Runaway Bandwagon

I had a talk recently with a good friend that weighs heavily on me. My friend is a cop. She is honest, dedicated, and brave. So, when she told me that the current climate of ant-law enforcement has her wondering about her career, I was stunned. I wondered how many other really good cops are so beaten down by today’s messages—and yes, hateful climate—that they are second-guessing the job they’ve been called to do. That makes my heart hurt.

I want to have honest conversations, but we can’t until we regain a bit of balance. The rhetoric has reached such a fever pitch that it seems impossible for reasoned dialogue right now. The police-are-evil bandwagon is going to run over us all if we’re not careful. Those of you blindly forwarding inflammatory posts by so-called journalists who have their facts wrong, or quoting so-called witnesses that flat out lie are throwing gasoline on the fire. And it has to stop. I’m sick of hearing the cop bashing without considering all sides. How is it that we cannot see that judging an officer by virtue of his profession is no different than judging citizens by skin color? How is tearing at the fabric of legitimate policing beneficial to our community? For those in law enforcement: How can you not see that purging our bad apples is one way to regain some community support? We must be willing to listen to different perspectives if we are ever going to make any difference.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

Here’s what I know after 25 years of policing. For every cop who does something wrong, there are thousands who are doing good. For every arrestee who is shot, there are hundreds of thousands who are arrested without incident, even after some attempt to injure or kill the arresting officers. Recently, I’ve read many articles making light of the threats officers face in their daily work. We hear about one officer shot on a traffic stop, but not the thousands of other daily incidents where officers are attacked and thankfully survive due to their training or better equipment. In 2013, FBI statistics show 49,851 officers were assaulted on duty. Imagine that you might be randomly attacked physically or with some weapon every time you step out of your car or knock on your neighbor’s door. How might you respond to the world differently if that was a constant possibility?

People are outraged when police officers shoot a person—especially a child—who is armed with a toy gun. Killing a person is not easy for a cop, and shooting a child is horrific. Let’s set that record straight. It is tragic. No cop is celebrating. But instead of piling on the critique in your holier-than-thou fashion from your living room couch, let’s talk about why even the most basic, common sense laws can’t be passed that might help prevent such a tragedy. By illustrating the reality, maybe you can see what an officer is up against.

Which one is real?
Which one is real?

Quick! If someone points one of these at you, tell me inside of 5 seconds, in the dark, under stress. Which one is real? Impossible to tell. What do you do? No citizen, not even a cop, is required to wait until the lead flies out of the muzzle before defending themselves. No one.

Today, Congress finally passed a piece of legislation. A bill requiring that all law enforcement agencies catalog police shootings. My former department already does, but a standardized national system would be good. But listen folks, a database isn’t going to address the real issues. Most police agencies put cops in the areas of statistically higher crime. That, unfortunately, is currently in the poorer neighborhoods, which also unfortunately have higher populations of people of color. THAT is what puts police into contact with higher numbers of minorities. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 31.4 million citizens called for police service in 2011. They go where they are called. But it’s far easier to bash the police and pass a bullshit bill, than to tackle meaningful gun legislation or to work on real ideas to reduce poverty or crime in poor neighborhoods.

Most people don’t interact with the police unless something has gone terribly wrong in their lives, and officers carry the weight of witnessing the horrific things that humans do to one another. I still get choked up when I think about the little girl who was beaten for twenty minutes straight by her mother’s boyfriend because she cried when he tried to shove a cookie in her mouth. I still see the man shot in the head at a robbery where the suspect got fifteen dollars. I recall the child I pulled from the river and gave CPR until I handed him over to paramedics. I cried when I learned he died at the ER. I’ve watched my fellow officers’ blood pool on the street and attended the funeral of too many friends, black and white wearing blue. Officers have these kinds of memories and many worse. Those invisible wounds never heal. Still, when someone is kicking in your door, stealing your purse, or robbing your bank, and you duck behind the counter to dial 9-1-1, the police officer runs forward, toward the threat. Be thankful they do.

