Disclaimer: This story will eventually be rated R or MA. The authors in these stories have given their permission to be used and abused, the first of whom is Kathy Smith, who writes under the name KatLyn. You can find her books at http://www.scp-inc.biz/ or you can visit her Web site at http://www.katlynfic.com/.
Also featured are Lynn Ames and soon to come is Lori Lake. I'll be posting the divine Miss Lake's info when I post the story featuring her. You can find Lynn Ames's books at the SCP link above or at her site at http://www.lynnames.com/.
All the authors I will torment in these stories are people I greatly admire. Most of what I'm writing is fiction, especially regarding other authors. I will not divulge what part is nonfiction. I'll leave that to you to figure out. <eg>
Special thanks go to Tara, who is kind enough to get rid of my typos and bad grammar. She makes writing fun for me.
All comments negative or positive can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
I pulled up in front of my new customer's house at eight a.m., just as I had promised on the phone the evening before. After popping a mint in my mouth to cover the coffee I had enjoyed on the ride, I climbed out of the truck and strolled up to the front door. Kathy Smith opened the door before I could knock, holding a steaming cup of coffee and looking as though she would bite me if I even thought about looking too hard at her cup.
I plastered on my best morning smile. "Good morning, Miss Smith."
"I'll let you know if it's a good morning after I've had another cup of this," she said dryly as she waved her cup.
I came to the quick conclusion that Miss Smith was not a morning person, either. Her salt-and-pepper hair stuck out in a million different directions. And even though it was August, she was sporting an old pair of sweats and a T-shirt that looked like it had seen better days...in the stone ages.
"Is there anything you want me to pay close attention to out here?" I asked, indicating her lawn with a nod of my head.
"Now that you mention it, yes. I have some azalea bushes that need to be trimmed. If I don't have to sell off a kidney to afford it, you can just tell me how much extra it'll be after you finish the yard."
I looked at the scraggly bushes she indicated, and with the gas trimmer, it wouldn't take me thirty minutes to have them looking like shrubs again. "That's not too bad of a job," I said with a smile. "It'll only add twenty bucks to the price."
"Fair enough," she said with a faint smile as a huge striped brown and gray tabby ran out of the door and circled my feet. I knelt down to pet her, and she shied away, taking shelter behind Miss Smith's legs. "This is Colby, and she's not really a people cat."
"I'm cat people," I said as I coaxed her over. "I love cats, and most of them love me." Colby flopped over onto her back and allowed me to stroke her belly. A purr erupted that threatened to shake the foundations of the house.
"Colby, you big slut cat," Miss Smith chided with a grin.
I stood and smiled as the "slut cat" circled my feet, rubbing her face on my suncreened legs, making them look like I hadn't shaved in a month. "Well, Miss Smith, I'll get started and be done before you know it."
I noticed that the azaleas were moving in places that I was not working and realized I had a visitor. I assumed it was a dog, but when I peeked over the top of the shrubs, I saw a ball cap on the other side of the hedge emblazoned with "Dusty's lawn care" across the front. A long ponytail of silky dark hair protruded from the back of the cap.
Now lawn care people are a little territorial, and I was no different. Sure we fawned over one another's lawn equipment at the gas pumps, but if a lawn rig pulled up on your street, you grabbed the trimmers and took a few inches off the top.
I had all the lawns on this street with the exception of one. The old lady living next to Miss Smith literally growled at me when I worked the yard on the other side of her, so I never approached her about doing hers. Still, it did not please me to see another lawn service on my street.
I walked around the hedge bordering the two properties and surveyed my competition. I was surprised to note that Dusty was a woman—a very fit and attractive woman. I noticed that her long tanned legs were not in the same shape as mine, which were so bruised from flying debris that I often looked like a Dalmatian.
She must have seen me out of the corner of her eye because she jerked suddenly, nearly catching me with her trimmers. "You scared the hell out of me!" she barked as she tugged her ear pieces out of her ears. Patsy Cline could be heard playing, and for a split second, I didn't think this girl was half bad.
"Sorry, I just wanted to see what kind of creature was shaking these bushes," I said with a grin. "You must be one smooth talker to get this old bat's place." I nodded my head toward the house.
"I am a smooth talker when I have to be, but she was more than willing to have me tend her yard," Dusty said with a raised brow. "After all, she's my grandmother."
I felt knee high to a gnat. "I just stepped on it royally with a golf shoe, didn't I?" I said, hoping she would forgive me for making such an ass of myself.
"So, you're the other woman people always compare me to," she said without an ounce of sweetness in her voice.
"Yep, there aren't too many women who want to work in this heat. I guess we're the only ones crazy enough to do it for a living."
"I do it to pay my way through school, are you doing the same?" she asked as she pulled the dark sunglasses away from her face, revealing a pair of beautiful hazel eyes.
