At the Hour of Our Death, Amen

If you say the Rosary faithfully unto death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins, ‘you will receive a never-fading crown of glory’ (1 St. Peter 5:4).” Saint Louis de Montfort

I am blessed to be the mother of five sons ages 12-24. However, my journey to motherhood has not been an easy one. I have lost seven babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. When my third son was 10 months old, we were overjoyed to be pregnant again; that is, until it became apparent that the baby was in my fallopian tube once again. I nearly died from complications of this ectopic pregnancy.

Below is an excerpt from my first novel, Emily’s Hope, and is based on the true story of my near-death experience, written in the third person. Fortunately, I survived and later gave birth to two more sons.

The following illustrates the powerful intercession of Our Lady, especially when death is whispering in one’s ear:

The pain in her abdomen became more excruciating with every passing moment. She sat on the sofa and dialed the number of the high school. It seemed like an eternity for the line to connect. One, two rings. Please, someone pick up, she silently begged. Hearing the secretary’s voice, Emily could barely speak, but she uttered enough to make it clear that she needed her husband. She dropped the phone and tried to take a deep breath. Feeling an overwhelming need to vomit, she rushed to the bathroom just in time to spill the contents of her stomach. She gripped the cold, hard toilet, as if in some way, it would make her pain bearable. Disoriented, she thought of her baby and quickly glanced at his smiling, inquisitive face, oblivious to his mother’s pain.

I’ve got to stay conscious for my baby, she repeated over and over again in her mind. She moved back to the floor next to the sofa, trying to sit upright with her young child next to her, while drifting in and out of consciousness. Keeping a death grip on him, she woke up as the paramedics were prying her hands off her son and placing her on a stretcher. It all seemed like a dream. She overheard the paramedics talking about what a “little thing” she was.

Too weak to make a sound, she wondered where her young son was. She caught a glimpse of her husband holding him at the back doors of the ambulance.

His right arm cradled their son’s little body, while his left hand clasped his small head to his chest as if to shield and protect him from the turmoil that surrounded them both. But her husband’s face. . .his face was so broken and distraught that Emily felt the anguish of a wife and mother abandoning her family. Tears welled up in her eyes and for a moment, Emily forgot her pain.

Then his eyes caught hers and he realized that she was watching him. Everything changed. His chin lifted as if for courage and penetrated her being with a look of tenderness, of confidence and reassurance. Whatever happens, I will be strong for you and for the sons we both love and for God, who has asked so much of you. He seemed to say all of this with his eyes, all of this and more. As his love reached out to her through the shouts of the paramedics and their frantic procedures, the beeping of machines and the overwhelming wail of the siren, its light already flashing, her terror began to fade and her heart surged within her. Now reassured, she allowed herself to fall back to sleep.

Emily’s eyes opened again this time as the paramedics were inserting an intravenous needle in her arm. Although it felt like they were stabbing her with an ice pick, all she could manage was a wince and a quiet moan. It seemed as if every ounce of energy had been sucked from her being. This is what it feels like to die.

Then she imagined her little boys’ faces, and suddenly the possibility of dying weighed heavy on her heart. Please, God, I can’t die, she silently prayed. I don’t want my little boys growing up without a mother. All at once, a feeling of warmth surrounded her, then she felt at peace. There was no bitterness, only acceptance, a calm that was huge enough to quiet an ocean. She silently recited a Hail Mary. . . .now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Those last words took on powerful meaning with the possibility that this could be her hour. She knew that whatever happened would be God’s will, and she would submit to that, whatever it was.

Drifting into unconsciousness, the last thing she heard was “We’re losing her…”

Emily’s Hope is available in print form and on Amazon Kindle. Leave a comment below before Friday, October 28th, to be entered to win a free Kindle copy of Emily’s Hope.

Copyright 2005 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Fiction Friday – Review of Pro Luce Habere

Pro Luce Habere tells the story of Valéry, the protagonist vampire from “On the Soul of A Vampire” and his life before he became a vampire and the 200 or so years following.

