by Sarah Kruel
he sat on the window seat in the empty bedroom and looked out across the lawn. It was cold for October, and she pulled her sweater tight. The pine tree boughs bent away from the gusting wind, and the red maple leaves blew across the ground. She had always loved the changing seasons, but now she was going to a place that was summertime all year long. No winter coats this year.
She smiled wryly. There was nothing like a good winter coat, but things change. She had downsized and everything she needed was packed. Donations to Good Will had been delivered. Most of the furniture had been sold. Everything was unfolding as planned. She would live near her daughter in a place some people called paradise.
When she was a college freshman, she had saved two hundred dollars to buy a plane ticket home for Christmas. It was the first time she had been away from her family for so long, and she was looking forward to seeing them. Buying the ticket was going to take most of her money but she hoped to bring home a few gifts for everyone too. She couldn’t go empty-handed at Christmas, so on a late November day she took the bus into town to see what she could she find.
Westfield was a magical land of sparkling lights and store windows full of red and silver bells, glittering Christmas trees, and beautifully wrapped packages. She paused often to take in the colorful displays until she came to Barton’s. It was the biggest department store. Svelte mannequins in red evening gowns and gold lame tops with black velvet skirts beckoned to her. She pushed through the crowded store onto the escalator to Ladies’ Apparel on the second floor.
As soon as she stepped off, she saw the jacket. It was strategically placed to get the attention of anyone arriving on the floor – not in the coat department, but right there at the entrance. She went directly to it. It was golden suede, cut short and belted, and it was her size – small. The faux fox collar was soft and deep like sheep’s wool. She buried her fingers in it, then ran them across the smooth suede sleeve. She knew it was only for display, but she didn’t care. She unbuttoned it right there, took it off the mannequin, and put it on. Then she found a mirror and looked at herself from every angle. It was beautiful. She took it with her and walked to the cashier, counted out her money and stepped onto the down escalator. The coat was hers.
Outside the store the cold air hit her cheeks like a slap in the face. What was she thinking? Her money – the money for her plane ticket home – the money for the presents she would have brought with her – was gone. In its place was a jacket. She stepped off the crowded sidewalk into a doorway to open the bag, and pressed her fingers again into the deep soft collar. Her chest tightened. She was penniless and all by her own choice. It was terrifying and yet she was thrilled.
The bus ride back to campus was long and gave her too much time to worry. She could never tell her parents what she had done. They would be so disappointed if she didn’t come home. She had to find a way of making up the money she had spent. Some way she would just have to do it. She would not return the coat.
The next day she studied the help wanted ads in the local paper. Her cafeteria job was very time-consuming, and exams were coming right after Christmas. She had a term paper in philosophy due before vacation, but she had to do this. There was only one listing that seemed like a possibility. She called immediately and arranged for an interview.
She knocked on the door of the big stone house. Eventually the door opened and a woman with a walker stood before her. She was tall with curly white hair and round dark-framed glasses that stood out on her pale face. The walker seemed too small for her. She wondered if the woman was naturally hunched or if she was hunching to reach the handles of the walker.
“I’m Emily. I’m here about the job.”
“Yes, I know. Come in. It’s cold out there.”
The woman seemed well except for her dependence on the walker. She explained that she had difficulty maintaining the house by herself and that her emphysema had slowed her down even more. She needed help with cleaning and making her meals.
“So you’re a college girl, Emily. Do you have time for this?” Emily had already told her about her cafeteria job. “Don’t you need time to study?”
“Yes, I do, but I absolutely have to earn some money.”
“You sound desperate.”
“Well, yes. I really need a job. I need money to go home for Christmas. And for other things,” she stammered.
“You seem, as I said, a little desperate. Are you paying your own tuition? Isn’t your campus job enough?”
“My campus job helps a lot, but right now I have some unexpected expenses.” It sounded ominous, and she was afraid she had taken the wrong approach.
“Well I can see that you’re serious about getting work, and I think you can be a big help to me, but please tell me why you need this extra money so badly.”
Mary wasn’t going to be put off with vague generalities.
“I bought something that was not within my budget,” she said, hoping that would end the questioning.
The woman said nothing. She sat in silence until Emily blurted out “I bought this jacket,” as if confessing to a crime.
The lady threw back her head and laughed and laughed.
“Well, it’s beautiful. I love it. Carpe diem. I’d have bought it too if I were a kid like you. The collar is so elegant and the color – palomino, I’d call it – is perfect with your hair.”
