Reality TV Presents: “Just Good Ole Boys”


Reality TV Presents: “Just Good Ole Boys”

I knew when I married him that Ry was not the sharpest tool in the chest. What I didn’t know was the extent of the lack of sharpness or the fact that he was, indeed, a tool.

I took his desire to be on a reality tv series about a group of good ole boys in stride, figuring that, while he was cute as all get out, he really knew nothing about being a good ole boy except for his love of cars. Somehow that must have won the hearts, minds, and souls of those “in the know” because he was cast.

In the weeks that followed Ry was glued, almost literally (don’t ask; there was super glue involved), to youtube watching every single fishing, hunting, and gun video that existed.

“I’m gonna be famous, honey, just you wait,” he said. He smiled at me, his big blue eyes shining and that dimple creating a crater in the side of his cheek and I remembered why I married him: because he was cuter than sin. I dug deep and found acceptance of his new found desire for fame. My bad.

I would like to say, “somehow” Ry forgot about the constantly rolling cameras, but there was no “somehow” involved. Ry forgot about ten minutes into their filming and went about life the way he always had. He became an immediate sensation. People loved him. He was a cute, foolish man who frequently needed to be reminded to put on pants. Again, literally.

Which is how I found out about Lily Conrad Shears. Real name.

On that fateful afternoon with the cameras of “Just Good Ole Boys” running, Ry Hulver stepped into the afternoon sunshine draped across Lily Conrad Shears’ front porch in his blue plaid button down and his boxers. He stood there looking around and you half-expected him to break into a chorus of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” but instead the door opened behind him and Lily Conrad Shears thrust my husband’s blue jeans into his arms and then twiddled her fingers at the camera. She was wearing only a black and red teddy.

I have been assured that there are worse things than finding out via nationally broadcast television that your cuter than sin husband has been boinking an invasive, predatory species. When asked what, the immediate response is death, of course. Which is why the sheriff of Carderiff County is on his way here. But between you and me, I didn’t do it. Oh, I’ll probably tell the sheriff that too, so never mind the between you and me thing. We’ll just catch up later.

end 3/22/20167

S. Darlington



My grandpa was a firm believer in words and thoughts. He often said, “If people could think their way out of a paper bag, there would be no wars.”

What paper bags had to do with wars, I never quite knew, but for a very long time I repeated that thought mostly to my classmates who nodded solemnly as if I had spoken great wisdom. Of course, Gar Parker, my nemesis, had to ask: “What’s that mean?”

I hitched myself up to my 4’7” and looked him firmly in his freckled nose and said: “It’s self-evident.”

He laughed. “You don’t know, do you?”

I pushed him. “I do so. It’s about wars and paper bags. I said so, didn’t I?”

He laughed harder and then had the audacity to pull one of my braids. I reared back and hit him with all of my might, which hurt me, probably more than him, although he did go sprawling on his backside and I had the momentary pleasure of seeing the tallest boy in class hunkering down, momentarily, in front of me. I didn’t know what to expect, certainly not the smile that appeared as his hand slid over his cheek.

“You hit hard for a girl,” he said.

Unfortunately for me, Miss Council saw me hit Gar and marched me to the Principal Cartwright’s office.

Later that evening, grandpa said: “Do not conquer your enemies, become one with them.”

The throb in my knuckles made those words sound like very good advice indeed. “He’s not an enemy, grandpa, he’s just a boy.”

Grandpa grinned. “One of those, eh? Now that’s much more work than an enemy.”

“No kidding.”

“But soon you’ll have him eating out of your hand.”

“He’s a boy, not a dog.”

“Semantics, my dear, semantics.”


end 3/19/2017

S. Darlington


To Love You Into Reality

It’s the not being alone, hearing even the whisper of a snore, the presence of someone who loves or loved you, the quickening of breathing, the feeling of warmth even without touching, the knowing, the sense of contact, because so much time you spend alone that you want that one person who once understood you to love you into reality.

end 3/1/2017

S. Darlington

Mouse Does the Gym–Again!





