Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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The End: A Girl and Her Cat Chapter 3

Chapter 3

I yelped and jumped back, pulling my arm out of range as his teeth snapped together so close I could feel his breath on my skin.

He grunted and yanked me toward him. I screamed and pulled back.

Echo came to my rescue, hissing and growling as raked at the man’s legs.

The man cried out in pain, then kicked Echo.

Echo skittered away.

My fear melted into anger. Kick my cat and I’ll kick you back.

The movies made things look so easy. Just aim for the groin. Not so simple from this angle. I lashed out hard with my foot.

To my utter surprise, I connected with something rather soft. The man’s teeth stopped an inch from my skin and he let out a whimper.

Had I actually nailed him in the groin?

Then Wyatt grabbed the guy from behind via a head lock and cranked him away from me. The man’s nails took skin with them as Wyatt pried him off, leaving red a rakes across my arm.

“Everly!” my mom screamed. Or maybe it was Whitney. Probably both. I pushed them away and ran to Echo, who was crouched down watching the man with dilated eyes.

“Echo?” I held out my hand, staying a few feet away. Then noticed the dripping blood and switched hands. “It’s okay,” I said.

A low growl came from Echo’s throat.

I held my hands up in surrender. “Fine. I’ll leave you alone for a minute.”

His eyes shifted from me to the man. The growl got louder.

“Everly, are you okay?” My dad took me by the shoulders and turned me to face him. His wide eyes and pale face seemed out of place. Until I felt the blood on my arm again, and wiped it on my pants.

“I’m okay.” Was my voice shaking?

“Did he hurt you?” Dad’s eyes searched me starting at my head and ending at my arm, which I held out for him.

“Just a few scratches.”

“Did he bite you?” Mom shrieked.

“No.”

A young woman’s high-pitched voice pierced through the air. “Wyatt!”

Just great, the one girl in school I didn’t want to see was here.

Anne Haly came running from her family’s car. She could be on movie posters. Tall. Slender. Perfect brown curls. Bright green eyes. Short skirt. Long jacket. All of those things counted against her—you had to harbor some hate for the beautiful girls in high school—but her worst sin was being Wyatt’s girlfriend.

Wyatt and his dad had my attacker face-down on the ground. Wyatt’s knee was in his back and he had the other arm pinned with his hands. He must have felt me looking at him, because he glanced up and met my gaze. Then like the oblivious jerk he was, he smiled.

“My hero,” I muttered.

Or maybe said really loud? The way my dad’s eyes widened made me think it was the latter.

Anne scowled at me.

Wyatt grinned.

“I think I’m in shock,” I said.

Mom threw her arms around me and started to cry on my shoulder.

Dad patted both of our backs.

I did my best to keep my eyes on Echo. Not Wyatt.

In a blur of sound, light, and my mother’s hysterics, two ambulances and several police cars arrived. The officers secured the man who had tried to bite me, while an EMT gently disentangled me from my mother and led me to an ambulance.

Echo, who’s fur was mostly laying flat, followed. The EMT, a short thick man with red hair, raised his eyebrows when Echo jumped up and sat beside me.

“Service cat,” I said.

“Is that where the lacerations on the man’s legs came from?”

“Yeah.”

Echo lifted a paw and started to clean.

“Does he usually attack people?” The EMT leaned away as he started cleaning the cuts on my arm.

“Never before this.”

“What does he do for you?”

I figured he was trying to make me comfortable with small talk. “I’m allergic to corn. He can smell it.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

Echo switched to the other foot. I watched him instead of my arm. For the first few minutes I’d been kind of numb, but now pain came from the nail grooves in my skin, and my insides started to shake.

“Here.” The EMT put a blanket around my shoulders. The weight of it helped more than anything else.

“I’m starving! I just wanted something to eat!”

The yelling brought my attention outside the bubble around me to the other ambulance. My attacker had been strapped down to a gurney. He fought against the bonds as they raised it and it  got sucked into the back of the vehicle.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked. Was he like the guy in New York?

“My guess? Drugs. But don’t quote me on that.”

I nodded.

Echo moved to his back paws.

A police officer cleared her throat and approached. “How is she?” the tall woman asked.

