My guest today, Colleen L. Donnelly, knows how to entertain us. I'm voting her the most fearless this year to date on Discover... And because she is such a good tale spinner, you'll want to check out her fiction books too. So read to the end and then check out her books!
Fearless? Maybe not, but when Kenny Rogers sang “The Gambler,” I heard my escapes from harm crooned to a catchy tune. My dad had already dubbed Kenny a herald of truth when “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille” coincided with a bout of bad blood sugar that weakened my mom, his best farmhand. But Kenny’s insight didn’t dawn on me until long after endless replays of his Greatest Hits during high school study hall. Much later his words brought my brushes with disaster to light through The Gambler’s eyes.
“Son, I've made a life
Out of readin' people's faces
Knowing what the cards were
By the way they held their eyes”
“Every gambler knows
That the secret to surviving
Is knowing what to throw away
Knowing what to keep”
Which goes for advice. Like that given to me in a Burger King parking lot by a man who pointed to my rear tire before I exited my car, advising, “You should see your tire. It’s flat.” When I hesitated, he persisted, “Don’t drive with it that way.” Since I had just driven there without the flapping limp of a flat, I challenged him. Which brought him closer. “Get out and look at it,” he insisted. “See for yourself.” His persistence piqued the Gambler’s “secret to surviving.” Throw away lunch? A tire? I threw away the fellow’s advice, knowing what to keep. Me. So I left—on four solid tires.
“The night got deathly quiet
And his face lost all expression”
Make that a deathly quiet alley. And two faces. Two that went from cocky assurance to shock when I wheeled my ninety-month pregnant body around and faced them. They’d trailed me as I waddled from a local grocer to my house. I felt them before I heard them, footsteps then voices that donned a casual pretense designed to keep my defenses asleep. They drew closer. Their pace quickened. I couldn’t run, had nothing to defend myself with, so I turned. If innocent, they would smile and step aside. But their pretend joviality and conversation vanished. They stood expressionless as their pregnant victim suddenly barreled straight toward them, through their deathly quiet, and then away.
“If you're gonna play the
You gotta learn to play it right”
Which means truthfully. Someone wanted
something I had. When threats and coercion failed to get it from me, they took
me to court. To the judge, they spun a yarn that painted them a victim and me a
scoundrel. I pondered an equally fabricated defense until the judge turned my
way. King Solomon shone in his eyes, the same brilliance that had ages ago
resolved the squabble as to which of two women an infant belonged to by decreeing
the baby be cut in half. The judge raised a question the way Solomon lifted his
sword. He was looking for the truth—the real mother who would give up her child
in order to save its life. I played it right and told him the truth. His gavel
hit the podium. And what was mine remained mine.
Wrong place, wrong time
“You got to know when to hold ’em”
Rumor had it that the man who backed into our parked car, but accused us of hitting his, was tied to organized crime. Cool, calm, and collected, he swaggered into the courtroom, hands stuffed in the pockets of a long trench coat, and stood beside us in front of a judge. The rumor seemed true when the judge entertained only one side of the story…not ours…then dismissed the case. While my co-witness screamed, “Liar,” I watched the back of the trench coat swagger out the doors he’d entered. She screamed it again in the hallway, utterly fearless while I considered the enormity of what…not who…had dinged the car. Wisdom said, “Hold ’em,” and I did. But she didn’t. Until that enormity turned and delivered her a promise we knew he would keep.
“Know when to fold ’em”
Is it fearless to climb into the basket of a hot air balloon when you’re terrified of heights? Or was I more afraid of the people who clapped my back and said, “You can do it, come on.” My wits that had kept me safe through countless other scrapes, failed me the moment pride took over. More cowardly than wise, I knew I should have folded before I stepped into the basket, or before I even accepted, or by pretending to be sick. But when the gas failed to ignite and lift the balloon into the air, it was time. I folded. And kissed the ground I belonged on.
“Know when to walk away”
Bullies. Two giants decided to tail my daughter and I in the mall. Enormous shadows darkened wherever we walked. Taunts and snickers bristled the air. Chortles and insults tempted me to turn and retaliate, but I took her hand and kept moving forward. The more they picked on a mother and child, the smaller they became. So small, even their sticks and stones fell flat. I understood then what my mother always said—insecure people try to bring you down to their level. Low and small. My daughter and I became the giants then, and we walked away.
“And know when to run”
Approaching a gate after dark to an outdoor testing site that I and other lab techs worked, my car became besieged by Spanish-speaking men, roused from singing around their campfire. They grinned as they surrounded the car of a dazed blonde who quickly locked her doors. To their too happy expressions, I offered smiles, exaggerated gestures, pressed my ID to the glass, and tried a simple English explanation to encourage them to move away. I even claimed I had a husband—a grande husband—in broken Spanish, but nothing budged them. Preferring not to drag them with my car, I pondered employing the 21 Foot Rule and demand they step outside my vulnerable distance. Then the smile pressed against my window vanished. A large hand clapped the man’s shoulder and pulled him from my car. His friends moved also when our heftiest lab tech didn’t let go. His nod said what I already knew—this is when I run.
And her books:
Mine to Tell http://amzn.to/1PNJo4S
Asked For http://amzn.to/1TyflEu
Love on a Train http://amzn.to/1m9eYCx
The Lady’s Arrangement http://amzn.to/2qj7DE2
Out of Splinters and Ashes https://amzn.to/2K0WTHt
Letters and Lies https://amzn.to/2yNFGNv
Sonata Contineo https://amzn.to/2I0zzYi