There are endless reports detailing the economic disparities that exist between White and Black Americans. Cops don’t need reports to know this. They work in the most challenged neighborhoods of every city in this country. Ask a street cop about the link between poverty and crime and they’ll tell you: “If a person feels no hope, they have no self-respect. If they can’t respect themselves, then how can we expect them to respect the police or anyone else?” The citizens in those neighborhoods know they need the police. In fact, those neighborhoods generally represent the vast majority of the calls for police service. A citizen calls about a group of kids hanging on a specific corner, which they know frequently escalates into violence, and the zone officer responds. Once the officer arrives, the details related by that citizen caller, combined with the actions of the individuals he’s approaching is what dictates his/her response. If the caller has mentioned anything about violence or weapons, certainly the officer will take steps to lessen the threat to himself and others around him. Wouldn’t you?

NY mayor DeBlasio jumped on the bandwagon to speak about how he worries that his own biracial son might become victimized in a conflict with a cop. I’ve spoken to friends about my own biracial nephew, and my fears. My fears are that some out of control neighborhood vigilante like George Zimmerman might stalk and harm him, or that an over-zealous store security person will target him, but do I fear his contact with real, professional police? No. And do you know why? Because the real statistics tell us that only 1% of police interactions involve uses of force and 92% of all force used is not excessive. Perceptions are very different, mostly due to biases. Questionable statistics that combine shootings of black males with “armed vigilantes” and security guards, equating them with professional police officers, is both dangerously incendiary and offensive to police officers. My sister and her black husband don’t tell their son that the police are his enemy and will mistreat him just because of his skin color. I know lots of people aren’t going to like that assessment, but if you’re going to say police training makes them predisposed to racial fears and biases, then you also have to acknowledge what happens when young black children are told from day one that the police will harm them. Both of these examples of perpetuating bias factor equally into the sad state of affairs today. The anti-police rhetoric, made worse by public officials condemning “the police” in tragically sweeping terms, have kept the anger bubbling, and now college professors are hurling rocks and garbage at police officers doing nothing but escorting peaceful protesters. We’ve officially spun out of control folks.

So, please, instead of throwing stones at the profession, remember that the police are human, just like you. If one does wrong, then they should face the consequences. No question. I am open to discussions about specific reforms or improvements in community relations. Bring on the bodycams. I believe they will prove the vast majority of cops are doing a great job. But I can’t abide the continued irresponsible rhetoric. Just like most of folks in minority neighborhoods are good, hardworking folks, the majority of cops who wear the uniform are good people who do their job with honorable intent. Let’s take a breath and have an adult conversation instead of hurling insults and twisting statistics.

Reaching out makes a difference
Reaching out makes a difference

I thank every man and woman who still dons a uniform to serve their community, even while the storm of hatred swirls around them. Continue to do good. Know that you are needed in these times of unrest and mistrust. Your example shines as a beacon of hope to citizens everywhere. Our most vulnerable, law-abiding citizens want you in their neighborhoods. Do we really want the good cops to leave because they fear there is no longer support for the dangerous and difficult work they do? Let’s stop this harmful rhetoric before it’s too late. The absence of professional policing is something none of us should want to contemplate.

~Peace, LM

 

 

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Stop the nonsense

Have the adults finally realized that they have to actually take charge? I certainly hope so. The midterm election results are in and the drubbing of the democrats sends a clear message—but not exactly what it might appear on the surface. The results tell me two things: After six years of complete dysfunction, the American people are handing control to the Republicans and saying, “Here you go. DO Something.” Secondly, the American people have told Democrats, “Stop sniveling, grow a spine and STAND for something.” I’ll start:  I’m mostly a liberal, although I have more conservative views when it comes to law enforcement or defense. There I said it. I don’t care if you don’t like that I support universal healthcare or the death penalty or still believe that the President deserves respect, regardless of his race or party.