I left a good-paying desk job to cut grass for a living, something I didn't want to admit to her. Most people cut grass because the schedule was flexible and it afforded them the opportunity to do other things while making money. For me, it was a way to exorcize the stress demons that had taken me over after years of solving someone else's problems. Cutting grass was a far cry from contending with people, and if something got on my nerves, I simply ran over it with the mower and killed it.
"No, I just do it because I enjoy it," I said, trying to sound like I had discovered the secret to a happy, stress-free life. "What kind of degree are you pursuing?"
"I'm toying with the idea of nursing right now, but I have a lot of prerequisites to satisfy first."
I figured she was about thirty, maybe a year or two older, and like me, got bored with what jobs were available for someone who didn't have a degree specializing in something. I despised school with a burning passion. Classroom settings to this day make me break out in hives. When I was liberated from high school, I hit the streets running. When I decided I wanted to be an emergency medical technician, I nearly had to be restrained to sit in the classes. Thankfully for me, most of the training was hands-on, so I wasn't confined to a desk.
"I'm Dusty by the way," she said as she stuck out her hand, breaking me from memory lane.
I shook her hand, impressed by the firm grip. "I'm Sheri," I said with a shy smile, hoping I wasn't blushing or worse, drooling. "I better get back to work. I don't want Kathy to think I'm spending the day hiding in her bushes."
"Nice to meet you, Sheri," she said before tucking her ear pieces back in and hacking away on the azaleas.
I returned to my side of the hedge with a grin. Having a competitor who looked like she did wasn't so bad. If she'd been a man, I might have been tempted to drop my hedge trimmers on his foot.
When I had finished the hedge, I got ready to fire Cub up and get into some serious grass murder. Kathy must have finished her coffee and was feeling human. She was standing on the front porch with a glass of ice water, waving me over.
"I thought you might need this," she said with a kind smile, as she handed me the glass.
"That's really sweet of you, ma'am," I said before taking a big gulp of the icy water.
"Don't call me ma'am, either. I may have to bitch slap you."
I nearly spit the entire mouthful onto her feet. I liked this woman!
Grinning at her tough expression that really didn't look tough at all, I replied, "I'll do my best to remember that...Kathy.
"I see you've met Dusty," she said with an evil grin. "I've enjoyed watching her work old lady Gruber's yard all summer. Those legs go on for days, don't they?"
Kathy made clear what I had suspected—she was family. "Why do you think I spent so long in the azaleas?" I asked with a mischievous grin.
"Uh-huh," she answered in a slow Southern drawl. "Just don't run into my house when you're mowing. I doubt you'll be paying a hundred percent attention to my grass with her over there."
I handed the empty glass back to Kathy, thanking her again. "She's easy on the eyes, but she's competition. I have to do a better job because people like you might hire her just to look at."
Kathy grinned. "I've got the best of both worlds. I can watch her and those long legs, and I can watch you trip over everything in the yard."
Shit! She had seen me trip half a dozen times over azalea limbs and my own goofy feet. "I'm glad we make your day brighter," I said with a mock scowl, leaving her to chuckle as I walked away.
My pride and joy of lawn equipment is my mower. I bought the smallest the dealer had so I could get into the backyards of my clients, though I often had to push mow because I couldn't get her forty-eight-inch deck through the gates. Because of her size, she's called a Cub, and yes, she's female...because I say so. She'll do ten miles an hour with the blades down, and I love her.
I couldn't wait to turn her loose on Kathy's lawn and show Dusty what a real commercial mower could do. I put the key in her ignition, but before I turned the motor, I heard a familiar sound. My heart sank as I saw Dusty go tearing across her grandmother's lawn on a Saber Tooth, Cub's older and faster brother. To throw salt in the wound, she had a newer model complete will a roll bar.
The guy at the showroom tried to sell me a Saber Tooth, but the little Cub simply won my heart...kind of. I remember him trying to tell me how to operate the machine, but I simply waved him off, saying, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, crank her up!" I ran over two mowers in the showroom and clipped a telephone pole outside. It was either pay for the damages or buy the Cub, so we've been together ever since.
Dusty looked up from her work and gave me a toothy grin as she and the Saber Tooth plowed through the yard effortlessly. She watched as I backed my Cub off the trailer and punctured my favorite gas can. This was not my day.
I decided to ignore Dusty and her equipment...the mower and her body parts. Instead, I put my ear pieces in my ears and smiled as k.d. lang sang to me as I mowed.
It would have really been a good idea to have sprung for the roll bar. That way, when I ran into a low-hanging branch in Kathy's yard, it would have simply hit me and the bar and snapped my neck. However, that was not to be, I thought, as the branch dragged me from my perch atop the mower, over the hot engine, and dropped me onto the root-infested ground. Cub was nice enough to allow her engine to die since my ass was no longer on the seat. I lay there stunned, looking up at the trees, waiting for air to fill my lungs again.