Mouse Does the Gym–Again!

Somehow Tom persuaded me around midday that a workout would do wonders for me. I doubted it. I still doubt it as I finish running a mile and head back into the gym. The air is crisp with scents of autumn, wood smoke, moldering leaves.

To say that I am caught unaware as I enter the gym and then immediately feel an arm lock around my throat would be a huge understatement. Instinct kicks in. My elbow flies, jabs into a hard stomach, but it’s enough to loosen the man’s grip around my throat. I rotate, knee up into the agony-zone, which must have been unexpected because Joe falls to the mat, his body curving in, his arms hugging himself. While I’m assessing him, wondering what that was about, from the corner of my eye I notice movement. I spin around. Tom’s advancing on me, his eyes glittering dangerously.

He blocks my first shot, my second, my third, with the fourth he grabs my arm and then I’m lying flat on the mat with him straddling me holding my arms above my head with just one hand. I’m breathing hard; he’s hardly breathing at all. Despite the violence of a moment ago, this feels erotic, sexually charged, and yet he seems oblivious. Can’t he see the desire in my eyes? I know he’s all about the job, but is he totally unattracted to me?

“Nice job with Joe, Mouse. But we need to work a little more on this,” he says.

I raise my hips suggestively. “I agree.”

If he were the eye rolling-type I have no doubt he would have done it. Instead, he sighs and gets up.

His blunder is turning his back on me. I whirl my leg, hitting his knees, which, make no mistake about it, hurts, sending him crashing to the mat and I am on him, straddling him as he was straddling me just moments ago. I try to raise his arms, but it’s like moving tree trunks. With a quick blur of movement, he’s regained dominance and I’m looking up into his blue-green eyes again. This time he grins.

“Nice, but still I finish on top,” he says.

“I’m sure you always do. You should let me be on top once in a while.”

He tweaks my nose just like I am a five-year old or a Mouse. Then he’s up, walking out of the gym while I’m still lying there staring up at the ceiling and its tangle of steel supports.

“He’s a lost cause, Mouse,” Joe says.

I look over at him. He’s sitting up now, his face still pale, his knees pulled up, his arms resting on them while he stares at me. I think I see pity in them.

“It’s alright. It’s not like I Iove him or anything.” But I have been crushing on him for over a year. And those kisses a few months back, even if it was just part of Tom’s job, they had left me wanting more, a lot more.

“That’s good. It would suck if you did,” Joe says.

“No kidding.” I am pretty sure it does suck.


end 2/20/2017

S. Darlington

Mouse Faces The Morning After

mouse and pillow.png


Mouse Faces The Morning After


Last night is a blur. A tiny creature plays bongos against my temple. My mouth feels like I’ve been sucking on sand. I lie in my bed at The Compound not remembering how I got there or in the t-shirt I’m currently wearing. I have panties on, which I normally don’t sleep in. (I guess that’s a good thing.) Mortification thy name is Mouse!

There’s a rap on the door.


Tom enters carrying a tray. I don’t think I want to look at him. Ha, right. When have I ever not wanted to look at him? You know, except for when he thought I was a traitor?

He hands me a bottle of water and an ibuprofen.

I sit up. “Did you get me here?”

He nods. “You fell asleep. Face planted on the bar. Snoring. Not pretty.”

“I could have done without the play-by-play.”

“But I enjoyed providing it.”

I swallow the red capsule and wash it down with half of the bottle of water. He hands me a plate with toast on it, which I stare at while wondering if it’s a good idea. My stomach roils like the ocean in the middle of a hurricane.

“And changed my clothes?

He has the grace to look just a little embarrassed, but not enough in my opinion. “I was worried you couldn’t breathe. Your tight bra top think looked constrictive.”


“Right. Didn’t those stop being the popular in the late 1800s?”

“Strip,” I say.


“You’ve seen me naked. My turn to see you.”

“You’ve seen me with my shirt off. That’s all I saw of you.”

Damn bongo playing critters have upped the tempo.