They laughed together. It was good to tell someone who really seemed to understand. It was an impulsive act; it was irrational, but she had no regrets. And now it seemed that her money problems would be solved. The job was hers.
She liked Mary a lot. Even though she needed help, she was not helpless. She was full of life – funny, opinionated, strong. She’d traveled a lot, gotten married, divorced, remarried, and now widowed. She and her second husband had operated an antique shop, and her home was full of beautiful pieces from that time – highly polished mahogany furniture, china, glassware, all arranged as if the shop were open for business. One of Emily’s jobs was polishing and dusting, and she loved doing it because each piece was special and unique and usually had a story to go with it.
After the Christmas holidays, she continued to work for Mary. Suddenly it was March. She walked from the bus to Mary’s house with the jacket slung over her shoulder. It was a beautiful warm day though not yet spring. She knocked and waited for Mary’s hearty welcome to come in. There was no response for a long time, and then the door swung open. A tall middle-aged man whom she knew at once was Mary’s son extended his hand and introduced himself.
“Mary’s had a fall. She’s at the hospital.”
She’d been with Mary just two days ago. They’d taken a walk in the back yard and sat on a little bench watching the birds. It was so peaceful there with hyacinths and forsythia in full bloom. As always Mary told her stories and as always she also wanted to know what was happening with Emily. Did she finish her English paper? What was she reading?
Later that night Mary’s son called as he said he would. Mary had broken her hip. She would be in the hospital for a while, and then he was arranging for rehab out of state in the town where he lived. He wasn’t sure when she would be able to return home.
The rehab center was much too far for Emily to visit Mary, but she called often. The first time she called they gave the phone to Mary, but she never spoke. A nurse said she was having a difficult day. She was very weak and her emphysema had gotten worse. Emily called at least once a week to see how she was doing but never talked to her. She sent letters as well, but it was hard to keep writing when there was no response. She wondered if the nurses read them to her. Was she able to understand them if they did? Then just before the semester ended, Mary’s son called to tell her that Mary wouldn’t be returning home. She was no longer able to live alone. The house was for sale
She took her final exams and went back home for the summer. She got a job at the Dairy Queen and took her little sister to the beach a lot. She met a guy at work and they went to the beach together too. Sometimes to the movies. It was fun, but she was happy when September came and she returned to school. Mary would have loved to have her read the poems they were studying in English. She wrote a paper on Keats and wondered what Mary would think of it. She missed her. Winter came and she wore the “palomino” coat with no regrets.
She graduated early and was ready to conquer New York. She had a job at Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital, an efficiency apartment on the upper west side, and a new wardrobe. The college uniform of sweatshirts and jeans was gone, and the centerpiece of that change was the cream-colored coat with the hood. It was long and full and elegant. It made whatever else she was wearing seem as stylish as it was. She was a grown-up in the real world!
She hadn’t even worked a day when the transit strike occurred. The excitement of the new job dimmed, replaced by the frustration of getting there. It was very cold and very early as she started off toward Central Park for her first day. She pulled the beautiful coat around her and shouldered her purse. People were everywhere – walking, running, on bikes. She crossed at 72nd Street and entered the park. School boys with backpacks scooped up the dirty snow and pelted each other with hard-packed icy balls. Men in suits with their collars up against the wind strode rapidly in rhythm with their swinging briefcases. Some rode motorcycles or bikes and had wool hats pulled down over their ears or scarves blowing out behind their necks. Women carried their heels and wore their tennis shoes or winter boots for the march across the city.
Cars were streaming across too. As she made the first turn, she saw that some drivers had stopped their cars and offered rides to the walkers who eagerly jumped in. Some walked backwards with their thumbs stuck out, hoping the next driver would take pity on them. It was so crazy, she thought. Hitchhiking across Central Park. Probably not a good idea. She shoved her hands in her pockets and trudged on, catching up to two other girls. They were giggling and sliding on the snow and occasionally sticking out their mittened thumbs. She was about to speak to them when a red Volkswagen pulled over, and they piled into the back seat, screaming in appreciation.
The driver laughed too. “Come on. Come on. There’s room for you.”
She hesitated and then slid into the passenger’s seat. He was handsome. His curly dark
hair hung below his ears and was blown about by the wind as the door opened. His eyes were
incredible, and his laugh was quick and loud.
