What happens to a person left destitute with none of life’s normal chattels. Without property, clothes on their back, no money and alone, burned, broken and naked in the desert. Nineteen year old Paula Smythe faces such a world. All that is left her is an indomitable will and spirit to find a way back to a new life and destiny.
Follow Paula’s journey out of the desert and into the town of Misery Flats and meet Mary, the town nurse and her son Gary who help her on the road to recovery. Continue with Paula on her journey as she grapples with the demands and rigours of an education she never would have envisioned. Meet the people who help and the others who don’t. But once on her path to a new destiny her inner strength, resources and faith give her the courage to stay the course.
The surprise conclusion confirms she has overcome the demons of her past and has now found her place in the world exactly where she wants to be.
If you have ever felt completely down and out and need a lift, think of Paula.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.26(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By John Brown
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2016 John Brown
All rights reserved.
The desert sky slips from sunlit blue to purple. The sun hugs the horizon briefly until extinguished by the lights of the distant Las Vegas skyline.
Far, far away in the depths of the desert, Paula, a gorgeous young blonde woman of nineteen years, stands bound and naked on top of a pile of custom furniture, designer clothes, original art, and the latest electronics, all stacked around a candy floss pink Porsche. She looks down on all that she once owned.
On a nearby hill, Giuseppe (Joe) Maldonna, 45, observes from the open rear window of a black limo. He sips from a silver flask and draws on a newly lit Cohiba Esplendido.
Two men dressed in black stand on the pile beside Paula. One douses the pile and the second flicks a Zippo and drops it on a long white evening dress before running for cover. Flames lick over the dress and through the rest of the clothes and furniture until the Porsche gas tank explodes, scattering wreckage over the desert.
The limo window slides shut and drives away.CHAPTER 2
Moving Back A Year
Paula, in skinny jeans, white tee shirt, one size too small, a bruise on her cheek sits at a breakfast table covered in dishes that have been there longer than this morning, chews on a slice of charred toast. Her mother, Grace (35), no make up, mottle cheeks and eye bags ample enough for a Transatlantic voyage, sits opposite in a partially open, faded pink bathrobe decorated with evidence of many a meal but no single one that could be described, smokes and drinks coffee.
Paula looks up from her plate and asks, "Toast? You'll feel better."
"Not a chance. Too early for anything solid."
Grace reaches across the table, grabs a bottle of bourbon, tops her coffee and takes a pull from the bottle before she puts it back on the table.
"Any time's good for that," Paula retorts.
Grace shrugs, "Get's me kicked started. Helps me face the world."
"You still waitressing at that greasy diner?"
"Naw. I'm a sanitary specialist at the hospital."
You, in a hospital?"
You could eat off my floors?
"When I finish school I'll make enough to get us out of this hell hole."
"Right, why aren't you in school now? And before you go out, wash that dirt off your face."
Paula gingerly touches the bruise on her cheek. "I'm taking a few days off school. I had to straighten out that bitch Celine. She was hitting on Lennie again."
"Brawling in school."
"Not much of a scrap after she got in a sucker punch. A week of rest will do me good and easy to catch up."
"If you're not in school how about running a mop around this place?"
"Later. I want to tell Lennie what I did for him."
"That no account piece of trash."
"Hey, watch your mouth. I don't trash your trash. Let's you and me bond over some dinner tonight."
Paula perches her sunglasses on her forehead and runs out, the screen door slamming behind her. Grace raises her middle finger and pours another cup of coffee, including the shot of bourbon and lights a fresh cigarette.
Paula and her boyfriend Lennie stroll arm-in-arm along a city street.
Paula gives Lennie a nudge and says, "Too bad your wheels are busted. A little comfort at our special place in the hills would be nice."
Lennie points at a green Mustang convertible parked across the street, top down and says, "How about that one?" "Consider it yours," Paula replies.
Paula crosses the street, opens the driver door and disappears under the dashboard. The motor rumbles, Lennie shoots Paula a thumbs up and vaults into the passenger's seat. Paula lays rubber the length of the street.
The green convertible is parked on a hilltop overlooking the city. Paula cuddles into Lennie's shoulder as they share a joint. Lennie takes a final drag and flicks the roach away. Paula climbs on top of him and pulls off her tee shirt. Lennie and Paula disappear into the back seat.
Parked at her trailer, Paula and Lennie share good night kisses. Outside, the rain rat-a-tat-tats a staccato rhythm on the car roof.