For far too long the political and social discourse in this country has been nothing but a toxic mess. Americans have always been at our best when we act like a family. We might fight and squabble, but in the end, we stand together from any outside threat. We say, my brother might be an a-hole, but you better not say it. This is a country built on tolerance and finding common ground. Lately, common ground isn’t even considered because compromise is somehow now a dirty word. If my neighbor doesn’t espouse the exact same belief system as mine, then they are wrong, the enemy, unworthy of respect, ignorant. And you know what? I’m really tired of it.images

I think I’m like the vast majority of middle of the road Americans. I want my leaders to—well, lead. I have friends who agree and disagree with me, which is a good thing. To my conservative friends: I don’t need you proselytizing or judging me or anyone else. It’s not your place. News flash: I was raised Catholic. I have my faith. In the New Testament I read, Jesus says: “Judge not lest ye be judged.” He also has a lot to say about being your brother’s keeper and how it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to heaven. Sorry, but I’ve come to notice that too often now when someone leads off in their self-description that they are “Christian” , that’s usually a huge red flag to me. A friend of mine shared a link from some Tea Party organization on his Facebook page the other day that read: “We need more God. Share if you agree.” I do agree, but I don’t think we need more Tea Partiers. We need real religious values of compassion, love and honesty.

So, I was very glad to hear the new Republican leadership talking about actually governing. Mitch McConnel and I are on the opposite sides of more than a few issues, but if he’s willing to find a way to work with people who don’t share his views, then he’ll have my support. But right away, the likes of Ted Cruz are already frothing at the mouth, screaming that he’s caving in to the dreaded Obama. Hey, Ted, you fantasize that you’re some second coming of Reagan. No. You are not. Ronald Reagan could talk to people on the other side, Ted. News flash: Prior to Obama, every president since FDR has talked about wanting to get universal healthcare for Americans, but it has always been deemed too difficult (read: politically dangerous). Obama did it. In the face of all your hatred, Ted. He did it and stands by it. That is actually leadership. What our country needs from all of you is to try something new—work on a solution or improvement if you think there are issues with the law. Any law.

Mitch McConnell has always wanted to be the Majority Leader. Mitch, you now have your chance to lead. You have the choice to either be like Boehner and do nothing, or seize this opportunity to make your mark on history. Infuse some of your conservative ideas into the existing laws like healthcare to improve things for your fellow Americans. It’s a fact that your home state already benefits more than almost any other from the healthcare law. Isn’t that a good thing to help more people get insurance? Fix what you think is wrong with the laws and move on. We want you to stop wasting time on repeal votes and bills to limit women’s rights and tackle real issues. Stand up to the crazy fringe in your party and say so. If you stop the bickering and work on solutions to help people, you won’t have to keep trying to convince us of your Christian values, because we’ll see them in action.

Democrats: Quit cowering in the corner and own your values. Be proud of the fact that you are the party of 100,000 police officers on the street and the Community Oriented Policing Office, which is what truly started the historic crime reduction we now enjoy. Be proud that the Affordable Care Act has helped to insure millions of Americans. Be proud of fighting to raise the minimum wage and trying to rein in corporate greed. Fight for the future of our planet by truly acknowledging climate change. Remind your conservative friends that the jobs to be realized in new technologies addressing these issues are good for business!

Both parties must stand in the ring and take your punches. Stop spouting divisive talking points and tell us what you believe in. Try having some courage of your convictions, while still humbly understanding that none of us know everything. We need more than your petulant refusal to listen to one another. And you know what? I’m betting that the majority of the American people, conservative and liberals alike, will respond with a resounding approval rating. More importantly, our country will thrive.

~Peace. LM

So you call yourself a hero?

