Joey Lerner has been running, from place to place and job to job. Now, at 32, she’s running from her home in New York City, where the last surviving member of her family has died, to Los Angeles, where she hopes to start over. Never one to follow the rules or take the obvious path, and thanks to her grandfather's hands-on training, Joey gets herself hired as the ‘handyperson’ at a funky community center owned by an Australian surfer. Soon, the job of leading a Grief Group of young widows and widowers falls into her lap. The problem is - Joey hasn’t yet healed from her own losses. Over the next nine months Joey and the Grief Group journey from death to life, together and alone. Along the way, Joey discovers the work she was born to do.
Tears and Tequila is a story of love, loss, friendship, courage and, most of all, renewal; it tells of the healing that happens when you become part of a community in which everybody is missing someone.
|Publisher:||Easton Studio Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Linda Schreyer is an award-winning television/ screenwriter. She held staff writing positions on General Hospital, Port Charles, Sunset Beach (winning a Writers Guild Award nomination) and The Bold and the Beautiful; co-wrote the television movies A Place at the Table (receiving The Christopher Award and an Ollie Award) and A House of Secrets and Lies; wrote the screenplay, Ohmigod! for Touchstone Productions and was sent to Moscow by Sony Pictures Television International to teach Russian writers to write for serial television.
Jo-Ann Lautman’s name is synonymous with bereavement in Los Angeles. Former Director of the Bereavement Program at Stephen S. Wise Temple, she went on to found OUR HOUSE, a renowned grief support center based on the premise that grievers need understanding, support, and connection. Jo-Ann and her award-winning work have been featured in, among others publications, iPeople, Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily News and more.
Read an Excerpt
The office door was yanked open by an ample African American woman with a pencil stuck in her messy updo and a wrench in her hand.
“The damn toilet’s flooding in Pink Ladies,” she said, on her way out. “Name’s Marjorie. Office manager. Just sign the roster if you’re registering for a class and we’ll get back to you.” She began to leave.
“Oh. Um,” Joey said. “I’m here for a job interview. But I’m late, so ”
“No worries. What’s your name?”
Marjorie smiled. “I like that. Daniel!” she yelled down the hall. “Interview’s here. Name’s Joey.”
“Just a sec,” a man with an Australian accent yelled.
“Go have a seat,” Marjorie said. “And welcome to Oasisthe land of never knowing what the hell to expect next.” She wrapped Joey in a bone-crushing hug and ran out the door.
Joey stood in the doorway, flummoxed. Should she stay? Go in? Run? She hesitated before closing the door behind her, and stepped into a tiny foyer in the low-ceilinged bungalow.
The water-stained wood floor creaked under her feet as she squeezed through a gap between two empty desks. One held a large green laptop, the other a listing stack of purple-and-white Oasis catalogues. She walked into a tiny waiting room where a red-and-blue Tiffany lamp provided the sole light in the dim space. It was perched on a fake-wood bookshelf littered with well-thumbed paperbacks, rumpled magazines, beat-up toys, knitting needles in a basket of wool, a plastic pail of sea shells, and other assorted objects. Two red beanbag chairs, a cookie-crumbed shag rug, and a sagging blue futon couch with no legs completed the haphazard décor.
As soon as she sank into the couch on the floor Joey realized her mistake. When she tried to rise she was too low to get up. Trapped on the lumpy low couch, she began to sweat when she heard footsteps coming towards her.
Joey skootched her behind forward until her legs were splayed out in front of her. Knock-kneed and in the most awkward position possible, she tried to stand. She couldn’t. She’d just realized she’d have to crawl on her hands and knees to get up when she heard the voice with the Australian accent call her name. “Joey?”
“Yes,” she said, rising unsteadily. Her carry-on slipped off her lap and onto the floor. While she teetered on her wedges a tall, black-haired man reached out a hand to steady her.
“Where I come from, a Joey is a baby kangaroo,” he said, retrieving her carry-on. “Crikey. That’s a heavy load.”
It was the man on the motorcycle. The top of her head barely grazed his chin when she regained her footing. He looked about fortyish and fit, with a just-got-out-of bed face, tanned skin, and laugh wrinkles around green eyes with flecks of gold. His thick black hair, with its wide gray streak, curled over the neck of his blue sweater.
While Daniel’s hand held onto hers for a moment too long, Joey breathed in the scent of his lemongrass cologne. Then the familiar pain of rejection roiled in her gut. Damn you, Jack, Joey thought, moving her hand away. “I’m named after my grandmother,” she said, flustered. “Josephine. Joey Lerner.”