"Would like to stay but gotta go. Late for dinner with mom," Paula says.
"OK. OK. I have something to tell you first."
Paula smiles at him and says, "That you love me." "Welllll, not exactly. More like this is our last date. I promised Celine."
"That porky bitch. I told her to stay away. She's dead."
"It was OK before but now she's up the stump, it's not right, you and me screwing."
"You weenie prick. You'll pay, and huge."
"Hey, I never said I'd marry you or anything. We were just having a good time and don't say you didn't like it."
Paula doubles Lennie with a knee to the groin and runs into the trailer. Inside she pushes past her mother and dials the phone.
"Police, I want to report a stolen green Mustang convertible. Yeah, that's the license. Lennie Groggins has it. And you'll find the drugs in a black leather bag inside the spare tire. My name is Paula Smythe and be sure to tell that to Lennie the rat."
"What the hell is that about," Grace asks?
"Nothing. No we're even."
Grace sits in front of a half finished meal, a bottle of bourbon and can of Dr. Pepper the table centerpiece. Her dinner plate substitutes as an ashtray.
An untouched place setting is opposite her. Grace refills her glass and flips over the dog-eared pages of a high school yearbook.
"Sorry I missed dinner. Anything left."
Paula finds a jar of peanut butter in the fridge and spreads it on a slice of white bread and mixes a Dr. Pepper and bourbon.
"Where you been," Grace asks?
Paula titters, "Riding in Lennie's car that he is about to lose."
"Why do you always pick losers? Get a job and make something of yourself."
"He was useful while it lasted. He always had spare cash and knew how to have fun."
"And in exchange you did what?"
"None of your fucking business. OK?"
"Watch your mouth you no account little bitch. You've never been worth the misery. All you know is to lay on your back and spread your legs."
"Makes me my mother's daughter."
"You little slut, you can't talk to me like that. You're the reason I'm in this shit hole."
"Bet your cute little ass. I had it all once. LOOK!"
Grace thrusts a high school yearbook in Paula's face. It shows the picture of a cheerleader. She could be Paula's sister.
"Then you came along."
"Oh, am I the one who knocked you up? And kept you in the gutter ricocheting between dead end jobs until we land here?"
"Do you have any idea of your father?"
"No. Do you?"
Grace rummages in a drawer of a nearby desk and pulls out a faded newspaper clipping. The photo is of a couple in evening clothes with a caption. 'Dr. Paul Alexander, Noted Local Neurosurgeon and Mrs. Alexander, Host Hospital Gala."
"Look long and hard, that should be me," Grace says.
Grace places her high school photo over the picture on the newspaper article.
"Like the baby bump didn't make you a fun fuck anymore __ Mom?"
Sobbing, Grace shouts back in defiance, "Get out of my site you disgusting piece of trash."
Paula ducks a half full glass of bourbon and Dr. Pepper and disappears out the screen door into the driving rain.
Paula slips and slides through the trailer park mud until a flash of lightning shows her the path to the highway. She sticks out her thumb and an eighteen wheeler pulls over. A hairy hand reaches through the door and pulls her aboard.
The eighteen wheeler pulls into a truck stop and parks alongside the other rigs. The passenger door opens, Paula steps down, throws a plaid work shirt back inside and blows a kiss to the driver.
In the background a black limo is being gassed up by a man in a chauffeur's uniform.
"I'll try for a ride from here. The best ever? It's all I had to offer. At least you kept your eyes on the road. Take care and keep it between the ditches."
Paula walks toward the diner. The black limo pulls alongside her. A rear window slides down. Paula nods and climbs into the back seat.
Paula shivers and cuddles into Joe Maldona, Las Vegas capo mafioso. Joe wears his traditional black suit, silver tie over a magenta shirt, cigar in one hand and a silver flask in the other. He pushes a button and a one-way window slides up to separate the front and rear seats.
Joe hands Paula the silver flask. Paula throws back her head, takes a big gulp and coughs.
"Too strong for you little girl," Joe asks?
"No. Too good. But thanks for sharing."
"I don't mind sharing booze," Joe tells her.
Paula takes another pull on the flask and returns it to Joe. She shivers and clutches her arms around her chest.