“The NFL doesn’t have a Ray Rice problem, it has a violence against women problem,” said the National Organization for Women president, Terry O’Neill. Regardless of the attempts to appear responsive to evidence of the Baltimore Raven’s running back brutally punching his then-fiancé in the face, it is obvious that O’Neill is correct. The NFL, professional sports and our entire society still has a long way to go on the issue of domestic violence. And here’s the thing: professional athletes are always thumping their chests and calling themselves “heroes”. These players are exalted and glorified, and some have even compared themselves to real heroes like soldiers on battlefields. Talk about self-delusion.

I love sports, which makes me like many others, I suspect; disgusted at the way the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL have failed to take action. I keep thinking about the adage that with great opportunity comes great responsibility. The NFL is a billion dollar organization, its owners making piles of cash, and players making millions to—let’s be honest—play games. But rather than understanding that they have financial security and opportunities beyond 99% of their fans’ wildest dreams, the attitude has been to ignore, minimize, excuse, and when all else fails, blame the victim.

I began to have a bit of hope for necessary backlash from the public and other players when I saw people burning their #27 jerseys and asking for refunds. Former and current players tweeted messages condemning Rice and the Roger Goodell’s inept handling of the situation. I applaud the players who have had the good sense to speak out against Rice and Goodell. But then… In the press conference announcing the Raven’s decision to cut Rice, Coach Jim Harbaugh just couldn’t bring himself to call Rice out for reprehensible behavior. He just couldn’t say, ‘The Baltimore Ravens and I personally have no tolerance for anyone who would commit acts of domestic violence.’ He just couldn’t do it. Instead, he said, “When someone you care about has done wrong and has to face the consequence, it’s hurtful.” Whoa! Now there’s a strong stand against a violent assault! Way to lead, Jim.

Then, a couple of days later, following a Thursday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens had yet another opportunity to distance themselves from the ugliness of Rice’s actions and make a statement against his inexcusable behavior. What happened? Their coach once again showed his failure of leadership, lauding the performance of his players in the face of all the adversity of the week. Oh, waaaahhh! Poor players, poor Ravens, poor Jim, it’s been so difficult to function since having to fess up to their buddy Ray’s violent assault on his wife. I, frankly, am shocked that they’ve been able to cope. Why it’s been downright torturous, but they overcame it all to win the game! Woohoo! They ARE heroes! And just like true heroes, they didn’t quietly walk off the field, feeling fortunate for their many blessings, they thumped their chests and couldn’t resist spouting off.

Several players, including Torrey Smith, C.J. Mosely and Jacoby Jones, said that the win against the Steelers was dedicated to Ray Rice. Smith said, “Ray is still a great guy.” Wait. Great Guy? Seriously? Hey, guys, newsflash…great guys don’t punch their wives in the face. Just sayin’. While we’re setting things straight, you don’t dedicate games to wife beaters. Doing so is tantamount to a big F-you to, not only victims of domestic violence, but society and NFL fans in general. You dedicate games to players who get injured, teammates who are killed tragically in some accident, maybe a kid with cancer who is a diehard fan of the team, but not a guy who just knocked his wife out with a punch to the face.

Somebody needs to clue the NFL and it’s players into what it really means to be a hero. I’ll start with a definition from Merriam-Webster. Hero: noun \ˈhir-(ˌ)ō\ : a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities : a person who is greatly admired  It should go without saying that beating one’s wife doesn’t qualify as a brave act or fine quality. In fact, nothing about playing your game truly qualifies as a “brave act”. I’m thinking that the sooner professional athletes get that reality check, the sooner we might be able to have a serious conversation about the responsibility that comes with the wealth and privilege of being a professional athlete. The responsibility of your position requires you to at least attempt try to live up to some higher standard. You can’t have it both ways; calling yourselves heroes, and then claiming you can’t help it when you step out of line and commit a crime. You don’t like it? Then find another career. In the meantime, why don’t you try something novel, you heroes of the gridiron, stop condoning violence against women. Shun those who beat their wives. Take a stand of real leadership. And hey, Ravens? How’s this for an idea: Dedicate your season to domestic violence awareness. Own up to your responsibility as examples. That’s what real heroes do.

