memorize them and then eat the note? Global nuclear war didn’t start after the nightly news, did it? You giving me the combination to Carl’s underground bomb shelter or his safe deposit box?”
“Watch the Boffo Lotto drawing tonight at 11:00. We can’t, because we’re deadheading to Rock Island, Illinois. I knew you stayed up late and would do a favor for a friend.” Bonnie didn’t pause to allow Fran to object. “I have a question for you, Fran? What the hell are you saying hell for? You’re a pastor’s wife now!”
“I’m off-duty.” Fran slammed down the phone.
Fran stood, hoisted her robe so she wouldn’t trip over its hem—and to shake off Bonnie’s rebuke—and swished into the family room. She turned on the TV, already set on FOX, and heard the same news pronounced by another bubble head, part of the daily parade, all interchangeable, most often blondes with hair sprayed into helmets. Cement-smiled with chunky gold jewelry coiled at the crest of vibrant high-necked, sleeveless dresses. Clothing to frame the toothy truths spread by big mouths on pedestal necks. Lipstick like dual blood streaks cheek-to-cheek. Yip-yap-yip. It was exhilarating to watch.
Fran settled in. She’d never monitored the lottery picks before, never even bought a ticket, considering the act beneath her station in the small, close-knit community. Maybe she’d made a mistake. A buy was frivolous for certain, but watching the drawing promised the simplest high on the planet. Its pep counterbalanced the bite of the recycled news’ spew.
The numbered ping-pong balls bubbled, perked, and popped into round channels, the Plexiglas contraption reminding her of the junior high science teacher’s elaborate gerbil cage.
Glad to perch on her chintz-covered chair, swimming solo in a household of beige leather and brown corduroy, Fran felt secure. She’d moved into the parsonage under extreme protest, put her Craftsman cottage up for sale. Paul didn’t know it, but she’d slipped back several times for respite from his parishioner problems, of which she now owned fifty percent. For better or worse.
The sixth ball rolled down the chute, almost smiling as it scooted into place. Fran looked at the paper in her lap, looked at the screen, looked at her lap, took a deep breath, and squinted.
Then, she looked again. Shock sucked her breath. I’ll be go to hell and back! Did that just happen? Is this a dream, a fairytale, or a nightmare come to life?
Bonnie’s, er Carl’s, numbers were winners! Fran’s heart felt as skittish as the numbered balls had looked inside the tumbler that assured their mix. Her sleeves fluttered like monarch wings while she flapped her arms in a wild chicken dance. She’d never pranced with abandon at wedding receptions, not even her own. She grabbed a table lamp before it toppled, then twirled it for good measure.
She longed to scream. She was a former school administrator, used to being in control, and a newlywed mindful of her husband’s rest, not a frivolous teen. Yet unbridled joy surged her arms to the ceiling to accompany a silent “Hip! Hip! Hooray!” No high kick, her knees still aggravated by the beside-the-bed crouch to answer the cell call.
When she realized the size of the lottery win, she gasped and slid to the floor. Her mind flip-flopped like the ponytails of the cheerleaders whose moves she’d emulated. The ones whose skirts grew shorter every year—as did Fran’s fuse, fueling her retirement at the end of the last school year.
Should she call Bonnie back? She’d said something about being on Illinois time, an hour earlier than Michigan, but not whether she and Carl would be driving or sleeping at this hour. Perhaps Bonnie and Carl were as involved as Fran and her new husband, Pastor Paul, had been an hour ago.
She couldn’t tell Paul. She heard her snoring giant, sawing logs as if cutting away the sins of the world, perhaps beseeching God on His heavenly throne to fix all of the church problems overnight.
She couldn’t call Jackie Breeden. It wouldn’t be copacetic, as her husband, Steve, would say. Fran knew the farm couple awakened earlier than early for chores.
“Bonnie, how are you? Are you sitting down?”
“I’m fine. Doing 80 mph on I-80, so of course, I’m sitting. I’m seat belted and squeezing the handle above the truck cab door, gluing my tongue to the roof of my mouth to improve my balance, like you told me from yoga class. I’ve only driven small town roads, never been accelerated as a passenger to this speed. Carl said the sky’s the limit on the Interstates, so I’m hoping to not go airborne.”
“Of course, I won. I won the man, took that church secretary job and shoved it. Did I tell you we’re headed to Vegas to marry in the Little White Wedding Chapel near the Strip? Elvis will officiate.”