At the beginning of the novel, the year is 1212 and Valéry is a 14 year old on fire for God and his faith. He leaves home to join the Children’s Crusade only to end up in slavery at the hands of the people he sought to convert. Four years later, near death from a beating, his “maker,” Lukios, an ancient vampire, saves him from death but Valéry now must kill others to survive. At first, he refuses, but he eventually settles into a pattern of killing those who have hurt him or those he considers criminals.

In many respects, the life of a vampire as illustrated in this book is a lonely one, but Valéry eventually resigns himself to the life he’s destined to live, although he continues to hate himself for the monster he believes he is. (In Keley’s first book, On the Soul of a Vampire, Angelina tries to convince him that he is not the monster he thinks he is). In this book, another vampire shows him what evil vampires do (in that scene, the evil vampires torture a young girl for the sport of it and not because they need the nutrition).

I grew up watching old Dracula movies in which the vampire was always portrayed as the villain, so it’s easy to forget that Valéry is a vampire. However, he is no ordinary vampire. He’s a vampire with a conscience. He’s a vampire who is struggling with his faith in God (not unlike many mortal humans).

In one scene, he plans to kill a woman who has wronged him, then he realizes she is pregnant and leaves her alone (in my opinion, this is one of the best scenes of the book because it shows Valéry’s compassion).

Despite the fact that he is a vampire, it has become easier to love Valéry as a complex character who, like most human beings, has a conscience. And in the end, it begs the question: What is God’s plan of salvation for this vampire with a conscience? Is there any hope for him? Is there any hope for any of us, for that matter? Of course, the answer is there is always hope.

After reading this “prequel,” I have come to understand Valéry’s intricate character more deeply and why he chose to do what he did at the end of “On the Soul of a Vampire.” It also made me want to read Keley’s first book again (since I know the character better)….and it makes me impatient to read Part II of this book.

Beautiful language, Catholic themes, complex story, well-defined and believable characters make this a wonderfully intense read! Keley is an incredibly gifted author, one whose future books I look forward to reading.

I highly recommend this exquisite book to everyone!

To purchase on Amazon Kindle, click here.

To purchase a print edition on Amazon, click here.

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Fiction Friday – Heartbreak by Kathleen Basi

Special thanks to Kathleen Basi, who posted this excerpt last week on her blog and has given me permission to share it with my readers:

As Carlo strode down the gravel walkway toward the winery grounds proper, Alison stood in the living room, listening to her little boy crying. The pain within her seemed oddly familiar. She was accustomed to feeling her child’s pain, but this…this was different. It seemed to expand without limit; she had no idea there was room enough inside her for so much hurt.

In her mind’s eye, she saw a golden-haired boy in a letter sweater, standing with his back to her in the warm sunlight of a day much like this one. She saw herself as she had been then, an awkward girl in a pink cardigan softened by too much wear, a strand of dime store pearls at her throat, pulling the chapel veil off her head after Sunday Mass. Her parents chatted while her little brothers played tag, weaving in and out of the adults’ legs with an uncanny knack for avoiding restraint.

Over by the flower-crowned statue of the Blessed Mother stood Jerry. Jerry, with his hands shoved in his pockets, scuffing the sidewalk with soft leather soles as he talked to a group of kids from school. It was a beautiful day, but he was the most beautiful part by far.

To read the rest, click here.

Copyright Kathleen Basi

The Soul Reader by Gerard Webster

Special thanks to Gerard Webster for this week’s Fiction Friday excerpt, which is from his exciting new novel, “The Soul Reader.” My review for his book is here.

