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Theresa Mathews

Short Story: Ravishing Ruby and the Southern Belles

I’ve signed and sold hundreds of copies of Fishing With Hyenas during the past few months, yet I just HAD to write something new.

During a recent family gathering, I laughed heartily at the stories I heard about my maternal grandmother… some I had heard before, others were new to me. All of them warmed my heart and became the inspiration for my VERY short story: Ravishing Ruby and the Southern Belles.
Although I did not win a Writer’s Digest award in their “Short Short Story contest” (only 1500 words allowed), I had a lot of fun writing this fictional story, inspired by real events about my grandmother and her girlfriends. I hope you will enjoy!

Ravishing Ruby and the Southern Belles

The ladies at the assisted living home had become restless. Ruby’s ninetieth birthday party was a hit, but the excitement had worn off and their cravings had returned. After dinner Wednesday night, Skeet called a meeting to be held in Ruby’s room. Gladys arrived wearing her purple boa and red felt fedora—her standard attire for an adventure.

These golden girls grew up together on neighboring plantations in the Deep South. They were like sisters and married three farm boys who lived seven miles out of the nearest town. The young women and their grooms moved out west together just before the Great Depression of 1929. They stuck together as a family and remained best friends their entire lives. After their husbands passed away and the women required elder-care for themselves, they settled into a home that could accommodate all three of them.

Ruby didn’t waste any time. “Thanks for coming, Ladies. I’ve been thinking about how dull this place has become, and I haven’t had a cigarette or a drink since my grandson snuck in the contraband for my party two weeks ago,” she continued. “I was down to my last three cigarettes, but when I used newspaper instead of aluminum foil for an ashtray, my lap caught fire and they confiscated my smokes. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to bust out of here.”

“I could use a martini and a few rounds at the blackjack table,” Skeet added.

Gladys tossed her purple boa over her shoulder and announced, “Brilliant. I’m in!”

Ruby launched into the plan. “We’ll make our break tomorrow morning at 11:30 just before lunch. My grandson, Bryan will pick us up in front of the lobby and take us straight to the casino where we can smoke, drink, and gamble to our heart’s content. “

“With Nurse Ratched in charge, we can no longer leave the grounds without an approved escort,” Skeet said. “How are we going to pull this off?”

“Remember Mable in 4-G?” Ruby asked. “Her son-in-law, Nick, lived down the road from Bryan before Nick went to prison for robbing four banks in the nineties. He is an expert in forgery and could have our documentation ready for a medically approved field trip. Well, he got out last week, and now that Mable has passed, we don’t have to worry about her finding out and blowing our cover.”

Skeet took a hit off her inhaler. “Sounds like we are going to have some fun,” she said during her exhale.

At 11:20 the next morning, the girls had congregated in the reception area. Gladys continued with her purple boa and red felt fedora theme, accompanied by stretch-denim pants with sparkles on the back pockets. Ruby chose a pair of tan slacks and a red cashmere sweater with lipstick to match, and Skeet wore a classic black pantsuit.

The receptionist who covered the morning shift was their favorite. Marge always had something nice to say to everyone and she occasionally joined the women for a game of bridge on Friday nights.

“You gals look smashing for a day of doctor’s visits,” Marge said.

“We plan to grab lunch while we’re out,” Ruby explained. “We dress for all occasions away from the compound.”

“Have fun and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Marge teased as she glanced toward her computer.

Bryan stepped out of his white van, sporting a black suit and purple checkered tennis shoes.

“Hi, Gramma!” he said as he hugged Ruby and kissed her on her cheek. “You look lovely today.”

Why, thank you—you look pretty dapper, yourself!”

“Hi, Bryan!” Skeet and Gladys squealed in unison as they pushed their walkers at high speed toward the van.

“Your chariot awaits,” Bryan replied, helping each senior onboard. Gladys spotted the cooler and picnic basket. “Do you have goodies for us in there?” she asked.

“Only the best for you dears,” he replied. “But I want you to pace yourselves, so I only put three hard ciders in the cooler. You’ll also find waters, cheese, salami, grapes, and a box of crackers.”

“Fancy!” The girls agreed.

Thirty minutes later, they arrived at the casino. Against Bryan’s advice, the girls left their walkers behind in the van.

“We don’t want to look like a bunch of old ladies,” Gladys defended. Shaking his head, Bryan escorted them inside and helped Ruby find her favorite slot machine. Skeet and Gladys located a blackjack dealer and planted themselves next to a couple of high rollers seated at the green felt table.

