Attention CASA shoppers! At midnight EST we will be having a special deal where you can own Some Assembly Required by Bru Baker and myself! And right now you can get it at 25% off at Dreamspinner Press!
Are looking for that perfect Valentine gift? How about wooing your loved one (or yourself!) with the heartwarming meet-cute of meeting your special someone in the afterlife and wandering around an affordable minimalist home furnishings store purgatory for all eternity. This is the story you never knew you needed.
Don’t forget! The Some Assembly Required Blog Tour starts Monday! And there will be wacky hijinks and a couple sweet giveaways!
Until then how about an excerpt to tide you over? First impressions are always important. Especially when you meet the sucker you’re stuck for all eternity with.
Chapter Three: PROLUNGA
Could anything compare to the smell of plastic and particleboard in the morning?
Well, lots of things probably could. Queequeg Coffee, for one. His mother’s freshly baked apple pie. The Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day basil soap that he hoarded every time it was in stock at Scope.
The candy apple red circle décor motif of Scope seemed to try to take the edge off the unconscious suggestion of a military sniper’s laser targeting. But it was easier ignoring the odd, checkered past involvement of the founder’s political leanings. A senator of questionable morals founded Benji’s favorite office supply store. It was his CASA of office supply needs. How politicians got into marketing everything from bedding to pencils was a strange tale.
But CASA had none of those torrid stories and scandals. The Italians had seen to that. CASA had its host of urban legends. From babies being born to weddings, it was all the talk of social media. CASA was definitely in the top ten of Benji’s favorite places.
Benji inhaled deeply and let the scent wash over him. Everything about CASA screamed fresh start and endless opportunity. It was pretty much impossible to feel anything but optimistic when standing in a CASA. For him, at least. The couple sitting a few tables over probably didn’t agree, judging by the angry way the woman was turning pages in the thick CASA catalog in front of her while the man stared off into space, balancing one of the nubby golf pencils the store provided on his knuckles.
There was a family of six against the back wall. The parents traded exhausted looks over the heads of the four kids chattering eagerly about Bambini Mondo.
Benji smiled at Patrick-Not-Tommy, and he returned it with a slow, easy grin like he’d heard a dirty joke he was eager to repeat.
“So, what do you do, Patrick-Not-Tommy?” Benji skewered a meatball and gestured with it like the pointer he used for the kids to sound out their ABCs.
He obviously didn’t work in the café since he wasn’t wearing the black chef’s uniform. And even though he had the right shirt on to work the floor, his jeans weren’t the CASA uniform kind.
God. How sad was it that he knew what the freaking CASA uniform was? He definitely spent too much time here.
“Patrick,” he said as he picked at his thumbnail. “You need to stick with me here, Derrick.”
Patrick waved a dismissive hand as if he were swatting away flies. “Benji’s a terrier with a series of kid movies. Derrick is a guy I could get behind.”
Benji coughed and concentrated on his knuckles. How could this guy just waltz in here and make everything drip with innuendo? He’d never keep a straight face in front of the kids tomorrow.
“I said,” Benji said, trying to get things back on track, “what do you do?”
Patrick’s grin broadened. “Always.”
“Patrick…,” Benji started, surprised when a young woman with a dour expression spoke. When had she walked up? Christ. He needed to sleep more.
“Karin.” Patrick sat up straighter. “Meet my new charge. Derrick, this is Karin. Karin, Derrick.”
“Benji,” Benji said again with a grunt.
Patrick waved him off. “Derrick’s just a little confused right now. Bonked his head on the cart return, you know.”
Karin clasped a hand onto Patrick’s broad shoulder and then dug in her nails. “May I have a word with you?”
“Anthropomorphic,” Patrick said without a blink.
Benji drew his brows together. “…what?”
Patrick winked at him. “Jeopardy! Clue of the Day.”
Karin gnashed her teeth. “We need help with assembly.”
The way she enunciated every syllable told Benji that Patrick had shirked his duty to sit here in the café and harangue him. Not that he wasn’t interesting, if not exactly welcome, company. But he didn’t want Patrick to get in trouble on his account.
“Ah.” Patrick sighed but didn’t seem the slightest bit exasperated. “The Divorce Maker sample again, huh?”
“Divorce… maker?” Benji asked. What kind of CASA product is that? CASA was a place of happiness, Italian Muzak, and affordable, delightful furniture.
Patrick popped up from his chair and then spun it back around, tucking it into its proper place under the table. He knocked the table with two knuckles and nodded to Benji. “Be careful what you touch here in CASA. Can’t have you getting sucked into the black hole of rabid consumerism.”
“Do you ever stop?” Karin asked as she pulled on Patrick’s wrist.
Patrick relented and followed Karin’s lead. He made a sloppy two-finger salute behind him. “Be cool, soda pop. Don’t wander too far, Benji.”