“Are you saying that my shirt being off and your shirt being off are the same thing? Are you suggesting I have the same dimensions upstairs as you?” I’m sure that that would sound extremely threatening if it weren’t for the fact that raising my voice makes my head hurt worse, so it’s just an extremely threatening whisper. Not very effective. Especially directed at someone like Tom.

He grins. “Now, Mouse, you know I work out.”

“Grrr!” I lean back and pull my pillow over my face. It’s impossible to suffocate yourself like this, isn’t it? The instant you lose consciousness the pillow loosens up.

“Here’s a Gatorade, Mouse. Suck it down,” Tom says.

“Thanks, but if it’s all the same to you, I’d just like to die now.”

“Not happening. We’ve a charity event to attend tomorrow evening in DC and we have to be briefed.”

“A charity event? Briefed? Am I hallucinating?”

“Possibly, but that’s not relevant.”

“So I’m going on another mission?”

“Sounds that way.”

“At a charity event?”

“Very posh.”

“Posh. So I can wear a corset?”


“You’ll undress me when we get back?”


“You’re no fun.”

“Finally we agree on something.”


end 2/19/2017

S. Darlington

Mouse Does Stout



Mouse Does Stout

There is no chase scene. I must remind myself over and over that real life is not like the movies. The brave heroine does not easily move on with life after shooting a bullet that most probably killed a man. She sits on a private jet, staring out at blackness for around five hours until the jet lands on a nondescript runaway that is not part of an international airport. One side of her asks why she thought she could wield a weapon with the intent to harm when she can’t even bear the thought of eating cow or pig or chicken. The other part says because she thought it would be just like a computer game. And while not the worst part of all, she has begun to talk about herself in the third person.

I am glad for these moments of inertia, sitting on one mode of transport after another without having to give any input. In the car back to The Compound, Joe tries to talk, but I shut him down. Someday I’ll ask him how he coped in Iraq, but maybe in war it’s different. Maybe the training is different. Maybe I was an idiot to think I could easily kill.


It’s Friday night so, as is custom, we go into one of the nearby towns to “let it loose.” I don’t really drink alcohol. I’m 5’2” and 105 pounds. There just isn’t much of me to absorb it, which mean that five sips of almost any beer makes me tipsy.

Tonight they decide that Wattstone is the town, so I figure I’ll drive myself and stay in my cabin. If I actually drink, I can walk to it from there.

The guys are scattered around the bar when I arrive. Tom is sitting at the bar, drinking what I presume is an IPA, his beer of choice. The brunette I’ve noticed before and have given her the nickname “Crazy Eyes,” which is probably self-explanatory, hangs on him, her fingers tugging at the collar of his gray button down.

I sit at the bar and order the stout that’s on tap as their microbrew special. It’s served in what looks like a brandy snifter.

“Fancy glass,” I remark to the bartender, Barry. “Did you figure I needed a small helping?”

He raises an eyebrow at me. “Alcohol content,” he mutters.

I translate: Mouse will be totally tipsy, worse, probably worse.

I sip. Oh, that’s nice.

Joe sits on the stool next to me. “Be careful of that one, Mouse. Bourbon barrel stouts will knock you on your ass.”

“Hmmm. It’s nice,” I say, resisting the urge to smack my lips. “Just what the Mouse ordered.”

A blonde woman I’ve never seen before slides in between Joe and me. She’s in a fitted camisole that displays her above the waist attributes. She orders a drink then turns toward Joe, practically leaning against him. Maybe that’s because she can’t stand up straight in those stilettos.

After five sips of the stout, I’m feeling more cheerful, but warm. I slide out of my ever-present hoodie. I’m wearing a red corset that I bought for Comic Con as part of a steampunk outfit I wore.

The bartender grins at me and nods his head. “Nice.”

I frown at him. “What?”

He continues to grin and nod.

I look down. Everything’s tucked exactly where it should be. Maybe it’s because things are pushed up a bit more than usual. Ah, well.