They crossed the park in what seemed like minutes, and he announced that he was headed for 57th Street. The girls in the back hopped out despite his offer to take them wherever they were going. She got out as well. It would still be a long walk for her but at least she had gotten across the park.
“Where are you headed?”
“Just uptown a little bit.” She thanked him and hurried off.
No one knew how long the strike would last. That first day everyone seemed elated at the change of pace, at the adventure of it. By the second day the exuberance had waned for many. Hers had not. She was excited. The unexpected ride had filled her with nervous energy. Who would believe that on her first day of work she had hitchhiked with a gorgeous stranger.
On Tuesday she found herself watching for the VW as she started across the park. A few drivers slowed and offered her a ride, but she declined. Halfway across the park she heard a beeping horn and saw the red car slowing beside her.
She got in. She had hoped this would happen, and now she was speechless. This time there were no other passengers to fill the silence with giggles and silly talk.
“Where exactly do you work?” he asked.
“Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital.”
“Oh my God. That’s really a hike. I’ll drive you.”
She protested but he had already turned up. The conversation became easier, but her hands were tight fists in her coat pockets and her palms were wet inside the wool gloves. When he dropped her off in front of the hospital, he said “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She savored the idea and prayed that the strike would continue. And it did. Every day that week he drove along side of her in the red car just as she started out across the park. On Friday he had a bag of doughnuts on the seat and held it open for her. They ate and talked. It was easier now. Too soon she was getting out at the hospital and waving good-bye to this man who occupied her thoughts more than the new job and more than all the things she had anticipated with so much excitement only a week ago.
The week-end was eternity. She was restless. She hung the new curtains she had bought for the livingroom. She went to the movies with a girl from work. She cleaned the kitchen and rearranged the furniture. She even thought of taking a walk across the park but stopped herself because there was little chance she would see him.
Finally Monday came. She looked out the window by her bed. Something was different. Then she saw the buses lumbering along Amsterdam. The throngs of people she had become accustomed to were gone. Her stomach tightened and her excitement became despair. The strike was over. She sat back on the bed and stared at the floor. Maybe she would walk anyway. Maybe he would be looking for her. How silly she was.
She took the bus across town and changed to the uptown one. It had only been a week of quick rides across the park, but it felt like more. How could it end so abruptly? She had thought that they would become more than friends as they already had in her girlish fantasies. At first she pressed her face to the bus window, scanning the road for his car, but the red car never came into view that day or ever again. Nor did she see it parked in front of the hospital waiting for her when she left for the day as it did in her daydreams. It was a long time before she stopped looking for him, and so much longer for the sadness to pass. He had broken her heart, and he didn’t even know her name,
It was on the cover of the Woodward Winter Catalog. They called it a swing coat – three-quarter length with no buttons and a big wide collar and cuffs. It came in pumpkin which was on the catalog cover or eggplant. She ordered it that day. Pumpkin.
Before the coat arrived, she found out she was pregnant. It was ironic. She never dreamed that the loose swinging coat would become her maternity coat as well as the coat she would wear bringing home her beautiful baby daughter. When she saw it on the front of the catalog, she had only known it was a great coat.
It arrived by UPS. She tore open the box and put it on, then walked outside and down the block. The coat was perfect. Life was perfect. The baby would be perfect. She smiled and savored her happiness. She was going to be a mother.
Months later she took the same walk wearing the same coat as she pushed the beautiful baby girl in the handsome new carriage. She had quit her job even though she loved it. She would go back when the time was right – when the baby was in school or maybe pre-school or she would work part-time. She gave it little thought because she had no misgivings about her choice. It would all work out. There was no hurry. She was a mother now.
Before the baby came, Jim had planned to cut back at work and finish his graduate degree. Baby Laura changed the plan, and she felt bad for him. He never said so, but she knew he was frustrated about not completing his studies. She lived with this awareness for a while, but finally that was it. She announced to Jim that she could get a part-time job at night when he could be home with Laura. He could take one or two classes at a time right now and move closer to finishing. He protested as she knew he would, but finally she convinced him that it was a good thing for both of them
She had not considered that getting a job would be so hard. It never had been like that before. It was partly the hours, and she was over-qualified for many of the jobs that fit her schedule. Finally she accepted the fact that the only job she could get that would pay enough to make it worthwhile was waitressing. The hours worked. She could even work week-ends. The tips would be good if she worked in the right place. She’d done it when she was in high school and a few summers during college. She was good at it. She had made good money. It had been fun then – flirting with the customers, going out after work with the other kids who worked there, sleeping late, and back to work at night. It was a party that never ended.