“I found out,” Ward said, “that Victor Rodriguez is still a scumbag.”
Both Carrie and Anton turned to him in mild surprise at the level of his still simmering anger.
“He hinted that the three men who died—Koehl, Reddick, and Galarza—all knew who was really in charge…and that their deaths secured their silence. But he also suggested that the two who didn’t die either knew nothing or else could be useful to someone in power.”
“We already suspected that,” Carrie complained.
“But,” Ward continued, “he did drop a clue—one word—Culebra. I don’t know if he was toying with me or if he was serious.” Ward left out what he had said about Ward signing his own death warrant if he asked about Culebra.
“What’s a Culebra?” Carrie asked.
“It means ‘snake’ in Spanish; but that’s all I know. I called Anton and asked if he’d ever heard it before, and he hadn’t.”
Anton leaned forward and made the wooden chair groan in protest.
“Actually,” he said, “after your phone call, I got curious myself. So I started asking around. I called an old friend with the DEA and he gave me the lowdown on Culebra.”
Both Carrie and Ward perked up their ears at this.
“What did you learn?” Ward asked.
“Well, you’re right. Culebra means ‘snake’ in Spanish. But it’s also the nickname of one of the most dangerous assassins in the Western Hemisphere. Nobody knows his real name—nor even what he looks like. Only that he leaves a ‘calling card’ when he does a job—a piece of snake skin over his victim’s eyes.”
Carrie shuddered at this.
“He got his nickname,” Anton explained, “because of the way he operates—like a snake—silent, quick, and deadly. The victim is usually dead before he knew what happened.
“My source told me that he first appeared during the in-fighting among the cocaine cartels in Columbia. At one time he worked for the Medellín cartel. Then, when they collapsed, he switched allegiances to the Norte del Valle cartel. They even suspect that he might be the one who killed Enrique Galarza. After that, he went independent. He’s known to have worked for the Mexican cartels—on both sides of the border—as well as for other terrorist or revolutionary organizations who want precision hits—just kill the target without collateral damage.”

To purchase the book on Amazon: The Soul Reader on Amazon

To find out more about The Soul Reader or about the author:

Copyright 2011 Gerard Webster

Fiction Friday – In-Sight by Gerard Webster

Special thanks to Gerard Webster, author of “In Sight” and “The Soul Reader.”

This week, I’m running an excerpt from “In Sight,” his award-winning first novel. Next week’s excerpt will be from his newly-released “The Soul Reader.”

Carrie set her fork down.
“I don’t have a family,” she said.
Ward looked up suddenly.
“What do you mean you don’t have a family?” he asked. “What about your parents?”
“I don’t have any parents.”
“Aw, come on!” Ward waved his fork expansively. “Everybody has parents.”
“Not me.”
She looked down at the cloth napkin in her lap.
“You’re serious, aren’t you,” Ward realized too late.
“My parents,” Carrie said, “the people I thought were my parents…were killed in a car wreck when I was eighteen.”
Ward set his silverware down.
“My God, Carrie! I’m sorry…I didn’t know…” he stopped in mid-sentence when her meaning registered. “Did you say ‘the people you thought were your parents?”
“I was adopted.”
“Oh.” Ward was at a loss. It dawned on him that he didn’t know anything at all about Carrie’s past.
“I didn’t learn about that,” she went on to explain, “until three years later—when I applied for a passport.”
Ward reached for her hand across the table. He thought it best to just let her talk.
“I couldn’t find a birth certificate under the name Carrie Hope,” she said. “That’s why I couldn’t get a passport. Carrie Hope isn’t the name I was born with. I had to contact the attorney who handled my parents’ will to learn my real name…that’s when I learned I was adopted…three years after the accident.”
She looked up at him.
“Would you like to know my real name?” she asked. “The name I was born with?”
“If you’d like to tell me…”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“Yes,” Ward sensed that no matter what he said now, he’d be wrong. “I’d like to know.”
“It’s Caridad Padilla,” she said. “I’m half Cuban. My mother’s maiden name was Estella Padilla. That’s all I know about her.”
Suddenly Ward saw the pieces of her genetic beauty clicking into place—an American father, probably with blond hair and fair skin, and a Cuban mother with dark brown eyes and perpetual tan. Carrie got the best of both of them.
“Would you like to know my father’s name?” Carrie asked.
“Yes,” Ward ventured.
“So would I,” Carrie said. And with that, she pushed her chair back, threw her napkin on the table, and darted to the ladies room.