“Daniel Wyndham,” he said. “Come on back.”
Joey followed him down the hall to a messy postage-stamp-sized office. A portrait hung on the wall: a slender, gray-haired woman wearing a sari over white pants stood beneath an enormous tree bedecked with ribbons, apparently in the process of marrying the young couple before her. Daniel strode to a seat behind his desk. It was piled high with papers. A silver AirBook was perched precariously atop the pile. Oddly, there were bars on the windows, Joey noticed as she sat.
“I came about the Drama Instructor job,” she said.
“I’m afraid that’s already filled.”
“I heard,” Joey said.
“From who? Oh, Berta, of course,” Daniel said.
“Yes, well,” Joey said, tamping down her desperation, “maybe there’s something else I could do here.” She handed him a résumé, careful not to let her hand touch his.
“You minored in psychology at Skidmore?” he read.
“Upstate New York,” Joey said.
“Is that where you’re from?”
“No. Actually, I’ve moved around a lot.”
“And I see you’ve led different groupsActive Seniors, Acting Out Teens. Ohand you’ve worked in hospice and recently interned with a psychiatrist in New York, co-leading groups.”
“And I taught Drama para Los Ninos to tiny tots in Mexico and walked dogs in Boston and worked in a bookstore in Manhattan and ”
Daniel handed her paper back. “That’s one wacky résumé.”
“I guess so,” Joey said. “I’ve always preferred to move around. Try something new. Keep it fresh, you know?”
You sound like an idiot, she told herself. But every second she held his interest was another second he might think of a job for her. So she talked on as Daniel cocked his head and listened. He listened as if every detail mattered. Joey couldn’t remember the last time an attractive man had paid such close attention to her. She was aware of sweat on the back of her neck when Marjorie ran in.
“The water’s hitting the high-water mark, Boss. Pipe’s about to burst.”
“Dammit,” Daniel said, rising. “This bloody place is falling apart.” He ran out after Marjorie. Joey hesitated a moment before picking up her carry-on and running after both of them, still pitching herself for a job, any job.
Five minutes later, Joey, Marjorie, and Daniel were crammed into the tiny pink-tiled bathroom of Pink Ladies where Joey sat on the closed lid of the leaky toilet, handing a wrench to Daniel as he attempted to fix the pipe. “So Iyes, I’ve moved around a lot in the last 12 years. My dad was an English professor, and he moved us from job to job when I was a kid. My grandmother used to say I inherited Dad’s gypsy blood. ” Oh God, she thought. Shut up, Joey. Shut up.
At that moment the pipe burst. Water shot out, soaking Joey, Daniel, and Marjorie.
“Shit,” Daniel cursed. “Call the plumber.” He rushed out to shut off the water main.
Marjorie pulled out her cell. "Call Perry," she told Siri. “We’re sending his kids through college,” she told Joey. "Hello," she said a minute later, walking outside for better reception. Joey sat alone on the closed toilet seat in the bathroom. Her shirt was wet. She wondered how she looked. She wondered what she should do next. She’d just flown 3,000 miles, and there was no job. Plus, Daniel was rightthe place was falling apart.
So Joey did what she always did at times like that. She opened her duffle bag and took out the only thing in it, a well-worn leather tool-belt outfitted with a leather-handled hammer, wrenches, pliers, work gloves, utility knife, tin snips, a level, soldering iron, solder, and an impressive assortment of pipes and nails and screws and a hacksawand got to work.
By the time Daniel returned Joey was sawing through the portion of burst pipe.
“What the hell are you doing?” Daniel asked.
Joey kept on sawing. “Like I said. My dad was an English professor. But Grandpa could do anything with his hands. He taught me about plumbing and left me his tool-belt.”
Daniel stared at it. “Those tools are for a lot more than plumbing.”
“Yup,” Joey said, plugging in a soldering iron. She painted a thin layer of soldering paste onto a new piece of pipe, uncoiled solder from a spool, and began to solder the new pipe to the old. As always, working with tools calmed her. “My grandfather taught me how to use them all.”
Flabbergasted, Daniel said, “You seem to have forgotten something in your résumé: Handyman."
“Handywoman,” Joey countered, tightening a compression nut on the pipe.
“Handyperson?” Daniel asked.
“Whatever,” said Joey. She packed up her tools as Daniel went out to turn the water back on. The plumbing job was done, the toilet flushed. Joey put her tool-belt back into her carry-on. “I’m sorry there’s no job at Oasis,” she said when he came back with Marjorie. “I would’ve liked to work here. The place is unique.”