But it wasn’t a party now. It was a challenge that she hoped she was up to. There was a job at The Carriage House and she went for an interview. The restaurant wasn’t open yet and it was cold in the empty dining room where she waited for the manager, wrapped in the pumpkin coat. She clutched the resume that she had revised to include her early waitressing jobs at The Corner Restaurant, Dairy Queen, and the Beach Front Hotel. Now those carefree days were more important than her master’s degree and the three years she had worked in labor relations.
She felt old and awkward as she watched the kitchen staff arriving, but the manager was nice and the interview was short. She was hired. She could start that night. The stress drained out of her body. She had done it. She swirled the swirl coat and walked quickly to the car. She was young again.
Every night she left the house as soon as Jim came home. On the day when he had classes Mrs. McCabe came and stayed with Laura until he got back. She was a wonderful lady who had raised four children of her own, and seemed to really enjoy spending time with Laura. Jim was happy to be getting closer to finishing his degree. And she was pleased with herself for making the choice.
Waitressing wasn’t much different than it had been when she was younger. Keep the customers happy. Chit chat or stay quiet and low profile, which ever she felt they wanted. She could do it. She could read the customers. She was organized and quick, and above all she knew “the customer was always right.”
It was a game really. She was an actress, and at each table she played a different role. It was fun, but not in the same way it had been years before. She didn’t really want her life to be a game. Sometimes right in the middle of the game, she wanted to stop – to say what she really meant or to say nothing at all.
That’s how she was feeling on that Monday night, working in the bar section. There weren’t many customers, but Monday was bowling night for the leagues so there were the regulars. They were big beer drinkers who always asked for snacks and didn’t tip well no matter how you played the game.
Five guys sat at a corner table near the door. She didn’t recognize them, but they were dressed like the typical Monday- nighters – jeans and sweatshirts or tee shirts with college names on them. Probably from the leagues. One wore a button-down shirt. He would rock back in his chair periodically and laugh. The others would join in. He was the alpha of the pack, she guessed. She could hear his voice above the others – something that always annoyed her. She wondered if he realized how loud he was or if he was intentionally talking to the whole room.
She chose the quiet and serious role for them – more because she didn’t want to play that night than because she saw it as their role of choice for her. More likely they would have warmed up to chatty-moving-toward-flirty as the night wore on. They were all pretty happy with themselves, and button-down was especially pumped up and full of himself. The others, although they gradually became less focused on his pontificating, were still clearly a bit under his spell. Probably he was their boss. He had some kind of status with them for sure.
As she approached with the third round on her tray and a refill on the pretzels, button-down tipped back his chair again and the back bumped her tray. The drinks sloshed, and the glass of vodka tipped right over and spilled on his sleeve. She righted the empty glass and apologized, but he began playing his own dramatic role. He jumped to his feet as if she’d scalded him with hot water, and began rubbing his sleeve with a napkin.
“Oh God, you spilled my drink.”
It was just a shot glass full of vodka. She apologized again and attempted to help him dry his sleeve. The other guys were quiet now as his anger grew. There was really nothing more she could do, nor did she want to. She watched him stomp out with his followers close behind him. As he disappeared, a sense of her own power came over her, and comforted her. Button-down and his boys were jerks, but she owed them a lot. Five boors in a bar had made it so very clear. She finished the night, and gave notice. The game was over. It was time to move on.
She wore her “big shot” coat every day during the impending merger. It was a gift from Jim. She saw it in the window at Bergdorf’s when they had spent a week-end in the city. He remembered that she had admired it, and there it was under the tree that Christmas. And it truly was a “big shot” coat. That’s what Jim called it. It was black cashmere with a long sash, conservative but trendy. She loved it.
The merger was stressful. There were position cuts to be made and her department got to deliver that news. There was job training for some. There were offers of relocation for others. Whatever the outcome was for a particular person, it was a radical change and a hard departure from what they had become accustomed to. And through it all she knew that her own position was in jeopardy too, after she had completed the necessary dirty work.