“Just some scratches. Deep, but they should heal just fine,” my EMT said.

The woman smiled at me. “My name is officer Dalton. Are you okay if I ask you some questions about what happened?”

“Sure.”

Mom appeared. “She needs and adult with her for this.”

I rolled my eyes. She watched way too much primetime television.

Officer Dalton didn’t turn her away, but focused on me. “Can you tell me what happened?”

I did. As I told the story I could see it like I was watching a movie. Like it had happened to someone else. I think that was shock too.

“He tried to bite you?” Officer Dalton asked.

“Twice.”

“And then?”

“And then I kicked him and Wyatt came.”

“Wyatt Carter?”

I nodded.

She made a few notes. Only then did I notice that the EMT had bandaged my arm and my mom had squeezed in next to me.

“This is your service cat?” Officer Dalton asked.

“Yes.” I told her about Echo.

“You may get a call from Animal Services.”

My stomach twisted. “Why?”

“Animals aren’t supposed to attack humans.”

I swallowed. “He did it to save me.”

She smiled. “I know.”

The rest of what she said got drown out as I looked at Echo. His golden eyes regarded me. The thought of losing him brought a lump to my throat. I sniffed.

Officer Dalton looked at my mother. “Can I speak with you for a moment?”

Mom squeezed my arm. “You’ll be okay.”

As soon as the two women walked away, Wyatt appeared. Anne had been clinging to his side since she’d arrived. I’d been doing my best to ignore them.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey.” I took a breath and steadied my nerves.

“Whitney is still freaking out.”

I should say something witty. Funny. To my surprise, it came to me. “She’s not going to be much good to us in the zombie apocalypse.”

Wyatt laughed. “You might be right.” He reached out and scratched Echo’s head three times. The simple gesture, and the thought of my cat being taken from me, brought the tears to the surface again.

“That guy scared you?” Wyatt asked. He put his hand on my back, which almost drove the other thoughts away.

I shrugged. “Yeah.” I didn’t want to talk about Echo.

Wyatt leaned closer to me. Too close. He still smelled a little like sweat. “I hear I’m your hero.”

“That was shock talking.” Only he was my hero. He’d literally rescued me from a rabid man. Or whatever.

“Oh yeah?”

He could never know how much that meant to me. “Yeah. Don’t let it go to your head.”

“Duly noted.”

My mom returned, and Wyatt patted me on the arm and pushed off the bumper of the ambulance. The whole vehicle rocked in his wake.

Mom spoke. “Officer Dalton told me we might have to put Echo down.”

I nodded.

“I’m sorry, honey.” She hugged me.

A growl came from my own throat as I watched Echo stretch, then curl up to take a nap.

Echo had come to my rescue even before Wyatt had. He was the true hero.

No one was going to take him away from me.

His growling at Jason, and then Kendra, came back to me.

Maybe there was something wrong.

If there was, I was going to find it and fix it.

Whitney finally appeared. Red rimmed her eyes, and she sniffed. “You’re okay.”

I held up my bandaged arm. “Just a few scratches.”

Tears spilled from her eyes.

If I was going to find out what was wrong with Echo, I’d need somewhere to work. My mother would be all over me for a couple of days. I needed a sanctuary. “Mom, can I go to Whitney’s tomorrow? To hang out?” I gave her my most pitiful look, complete with pouty lip.

Mom put on her stern face, but it melted away under my assault. “Fine.”

Whitney wiped her cheeks. “You want to come to my house?”

“Please?” I gave her a different look. The one that told her to play along and not ask questions.

“Sure. Breakfast is at nine.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. Whitney, for all her dumb-blond bluster, was smart. She could help me. “I’ll be there.”


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The Fun of Learning New Things!

In the last three weeks, the hubby and I have seen all three Lord of the Rings movies in our local IMAX theater.

Don’t panic, it’s a huge theater, there were never more than twenty people at any of the movies, and there were masks involved.

I’ve watched the movies a dozen or so times (huge geek here) but seeing them on that giant screen was awesome.

Years ago I went to New Zealand and visited Weta Workshop. Weta made a majority of the armor and weapons for LOTR. I remember standing next to the Witch King’s spiked mace thing…Pretty sure if I ever had that coming at me I’d pee my pants.

