I’ve learned to never put pressure on my beta readers; therefore I use discretion when I’m trying to find out what they think about my manuscripts. I closed the lid on my cooler, exited through the back door, and headed across the driveway toward Eddy and Darla’s cabin, home to my two beta readers. Eddy and I drink beer one Friday of every month. It was my chance to pump Eddy for information, about my manuscript, without him realizing what I was doing.  I had given Darla my latest romance novel in early December, but hadn’t received any feedback from her. I hoped Eddy would at least be able to tell me if she had read any of it.

     Luckily for me, Eddy was in his back yard lifting weights.
     “Where’d you get those weights,” I said, placing the cooler down on the ground.
     Eddy hoisted the bar over his head. “Borrowed them from my father-in-law.”
     His muscles filled out a T-shirt better than many professional athletes. One would think a young man who makes his living loading trucks at his father-in-law’s Co-Op store would have absolutely no reason to lift weights. But even Elvis probably had to practice before a concert.
     “Trying to stay in shape for work?”
     He shook his head, “No. Those hundred pound bags at the store are a piece of cake compared to this.”
      He let the weights drop to the ground with a thud. The cylinders on each end put a six inch indention in the earth.
     After assessing the damage the steel plates had done to the planet, Eddy looked up.
     “Do you want to work out with me?”
     That was like asking the devil if he wanted to go to church.
     “Thanks, but I’m in pretty good shape.” I flexed what little muscle I had by lifting the lid of the cooler so he could see the six bottled brews inside. “I thought we might have a few beers and relax our brains.”
     “Can’t drink beer anymore, at least not until Darla quits reading that romance novel. I’m trying to keep my stamina up, if you know what I mean?” He grinned, before picking up a jump rope.
     Holly smoke! After all these years of writing romance novels, I’d finally written a good one. Apparently one so hot it might even make the best-seller lists. I’d need to draft a query letter for Miss Prettywell at Rose Petal Romance. The Editor-in-Chief, of the premiere romance publisher house, had told me not to send any more queries to her, but obviously she wouldn’t want to pass up an opportunity at a best-seller.
     Within seconds Eddy had the rope moving so fast, it gave the appearance of a translucent shield around a human form you might see on a sci-fi movie. After what must have been three hundred reps without a missed step, Eddy dropped the rope.
     I glanced at the back door on his porch. “Is Darla home? I’d like to think her for reading my manuscript.” It would be a good opportunity for her to let me know how much she loved reading it.
     Eddy knitted his brow. “I hate to tell you this, but I don’t think she got past the second page of that last one you gave her.”
     “I thought you said—”
     “Oh, sorry.” Eddy put his hand on my shoulder. “I wasn’t talking about your story. I was talking about a book Darla’s mother gave her last week. It’s was written by an author named Claire Croxton. Darla told me it’s the best romance novel she’s read in years. And the author has another one coming out pretty soon. Darla is going to pre-order it.”
     My excitement plummeted faster than a barrel going over Niagara Falls. I only had two beta readers. Eddy had already stopped reading my stories, because they didn’t have shoot ‘em ups in them. Now that Claire Croxton woman had diverted Darla from reading my manuscripts by publishing romance novels women loved reading. It appeared my only hope to get my beta reader back was for Claire Croxton to come down with a terminal case of writers block.
     After saying goodbye to Eddy, I picked up my cooler and walked back home. I placed the beer bottles back into the refrigerator and stored the cooler in the pantry.
     My wife entered the kitchen from the den. “Hi, Honey. I thought you were going over to Eddy’s to drink beer before dinner.”
     “Eddy said he couldn’t drink beer tonight.”
     “Oh. I wasn’t expecting you back so soon. I wasn’t planning on cooking until later. I started reading a romance novel Darla just finished. It’s by a new author named Claire Croxton and let me tell you. It’s so good I can’t drag myself away from it.”
     “Not a problem. I’m not hungry.” I tried to hide my disappointment that my wife had also fallen victim to that Croxton woman’s novel.
     She winked at me. “We might want to go to bed early tonight.”
     Holly smoke! I smiled. Maybe that Claire Croxton was my friend after all.
     When she turned to go back into the den, I said, “I think I’ll go back over to Eddy’s for a while.”
     I hoped he had some smaller weights.

About Jack LaBloom

I write suspense novels and short stories. I live with my wife in the Boston Mountains.
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10 Responses to THAT CROXTON WOMAN

  1. Jan Morrill says:

    Very clever . . . and hysterical, Jack! I knew somehow you'd come around to loving that Croxton woman! Sure enjoy visiting your part of the world!

  2. Luna Zega says:

    Oh my goodness, Mr. LaBloom. Sounds like that Croxton woman is vexing you. Might I suggest one of my novels for your wife and neighbor to read?

  3. Jack LaBloom says:

    Thank you, Jan. Eddy and I are Claire Croxton fans for sure.

  4. Jack LaBloom says:

    Dear Ms. Zega. You are too kind.

  5. Russell says:

    I'm a big Croxton fan, but I've heard that Ms. Zega's books are evan more racy. I wonder if they have pictures too? My wife is visual learner.

  6. Jack LaBloom says:

    Russell, I'm told Ms. Zega's prose is quite visual.

  7. Reina Laaman says:

    Maybe it was a happy ending, but it was still SO poignant when you "placed the beer bottles back into the refrigerator and stored the cooler in the pantry." Aw.This part made me laugh though: "After assessing the damage the steel plates had done to the planet, Eddy looked up." Haha. I've missed you, Jack!

  8. Ruth says:

    Ah,what a great promo for Claire Croxton! But in your defence, I love Eddy and the line "thats like asking the devil if he wanted to go to church," cracked me up. Keep on writing romance Jack. Practice, practice, practice. And here's a tip: beer works wonders.

  9. Your bio says it all, Jack. Pleased to meet you!

  10. Wow, I’m kinda late getting around to reading about this Croxton woman. Sorry she’s eclipsed your own stories… but what a silver lining!

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