Mama Gets Trashed © 2013 Deborah Sharp
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First e-book edition © 2013
E-book ISBN: 978-0-73873921-2
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With love to Kathleen Robelen—
my sweet, Southern, second mama
I owe a huge debt to my readers, especially those who’ve stayed with the Mace Bauer Mysteries from the start. No one can predict where life will lead. You’ve made this part of the journey a total blast. Special thanks to Elaine Naiman, whose charitable donation earned her a character name; and to the Alabama ladies of the Mama Posse: Dab, Muffin, Beth, and Lucie. Y’all know what you did!
As with all my books, I had help from myriad sources. Early readers of Mama Gets Trashed included Karen Feldman, Victoria Allman, and my fabulous sister, Charlene Bogolub. My agent, Whitney Lee, also applied her talents to improving the manuscript. I’m grateful for all their suggestions.
Paul Laska, a law enforcement consultant, offered advice on bombs and explosions. Several sources helped me understand the ins and outs of garbage trucks. Vince Ruano, the former city manager of Bushnell, Florida, spent some time with me on the phone. David Peters and Jeff Coleman, of the Stuart, Florida, public works department, gave me an up-close gander. Any errors are mine, and should not reflect on their expertise or knowledge.
I’m grateful to my editor, Terri Bischoff, and the talented staff at Midnight Ink. Lisa Novak designs great covers; Connie Hill edits like a dream; Bethany Onsgard helps spread the word. Thanks also to Alisha Bjorklund, for making “Trashed’’ sound enticing.
The world’s greatest husband, Kerry Sanders, and the world’s greatest mama, Marion Sharp, have my eternal gratitude for their love and inspiration. And Okeechobee, Florida, the real-life model for fictional Himmarshee, always holds a special place in my heart.
Finally, I’m indebted to book-sellers and librarians, who do so much for readers and for authors like me. Where would I be without you?
I toed aside a pink take-out bag from the Pork Pit. Barbecue sauce stained the cuff on my jeans. A soggy onion ring clung like a barnacle to the leather laces of my work boots. Flies buzzed. Mountains of household trash rose around me. Brushing at a sweat droplet that rolled from my forehead down my nose, I glared at Mama.
How had I let her drag me along on this search expedition to the Himmarshee dump on the hottest day of the year?
“Tell me again how you tossed out your wedding ring with the garbage?’’
“I already explained all that, Mace. It was an accident.’’
She sounded more annoyed at me than she had a right to, since I was the one doing most of the looking under a scorching sun. She stood in the shade cast by my Jeep, fanning herself with a paper cutout of a largemouth bass, a freebie from Gotcha Bait & Tackle near Lake Okeechobee.
“In other words,’’ I said, “you were careless because you were trashed.’’
“Right. Tipsy. Blotto. Drunk.’’
Mama pulled herself up to her full height of 4 foot 11 inches, smoothed her perfectly coiffed platinum hair, and regarded me regally. Well, as regal as someone standing in a pile of moldy cantaloupe rinds and coffee grounds can be. “I was not drunk. I’d only had a tiny glass of pink wine. Barely a thimble-full, really.’’
I stepped on a squishy disposable diaper. Used, of course. A rat ran over the toe of my boot. I decided to continue our discussion, but keep my eyes on the ground.
“That’s not what Marty said. She said you just about finished the whole fiesta-sized box yourself. You barely left her enough wine for half a glass.’’
“Right. My trustworthy little sister is a liar.’’
“She’s not lying; exaggerating, maybe. Anyhoo, I’d taken off my ring to scour the stovetop. I must have swept it off the counter into the trashcan with the used paper towels. We’ll never have to worry about the same thing happening with that new ring of yours, since you never scour anything.’’
I took pity on her and didn’t press it, figuring she felt bad enough about losing the enormous diamond wedding ring Husband No. 5 had recently given her. Amazingly, Salvatore “Big Sal’’ Provenza from Da Bronx was turning into a keeper. No such luck, apparently, with his ring. I kept quiet, working my way through another pile of rubbish. The silence stretched out, without Mama saying a word either. That was unusual enough that it made me look up to check on her.
She was tapping away at her smart phone. I heard the whoosh sound, signaling she’d just sent a message.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me!’’
“What?’’ She raised her face from the phone, all blue-eyed innocence.
“Is my busting my sweaty butt to help you find your stupid ring keeping you from some more important business on that telephone?’’
“Oh, this?’’ She lifted the small electronic beast in her hand. “I was returning an email from your sister Maddie. She’s in crisis.’’
Mama closed the gap between us, and shoved the phone toward me. “Look at this picture. See the yellow dress? That’s what she’s supposed to wear to Kenny’s party next week. You know I absolutely cannot let Maddie wear that dress, Mace.’’
“Why? Is it against the law to wear yellow for your husband’s forty-fifth birthday?’’
“Don’t sass me, girl. You’re not too old for me to grab a switch.’’ She leveled a look that could still scare me a bit, even though I’m thirty-four years old and tower over her by almost a foot. “Yellow turns Maddie’s skin tone as green as my wrist got after Husband No. 3 bought me that watch from the man with the card table in New York City.’’
I shielded the phone’s screen from the sun and examined the dress. It was smiley-face yellow. I thought it looked cheerful. Mama ran the Color Me Gorgeous franchise at Hair Today Dyed Tomorrow beauty parlor, so she considered herself an expert in what shades of clothing did and did not match which skin tones. I had less fashion sense than the guys at the feed store, so I didn’t really see the problem.