To find out more information about Gerard Webster’s novels, his website is

Interested readers can purchase In-Sight at

Copyright Gerard Webster

Hiding the Stranger: The Trilogy by Joan L. Kelly

For Fiction Friday, I am happy to post an excerpt from Hiding the Stranger: A Trilogy. My thanks to Joan Kelly, who is the author of Hiding the Stranger: The Trilogy, which is available from Bezalel Books.

Chris knew that Ben was going to go into the burning building to try to save the boy. She grabbed one of the motorcycle helmets and handed it to him. “Put this on. It may help keep the heat out of your face.”
“Thanks,” Ben looked at Chris for a second, turned and ran toward the apartment building. Before Ben reached the door a middle-aged man stopped him and threw a small blanket that had been soaked with water over his shoulders. As Ben ran through the door and disappeared from view, the man who had given him the wet blanket heard the boy say, “I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me.”
At the same time, Chris was asking the Lord to protect him. “Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” She did not realize that she was speaking out loud until she heard the voices of the people around her joining in. “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done…”

Ben felt the intense heat as soon as he entered the apartment building. The air was thick with smoke making it hard to see. He located the lower section of the stairway and quickly headed toward it. Running up the stairs and stopping at the top, the boy bent low to avoid some of the billowing smoke. He counted the doorways as he moved quickly down the hall.
“Tony,” he called. “Tony, where are you? I’ve come to help you.”
Ben stood at the entrance of the room and listened. He heard a coughing sound followed by a small whimper. It was coming from under the bed.
“Tony, come out. Hurry, we have to get out of here!” Ben didn’t waste any more time. He grabbed the side of the bed and pulled it away from the wall. Tony was curled up in a ball on the floor. He looked up as Ben moved the bed, and his eyes opened wide.
When Tony looked up, he saw what appeared to him to be a tall man in a brown outfit. The man was wearing a cape draped over his shoulders and a helmet glowing against the background of smoke and flames. Tony sat up and between fits of coughing said, “Are you a super-hero?”
Ben looked at the small child and decided that anything that worked to get the boy out, to get them both out of there, was fine with him. He flipped up the face guard on the helmet so Tony could see his face and said, “Yeah, sure I am. I came to get you out.” Ben reached down and scooped the little boy up.
He headed toward the bedroom door, but stopped as an explosion sent flames rolling down the hallway. Ben slammed the door shut and looked around the room. Seeing the window, he ran to it. He quickly turned the lock and pushed the window up. Looking down, he could see the people watching the burning building.
“Over here!” he yelled. “Over here; help!”

Joan is offering a free e-copy to one of my readers. Please leave a comment below before Monday, June 6 to be entered.

To purchase the book on Amazon:

Hiding the Stranger Trilogy on Amazon

To purchase the book on Barnes and Noble:

Hiding the Stranger on Barnes and Noble

Fiction Friday – Olivia’s Gift

I was introduced to Nancy Carabio Belanger last year through the Catholic Writers Guild and Catholic I was asked to review her first book, “Olivia and the Little Way,” (my review here), then later her second novel, “Olivia’s Gift” (review here). These beautiful books are ideal for pre-teens and teens, although adults would also enjoy them. Enjoy this excerpt below from Olivia’s Gift, Chapter 20.