Our latest obsession has been the show Forged in Fire. If you’ve never seen it, four blade makers go through three challenges to make first a knife and then a larger weapon like an axe or a sword.

I’ve learned a lot about weapons in just 30-40 episodes of that show. So much that I was actually distracted by the swords and such in LOTR.

“Ooh, that looks like a Scottish Claymore. Or a Crusader sword?”

“That’s almost one of those Viking swords.”

“Ack! Don’t hit that with your blade, you’ll roll the edge!”

“Oooh, that went right through the armor. It will KEAL!”

“The uruk hai blades are thick and ugly, but they’re barely a match for the other swords. Might be a quenching problem.”

“That blade does not look balanced.”

“Whacking a bunch of spears like that…it’s a good sword.”

Funny story. The hubby left to go to the bathroom during the Council of Elrond in Fellowship. When he got back and sat down he looked at me and said, “Did I miss Gimli’s catastrophic failure?” Referring to the moment Gimli tries to destroy the ring and his axe explodes.

I laughed.

It was fun to look at those movies with a bit of newly acquired knowledge, however surface-deep it might be.

Have you learned anything new lately?


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The End Chapter 2

Chapter 2

I’d been to the diner so many times it felt like a home away from home. If it hadn’t been around for so long I would have thought the name Marge’s was dumb, but who could argue with a place that was as old as my mom?

The familiar scent of fried eggs, baked bread, and pancakes filled the air as we walked in.

Marge had died six or seven years ago. I still remembered her smiling face and the fact that she’d looked like she was a hundred for at least a decade. Now her son stood at the host podium. He wore the same red top and khaki pants as the waiters, only the seam of his red shirt pulled so tight at the buttons it looked like he might burst out of it.

“Hey, kids,” he said. His eyes darted to Echo, and a knowing glance passed between them. I’d given up trying to keep the man from feeding scraps to my cat.

“Hey, Lance,” Wyatt said.

Lance jerked his head. “They’re in the corner.”

“Keeping them corralled again?” I asked.

“They’re you’re parents.”

“It’s hard to raise parents these days,” Wyatt said.

Lance laughed, even though we had almost the same interacting each time we came in, and waved us away so he could help the customers behind us.

Despite it being after noon, the place was still packed with people eating breakfast and chatting. This place made living in a crowded suburb feel like being in a small town. I smiled and waved at several tables of people as we passed. A couple of kids who weren’t regulars pointed and chattered at their parents about the kitty. Echo held his head and tail high.

“Show off,” I muttered.

He neither broke stride or blinked an eye, but glided over the floor like an ice skater in the rink.

Our parent’s table sat as far away from other people as possible. They already had their coffee, and were talking animatedly about politics. Ugh.

Wyatt moved next to me and bumped my arm with his elbow. He did this a lot. I’d noticed he did it with his football buddies too. It meant he was up to something and wanted me to share in his fun. Unfortunately, about a year ago, every touch from him sent a flock of crazed insects aflutter in my stomach.

I’d been practicing keeping a straight face and not holding my breath when he did this. Today I managed both. I deserved a chocolate milk.

“Did you read the article about the guy in New York?”

I nodded. His stupid grin threatened to make me blush, but I valiantly fought it off.

“Ready to help me freak them out?”

I managed a grin of my own—something else I’d been practicing. “Yup.”

“Great.” He patted me on the back.

Why did he do this to me? I averted my eyes and found Echo staring up at me in exasperation. I gave him a not-a-word-out-of-you glare and sat in my usual place next to my mom. Whitney sat across from me, and Wyatt took the end. Because his shoulders were so wide he needed more space. His words, not mine.

Although he wasn’t wrong.

“Sorry we’re late,” Wyatt said. “The girls were slow.”

I rolled my eyes. Whitney kicked him under the table.

This was all part of the ritual.

“How was practice?” my mom asked.

“Long,” I said.

“So long.” Whitney turned so into a three syllable word.

“Are you going to be ready for the performance on Thursday?” Whitney’s mom asked.

“It’ll come together,” I said.

Whitney nodded.

The waitress—Kendra—dropped a chocolate milk in front of me, regular milk in front of Wyatt, and a diet soda in front of Whitney. “The usual?”

