I was born in the San Francisco Bay area in the town of Redwood City, a place as different from the one I ended up in as fish are to birds. Those who know me call me Gayle. Guess why I write under the name of G.Davies Jandrey. I'm a retired educator, a poet and a writer of fiction. For five summers I worked as a fire lookout in southern Arizona's "Sky Islands" where I first learned to love the richness and diversity of the region. This double life, one spent teaching teens, the other focused on natural history, informs all my writing. I hope it provides my readers with an experience as complex and rewarding as the environment in which they incubated.
My short fiction has appeared in Calyx, Bilingual Review, Portland Review, The Berkeley Fiction Review and others. A Garden of Aloes, my debut novel, was published by The Permanent Press in January of 2008. Tortilla Moon and Other Tales of Love, fourteen closely linked short stories, and Journey through an Arid Land, a tale of a kidnapping along the Mexico/Arizona border are in need of a publisher. I invite you to read excerpts of these works on my web site: web.mac.com/g.jandrey. There is also a critter slide show and a sample read of my children's book, The Millipede and Other Less Embraceable Friends.
I make my home with my husband, Fritz, on the desert outskirts of Tucson, Arizona. When I'm not writing, reading or trying to beat Fritz at Canasta, I can usually be found working in my garden.
I've been writing for nearly twenty years now. In addition to the works mentioned above, I have four novels in a drawer where they will forever remain. My advice to writers who would be published is to develop a skin as thick as a rhino's and keep on writing.
Please visit my web site: gaylejandrey.com
I just finished a new novel. Set in Tucson, A Small Saving Grace, (88,486 words) is a literary thriller with wry sensibilities, offbeat characters and just enough suspense and menace to make the reader wince occasionally and say, “No, don’t go there.”
I'm making the rounds of agents and small presses, a real pain. Below is the first chapter. Wish me luck.
A Small Saving Grace
G. Davies Jandrey
“And now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened”
He stood beneath the dripping canopy, watching the people go in and out of the etched glass door of the bar across the street. He hadn’t been inside this one for over a year, which was why he’d chosen it tonight. Something different. Though he’d already spotted a couple of possible candidates, he was reluctant to leave his observation post until the rain lightened up. Absently, he rubbed his index finger over a brown, somewhat furry birthmark on his temple.
Just then a young woman emerged from the parking garage. She had no coat or umbrella. For a moment, she hesitated, the wind pressing her filmy skirt against long legs. Then, shielding her head with a briefcase, she sprinted across the street. He smiled. Now that was something worth going out in the rain for.
Outside the April rain continued steady. Inside, three women sat at a round oak oak table sipping wine and looking warm, conspiratorial, teacherly. One woman still had a #2 pencil still stuck in her hair. Thick and tawny, it was loosely secured into a bunch at the nape of her neck by a large, faux tortoise shell clamp. With her fingertips, she smoothed her brows, which were full, arched and a shade darker than her hair. She was pretty and sturdy, and though she did wear make-up on occasion, this was not an occasion.
Every fourth Friday of the month the women gathered to decompress at the Pancho Villa Bar. One of the oldest bars in town, it had gotten a bit shabby of late, but the old oak bar that ran the length of one wall was still elegant. The mirror behind the bar, flanked by large crystal sconces balancing on the twin brass heads of naked Nubian maidens, had the slightly quavering quality of vintage glass.
“There, there, there!” Trudy, a mousy blond in a red cotton turtleneck whispered. “Don’t look. He did it again. He is seriously checking you out.”
“Stop it. He is not.” Trying not to smile, Andy took a sip of her second glass of wine. She rubbed her thumbs nervously over the surface of her stubby fingernails. It wasn’t that she bit them. It was that they simply would not grow beyond the pink, fleshy nubs of her fingers. She blamed the chalk dust. Even in the 21st century, chalk and blackboard were still the never-fail tool of teaching. Today her nails were painted an opaque tangerine, compliments of her daughter, Sadie. She knew they looked foolish. So what? Tangerine fingernails and a buck was a cheap price to pay for a weekly manicure and twenty minutes of uninterrupted time with Sadie, who seemed to be sliding prematurely and precipitously into adolescence.