A cute blonde guy wearing a tight t-shirt stating he’s a Washington Nationals fan sidles up to me. “Hi,” he says.

“Hi,” I say, always one for the witty repartee.

“Can I buy you a drink?” he asks.

I look at my mostly empty brandy snifter of stout. “Maybe in a few minutes.”

“Do you mind if I sit here,” he asks as a courtesy, because he’s already sat down. “I’m Charlie.”

I shake his extended hand. I’ve momentarily forgotten who I am this week. “Georgie.”


I grin.

True to his word he buys me another, which I am pretty certain I shouldn’t have. But I feel so good.

He’s slides his barstool closer and is leaning into me, his left hand propped on my stool.

“You smell nice,” he says. “Like caramel.”

He’s looking down at my cleavage and then immediately isn’t. Tom’s grabbed the back of Charlie’s shirt and has righted him on the barstool. My mouth hangs open. Crazy Eyes is standing behind him with her hands on her hips.

Tom extends his hand to me. “Come on, Mouse. You’re done.”

“Wrong. I have most of my beer. Do you want to try it? It’s so yummy.” I offer him the glass but he shakes his head.

“Is this your boyfriend, Georgie?” Charlie asks.

“No. He’s a man I work with who has control issues,” I say, trying not to look at Tom, but when I do, he’s frowning at me. “What? It’s true. You do have control issues.”

“I’m taking you home to bed, Mouse.”

Ah, can’t help the cheeky grin with that one. “Do you promise?”

Charlie decides the current dynamics are not for him, especially since I have a colleague willing to tuck me in. He grabs his bottle of Bud and moves away.

“Do I promise what?” Tom asks.

“The bed thing?”

“Tom, I thought you and me were gonna hang out tonight,” Crazy Eyes whines.

Tom stares down at me, his eyes moving over me. “Put your hoodie on, Mouse.”

I know I’m being immature, but I turn away from him, back toward the bar. I look at his reflection in the mirror there and he’s looking back at me. This seems to be the only way we can see each other anymore, in reflection.

end 2/18/17

Joe Babysits Mouse



Joe Babysits Mouse

“This isn’t right,” I say.

“Quiet, Mouse,” Joe says.

“But I’m supposed to be in there, too.”

I feel Joe’s glare on me. We’re both supposed to be part of the team extracting Devlin McGee, but at the last minute Tom decided I should hang back and do “computing” from the perimeter. Computing. What’s clear to me is that he had a change of mind somewhere on the road north from Albuquerque. He decided I couldn’t hack it. (Ha! Hack it. Hacker. Get it? Okay, it’s not that funny. Especially under the circumstances.)

Joe is none too pleased either. I heard him mutter under his breath: “babysitting.”

We squat by the trucks, our guns held ready in front of us.

Enough of this.

“Let’s go,” I say. “This is stupid. I’m supposed to be trained.

I take off in the same direction the team went. I have my gun at ready. I am stealthy, maybe. Joe is following without complaint. We climb through the hole in the wire fencing the guys made earlier. The plan was to go south around the outer buildings.

We come to the first building and peer around the white stucco corner. The limp body of a guard is about twenty feet away. No one else is in sight. The lights from the main building glare yellow onto the grounds in front.

Joe puts his hand on my shoulder and points toward the shadows. I nod and then we’re creeping toward the back entryway. My heart pounds inside my chest so that I think I hear it. Something feels off. Shouldn’t there be noise by now? Or did they manage to sneak in and are out already? Crap. What if this was a mistake and they’re already back by the trucks? No. We would have seen them or passed them.

Overhead lights flare on from all of the buildings. A siren pierces the quiet night.

We hang back. We’re still in the shadow of the building. We wait.

Then there’s the sound I’ve been expecting. Weapons being discharged. Yells. We still hang back because we don’t know what’s going on. No one is running out of any of the buildings. All of the noise seems to be coming from the ranch house.