Olivia’s heart started to beat wildly. This wasn’t right. They weren’t supposed to be doing this. She thought back to Danny’s book. The Loggerhead turtle eggs were supposed to stay covered until they were ready to hatch, right? They shouldn’t be disturbing them in this way.
“Okay, you found the eggs!” she pleaded, desperate. “Now cover them back up and let’s go!”
The boys said nothing as Brandon picked up one of the eggs and held it in his hand. “Looks like a ping-pong ball,” he said with a grin. “It’s squishy. Wanna hold one?”
Olivia stared at him in the moonlight. “No way. Put it back.”
Brandon stood up. “Come on; it won’t bite. Here.” He gently placed it in Olivia’s palm. She stared down at it in shock, her eyes wide. She breathed heavily. This felt totally wrong, yet, after reading Danny’s book, she was curious. Was there really a baby turtle in there? She lifted her hand and peered at the tiny egg for a closer look. It was leathery and soft.
Okay. I looked at it. Time to put it back. She started to lower her hand and give it back to Brandon, but something stopped her.
It moved.
Olivia’s heart skipped a beat as she watched the tiny egg tremble back and forth in her hand. It rolled around a couple of times, then stopped.
The baby turtle was inside and it was moving!
Oh Lord, she cried inwardly. What have I just done?
Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…her mind raced. She suddenly thought of Mrs. Duggan and her baby moving and kicking inside her belly.
Doing somersaults. Alive.
“I don’t want this! Put it back. It moved! Put it back and cover them back up!” she demanded frantically. She gave it back to Brandon, trusting that he would do the right thing once he knew the truth: that there was a live baby turtle inside.
Next to her, Hayley gasped. “She told you it moved! Brandon, they’re alive! Put them back NOW!” cried Hayley.
Brandon held up the egg with a sinister look on his face. This was not about to happen. This was not…Olivia’s face grew white with horror.

Helpful links:

Nancy’s blog:

Book trailers:

Olivia and the Little Way on Amazon

Olivia’s Gift on Amazon

Nancy’s iCatholic profile:

Nancy’s My Catholic Blog interview:

Thank you, Nancy, for allowing me to post an excerpt from your wonderful book!

Fiction Friday – Willa Cather

Willa Cather wasn’t Catholic, but her book “Death Comes for the Archbishop” is one of the best Catholic novels I’ve ever read. I reviewed this book for Catholic last year. This week for Fiction Friday, I’m posting my review again for this wonderful book. Cather’s books are free on Amazon Kindle, and are available in most libraries and bookstores.

Willa Cather’s outstanding novel Death Comes for the Archbishop tells the story of Bishop Jean Latour and his friend, Father Joseph Vaillant, as they travel to New Mexico in the mid 19th century to bring the Catholic Faith to the natives. The novel is based on the true stories of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy and Father Joseph Machebeuf. Even the author’s choice of names is appropriate: Father Latour (the tower) and Fr. Vaillant (valiant) and describes, in part, these characters.

Cather’s graphic, yet artistic descriptions of the unforgiving landscape of the Southwest are part of the brilliance of this novel: “The sun was sinking, a red ball which threw a copper glow over the pine-covered ridge of mountains, and edged that inky, ominous cloud with molten silver. The great red earth walls of the mission, red as brick dust, yawned gloomily before him — part of the roof had fallen in, and the rest would soon go.” Cather was a gifted artist who painted the canvas of her book with rich, sensory descriptions.

The character studies are also brilliant, from the scholarly, gentle and academic Latour to his equally gentle and faith-driven friend, Vaillant. Both Latour and Vaillant have particularly non-judgmental ways of bringing the Catholic faith to others. Secondary characters like Magdalena and Jacinto are described in such a fashion that the reader feels as if he/she knows them intimately. Kit Carson, a true life friend of Bishop Lamy, makes several appearances in the book.

This novel is not without its humorous moments. When Father Latour arrives at a large ranch to perform weddings and baptisms, Father Latour asks the owner, Manuel, “Where are those to be married?” Manuel tells him that the men are in the field, but that there is no hurry, and that he ought to baptize the children first. Father Latour’s response is firm but gentle: “No, I tell you, the marriages first, the baptisms afterward; that order is but Christian. I will baptize the children tomorrow morning and their parents will at least have been married overnight.”