The third woman, Fran, was older than the other two, perhaps forty. She was dressed in a glossy pants suit and heels, suggesting administration rather than classroom. “Trudy’s right.”
Andy pulled back her shoulders. “So what’s he look like? Is he cute?
“He’ll do,” said the administrator.
Reflexively, Andy’s hand flew to the back of her head. “Oh lord.” She plucked the pencil out of her hair and dropped it into the large leather tote that was briefcase and purse combined. “I’m such a nerd.”
“Right,” Trudy said, flatly. “I should be so nerdy.”
With fingers to her lips, Fran cocked a well-shaped brow and whispered, “Quiet, you guys. He’s coming this way.” “Oh no,” Andy moaned. She had not been with a man other than Ben for more than a dozen years. Was she ready to date? Sometimes she thought so. But not tonight. The thought of sleeping with someone who was not Ben held no appeal. Still, a date was not a commitment to go to bed, and until she was willing to date, the idea of sex would never appeal. At age 34 was she ready to become celibate?
“Evening ladies,” he said, dipping his head. “How’s everybody doing?”
He was a several inches taller than she, maybe just over six feet, his face pleasant and slightly bottom heavy. Nice smile, shy and lopsided, but his teeth were kind of crooked and his hair was funny, close-cut and greenish-blond like he’d spent too much time immersed in chlorine. Maybe it was the light, or maybe he was a swimmer. He had the shoulders for it. His t-shirt with its UofA logo, hugged his chest and lean torso. Yes. Probably a swimmer. Other than that he was pretty average. But average was good. Ben was handsome – eye candy, Fran had dubbed him – and look how that ended.
“Can I buy you ladies a glass of wine?”
“That would be lovely,” Fran answered with authority.
“Oh.” Andy picked up her wine glass, still half-full. “This is my second, and two’s my limit.” She looked at her watch. “Besides. I’ve got to go in a few minutes.”
“Go?” said Trudy. “It’s only 6 o’clock.”
“I know, but tomorrow’s Sadie’s birthday. I have to pick up the kids at the sitter’s and there’s the cake to make.”
The man smiled. “That’s disappointing. So it will be two glasses of..?”
“Merlot,” Trudy and Fran answered simultaneously. The man nodded and headed back to the bar.
“Sadie’s birthday is next week, April 16, the same as my mother,” Trudy announced flatly.
“I had to say something.”
“Great! Now he’ll think you’re married.”
“Andy, honey,” said Fran. “It’s been months since the divorce. You had a bad fall, but you have to get back up on that horse before that fear thing starts to take hold.”
Andy nodded. That fear thing had not only taken hold, it had moved and set up housekeeping in her chest. “I guess I’m not much of an equestrian.”
Trudy laughed. “Well, Fran’s equestrian talents, as you know, are legend.”
“Sour grapes,” Fran said, lifting the brow again.
The waitress set two glasses of Merlot on the table. Glancing around the room, Trudy and Fran raised their glasses to toast their benefactor, but he had disappeared.
“I told you so,” said Fran. “He was checking you out, and now you’ve scared him away.
The welcome aroma of wet asphalt hit her as soon as she stepped outside the bar. Andy inhaled deeply. The rare scent of rain on any surface was always a pleasant sensation. In the growing dark, the puddles glowed with reflected neon. She hurried across the street on a red light and up the block to the parking garage. Inside the elevator she pressed the button for the third tier. Andy always parked her car on the third tier. She always had two glasses of wine only, always home by 7:00, and in bed by 9. She wanted to kick herself. Needed to kick herself out this state of suspended animation back into the land of the living. Fran was right. It was time to get back on the horse.
Andy shook her head. She needed to put Ben aside, but when he picked the kids up for their visit, her stomach still pitched and she found it difficult to keep the pain and anger out of her voice. How could she put him out of her mind when he was still in her sight? And the kids were crazy about him. Why would they not be crazy about somebody who never said no. By comparison, Ben was the fun one and she the party pooper.
