This post is part of ThinkKit by SmallBox.
January 7, 2016 prompt: “Thicken the Plot: We're all writing the story of our lives as we go. How can you make your story interesting in 2016? And if you can't see around the bend, it's okay to dream. Let's make 2016 one of the most riveting parts of our tale, shall we?”
Make ‘em Squirm.
That’s what the writing gurus tell us. Make everything that can go wrong, go wrong. Only what can be more squirm-worthy than falling off a cliff and rolling down an active volcano all in the same day?!
That is just one day in my klutzy life. Granted, it was a day long ago in my childhood. A day when I did not heed Mama’s instruction to hold on to my younger Sister’s hand—I didn’t want to be saddled with her! I was having too much fun gazing at the cloudless blue sky as I walked—
Luckily the cliff was just an outcropping of rocks. Probably only twenty feet high. And the cliff face was covered in brush that broke my fall—not my neck. In hindsight I realize I should have listened and obeyed Mama. If I had, I would have been able to explore the primitive sewer system inside a mountain rather than tending to scratches and “taking it easy” on a blanket—a kids death sentence. I did get to roll down the volcano—but that was only because we thought it was just a small hill. Until we reached the summit and looked to the other side only to realize it was in fact a volcano. And rolling was faster than walking or fleeing down the hillside, so roll we did.
Fast forward to 2016: So, how can I thicken my Life Plot this year?
I cheated. I took a FaceBook “name test quiz.” I’m totally addicted to these things. I cannot pass them up—they are like crack to me. I’m a FB Quiz junkie. So I allowed them to “analyze” my FB page and tell me what I would be doing in 2016.
It appears in June I will be taking a ride in a hot air balloon. In July I will be riding a gondola in Venice. And in August I will be getting a tattoo.
My bestie has been after me for a couple of years to get a matching “sister” tattoo with her. We’ve settled on a design but haven’t been able to get our schedules together because she lives in NOLA and I live in Texas. She is not new to tattoos. I’m a tattoo virgin—except, I did design the stylized sun she has on her back. So as far-fetched as the FB plan for my 2016 life seems, it really is a possibility—but how do I get from Texas in January to Venice in July…
The Dream Job, The Rock, and The Tycoon.
I received a cryptic email from the editor of an obscure travel ezine called, Traveling With the FurFamily. I thought it was a joke or a hoax—or worse yet, malware, so I deleted the email. Three times.
A few days later I received a hand delivered certified letter at my job. Thinking I was being served, I opened the letter with trembling hands. After reading a few lines silently, I dropped the letter to the floor and sat down hard in my chair. It seemed the editor/owner of the ezine had stumbled on my personal blog and liked that I travel with a Chinese Crested, a rescue kitty, and the occasional plant—or six—because there is just not enough challenge in traveling just with pets. He was offering me a job—Travel Writer for TWTFF! All expenses paid plus twice what I make as a Registered Nurse/Patient Care Coordinator (think Case Management). And I would take the FurKids everywhere.
My overnight bag is always packed, my passport and the FurKids shots are up to date, so there was nothing holding me back from accepting. I didn’t hesitate.
The first three months of my dream job went without a hitch—at least nothing too terribly wrong that I couldn’t handle with a Plan B. . As a Case Manager I always have at least a Plan B, so the SUV steering going out in Utah became a side trip to a quaint wild west town, while I waited on parts and the repair work. The black out in Iceland became a reason to host an ice cream party—because it was going to melt anyway. The beached whale in Fiji turned into a volunteer whale rescue article that was picked up by the Associated Press. The first three months of my new job I led a charmed life. Right up until I booked a hot air ride over Venice.
Picture it: Sunset casting a pink-orange glow over the multicolored apartments with lush greenery hanging from the window boxes, lining blue indigo canals broken by white stone footpath bridges. From our vantage point we were witness to a proposal in a floating gondola.
It was everything I thought it would be—right up until the balloon operator started losing altitude. Fast. Moggy, the rescue kitty, decided this was not to his liking and he jumped on the highest thing in the basket, which unfortunately was the bald head of the pilot. Drawing blood with his claws, Moggy leapt for the safety of his favorite place to rest—my newly tattooed chest. The force of his arrival knocked me out of the basket—into the arms of Gondola Man, who unfortunately toppled the entire gondola over.
Sputtering we all surfaced: Bandit, the Pilot, Gondola Man, me, the Greek Tycoon, and his Shrew Fiancée—everyone except Moggy, who had leapt to the safety of the bridge, where he sat eyeing us as he cleaned his paw. The Pilot and Bandit doggie paddled to the dock first, and were soon followed by the Shrew and the Tycoon. She bemoaning the loss of her rock of an engagement ring, and he promising to buy her an even bigger diamond. I thought it only right that I attempt to help Gondola Man right the overturned gondola—after all he had caught me—at least for a second. Besides he was kind of cute.
Safely on the footpath, I took stock of my situation, made sure the FurKids were safe and sound, and the adrenaline hit rock bottom and so did I. For the first time in my life I fainted.