Joe removes his jacket and drapes it around Paula's shoulders. He pulls her toward him with one hand and slips the other inside the jacket. Paula nestles into his chest and nibbles on a diamond stud in his ear.CHAPTER 3
A Few Weeks Later
Inside a condo penthouse workmen arrange furniture, hang artwork on the walls and hook up an entertainment system for music, movies and television. The predominant colours are red and pink, bordering on shocking. Joe watches silently, perched on a kitchen chair turned backwards, his arms crossed and resting on top, a smug smile creases his face.
Paula, hopping up and down in almost uncontrolled delight squeals, "I've never had a place of my own before. Where can we celebrate tonight?" "Not tonight. We'll have a real blowout this weekend," Joe tells her.
Paula stamps her foot and throws a glass of Krug at Joe, "No, tonight."
Joe wipes his face with the white silk handkerchief from his suit pocket, "Sorry babe but tonight's Joey Junior's birthday and family events come above all."
Pushing her lower lip almost to her nose, Paula whines, "You told me I was number Uno."
"You are when I'm in town. I'm a cat who enjoys a country mouse and a town mouse. You're my town mouse."
"And until the weekend, today's only Tuesday?"
Joe pulls out a wad of bills and peels off several hundreds for Paula.
"Shop, spa, decorate, beautify. Whatever broads do."CHAPTER 4
One Year Later
Joe and Paula follow a tuxedo-clad waiter past gaming tables to a discreet corner nook. The table sparkles in white linen, crystal and shining silver, white roses for the centerpiece.
Paula wears a floor length, cleavage enhancing, ivory dress. A silver shawl draped over her right shoulder. Her blonde hair is worn up.
Joe dresses in his usual black suit and a white on white shirt and tie, Churchill cigar in hand, ignoring the No Smoking sign.
The waiter holds Paula's chair for her. He then turns to Joe, who has already seated himself.
"Welcome back Mr. Maldona. Have a good trip?"
"Yeah. I need a drink. The usual."
"Of course sir. The 18 or 25-year Macallan? And champagne for Miss Smythe?"
"I'll celebrate with the 25-year and a bottle of Krug for Paula. She read in some celebrity rag that's what the stars guzzle."
Joe turns to Paula as she slips the shawl from her shoulders to reveal a butterfly on her right breast.
"What the fuck is that," Joe demands.
"What's it look like?"
"Who said you could do that? I'll get rid of it for you."
Joe stabs his cigar at Paula's chest.
"Lighten up. You don't have to be a drunken sailor anymore to have a tattoo."
"Makes you look like one. You should have asked."
"Ask. It's my body, I'll do as I like. You don't own me. Besides, you haven't been around to ask. I needed something to give me a lift."
"Your body? Own you? Take a look around when you get home."
The waiter interrupts with the drinks.
"Krug for Miss Smythe and 25-year Macallan for Mr. Maldona."
Behind a scowl Joe comments, "Big leap from bourbon and Dr. Pepper."
Paula smirks and raises her glass.
"And what will we have tonight," the waiter asks?
"I think you know," Joe replies.
"Yes sir. A dozen oysters each. Followed by prime rib or rib eye for yourself?"
"Prime rib, rare. I like to see the blood run."
Turning to Paula the waiter says, "Tonight's fish special is Black Cod in an oyster sauce with jasmine rice and white asparagus."
Flashing a saccharine smile Paula says, "Perfect."
A now smiling Paula reaches across the table and clasps Joe's hand in her's.
"What are we celebrating sugar?"
"The L.A. merger. After some tough negotiation the other side finally swung my way."
"Not too tough I hope?"
"A couple of casualties on their side but they wont be missed by anyone. We'll wrap it up next week in Palermo at the annual meeting. But enough business, how about you?"
"Spa, gym, shop. Can't you tell?"
"Guess so, now you prompt."
Paula forces a smile, "Thanks sugar."
The table is cleared of all but the roses. Paula sips a glass of sparkling water. Joe leans back in his chair, tie loosened, brandy snifter cupped in one hand, cigar in the other.
"Drink up, time to turn in," Joe tells her.
"I'm not tired yet."
"Me either. That's why I want to leave now."
"First let me roll the dice."
Joe shrugs, and scribbles on a slip of paper that he hands to Paula.
"Give this to the pit boss. Ten grand's your limit. I don't want to be here all night. I'm going up to the office to see Tony and count my money."
Paula leans on a craps table, a small stack of dollar chips in front of her. Joe steps up and fans the chips on the table.
"We should have left after dinner."
"It's only money."
"Yeah, my money."
