Readers often ask me how I come up with the quirky characters or wacky situations included in my short stories and novels. I usually mumble “imagination” or some other cliché. Truth be told? I am as weird as any of my characters, and just as deluded. I’ve always been that way. From my experience at a Mennonite college where I decided to host a male beauty pageant and somehow convinced three Mennonite young men to burn their underwear in protest — to the fact that on my way to a mystery convention my pants fell to the ground as soon as I walked into a crowded truck stop. My art doesn’t just mimic my life, it taunts it. But sometimes writing about the strange things that continually happen to me helps me to heal. Or at least understand. Or, if nothing else, makes someone chuckle. Someday the following will turn into a fiction piece you may recognize. But for now, it’s unfortunately fact.
My husband and I headed to Duluth, Minnesota for the Thanksgiving holiday. We wanted to celebrate it alone, sequestered in a plush hotel suite that overlooked Lake Superior. The hotel we checked into was a few blocks from the lake, but the view was still amazing. The shimmering lake was in the distance. The skyline features the lights other small hotels and even the backdoor of the jazz/topless dancer club had a really, cool green door. There was also a parking lot directly across the street from our third floor room.
The night we checked in, I was staring out of the bedroom window. I noticed movement three floors below in a car parked in the parking lot that faced our hotel. My eyes are getting worse every day as I age, but I was able to make out a tuft of white hair and something black. Binoculars? Was the creep using binoculars? I continued staring for a few minutes. By now the white head seemed to staring back at me. I moved to the left, he/she moved to the left. I moved to the right, ditto. At first I was amused because, frankly, I am too old to be ogled. Then I got annoyed. Perverts in Duluth? We came up here to get away from the big city, people and pervs.
I yelled at my husband Steve to come into the bedroom. I pointed out what was happening. He looked out, but couldn’t see very far either. It didn’t help that the fog was rolling in, or it was dark. He mentioned he saw something, but he wasn’t concerned. Of course not, I reminded him, because it wasn’t him being stared at. That started the “If you wouldn’t act like it was Mardi Gras” conversation, comebacks, quips, and eventual rolling of eyes that happens in a 27-year old marriage.
I kept stressing that someone having binoculars in a hotel parking lot was a reason to be concerned. There were other women staying there as well. Since he was going on a walk, I suggested he check it out. I didn’t even think of calling the police.
I stepped away from the window, went into the living room to read. Steve left for his walk. Ten minutes later he returned. As soon as he opened the door he demanded, “Follow me. I want to show you who was peeping at your breasts.” (I hadn’t said that but it was kind of nice he thought someone still wanted to look.)
We walked to the bedroom window and he pointed down at the creepy car. He said, “See that? That white hair? It’s a big white dog. And the black you kept seeing? It was probably his nose.”
My immediate response, “Did they leave the window open?”
Steve answered, “Yeah, a little. And actually he’s a pretty friendly dog. Watch him watch every car and person walking down the street.” And we did for a bit, now that we knew who the pervert was.
A few hours later I asked Steve, “So did you break out laughing when you saw that it was a dog that was staring at me?”
Steve always refuses to smile, but I could tell he was forcing himself not to when he answered solemnly, “No, but I was really looking forward to coming back up here to tell you who was checking you out.’”
How about you gals? Have you been checked out by any ‘real dogs’ lately?
Pat Dennis is the author of Hotdish to Die For, a collection of culinary short stories where the weapon of choice is hotdish. (18 hotdish recipes are included.) Her latest novel, Murder by Chance will be available March, 2013 from Forty Press. Her fiction and humor have been published in Woman’s World, Minnesota Monthly, The Pioneer Press, Sun Current newspapers, Minnesota Crime Wave’s Resort To Murder, Silence of the Loons, Fifteen Tales of Murder, Mayhem and Malice from the Land of Minnesota Nice, Anne Frasier’s Deadly Treats, Once Upon A Crime Anthology, Writes of Spring, Who Died in Here?, Standup and Die, and Hotdish Haiku. Pat Dennis is in high-demand as a humorist ,entertaining at corporate and special events. Her client list includes Fortune 500 companies such as 3M and Delta Airlines. She’s appeared with Phyliss Diller, David Brenner, Tommy Chong, and Lewis Black. Visit her at www.patdennis.com