We all nodded.

“It’ll be right out.”

“Thanks,” we all said at once.

Kendra gave us a smile, although it looked forced, and rushed off to her next table.

I almost jumped out of my seat when Wyatt tapped my leg with his knee. I think my heart may have actually stopped.

“Here we go,” he muttered as he leaned his elbows on the table. “Hey dad, did you hear about the cannibal in New York?”

Our dads sat at the opposite end of the table, so all conversation had to stop for this one to happen.

“No,” Wyatt’s dad said with wariness in his tone.

Wyatt put on a serious face and repeated what he’d told me. I found myself watching him talk. The way his lips moved. The way his eyes glittered. The way his…

Stop.

I took a breath.

Just stop.

This was never going to happen. Every girl in school was after Wyatt. He was like my brother. I needed to get over it.

“Right Everly?”

I blinked.

Wyatt was looking at me. Had he caught me staring? No. He was talking about the article. I nodded. His knee hit me again.

I tried to recover. “Uh, yeah, I read about it too. This guy started eating other people, like a crazy zombie or something.”

Wyatt’s mom hated the “z” word. Her disapproving gaze fell on us like a weighted blanket.

Both dad’s pulled their phones out.

“Don’t you dare,” my mom said to my dad.

His eyes darted to me, then to mom, then he put his phone away.

Wyatt’s dad got the same treatment, but asked a question. “Do they have any idea why?”

“I would assume drugs,” my dad said.

“No drugs in his system, according to the article,” Wyatt said. “They’re not sure what happened.”

Both moms sighed.

“It’s true,” I said.

“Do you have to bring this up over brunch?” Wyatt’s mom asked.

“The food isn’t here yet.” Wyatt pointed at the table.

“New subject,” his mother said.

Wyatt snorted.

Whitney, who had been looking it up on her phone, frowned. She lowered her voice as our parents started into their latest Netflix obsession. “There have been two more attacks like that.”

“There have?” Wyatt leaned so he could see her phone. “In Texas?”

“And Seattle.”

“Apocalypse?” Wyatt asked with entirely too much glee in his voice.

“You watch too much of that crap,” Whitney said.

“It’s called being prepared.”

Wyatt did watch a lot of apocalyptic shows. I’d never admit it, but anything he said was good I watched too.

“Oh come on, reports of unexplainable behavior all over the country? People eating other people?” Wyatt looked at me for support.

I shrugged. “This is how it starts in the movies.”

Whitney rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

There was one sure way to get Whitney back into the conversation. “If it was happening to us, you’d end up alone with Jason.”

“I would?” Whitney perked up.

“Sure,” Wyatt said. “He’d have to protect you, and you’d have to bash in a few zombie heads with your flute case.”

“Gross.”

I wiggled my eyebrows. “Then you’d meet an even more handsome guy and the fabled love triangle would start.”

“Okay, this doesn’t sound so bad.” Whitney laughed. “What about you?”

“It would just be Echo and I. We’d somehow get separated from everyone else and have to survive on our own. Echo would have to learn to pull his weight.” My cat glanced up from my feet at the mention of his name and blinked. “Hear that?” I asked him.

Wyatt leaned back in his chair and stretched. “I’d get stuck with all the beautiful, smart girls who needed a big, tough man to save them.”

“And then die doing something stupid like going to the bathroom alone,” Whitney said.

“Mental note not to go to the bathroom alone.”

“Then the girls would save themselves.”

“Harsh,” Wyatt said.

“Truth hurts.”

I shifted my gaze to the rest of the diner. “Although to have a really great start to the show there would need to an attack while we’re here.”

“Right.” Wyatt pointed at me. “Good call. And one of our parents would either be a Navy Seal or work at the CDC.”

“CD-what?” Whitney asked.

“Center for Disease Control,” I said. “They’re the ones who would make a vaccine.”

“Got it.” She glanced at our parents. “They’re not going to be much help.”

We all nodded. Our parent’s occupations included an accountant, a lawyer, a writer, and a software engineer.

Just then Kendra arrived with our food. “This smells divine,” she said. “I’m going to have to take a break to eat soon.” She looked pale. Dark rings had appeared under her eyes.