I glance at Joe and he nods at me as if we’re both thinking the same thing. At least I hope we are. We take off toward the house, crouching and running. When we reach the open door, the light pouring out, white in a long rectangle, we stand on either side and look in. Tom and Derek stand in the middle with their hands raised while two men, dressed in green fatigues, point automatics at them. There’s no sign of Brewster or Williams. I enter first. Tom sees me, but then quickly jerks his eyes back to the barrel of the gun in front of him.

The man holding the gun on Derek, notices Joe and me and immediately turns on us, but Derek knees him and then punches. The other man with his gun on Tom pulls the trigger. Tom dives, but I can tell by the jerking of his body he’s been hit.

I shoot then and it’s as if everything is in slow motion, like I can see the bullet traveling from the barrel of my gun into the man’s body, like I can hear the sound like a soft whoosh and slurp as the bullet penetrates. He falls and I watch, feeling apart from everything happening now. My hands still clasp the gun in front of me. I see blood pool. I am immobilized, except for a part of my brain trying to convince me to look at Tom, go to Tom. Focus.


end 2/16/2017

S. Darlington

Mouse Prepares for a Mission?



Mouse Prepares for a Mission?

The days pass. For an event that was “created,” that invasion of The Compound frequents my dreams and sometimes I wake gasping as in the dream, Tom’s hands squeeze my throat. Then I lie awake, regulating my breathing, staring into the darkness, while trying to remember that I had never been in danger. During the following day, I find the dream flows too close to the surface, making it impossible to look at Tom or almost anyone else. And, Tom being quietly observant always notices. On those days, he makes Joe train me, which is always easier physically, emotionally, and for my confused libido.

Four months later I am deemed “somewhat” trained, which means I think they noticed that my biceps now have some definition. I can also mostly keep up with them for a five mile run and sometimes sprint ahead. I don’t share that it’s because of the promise of a hot fudge sundae with peanuts at the end. (Peanuts make it healthy.)

I am sitting in a briefing while my mind wanders. There are eight of us hunched (okay, I am the only one hunching) around the conference room table while Nick Ryder is passing in front of a screen, pointing out different buildings in somewhere New Mexico. Outside snow has begun to fall and I watch the fat flakes spiral down and increase in intensity.

“Am I boring you, Mouse?” Nick asks.

I glance at him. “No. Were you trying?”

“You’re attention doesn’t seem to be on this briefing.”

Eight pairs of eyes focus on me. Joe smirks.

“It’s snowing.”

Now Joe chuckles.

Nick shoots Joe a silencing glance. “Would you rather not be on this mission?” Nick asks.

I sit up straighter. Oh. Oh! “I’m going to be on the mission?”

“At this rate, no. Why did you think you were in here?”

“Coffee? Cookies? Honestly I hadn’t a clue,” I confess. “I thought it might be more training.”

“Which was why you were listening so intently?”

“Yes, that would be exactly why,” I say, more smart-ass-isms threaten, but I catch a look of Nick’s face which has turned a bit red. Expectation? Annoyance? Me?

“You’re wasting our time, Mary Elizabeth.”

Damn. He has invoked the “name.” The obvious thing for me to do now would be to pay attention and behave, keep my thoughts focused, which is hard when I’m facing the window, but easier than facing Tom.

“I apologize. I promise to try to pay attention.”

“Try? Just do it.”

“Nike scores!” I say.

I hear Joe’s snort. They are such military guys, so professional, such straight-shooters, well, except for Joe who seems delighted I am here.

“Joe, don’t encourage her. I don’t think she needs it,” Nick says. “Mouse, concentrate. Tom, when I’m done, go over all of this with Mouse and make sure she understands, seeing as it was your recommendation that she be here at all.”

Ouch. Burn. My foot starts bouncing on the floor now, as I listen to Nick pick up where he left off. Knowing that I’m part of this mission makes it easier to concentrate, mostly. I’m part of the team now and instead of staying back here, I’m actually going to make a difference. Finally.

In the field.

With a knife.

And a gun.

And live bullets.




end 2/14/2017

S. Darlington