Ferguson and painful truths

The painful spectacle of events in Ferguson, Missouri have once again focused the attention of our country on the issues of race and law enforcement. I’ve been watching, listening and waiting. Waiting because it’s necessary. Speaking out without the facts helps no one, regardless of one’s point of view. In my experience, making a judgment before having all the facts only means that you’re cherry-picking the facts to support your own pre-conceived notions. Sadly, that’s what we do in our society for the most part nowadays. Whether it’s politics, music, or conversations, we only want to engage with people who think just like we do; we don’t want a debate or dialogue—that might require us to think, or <gasp!> see the world through someone else’s lens.

Last night, I attended a candlelight vigil on the fifth anniversary of my friend’s murder. Mike was a police officer doing his job on the streets of Tampa when a seemingly routine encounter suddenly turned violent. At the end, our friend lay bleeding in the street from a gunshot wound to his chest. My wife was the K9 officer who responded to track the suspect, and last night when we arrived for the memorial, she recalled the events, pointing out the way she searched and the yard where she eventually found the shooter hiding in a woodpile. We gathered to remember Mike, and even in our quiet reflection, the events in Ferguson, Missouri were present. Mike’s widow made a simple observation: “I know the public seems very negative right now about what you do, but keep doing your job. Because even those folks want you to respond to keep the criminals from their doors.”

That’s my lens. Ten months after Mike’s murder, another friend of ours stopped a car for an expired registration. The passenger in the car shot our friend and his partner in the head and left them dying in the street. That shooter is in jail as well. Neither suspect was shot. I just wanted to say that because, no, not every officer shoots every person of color they encounter, even in the direst of circumstances. I say that also acknowledging injustices and crimes that have been committed by other officers who don’t deserve to wear the badge, or may even deserve jail time.

After two and a half decades of policing in a large metropolitan city, I’ve seen a great deal. Police officers are not all good or bad. We are products of our environment, just like the citizens we serve. I have learned that communication is the greatest tool we have as we do our job. Beyond the big felony crimes such as murder, robbery, burglaries, or aggravated assaults, all the grey area issues fester. Arguments, loud parties, traffic problems, drunkenness, fist fights, domestic violence. These are the areas we mostly wade through, like a stagnant, muddy pond obscuring what’s brewing beneath its surface, the underlying social issues that society refuses to adequately deal with are dumped at the feet of the street cop. Frustration builds because there is no way to solve poverty and inequality from the seat of a patrol car, yet we are the only face of government most ordinary citizens see.

Dialogue. We need to have conversations in this country about our biases. Plain and simple. We all have prejudices, so there’s no point pretending we don’t. For all of the attention on the details in Ferguson about the unarmed black man, nobody seems to notice the depiction of law enforcement as a whole as a bunch of racist, jack-booted thugs. It’s as offensive to me as the African American honor student who is watched with suspicion in a store. Are some cops racist? Undoubtedly. But so are those who decide that just because the officer was white, he’s a murderer, and we have to have the courage to acknowledge both opposing beliefs.

All sides have to be open to honesty and facts, regardless of the outcome. Events such as these don’t happen in a vacuum. At every point in the timeline a choice is made by each individual that propels them into the confrontation, and even then, choices still dictate the outcome. When the tragedy unfolds and either the unarmed black man or the white police officer is dead, we must have the courage to search for the truth head on, despite our pain. For all of our differences, ironically, the culture of silence and mistrust are our most common traits. Snitching is taboo whether you’re black or wearing blue. Both groups vilify the other for exactly the same thing.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. I only know that we must have the courage to have a conversation or to speak out. All of us need to own our responsibility in solving the larger problems of the community, for we are all part of it. I’ve angered my peers by saying that I believe Trayvon Martin was actually the one standing his ground. I look at my young, bi-racial nephew and worry that could be him in ten years. I also recall stepping out of my patrol car in the projects and smiling at a little brown-skinned girl who waved at me. As I started to bend down to talk to her a man appeared behind her and screamed, “Don’t you ever talk to the police!” The little girl’s face morphed into fear and she ran. His lens of experience filtered out my humanity, reducing me to a perceived abusive cop. The problem was his attempt to prevent that little girl from having a different picture of me.