Bishop Latour and Father Vaillant must contend with licentious priests, abusive husbands and others throughout their long stay in the Southwest. Eventually, it becomes Bishop Latour’s deepest wish to see a Cathedral built in the new land. He and Fr. Vaillant come to respect the natural beauty of the land and the Cathedral becomes the first Romanesque church in the New World built in and part of the landscape.

I thoroughly enjoyed this 83-year-old novel and I understand why it is thought to be one of the author’s greatest works.

In the end, this story is so thoroughly Catholic, from its characters to its setting to the very illustration of the Faith that it is difficult for me to believe that Cather was not Catholic.

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Fiction Friday – Passport by Christopher Blunt

Today’s Fiction Friday excerpt is from an outstanding and award-winning contemporary Catholic novel called “Passport.” Read my review here. The author is offering to give away a free copy of his novel to one of my readers. Leave a comment below to be entered to win a free book!

I should have lifted the car higher before I went to work on it. The rusted exhaust bolt was proving impossible to loosen without more leverage, and I wondered why I’d assumed this would be so easy. Should I give it one more shot of lubricant? Or give up and lift the ancient Mercedes higher?

The howling bark Flash gave as he charged across the garage floor, feet slipping on the concrete, snapped me off this rambling train of thought. I twisted my head toward the open door, but I couldn’t see much: just a small pair of tennis shoes, at the bottom of two jeans-clad legs, with Dalmatian paws running circles around them. I tried to slide out on the creeper, but I couldn’t get a grip on anything to push against. Rocking my back didn’t help. I was stuck.

Sneakers and dog paws approached the back of the car, and then I could see even less. The knees bent, and a face appeared under the bumper. Silky black hair hung down to her shoulders, and she brushed some of it away from her glasses as she peered into shadows. I managed to rotate the shop light in her direction, and she shaded her eyes with one of the tiniest hands I’d seen on an adult. I instantly recognized this was her left hand. A quick scan revealed no jewelry. Over the last seven years of “Wife Quest,” that scan had been honed to a reflex.

“Hi,” she smiled nervously, holding Flash off her face. “I am looking for Stan,” except she pronounced it “Stahn.” “Is Stahn here?”

“That would be me,” I replied. “Stan Eigenbauer. Except there’s a problem. I’m stuck under here.”

“Can I help?” she asked.

“Yeah. Problem is, I can’t get enough leverage to push myself out. Can you just grab one of my feet and start pulling?”

I heard a laugh, then felt two little hands encircle my ankle. It took just a bit of a tug before I’d moved enough to grab the car’s axle. From there, it was easy to push the rest of the way out and sit up.

“Thanks,” I said. “Sorry about that.”

I climbed to my feet and brushed off my overalls. The top of her head came to about the middle of my chest.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.

She didn’t answer immediately. She seemed fascinated by the vintage Volvos and Mercedes in various stages of restoration, the rows of wrenches hanging in size order on the wall above my work bench, and the myriad other specialty tools and implements. She turned and gave a blank look, as if she couldn’t remember why she’d come. “Oh!” she exclaimed at last, “Angie said perhaps it is possible for you to repair my car. But I do not see any cars here that look like mine. My car is running really bad.”

Her English was nearly perfect, just heavily accented. The way she ran the words together, she sounded almost frantic.

“How do you know Angie?” I asked.

“I attended a class she was teaching at a church, a few years ago.”

Good Catholic girl. Attractive. Angie sent her over to me. This could be interesting.

“She’s really nice, isn’t she? Haven’t seen her in a couple of weeks. She must be busy trying to finish up with school.” I grabbed a rag and wiped my hands as she followed me toward the service bay door. “Your car’s out here?”

She pointed to one of the sorriest excuses for a Honda Civic I’d ever seen. A layer of grime covered everything, the passenger door was bashed in, and one of the taillights had red tape holding it together. As I pulled the hood release, she exclaimed, “Oh! So that is how it opens!”

The motor wheezed like it was begging to be put out of its misery. “How long you had this thing?” I asked.