“Hang on. What else can you do?” Daniel asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Can you fix wooden stairs with dry rot? Patch a leaky roof? Put up dry wall?”
Joey scoffed. “My grandfather taught me to build cabinets out of hardwood with mitered joints. We installed hundreds of feet of crown molding when we renovated their apartment.”
“Jesus f-ing Christ,” Marjorie said.
“I’ve put in a hot water heater and a new boiler and ”
“You’re hired,” Daniel said.
“Look around,” he said. “We’re in shambles. You’re our new handyperson.”
“Thank God,” Marjorie said, pulling out her phone to cancel the plumber.
“But I’m not a licensed professional. I’m just an amateur fix-it person.”
“I can help,” Daniel said. “We'll work together.” Joey felt a flutter in her stomach at the thought. “When can you start?”
“What’s the salary?” Joey asked.
Daniel quoted a figure as they walked out of the cottage. “I know it’s not a lot but I’m hoping it will be more soon. We’re making a lot of changes,” he said, pointing to Hummingbird Cottage.
“Like the experimental program that starts there tomorrow night. But the porch steps are rotten and I haven’t had a chance to fix them. Will you take the job? Can you start now?”
Joey thought for a moment. “Yes. And no. I’ll take it. But I can’t start now.” She pointed to her suitcase next to Berta, who was still painting at her easel. “I just got off a plane from New York. I’ve got to get to my friend’s place and settle in. Can I start tomorrow?”
“If we’re still standing,” Daniel said with frustration. "Where does your friend live?" he asked as they walked towards her suitcase.
“She’s the manager at Ferndale Apartments.”
“That’s not far,” Daniel said. “Need a ride?”
They were at Berta’s easel. Joey looked from Daniel to his motorcycle to her giant suitcase. “Um. How will you ?”
“Yes, Daniel, she needs a ride,” Berta said. “And while Daniel figures out how to transport your ‘life’ let me show you where I teach.” She squinted at them. “You two get into a water fight?”
Joey followed Berta to a small cottage. Berta’s Bungalow read the sign above a painted mural of Berta at an easel. She opened the door and they walked inside.
Paint-splattered tables and easels were scattered throughout the room; painted and unpainted canvases, large and small, leaned against the walls; metal shelves held jars and coffee cans filled with brushes, palette knives, and Chinese bamboo ink pens; large brown ice cream containers contained rolls of drawing paper; tubes of oil paints and watercolors, pastels and palettes were in aluminum pie-plates and shoeboxes; ceramic pitchers and Japanese clothes for still lifes lay on a table alongside an old mandolin and a three-foot ceramic spotted leopard.
“Wow,” Joey said.
“Isn’t it a sweet mess?” Berta said proudly.
Joey noticed that one window was covered with film. “To bring out the play of light and shadow,” Berta said, following her eyes, “depending on where you stand.” A tall, slender woman in purple jeans poured different-colored paints onto a wet canvas from small plastic cups. The colors ran together, creating intriguing designs.
“Nice, Judy,” Berta said.
In the center of the room three women were making charcoal drawings of each other, a vase of sunflowers in the middle of their small circle. Joey recognized “Bohemian Rhapsody” coming from an iPod.
“Queen?” she asked, surprised.
“Oh yes. I loved Freddy Mercury,” Berta said. “Yet another fine artist lost to AIDS. Thank God that’s behind us. At least, I hope it is. So, how do you like my home away from home?”
“Smashing,” Joey said.
“Indeed,” Berta agreed, her eyes sparkling. “You’ll have to try painting sometime.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
TEARS AND TEQUILA is an uplifting and thoroughly entertaining book about loss. If that sounds like an oxymoron, so be it. Everybody dies. Everybody has lost someone. Death cannot be a stranger to any human being. Protagonist Joey finds herself leading a grief group at a somewhat bohemian community center, She herself is grieving for lost family, lost loves but as she guides the varied and colorful members of her group towards healing, she comes to heal herself. TEARS AND TEQUILA is chock full of emotion, with plenty of tears and plenty of tequila. Highly recommended.
Tears and Tequila is beautifully written. As a psychotherapist who deals with grief, I'm happy to refer clients to a compelling story, full of wisdom that is embedded in a light, entertaining novel. the colorful characters reflect a variety of responses to loss. This book also addresses the process of self-discovery of someone who helps others. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a meaningful and fun read.