I said to the man, “You don’t even know me.” He growled, “I don’t have to know you. You’re a fucking cop.”

If the conversation never gets beyond that, we will never bridge the gap.

Thanks for reading~LM

Next Up for Marriage Equality

Last month, in the last few miles of our road trip to Pennsylvania, we heard the news that the PA Supreme Court had struck down the state’s prohibition to same-sex marriage. It was a symbolic welcome to my hometown, made even more compelling since we will be making the state our home in the not so distant future. Many of you I’m sure know that the governor of PA is one of the most conservative governors in the country. Recall Governor Corbett’s infamous response when grilled about the state’s “forced ultrasound” law: Women could just “close their eyes.” Because then, you know, the state compelling a woman to undergo a forced procedure against her will, wouldn’t be any big deal. This kind of thinking is what makes him a darling of the conservatives.

Now, Corbett was faced with the courts striking down a same-sex marriage law in his state. You would expect that he would rise to the challenge, rage against the assault on the institution of marriage and even civilization itself. Not so. It seems that our conservative standard-bearer is opting out of the debate. He’s decided, much like his neighboring governor in New Jersey, the maligned wannabe presidential nominee, that it’s probably best not to challenge this ruling for political expediency. Yes, folks, there is a growing—but quiet—realization that seems to be taking hold in even the most anti-gay politicians that maybe, just maybe, they have a better chance of winning if they knock off a little on the homophobic stances. Amazing that they’ve come to this realization, given that polls for a while now have confirmed that the majority of the country is moving toward an acceptance of same-sex marriages. What a novel concept to have an elected representative of the people actually listen to the people, huh? No, they’re not listening to the people, they just want to do damage control for the sake of the next election.

In Florida, our current home state, a discrimination lawsuit has just wrapped up and we are awaiting a judicial decision on the fate of marriage equality in the Sunshine State. I’m amazed that I may once again get to hear a court rule that discrimination against my wife and I, and every other gay and lesbian citizen in our state, is unconstitutional. It would mean the world to so many of my friends and fellow Floridians to have this injustice overturned. The current governor of Florida is equally as conservative as Corbett. He’s in the midst of a crucial race against a former governor, who, for all his flaws, has been willing to admit to being wrong on the issue of same sex marriage. We’re all waiting for the court’s decision on this important issue, but for me, I wonder what the ‘ol gov’nor will do if the court strikes down the state’s discriminatory marriage law.

Will he let it ride like Corbett and Christie, trying not to look too much like a bigot to the average person on the street? I wonder, is this the new trend? Has the tide of liberty pushed the issue so far that we have reached a tipping point where even the conservatives realize that hanging onto their antiquated ideas and hate-filled rhetoric is finally toxic to their public existence? Do they at long last realize that everyone knows that same-sex marriage has been going on in Massachusetts for a decade and the sky hasn’t fallen? Or that an increasing majority of people in this country don’t have a problem with two consenting adults marrying, even if they happen to be the same gender? The NY Times ran a piece last week about those same-sex couples a decade ago who were the first to have marriage announcements posted in the Times. Of the five, four are still happily married, one couple divorced, but still co-parents their child. Pretty normal I’d say, even better than the usual marriage odds. Maybe it’s time for the bigots to find another shtick.

Judge John E. Jones in his eloquent ruling says it best: “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

Thanks for reading~ LM

Andi Marquette is back!

From the Hat Down Blog Tour Banner

Synopsis

Meg Tallmadge is a veterinarian at a clinic in Laramie, Wyoming. She’s got a great job, great friends, deep ties to the family ranch, and big plans for her vet future. Sure, there are bumps in the road, like her mom’s continued denial about who Meg is and her painful and infuriating attempts to make Meg a “proper” woman. Then there’s Meg’s recent breakup with a girlfriend, which has her wondering why she can’t seem to open up to relationships. But Meg knows that life is messy, and sometimes all you can do is get through and shake it off. What she can’t seem to shake off, however, is her past.