I muttered my thanks as she set a waffle that reached the edges of the oversized plate in front of me. I automatically picked up the plate and offered it to Echo.

He didn’t even sniff it. Instead, he put his ears back and hissed.

“Uh-oh,” Kendra said. “There shouldn’t be corn in it.”

“That’s not what he does when there’s corn.” I put the plate back on the table and reached down to scratch Echo. “What’s wrong, boy?”

He was tense, and didn’t take his eyes off of Kendra, who was handing out the rest of the food. When she was finished she came back to me. “Do you want me to trade that out?”

“No. Give him a minute and I’ll have him sniff it again.”

“Great, I’ll be back in a few.”

Whitney looked under the table. “He looks pissed.”

“He does.” Wyatt patted Echo on the head. “What’s up, buddy?”

A growl came from his throat.

Wyatt pulled his hand away and looked at me with wide eyes.

“Maybe we need to go outside for a minute.” I grabbed Echo’s leash and stood. “We’ll be right back.”

Echo rose and followed beside me, but his ears didn’t come back up, not even after we stood in the empty handicap stall of the parking lot.

I squatted down. “What’s up, Echo?”

He let out a meow.

That wasn’t normal either.

“You feeling okay?” I swiped my phone to life and found the vet’s number. He said I could call anytime. Just before I hit the button, a man who had been headed for the front door turned and came toward me.

Echo’s fur puffed up, and he hissed.

I took a step back.

“So hungry.” The man’s arms rose out in front of him as if to embrace me.

Had Wyatt sent him out as a joke? I took another step back. “Sir?”

The man growled.

Echo did the same.

My heart raced. “Sir, step back.” I reached for the pepper spray in my purse, but the man was quick. One moment he was ten feet away, the next he grabbed my wrist with both hands, bared his teeth, and lowered them to my forearm.

***

What do you guys think of the title “A Girl and Her Cat?” LMK

Check out Chapter 3 Here!


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The Map of Tiny Perfect Things Review

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Quick-witted teen Mark is contentedly living the same day in an endless loop when his world is turned upside-down by the mysterious Margaret, also stuck in the same loop. What follows is a love story with a fantastical twist, as the two struggle to figure out how – and whether – to escape their never-ending day.

Why did I come to this movie again?

Not going to lie, we watched this on Valentine’s Day weekend. I sort of picked it to torture the hubby, but also because it looked intriguing.

5 of 5

Characters

Remember, this is a young adult romance, so the characters have teenage problems with teenage attitudes.

Mark is a typical self-absorbed young man who’s been living his own Groundhog’s Day and hasn’t quite reached the point where Bill Murray decided to help other people because it’s the right thing to do. I quite liked Mark. He grew, figured a few things out, and is funny.

Margaret is living in the same Groundhog’s Day loop, and seems reluctant to let Mark into her life, despite the fact that they have forever together. I guessed her story from the beginning, but still felt all the emotions when we finally got to see the truth.

All in all, I thought the characters were good.

4 of 5

Did I care what happened?

Yes. At the very beginning I wasn’t sure if I liked Mark or not, but that settled pretty fast. I liked Margaret because Mark liked her. I was invested in what happened to them.

5 of 5

Plot Holes

Of course there are some plot holes, this story is essentially about time travel. That being said, I didn’t dwell on any of them.

I loved that they straight-up compared their circumstances with Groundhog’s Day and The Edge of Tomorrow. Totally making fun of their own trope.

As I said above, I guessed the end near the beginning, but that’s not unusual for me. The writers did such a great job with the story that I still get choked up when Mark had his revelation and we saw Margaret’s real issues.

4 of 5

How many times did I yawn?

Once or twice. Nothing serious.

4 of 5

Cool Factor

Normally a movie like this wouldn’t have much of a cool factor, but the twist at the end was pretty cool. The writers did a really good job tying things together, tugging on heart strings, and keeping me invested.

4 of 5

The End

Loved it. Anything more = spoilers.

5 of 5

Overall Enjoyment

Good movie. A bit of teen angst, a bit more language than I like (although it was still wasn’t bad), and a interesting twist.

4 of 5

Final Score = 35

That’s a Brown Belt!


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