Three hours, two martinis, and four cigarettes later, Ruby was up $180 when nature called.  She steadied herself and slowly walked away from the slots when she heard “Woo-Hoo! Mama needs a new pair of shoes!” Ruby followed the sounds of Skeet’s winning streak, which had drawn quite the crowd. She had won $620 and was on cloud nine. Ruby tapped her friend on the shoulder and asked, “Are you ready for a break yet?”

“Why yes! I need to potty, now that you mention it,” Skeet replied.

Gladys stayed behind to enjoy the guys at the table who were competing for her attention. She missed her late husband, but she appreciated any man who had character, class, money, and an eye for her.

Ruby and Skeet eventually approached a set of glass doors and walked through the first door. Skeet was still talking about her exciting win when they realized they must have gone too far. The door closed behind them. They turned around to reenter the casino, but the door wouldn’t open. The second door wouldn’t open either. They were trapped.

“Well,” Ruby said slowly. “I guess we’re screwed.”

“Looks that way, doesn’t it?” Skeet replied.

Ruby saw a phone on the wall and called for help. “I thought that was an odd place for a phone, but we must not be the first fools to be stuck in here,” she said in her smoke-drenched voice.

Meanwhile, one of the suitors who fancied Gladys wrote her phone number on a cocktail napkin, securing a date for the next week before he moved on. She declined his invitation to join him at playing craps when she noticed an unattended motorized scooter. Gladys had a youthful spirit, but she’d reached her alcohol quota for one day and didn’t trust herself to behave.

Frank, the other man she sat with followed her to the scooter. “Is this yours?” he asked.

“No, but it looks abandoned,” she said. “Wanna go for a spin?”

“Sure!” Frank replied. “Do you think we can both fit?”

“We may be old, but we’re still sleek,” she countered. “Hop on!”

Gladys fired up that baby and took off at full speed.

“Turn left, Gladys!” Frank shouted as they nearly rammed into the wall.

“Oopsy!” Gladys giggled and tried to turn sharp. She barely missed the corner when she realized someone abandoned the scooter because the steering broke. “Get out of the way!” Gladys continued. “Excuse us!” Frank chimed in.

As they approached the exit, the automatic doors opened, inviting them outside. Gladys rammed into the side of a limousine that was parked near the curb. “We’d better get out of here,” Frank declared.

“There’s the van!” Gladys replied. Let’s get inside before anyone sees us.”

“You’re on your own, Gladys,” Frank said as he walked toward the casino. “You’re too wild for me!”

Bryan saw the crash in his rearview mirror and immediately hopped out to assist giggling Gladys. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered, “but you may want to move the scooter before we escape and we’ll need to use another entrance to gather the girls.”

He tucked the scooter inside the main casino door then drove around back and parked by a set of glass doors. “There they are!” Gladys said pointing to Ruby and Skeet. Bryan opened the van door, but the women just waved at him through the glass. “Oh, Gramma,” he uttered under his breath and sauntered toward the building.

“The door locked behind us and the outside door is locked too,” Ruby said.

Bryan shook his head as the maintenance worker arrived to unlock the doors. Apparently, those doors are only used by employees, and the doors automatically lock when shut. Someone must have locked the exterior door in error.

The daring duo thanked the man for coming to their rescue and immediately secured themselves in the van for the ride home. The ladies enjoyed their picnic as they entertained Bryan with their adventurous tales. The southern belles were happy to lean on their walkers as they made their way back to their rooms so they could go straight to bed. They’d had enough fun to last a month, but these ol’ gals agreed to plan their next outing over breakfast. From that day forward, the girls decided the end of each adventure would involve planning their next escapade.

The business side of writing a book

After what seemed like an eternity to finish writing my first book, I’ve entered the world of marketing my
baby. Wow—what a ride this turned out to be!
Through endless research of every aspect of what to do now, I keep learning. Some tips make sense to me, others do not, and I believe a few guidelines simply need modification. I see this journey as a way to create my own masterpiece. Similar to cooking… and writing.
As I anxiously await the cartons of books to arrive at my doorstep, I put on my grass skirt and prepare for the launch parties. Woot woot!
My top five tips for first-time authors:
1.         Find an editor who specializes in your genre and/or working with new authors
2.         Determine your budget; self-publishing is expensive but worth it
3.         Start building your marketing plan as soon as possible
4.         Unless you have experience building websites, hire an expert to build yours
5.         Be proud of your accomplishment, breathe, and have fun