“I am not certain. Perhaps three years?”

“What’ve you had done to it since you got it?” I asked, more loudly, struggling to be heard over the engine.

“I took it to one of those oil change places once, but a long time ago.”

I reached above my head, grabbed the hood, and glanced over at her. She was little, and so cute in her helplessness. “Tell you what,” I said at last, hero impulse surging through me, “let me bring all the basic maintenance up to date. I’ll change the oil, flush the radiator, change the filters, and give you new spark plugs.”

She nodded like she understood, but it was unconvincing.

“Let’s see how it runs then. If there are still problems, we can look at them. But maybe that’ll take care of it.”

“What will that cost?” she asked, brow furrowed with concern.

“At any other place, probably several hundred dollars. They’d rip you off, and still say your car needed more work.”
Her eyes got really big.

“But I’ll just charge you for the parts. I like seeing Angie’s friends happy. That’s enough for my time.” I wanted to add, “For a good-looking girl like you.”

“How do you do that, and stay in business?” she asked.

“I’m not really in business. The old cars here are mine. I have a friend who hauls them from California. I make them run perfect, and sell them in Chicago, where no one can find cars like these.”

“So why do you work on my car?”

“I work on a few people’s cars, on the side, under the table, when they’re sent by friends. It’s not illegal or anything, because it’s basically at cost.”

“In Vietnam,” she laughed, “everything is done under the table and on the side.”

“Yeah,” I chuckled, “big government’ll do that to you. You need a ride home?”

She looked surprised, as if she hadn’t thought that far ahead. “I was going to try to find a bus. But if you do not mind, sure.”

I called Flash, and he jumped into the back seat of my 1968 300 SEL. The girl looked surprised as I opened the passenger door for her, but she climbed in and smiled again. Her feet barely reached the floor. “Not sure I have ever ridden in a Mercedes,” she said, looking around at the car’s cavernous body.

I maneuvered the car down the alley, jogged over to Clark Street, and cruised north past a block or two of shabby storefronts. “Take Lawrence over to Broadway and go north,” she instructed.

As the high stone walls of St. Boniface Cemetery came into view at Clark and Lawrence, I said a quick silent prayer for my parents, as I always tried to remember to do—and then had to turn my attention to navigating the early evening congestion on Lawrence.

“You know,” I said, once we settled in at a traffic light, “I never got your name. I’m going to need that, and your phone number, so I can let you know when your car’s ready.” I couldn’t remember a better excuse to get a woman’s phone number.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “I am Trinh. Trinh Le. I will write my work number and home number for you.”

I gazed out the window, at kids laughing and racing their scooters on the sidewalk, as she fumbled in her purse. We turned north onto Broadway, and were headed straight toward the Southeast Asian district. “You mentioned Vietnam. You Vietnamese?”

“Correct,” she said, finding a pen and paper.

It was warm for early April, and I slid the sunroof open. Flash whimpered, so I flipped the lever and lowered his window. He perched his front paws on the door and stuck his muzzle out.

Once Trinh handed me the paper, I continued my investigation. “Lived in Chicago long?”

“Ever since I came to America. Ever since . . . eighteen years now. I was thirteen when I came here.”

She looked young for 31, and there wasn’t anything in particular about her slight frame that was obviously beautiful, but she was cute. The accent, and the way she spoke English without using contractions, were especially so. Her attractiveness came from everything taken as a whole. The more I looked at and listened to her, the more attractive she seemed.

“How long have you worked on Mercedes?” she asked.

“About as long as I can remember. My dad was a professional mechanic, and had me working on stuff basically as soon as I could walk.”

“Oh, turn right here,” she said.

We pulled onto Argyle, the heart of “New Chinatown,” and now almost everyone out enjoying the sunny afternoon appeared to be of Southeast Asian descent. All the shops seemed to have signs in English and Vietnamese or Thai, and the dinnertime smells wafting from the restaurants were making me hungry. I made a mental note to pick up some carry-out on the way home.