Kathy's face appeared above me. I could tell she was fighting the urge to laugh until she made sure I had not killed myself on her property. "You gonna sleep all day or are you gonna finish my yard?"
I pulled myself up off the ground and stood on wobbly legs. I was certain that Kathy was a down-to-earth woman, and she would understand what I grunted next. "Kiss my ass."
She let loose a howl that lasted an entire minute. "I'd kiss it, but you'd have to wash it first. Right now, your ass crack is filled with grass and mud, and your shorts are still smoking."
Kathy has asthma, I learned at that moment, because she laughed herself into an attack that she and her inhaler struggled to control.
My ass was still numb from smacking the ground, so I failed to notice the cool air blowing across my buns, until, of course, Dusty walked up. "Whew, that was a bad spill, are you all right?" she asked as she handed me a plastic bag full of ice. I stuck it on my bare rump, as the pain blazed a trail from my spine.
Perhaps I was too rash in thinking I liked Kathy, who was now in the fetal position clutching her inhaler and laughing uncontrollably.
I also learned that Dusty is as kind as she is good-looking. She finished Kathy's yard as I sat on my hip, wearing those same damn sweatpants that Kathy met me at the door in. She was nice enough to give me something to cover my wounded ass, but if she had been really nice, she would have washed them first!
Kathy's cell phone rang as we sat there admiring Dusty. I couldn't help but overhear the conversation, and it seemed that Dusty was very popular with the ladies in this neighborhood. "That was my friend Lynn. She's dropping by to join us," Kathy said with a grin as she hung up the phone. "Stick around. I want you to meet her."
Not a minute later, a white minivan pulled into the drive, and a woman who looked as though she was barely five feet tall hopped out. I mean hopped! She was too short to make the step.
Kathy waved the petite woman over. "Sheri, I'd like you to meet my friend Lynn Ames." I stood slowly and shook her hand. "Lynn, this is Sheri, the crash queen," Kathy said by way of introduction.
Lynn smiled, and her tiny white teeth stood out against the tanned skin of her face. "I'm sure there's a story behind that name, right?"
My head dropped into my hands. "Actually, there are many stories behind that name, but the latest was just performed in Kathy's yard."
Of course, Kathy was quick to tell her the details as I sat there red-faced.
"Oh, honey, are you okay?" Lynn asked as she took a seat next to me on the porch.
"My ass and my pride are broken, but other than that, I'm fine," I responded as Lynn plucked a leaf from my collar.
"How did you manage to get Dusty to cut your yard?" Lynn asked as she focused her attention on the striking brunette.
"Wait a minute," I said, realizing that I was the second choice. "You couldn't get Dusty so you chose me?" I asked, feeling like a chump.
"Well, when I saw Dusty cutting Mrs. Gruber's yard, I asked her how much she would charge to cut mine. She explained that another woman had most of the yards on this street and she didn't want to encroach on her territory. Besides, her school schedule limits the amount of yards she can take on," Kathy said with a wink in my direction.
I felt like an ass. Dusty had been kind enough to respect my territory, and I had been prepared to clip her with my hedge trimmers.
"So, I hired Crash here and got a two-for-one special," Kathy went on to say.
Without taking her eyes from Dusty, Lynn explained, "A lot of us in this neighborhood have a big crush on Dusty, but none of us has had the guts to ask her out." Lynn sighed. "So, we gather at each other's houses and admire her from afar."
One minute, I thought I loved Dusty, and the next minute, I wanted to hate her.
"Be quiet, she's walking this way," Kathy whispered.
"Is there anything else you'd like me to do?" Dusty asked as she walked up to the porch. I was especially pleased that she directed that question to me and not Kathy.
There was no way I could make a bigger ass of myself than I already had, so I went for it. "I'd like you to accept the money that Kathy was going to pay me since you did most of the work, and I'd like you to have dinner with me sometime," I said, ignoring the open-mouthed stares that both Lynn and Kathy were giving me.
"No," Dusty stated resolutely. "I can't take the money. You did most of the work, I just helped a little." She slipped her hand into her pocket and pulled out her business card. "This is my number; call me when you feel up to having dinner." She smiled and waved at us and disappeared into the hedges.
Lynn stared at me in awe as Kathy grabbed her inhaler and began to puff on it.
I grinned. "Sometimes, all you have to do is ask."
"I hate you," Kathy said between gasps.
"I guess you'll want someone else to do your lawn from now on," I said as I hung my head in shame, remembering the mess I had made.
"Hell, no!" Kathy said with a chuckle. "I haven't laughed this hard in a long time. Come back the same time next week. Oh, and I have a friend on the next block who wants you to come by and give her an estimate."
She handed me a piece of paper with the name Lori Lake on it with an address and phone number. Well, at least she had enough faith in me to recommend my services to her friends, or maybe she thought Lori just needed some cheering up.
"After you speak to Lori, come by my place. I want an estimate, too," Lynn said as she stood to leave. Kathy will give you my address."
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