When I woke up I was in a crowded hospital room. Crowded with the Pilot, demanding to be paid in full, and threatening to sue for damages and lost wages while his basket was repaired. The shrew and the Tycoon, who were demanding my cat be euthanized because he was “obviously rabid.” And Gondola Man, who was sitting quietly in the bedside chair he had pulled into the corner. When the Venetian equivalent of Nurse Ratchet came in and ushered everyone out, he spoke quietly to her in Italian and she allowed him to stay. After reassuring me Bandit and Moggy were safe on his family’s bean farm out in the country, he told me his name and the meaning behind it: Fabio (bean farmer) Salvatore (savior) Venture (good fortune). He said his friends called him Sal. He looked more like a Fabio, but I agreed to call him Sal. He said he would come and bring me to his family after I was released from the hospital the following day. I would be allowed to spend some time recuperating there if I would like. He really was living up to his name.
Of course, that is not what happened.
The shrew and the Tycoon arrived before Sal did. They were accompanied by the police. They trumped up some charges and I was carted off to the local jail. Somewhere between the canal and the jail I contracted a horrible infections that eventually required I return to the hospital for a weeks’ worth of intravenous antibiotics—but that would not occur for a couple of days—when I awoke delirious. For now, I was still in the jail and The Tycoon was called away to an important business meeting where he was purchasing a local farm. I only hoped it wasn’t Sal’s family farm.
The shrew stayed. We sized each other up. I was no match for her and she knew it. She laughed haughtily when Sal arrived with a avvovcato (lawyer) in tow. I found out later, I didn’t have the right to my consulate or a lawyer for the first three days. The pretori (judge) was friend of Sal’s father. Sal paid a hefty multe (fine) and I was released to Sals custody. It could have been worse. And of course it went downhill from there.
First, I ended up in the hospital for a week and then, after weeks of miscommunication and one disaster after another, I was giving up hope of ever leaving Venice. The only light in the darkness was Sal. We were becoming close.
The night after he asked me if I would consider staying in Venice, he was late coming back to the farm. I walked Bandit on the path bordering the bean field, and as I approached the processing barn I saw a familiar figure: The Tycoon.
I had found out his name was really Markos Dukakis and he was from Crete—but I didn’t like him so I continued to call him The Tycoon. He bought the neighboring farm and was pressuring Sal’s Father to sell. Their voices were raised and although I could not understand everything, I got the general gist. Sal’s Father was behind in his taxes and he was in jeopardy of losing the farm. The Tycoon was bound and determined to steal it away for a meager portion of its worth. When the Tycoon saw me, his face turned a ghastly shade of purple. He began to gasp and sputter. Then he keeled over. I rushed to him and administered first aid while Benevento called for the doctor. The doctor arrived and The Tycoon was hauled away to the same hospital I had been taken to—twice.
Sal never came home that night and when it was time for my follow up appointment the next day Benevento took me. He dropped me at the entrance and we decided to meet in the café by the gift shop, before he took me to the doctors office.
While I waited I happened to espy The Shrew in the gift shop—and the rock she was wearing was impressive. The sales clerk oohed and awed over it. The Shrew gloated. Gotta give it to The Tycoon, the replacement ring was a beauty—he knew how to pick jewelry—too bad his taste in women was so off.
Benevento finally arrived and took me to the doctor’s office where I received a clean bill of health. Benevento insisted we pay our respects to Markos. I reluctantly accompanied him. I was surprised at the lukewarm greeting from Markos. Especially after Benevento reminded him I had saved his life. The Shrew looked at me disdainfully and brushed her bangs out of her eyes—with a ring less hand. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out a question about the replacement ring. Her dark brown eyes flashed pure hatred at me and informed me her ring was lost in the canal because of me and Markos had not yet purchased the replacement. I countered and told Markos to check with the clerk in the gift shop. Benevento swiftly guided me out of the hospital before I could incite a riot.
When we arrived at the farm, Sal was there. He was not alone. His former flame has arrived the night before and he was there to tell his Father, and me, that they had reconciled during the night and been married that morning.
Devastated I fled to my borrowed room, gathered Bandit and Moggy, and cried until I formulated my Plan B—I ran away just after sunset.
Unfortunately, because things always get worse, I was found, crying by the side of the road, by none other than Markos. He had been released from the hospital and could not rest until he came to talk with me. Finding me in tears, he gathered me into his arms to thank me for exposing The Shrew (I still don’t know what her name was—and don’t care) for the money grubbing gold digger she was (my words for what I think he called her—I don’t speak Greek). He also thanked me for saving his life. Finally. And then he offered me a ride to my hotel.
I tearfully told him I didn’t have a hotel room to go to and that I must report my whereabouts to the pretori or face imprisonment and another fine. The Tycoon laughed and said he thought he could straighten this all out in the morning, until then I would be his guest at his villa. I protested and he insisted. He even stroked Moggy gently to show he held no ill will. He led me to the car and opening the door he beckoned me to accept.
I had no place else to go, and my replacement passport, which had been lost in the canal, had not arrived yet, so I acquiesced, but I told him I really shouldn’t since he was trying to steal Beneventos farm out from under him. Markos’ mouth dropped open and he looked stunned. He told me I had it all wrong—Benevento was trying to purchase the neighboring farm from Markos!
And then a harlequin moment happened. Markos and I spent the entire night talking, correcting misinformation, laughing at the funny things that had happened, and finding out we had many things in common. I began to see him for the kindhearted man he really was, and by the time the sun rose the next morning, I was smitten.
And that was the end of my dream job…and the beginning of my romance with The Tycoon.
And my rock is three times as large as The Shrews.