She started arriving early at her office to avoid seeing and especially having to converse with employees. She was aware of the lists. She knew who was going and who was staying. In some cases she had been a part of the decision
People cried. Men and women alike. People who had always gotten along with each other argued over silly things. They were angry and sad and had no recourse when she sat down with them to deliver the verdict – going or staying. If it was a layoff, she talked options with them. but once the bad news was presented, they heard nothing.
When Phil Black called her into his office, she was ready for her own bad news. They’d worked together for a long time. He was her boss and mentor. Sitting there in front of him she thought he looked old. His hair had grayed over the years and his face was drawn. Even though they had become good friends, it was hard to look at him, waiting for what was to come.
“Emily, you’ve done a great job with these people. It’s a very hard thing to do. And there’s no way it can make you feel good or even satisfied. Believe me, I know.”
She couldn’t make eye contact. How long would he drag this out? Her face felt so hot. She wondered if it was red and if he noticed. Finally she forced herself to raise her eyes and look at him.
“They want you to be the new Director of Human Resources.”
He said it mechanically. His smile was tight and forced.
“What do you mean?”
“Just what I said. They want you to be the new director.”
“What about you?”
“Retirement. They’ve offered me a generous package.”
“But you’re not ready to…”
“No. It wasn’t my plan, but sometimes things go differently than you expect.”
“But you don’t have to do it.”
“Yeah, yeah I do. That’s the deal.”
She studied the man. Phil had been her rock, especially over the past few months. After a day spent devastating people’s lives, she was so often ready to throw in the towel. He was the one who somehow patched her up and sent her home feeling that she could do it again the next day and not fall apart. But now Phil was the one. How could that happen?
“I can’t go into it any more than that, Emily.”
He stood up. She took a step toward him and stopped. There was a look in his eye. He wasn’t her mentor anymore. He was another casualty, and just like with the others, there was nothing she could do except step back and allow him his pride and his privacy.
“Okay Phil. We’ll talk tomorrow. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay Emily. It’s okay.”
But it really wasn’t okay. He was trying to say the right things, but she’d been through the bitterness and the grief with so many others over the past month. There was no way to make it okay that they were being laid off or asked to take a lesser job or retire like Phil. He needed to keep it to himself. He needed to be strong. He couldn’t open up his rage or expose his shame that this was happening to him. She hugged him and left his office. They wouldn’t talk about it tomorrow or ever.
In a few weeks Phil was gone. She became the new Director of Human Resources for the merged company. Life went on. A new normal emerged. Jim teased her that the lady in the big shot coat was a real big shot now.
She bought the grey coat with the mink collar for herself when they moved to Connecticut. It was supposed to be a little treat for her at that time of pulling up stakes and moving to a new place, but now her most vivid memory of it was one of pain and sadness. Even after so many years.
It was Saturday. Jim was home working in the yard, and she had gone to have her hair cut in town. When she returned, she parked the car in the front driveway and thought she heard him calling her name. She paused as he came running toward her.
“I’ve killed Big Boy. Emily, I’ve killed him. I ran over him with the tractor. I didn’t know he was there.”
Together they ran to the empty field behind the garage. Big Boy lay still in the grass. Jim threw himself on the ground and clutched the dog in his arms.
“Oh my God; oh my God,” he cried over and over, burying his face in Big Boy’s fur.
Her heart was pounding hard as she knelt beside them. Big Boy’s body was untouched. She laid her hands on the beautiful brown coat and stroked him, then howled in anguish as she saw the bloodied head where the tractor wheel had hit it.
“Big Boy,” Jim said again, tears filling his eyes. “Big Boy.”
This could not be. It could not. The tears streamed across her cold cheeks. They had had dogs and cats and even guinea pigs when Laura was a child, but this dog was their dog. They had gone to see him on a beautiful spring day, wondering if it was a good idea. It had been a long time since they had had an animal in the house. Maybe they were too old to start with a new puppy. Maybe it was more trouble than it was worth. But it was Jim’s good friend who pushed them to come and take a look at the last of the litter. “I saved the best for you,” he said. “He’s a special guy.” They said okay, but just to take a look. No promises. But they knew in the first moment they saw him that it was true. He was a special dog. He ran across the backyard with his mother following close behind him, ears flying backward in the wind, dragging a stick that was far too big for a pup. But he did it. Then he saw them and dropped it, running toward them like he knew he was to be theirs. And he was. For eleven years he had been so very very special. Their Big Boy.
She put her arms around the man and the dog and hugged them close to her. Together they wept. Finally she spoke.
“Jim, he’s dead.”