It’s been almost ten years to the day since she met the love of her life, and about eight since she let her go. Meg has a hard time admitting that maybe she didn’t really let go, and that maybe some things you never really get over, no matter how hard you try. But her past is half a world away, caught up in her own life, relationship, and journalism career, and Meg isn’t one to chase the ghosts of past relationships. Even if they send you a birthday card and nudge what you thought were the closed-off parts of your heart. After all, second chances are the stuff of fantasies and movies where the good guy always gets a happy ending. You can’t count on something like that.

Or can you?

excerpt

From the Hat Down

Andi Marquette, © 2014

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

May, 2009

Meg sipped her coffee and stared at the three boxes stacked next to her front door, and guilt tugged her thoughts. They’d been there a couple of months now, reminders of her break-up with Kate. She’d called Kate last week, to set up a time to pick them up and Kate, ever the organized and conscientious type, had asked apologetically if she could collect the boxes later, as she was just starting a new job and trying to get settled in her own place in Fort Collins. Barely an hour south. But the distance between them was much more than that. Meg had agreed. The least she could do was give Kate the space to get her stuff when she could. Meg had offered to drive it down a few weeks ago, but Kate wouldn’t hear of it, though she said she appreciated that. Meg knew it was genuine. She’d been nice about it. She always was. It made Meg feel guilty for pushing her to pick the stuff up.

The boxes maintained their blank silence as she studied them. She had debated moving them into the bedroom she used as an office, but decided to just leave them by the door. Maybe they were penance, in some way. Reminders of a relationship gone sour, representatives of an ending.

She took another sip. Endings sucked. But in a weird way, they were pre-beginnings. You couldn’t have a beginning without an end, after all. She shifted her attention to the window, and the trees outside, past the covered front porch. Mid-May and many had finally leafed out, presaging summer. She looked at the boxes again and a wave of sadness washed through her chest. She swallowed it with a gulp of coffee just as her Blackberry rang with a particular tone. She smiled as she pulled it off her belt. “Hey, fellow vet person. What’s up?”

“Hi, Doctor Horse Chick,” came Sean’s goofy nickname for her. She had a way of stringing words together in unique combinations that somehow ended up making perfect sense. “Just checking to be sure you remember that I’ll be in your fabulous Laramie Tuesday doing a most awesome lecture on holistic approaches to large four-legged domestic animals.”

Meg almost snorted coffee through her nose. “Approaching, say, cows holistically? Like, with new-age lassos? Do you tie a crystal on the end?”

“No. Incense,” she retorted with a “duh” tone.

Meg laughed. “And what kind of incense might make a cow even more catatonic than some of them already are?”

“Sandalwood. Maybe jasmine. I haven’t tried that one yet. Patchouli makes them grow dreads and crave reggae.”

“Bob Moo-ley,” Meg said, trying not to giggle.

“Oh, hell no. I cannot believe you just said that.” Sean started laughing. “‘No woman, no cud’ is their fave tune.”

Meg grinned and set her nearly empty coffee cup on the topmost box. “Are you bringing one of these dreadlocked bovines to your lecture? I’m sure the students would appreciate it.”

“Whatever. They’re all serious cowboy-types up there. Maybe I could get a cow to wear a ten-gallon Stetson. Though you look better in Stetsons than any cow. Than any human-types, actually.”

“Well, it is the head covering of choice in this state.” She nudged a box with the toe of her boot. “So you still want to stop by when you’re done?”

“Is there wind in Wyoming? And that’s a rhetorical question, by the way,” Sean said with teasing warmth.

“Wind? Here?” Meg asked in a “what are you talking about?” tone.

“Exactly my point.”