The croupier steps over to shake Joe's hand and pay homage. "Evening Mr. Maldona, not Miss Smythe's night?"
"Well, it better be mine," Joe says.
Paula crawls into bed beside Joe, slaps him on his butt, wraps her arms around his neck and sticks her tongue in his ear.
"Let's see if those oysters are working sugar."CHAPTER 5
The Next Morning
Paula, in a man's white shirt, JM stitched on the cuffs that drapes over skintight pink capri pants picks up a ringing phone. "Yeah, penthouse."
Paula opens the door to let in Mario, 21, dark curly hair, sunglasses perched on his forehead, jeans and black tee shirt with the slogan, Viva Las Vegas across the chest. He carries a box of groceries.
"Kitchen's this way."
"Yeah, I know Miss Smythe."
"Of course, this isn't your first time here is it? Mark isn't it? "Mario, Miss Smythe."
"OK, Mario. And lose the Miss Smythe shit. I'm not some uptight grade school marm. Paula, its Paula."
Paula reaches into the grocery box and pulls out a 6-pack of Beck's and hands one to Mario.
"No thanks Mario," says.
"Coffee, tea or....?"
Paula titters and grins at Mario. He turns scarlet.
I better get back to work. I have a truck full of deliveries. Here's my card if you need our services again."
"I just might need your services, come to think of it I'm sure I will. And I know when. Here's something to buy your own beer."
Paula hands Mario a $20 tip and puts the card in a drawer next to the kitchen phone.
Paula follows Mario to the door. As he steps through the door she pats him on the rear end. He jumps at the same time she hears a cough behind her.
"What was that all about," Joe asks her?
"Er, ah, nothing. Just a thrill for the delivery boy."
"How's this for nothing," and Joe backhands Paula across the cheek.
Paula slaps back and grabs a letter opener off the phone table. Joe wrenches it from her and throws her onto the sofa.
In defiance Paula jumps to her feet and puts her face into Joe's, "I may lie with you but I won't lie down for you."
"You know what you're here for and never forget, I don't share."
"I have no choice. How about we spend Christmas together at Lake Tahoe."
"I told you, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays and anniversaries belong to the family."
To punctuate the silence Joe disappears into the bedroom.
Paula, (sotto voce), "You'll pay with interest."
Paula and Joe recline in a soaker tub covered in bubbles. Joe holds a glass of Macallan in one hand and a newly lit cigar in the other, Paula twirls a champagne flute. Her left cheek displays a noticeable bruise.
"What a great idea, a soak in the tub," Joe says.
"I couldn't let you leave without making up. I know what I owe you," Paula replies.
"Glad you've come to your senses," Joe says.
Paula puts her flute on the edge of the tub, takes Joe's glass and the cigar that sizzles as she drops it in the scotch. She leans over to kiss Joe and gropes under the bubbles.
"Whoa, that hurts," Joe howls.
"Just having fun with the Big Boy. Now bedtime."
The next morning Joe dresses in the bedroom. Paula lies naked on ivory satin sheets. Her fingers gently stroke the butterfly on her right breast. Joe kisses the bruise on her cheek and drops a wad of bills on the bed.
"That should cover you until I get back. Don't get bored and blow it all in one night at Bellagio."
Paula wraps her arms around Joe's neck and nibbles the diamond stud in his ear.
"I'm never bored. But I'll miss you. Call me from Sicily?"
"You were bored enough last time to get that ugly tattoo. No more."
Paula giggles, "Maybe a dragon on the other one for contrast."
"Dare and I'll shave them both off."
A doorman greets Joe as he steps into a limo waiting in the driveway.
"Leaving us Mr. Maldona?"
"Yeah, Sicily. What you might call a family reunion. Back two weeks today. Keep an eye on my broad for me."
"Enjoy the trip Mr. Maldona. I'll keep an eye on Miss Smythe for you."
The limo drives away and the doorman makes a note in a book from his shirt pocket.
Paula in a bikini under a sheer silk wrap opens the door to Mario holding a quart of milk.
"Welcome back. Follow me __ Mario."
Paula disappears into the kitchen with the milk and returns, an open bottle of Beck's in hand.
"Come here and sit like a good boy."
Paula shoves the beer into Mario's hand and pushes him onto the sofa. Mario retreats to the far end __ Paula in pursuit.
Excerpted from Phoenix by John Brown. Copyright © 2016 John Brown. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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