It sounded so cold.
“I killed him.”
“It was an accident. You didn’t know.”
The blood on Big Boy’s head had started to dry. He looked like he was sleeping in Jim’s arms as he had so many times for so many years. She took off her coat and covered him. For a long time they stayed there on the ground with the dog between them, silent except for gasping sobs. Finally she stood up.
“I’ll get a shovel.”
He didn’t respond so she started off alone toward the shed. She fought to stop herself from again crumpling on the ground and letting out her grief in deep gut-wrenching howls. When she finally reached the barn, she leaned against the wall of the old building and realized that her whole body was shivering. She steadied herself, gasping. She had to be strong. In the corner was Big Boy’s barn bed where he slept for hours while Jim puttered in his workshop. But he wasn’t really sleeping – just waiting for the glorious moment when Jim would put down his tools and say, “Wanna go for a walk Boy?”
She needed to get the shovel and get back to Jim but she felt so helpless. What could she say to him? The responsibility he felt took his grief far beyond her own deep anguish. There were no words that made any sense to her. People lost their sons and daughters in terrible ways. People suffered unjustly. She tried to put this in perspective but her emotions would not allow it. Her heart was torn apart. Wonderful Big Boy was dead.
She found the pointed shovel and carried it down the hill. Jim and the dog were still on the ground and his grasp on the limp body had stayed tight. After a few minutes, she took Jim by the shoulders and raised him up with the dog pressed against his chest. Her coat fell away and lay on the ground in a heap. A blood smear covered the sleeve and the black fur collar was stiff. She picked up the coat and wrapped it around Big Boy again.
Without speaking they walked toward the big chestnut tree where Big Boy had often waited for an unsuspecting squirrel that he could chase. That was the place. She started to dig. In any other circumstance Jim would have taken the shovel and done it, but he turned away unable even to watch. It took a long time, and the sunless day was darkening more. It was very cold now but her body warmed as she dug harder. When she felt the hole was big enough, she stepped away from it.
“Maybe I should get his bed.”
Jim didn’t answer. The finality of the big rectangular hole in the ground was unbearable. She was torn between getting the bed and prolonging this terrible moment or just getting it over with. Finally she went to Jim and together in silence they placed the dog in the ground. Once again she pulled the coat securely around the strong, sleek body. She looked at Jim and then began slowly shoveling the dirt back in place.
“Good-bye Big Boy.” She whispered the words to herself. Gradually he disappeared beneath the fresh dark earth. Their dear friend was gone.
A car door slammed in the driveway, and she jumped up from the window seat. The limo to the airport had arrived. It was time to go. The doorbell rang. She took a quick look at the stark empty room, then hurried down the stairs to open the door.
“Hello Mrs. Haines. How are you?”
It was Douglas Butterfield. He had been a classmate of Laura’s in high school.
“Doug, what a surprise. I haven’t seen you in a long time. Maybe not since you and Laura
“That’s right, Mrs. H. I guess you didn’t know it was me when you ordered the car. When I came out of the army, I started the company – about a year ago.”
She could see how proud he was.
“It’s been a little scary, getting a big loan and all. I thought about re-enlisting instead. That would have been easier really, but it’s working out. And now I’m engaged too. Getting married next May.”
He looked so young. He had always had kind of a baby face and he still did. His blonde hair curled a little around his ears and there was a faint wisp of a mustache. He took a suitcase in each hand and marched toward the car. She followed behind, trying to match his quick step.
“These are heavy! I guess you’re planning to be away for a while.”
“Yes,” she said. “Yes I am.”
“Well, I hope you’re heading south. It’s going to be a cold winter here, they say.”
She climbed into the back seat and looked at the house once more as he backed out into the street. She was ready. It was time to go. He drove quickly through the neighborhood and onto the turnpike where he picked up speed. The exit signs flew by, announcing each vanishing town as they passed. She leaned her head against the back of the seat and closed her eyes, speeding to a place some called paradise.
Sarah Kruel has worked in the field of mental health and substance abuse treatment as a therapist, researcher, and teacher. She spent much of her career as the director of one of the country’s largest residential addiction treatment centers. She competes at major horse shows on the east coast and has written a number of articles for equestrian publications. She is also the author of a self-published book, Speaking of Success: Women’s Stories and Strategies for Living with Peace and Passion (available at Amazon and Infinity Publishing). The short story Coat Tales is her first published fiction.