“Cool. Just come by the house.” She picked up her cup.

“Will do. I’ll call you if anything changes. Oh, speaking of seeing you—your birthday’s coming up,” she said in a sing-song tone.

Meg grimaced. “Don’t remind me. I’m trying to be low-key about it.”

“Please. You’re always low-key. Why not have a party? Just to shake things up a bit?”

She glanced at the boxes, then back out the window. “You know I’m not really the party kind. Besides, I’m going to the ranch that weekend. You and Ted want to come up? I’d be okay with a birthday barbecue.” She walked into the kitchen and rinsed her cup out with one hand and set it in the drying rack.

“I’d love to, but Ted’s brother is supposed to be coming through then. Damn. We want to at least take you out for dinner, though.” Sean sighed plaintively. “Since you won’t let me throw a massive street party for you, with a DJ and Chinese acrobats, will a small, painfully intimate dinner with me and Ted suffice?”

“Always,” Meg said, smiling. “I’ll check my schedule and we’ll talk more when I see you tomorrow.”

“Sounds good. Catch you later.”

“Yep. Hi to Ted.” Meg hung up and slid the phone back into its holder on her belt. She gave the boxes another hard stare then turned and walked down the hallway toward the two bedrooms at the rear of the house. The one she used as her office was to the right, her bedroom to the left. She went into her office to her leather satchel, which rested on her desk chair, flap open. She rummaged through it to make sure she had everything she needed for the day.

Another damn birthday. At least she’d get to spend it with her dad at the ranch. Meg dug around in her satchel, looking for her appointment book. She preferred the old-fashioned approach to keeping track of her schedule, though she did enter her patient appointments into her Blackberry, as well.

Where had she put the book? It wasn’t in its usual place in the satchel. She stopped her search in the satchel and looked at her desk. Ah. There it was. She reached across her desk for her appointment book, partially hidden beneath a veterinary journal. She moved the journal and picked up the appointment book, and her gaze lingered on the small wooden carving of a horse that stood nearby, next to her computer monitor. It held its head high, and its right front leg was raised, as if it was preparing to tear off across a prairie. The unknown artist had captured the moment between stillness and motion, that second in which muscles bunch and adrenaline surges before the physical form follows the urge.

Meg set the datebook back down and picked up the horse. She ran her fingertips over the smooth chocolate brown wood. The carving fit perfectly in her palm and she remembered when it had arrived in the mail from Argentina six years ago, a gift for her graduation from vet school at Colorado State. She studied the detail on its face, and on its mane and tail. The horse’s surface felt warm, as if it was generating its own heat. She closed her hand around it, remembering the small box it had come in, and how she’d felt when she saw the handwriting on the address label. She smiled, because she felt a little bit of that now.

She returned the horse to its place on her desk, wondering how its sender was, and if she might be thinking about her. Maybe she was even writing a card, getting ready to mail it. She always sent Meg a birthday card. Every year since they first met ten years ago, a week before Meg turned twenty-five. She stared at the horse for a while, a strange combination of longing and regret coloring her thoughts before she picked her datebook up and tossed it into her satchel. She slung the bag over her shoulder and headed for the front door.

Meet the Author

me n hatAndi Marquette is a native of New Mexico and Colorado and an award-winning mystery, science fiction, and romance writer. She also has the dubious good fortune to be an editor who spent 15 years working in publishing, a career track that sucked her in while she was completing a doctorate in history. She is co-editor of the forthcoming All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Erotica and Romance. Her most recent novels are Day of the Dead, the Goldie-nominated finalist The Edge of Rebellion, and the romance From the Hat Down, a follow-up to the Rainbow Award-winning novella, From the Boots Up.

When she’s not writing novels, novellas, and stories or co-editing anthologies, she serves as both an editor for Luna Station Quarterly, an ezine that features speculative fiction written by women and as co-admin of the popular blogsite Women and Words. When she’s not doing that, well, hopefully she’s managing to get a bit of sleep.

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