“You won the Boffo Lotto.” Fran kept her voice flat. Mention of a strip flustered her all the more. Was the former church secretary wayward already? She held her tongue, willing Bonnie to comprehend soon. Fran longed to end the call and return to bed.
“I did, er, Carl, my intended, did? What’s the total?
Fran clicked off the TV. The lottery win was the only news needed, and her tolerance for noise not what it used to be. Perhaps that’s why she disliked football, that roar of the crowd bullshit.
Along with the silly frilly cheers.
Then Fran realized that the phone echoed the silence of her home. Bonnie said nothing. No sounds. Not even road noise broke the silence. Eerie.
Fran shook her phone, pulled it back from her ear to see if it had gone dead. “Are you there?” Still silent. Fran wondered about tunnels on I-80 that might block cell reception. She’d never been west of Chicago.
Fran clicked off the call and sent a text, which took longer than it should because her fingers kept hitting the wrong keys. That many zeros after a dollar sign seemed inconceivable. The spacing back to erase and then re-enter the correct numbers took several seconds. Her phone rang, startling her into additional errors. Bonnie’s name appeared at the top of her screen, but she ignored the call until she completed the text.
She didn’t bother with the voice mail she received in the interim. She suspected it would be a resounding yelp. Instead she hit the callback feature.
“Yes… Yes… Yes… Bonnie, calm down. You won. Yes, you won. Or did Carl? Where did you buy the ticket?”
“I bought the ticket in Tinley Park, Illinois. At a Speedway station while Carl gassed up. It was a whim. I was bored riding shotgun in a truck. Carl didn’t even need me to read maps! I had to pee and the kiosk in the station enticed me as much as the snacks, so I bought one of each!”
“A ticket and a Twinkie! You’re a two-fisted wonder woman!” Fran doubled over with laughter, almost peeing her pajama bottoms. Fran thought, but didn’t say anything about Bonnie not peeing the leather seats in Carl’s new truck. Bonnie’s giggling seemed out of control.
Bonnie calmed to talk, her voice stronger now. “The station and neighborhood looked safe, not likely harboring Chicago’s high crime, so I won’t mind going back to claim the money. $536 million, really?! Wow-oh-wow-oh-wow!”
“Well, as I recall, you don’t get the cash at the ticket seller’s. It’s not like an ATM. Think about it, woman. Give your brain a spin.”
“You shouldn’t insult me now that I’m a millionaire, Fran.”
“I’d say sorry, but it’s near midnight, Bonnie. I’m trying to help. Anyway, come home. You have to lawyer up, hire an accountant, and a financial planner. Maybe a publicist. I’ll call my brother—remember he’s a judge— tomorrow to see who he recommends.”
“Well, I hadn’t thought of coming back to Michigan—” Bonnie said.
“Where else would you go?” Fran interjected.
“I guess you’re right. There’s no place like home, among people we trust. Thanks. Thanks a multi-million!” said Bonnie, her excitement building to a shriek.
Despite the distance, Fran heard a loud “Woot! Woot! Whoopee!” The news must be sinking in. Fran could almost hear the phone tossed over Bonnie’s shoulder into the back of the truck cab. How sweet the sound, indeed!
1. Hardcover version of The Winner’s Circle https://www.amazon.com/Winners-Circle-Faith-Family-Frenzy/dp/1947392360/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=7ETM7CFAYB4F&keywords=the+winner%27s+circle+by+pj+colando&qid=1547844370&s=Books&sprefix=The+Winners+Circle+by+P%2Caps%2C196&sr=1-1-fkmrnull
2. Kindle version of TWC https://www.amazon.com/Winners-Circle-Faith-Family-Frenzy-ebook/dp/B07MTS8GTL/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1547844370&sr=1-1-fkmrnull
3. Paperback version https://www.amazon.com/Winners-Circle-Faith-Family-Frenzy/dp/1947392352/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1547844370&sr=1-1-fkmrnull
All are live for order now. Books are also available on B&N, KOBO, etc.
Official release date is today, February 1.
Official release date is today, February 1.
PJ Colando was born and raised in the Midwest, yet unabashedly aspired for adventure elsewhere, following her parents’ model. She lives in southern California with her family, hobbies, and pets.
PJ writes comedy and satire with a literary bent. She is the author of three previous novels, with short stories, personal essays, and articles published in journals, magazines, and anthologies. Follow her boomer humor blog on pjcolando.com.
Best regards and Muchas Gratias, Diane – PJ Colando, grateful author of The Winner’s Circle