When she stepped into the garage, she realized she’d been in such a rush earlier that she failed to note the exact spot where she’d left the Camry and of course there were a dozen other small white cars parked on the third tier.
She stood there for a moment beneath the milk-blue of fluorescent lights. She sighed. “Pay attention.” Ever since Ben had announced that he was leaving her – and “no, there was no point in going to counseling” – it was as though she were sleepwalking. Even when she realized he’d been seeing someone else for months before his leave-taking, she’d refused to fully wake up to reality. He was gone for good. Rationally, she knew she was better off without him. He’d never approved of either her father or her mother and was never quite satisfied with who she was, always pressing her to lose a few pounds, do something with her hair, leave the classroom for a job that would take less time and bring in more money. All true, but so far rational thought had failed to prevent daydreams of his return. Well, daydreams were a lousy substitute for real life. It was no way to live, not good for her or the kids. “Wake up!” she whispered.
Looking from side to side, she walked down the middle of the garage. The swoosh of wheels over wet pavement rising from the street echoed off the concrete walls, and beneath that the sounds of hurried footsteps coming up from behind her. She spun around.
“Lose your car?”
“Oh! It’s you,” she said, hand on her throat.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you. I’m parked just over there.” He waved a hand to the left. “What kind of a car is it?” Hands shaking a bit, she began to rummage though her tote bag. “A white Camry.”
“I’ll help you look.”
“I’m getting to be an old hand at this.” She fished out an object that looked more like a charm bracelet than a set of keys. “My dad got me a remote key for my birthday. Sometimes I still forget to use it.” Holding her breath, she pressed a button and the lights flashed on a white Camry. “Ah, there.” She pointed and started for the car. “This gadget is magic.”
Ducking his head, he smiled that lopsided smile, kind of goofy and sweet. “I’ll walk with you. He fell into step along side her. He was wearing some kind of lemony aftershave. Usually she didn’t like aftershave, but this was crisp and pleasant.
She looked directly at him then. Smiled. “Don’t bother. It’s right over th… Well, sure,” she said, taking her first step back into the land of the living. “I’m sorry I couldn’t stay for that glass of wine.”
“It’s okay. I understand. Kids come first.” He reached out his hand. “Mathew Grady.”
“Andy Richards.” She took his hand, noted how lightly he clasped hers as if it were a bird he might easily crush. “Nice to meet you.”
He held her gaze for a beat, then released his loose grasp. “So Andy. You’re a teacher?”
“It’s that obvious?”
“Pretty much. The big bag, the pencil in the hair. What do you teach?”
“Junior English, American literature.” She struggled to find something else to say, but her mind was in such snarl she could think of nothing. Finally she managed, “Well, it’s nice of you to go to all this trouble.”
“No trouble. Beside, I like teachers who look like teachers.”
Again she smiled, flattered. She noticed then a mink-colored birthmark on his left temple. It was about the size of a dime and looked soft, velvety. She had an urge to reach up and put her finger on it.
“So tomorrow your daughter’s going to be how old?”
“Ten, going on sixteen.”
“Is she as pretty as her mother?”
Andy felt heat race up her throat and spread to her cheeks. “Oh, I…Well…Here we are.” She fingered the remote, then reluctantly pointed it at her car.
“What’s her name, your daughter?”
“Sadie. And my son, Hank, he’s six. “My husband and I are divorced and I have to pick them up at the sitter’s.” There that’s out, she thought, then felt immediately abashed. Too much information. What if he thought she was making some sort of oblique invitation? She held her breath. So what if he did?
“You don’t look old enough to have a ten-year-old daughter.”
She exhaled. “Some days I feel old enough to be the mother of the president of the United States.” She tossed her bag onto the passenger seat and slid behind the wheel, wondering what she might do to encourage him to ask for a coffee date.
She put the key into the ignition, then turned back towards him, a broad smile on her lips. That’s when he punched her in the face.
“Shush, shush, shush,” he whispered, pulling her out of the car then easing her to the ground. One hand covered her mouth while the other stroked the hair off her face. “Shush. Just be quiet, Andy, and it’ll be okay.” He punched her again, then dragged her to the narrow space between the car and the wall where it was darkest.
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