Passport has a brand new Facebook page and is available on

Copyright 2009 Christopher Blunt

Fiction Friday – Forget Me Not by Elizabeth Schmeidler

My thanks to Elizabeth Schmeidler for allowing me to post an excerpt from her historical romance, “Forget Me Not,” which is available via Lulu and on Amazon Kindle:

England, 1882
Chapter 1
Ambria Therese Burke looked out her window and sighed. “Just another boring day, leading to yet another boring night,” she muttered. Ambria had spent more days looking out over her father’s land dreaming than she could count, and her patience had worn thin. Not even the blooming spring flowers that came in every color of the rainbow or the beautiful budding pink and white trees could alter her mood.

She restlessly began drumming her fingers on her window sill and muttered, “When…when is my father ever going to realize that I am a woman? How old will I have to be before he notices that I no longer wear pigtails and ribbons in my hair? For Heaven’s sake, I am nearly eighteen years old. Doesn’t he realize?”

Her mutterings had grown a bit louder as Genny quietly approached. “What are you mumbling about, my little princess?”

“Please…do not call me your little princess!” Ambria exclaimed. “Doesn’t anyone around here understand that I’ve grown up? I’m not a child anymore, and I’ve grown quite weary of being treated like one!”

Ambria’s mood took Genny by surprise. “Don’t get your temper riled at me, young lady! I meant no harm—it’s only a nickname after all!” she answered defensively.

Ambria felt instant guilt for her sharp tongue as she glanced at the woman who had been with her since the day she was born.Genny was the nickname Ambria had given Genevieve. She had been told that it was one of the very first words she had spoken as a baby—second only to “Papa”. Genny was more like a mother than a nanny to Ambria and she loved her with all her heart.

Wonderful childhood memories of Genny began to surface— Genny, with her curly red hair, chubby dimpled cheeks, and plump arms reaching out to hold Ambria. Genny, with her laughing warm-brown eyes, teaching her childish games, to read, dance, sew, and laugh. The reminiscences made Ambria’s mood even more melancholy, and the dreaminess returned to her eyes as she stared out the window.

Genny was undeterred by Ambria’s silence. “Quit your dreaming, girl, and answer me proper this time. What has got your feathers ruffled today?”

“Oh Genny, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. It’s just that…well…oh Genny… I am so tired of being Papa’s little girl!”

Ambria’s voice was strained and Genny knew her well enough to know that she was on the brink of spilling a bucket full of tears. Determined to waylay those tears, she sharpened the tone of her voice and said, “Now I’ll be hearing none of this self-pity, Ambria! You know how much your papa loves you, and how much he has done to teach and protect ya! Why, without him ya wouldn’t even ‘ave a pillow fer yer head and clothes on yer back! You’ve got a home fit fer a princess and strong faith ta guide and give ya peace…all because yer papa understands what love really is!”

Genny then wagged a finger at Ambria and said, “Now look what you’ve done, girl. You’ve got me fergettin’ me proper speakin’!”

Guilt washed over Ambria as she realized that she had only been thinking of herself. Genny was obviously upset—though she took great pride in the English skills she had learned and had taught to Ambria, her native Irish brogue always surfaced when she was riled or distressed.

Ambria softened her expression to soothe her dear friend, and said softly, “I know he loves me, Genny…and I love him with all my heart. He’s the best father I could ever hope to have…but I long to grow up. I long to experience what other girls my age have been experiencing for years already! I long to meet new friends, go to parties and socials, and…Oh, you wouldn’t understand.”

Ambria’s shoulders gave way to her mood and she slumped forward in sadness. In barely more than a whisper she pleaded, “I just want my freedom.”

Forget Me Not is available via Lulu, as well as on Amazon Kindle.

Elizabeth has kindly agreed to give away a free e-copy of her book to one lucky reader! Leave a comment below for a chance to win this delightful romance novel!

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Schmeidler