Ten women. Two Books. One beach house. Three days of bookish fun! (Who says you can’t have a great time at the beach in October?)

beach.jpgGone are the mismatched chairs crowded around a coffee table, the cheese and cracker plate, the women trickling through the front door of a suburban home ready for an all-too-brief bookish respite with friends. This weekend the Nightlighers (the name of my book club) took our clubbing to a whole new level and location, out of suburbia and to the BEACH, Bethany Beach, Delaware, specifically.

Since this was a supersized book club spanning three days, instead of three hours, we had to supersize our discussions too. So we read two books for this weekend getaway – The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. (I know, you’re probably saying, why only two books? Why not three? You were there for three days. Simmer down people, it’s book club, not the overachievers club.)

Now, oftentimes, after a book club meeting, I’ll write a book review on my blog and include insights from my fellow Nightlighers. But, this time, I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to write the rest of this blog about our book club weekend instead, BUT in the style of the two books we read. What does that mean? Read on to find out…

Part One: An Introduction to My Book Club Weekend

In the style of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. 

Book background in five words or less: Memoir. Rambling. Crazy lady. Funny.

If you weren’t already jealous of my book club after reading my past blogs, you will be now. (By the way don’t feel bad about your jealousy. There’s nothing wrong with being jealous. It’s totally healthy. Unless it leads to some sort of a stalking situation where you start looking up my book club members online and sending us threatening letters or reading all the same books we read and setting up little dolls around your living room that you talk to about the books. That’s creepy. Don’t do that. Especially if they’re headless dolls or you’ve cut all their hair off. Seriously. That’s weird.)

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My book club. Awesome. That’s right. No headless dolls here.

If you don’t know anything about my book club, let’s just say if it were a rocket ship, it would be the best, most intelligent, funniest, sexiest, rocket ship in the world. It would shoot fireworks out of the jet things as it flew into the sky and write “This is the best damn rocket ship/book club EVER” with its smoke trail while blaring “We will rock you” so loud from extremely large rocket speakers that it could be heard from earth. In fact, its launch would be broadcast on all channels and every website, Twitter and Facebook would live stream it (clearly I have little understanding of how to live stream something or how Twitter and Facebook work) and every person on the planet would wish they were on that rocket ship because it’s the most amazing rocket ship of all time. (If I had an Editor for this blog, she would tell me that paragraph was awful and too long and had far too many commas. But since I don’t have an Editor and I am my own Editor I can choose not to listen to my own advice and keep using tons of commas and run-on sentences because you can do that when you’re trying to be two people, an Editor and a writer that is, because you can’t be both at the same time, it’s just too hard. Wow, Melville would be proud of me for that sentence. It had great use of commas.)

OK, so now you have a proper understanding of the awesomeness of my book club. Because of our awesomeness, we can’t just settle for once monthly jaunts over to someone’s house, we need to go bigger. We had to go to the beach. (Yes, we had to. It wasn’t a choice. The beach called and we answered. Well, actually, we got really lucky because one of the members of our club happens to have access to a ridiculously amazing, beautiful house right on the beach with a private access to the water. Yep, let your jealousy grow, just keep repeating to yourself: don’t take it to the creepy headless doll level.)

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This is a bloody mary book club beach house style!

When we first arrived at the beach house, the weather looked a little dreary. It’s October and in the North East portion of the US that usually means colder weather. But, even though there were gray clouds and some rain, WE DIDN’T CARE because we had something better, we had VODKA (and wine and bloody marys, which may have vodka in them along with shrimp, I’m not sure how this whole bloody mary thing works really. Although if you think about it, it’s pretty morbid with a name that has the word “blood” in it and dead sea creatures hanging over the edges. Not quite a headless doll weird, but close.)

We also had copious, obscene amounts of dip, every kind you could imagine. (I don’t usually go around imaging different kinds of dip, but maybe you do.) We had 5 layer dip, hummus dip, veggie dip, cream cheese dip, other white cream-based dips that all taste even better when slathered on a greasy potato chip. We had copious amounts of those too. But, mostly, we had drinks and we drank them. It’s possible at some point we went out to dinner that first night. I don’t think we managed to talk about any books because, well, remember we had all that “dip” to fill us up.

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Look at all that yummy “dip”!

We did manage to play a raucous game called Cards Against Humanity that I would not recommend for the following types of people: People who are offended easily, don’t have a sense of humor, can’t take a joke, gag when discussing topics like pooping or picking your nose or generally have a problem saying the word “boobs” out loud. (Basically, keep it away from your kids and grandparents. Unless you have fun, hip grandparents. Then maybe make them say the word “boobs” before you start the game just to be sure they are really fun and hip. But it’s really not OK for kids under any circumstances, even if your kids like to say the word “boobs.” Just don’t do it.)

20171014_194704At some point, we all went to bed and I promise, when we woke up the next day still feeling groggy from all that “dip,” we talked about our first book! (We did. You think I’d lie about that? I don’t lie. I’m not the one that makes weird headless baby dolls sit around a table, remember? That’s on you.)

Part 2: A Scene at a Bar

In the style of The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Book background in five words or less: 1 story, 3 versions. Confusing.

(Side note: I’m not quite up for three different versions, so here are two. One of these versions did actually happen, although some literary liberties were taken. And I changed the names to protect the innocent.)

Version 1

20171014_211749.jpgCarrie taps her foot and belts out the lyrics to an old country song she remembers from her childhood. Her voice gets caught in the funnel of the band and swirls away.

“Haters antlers bark in Skokie,” Lizzie yells into Carrie’s ear. It takes Carrie a minute to translate this to “Hey, there’s another bar with karaoke. Want to go?”

“I don’t think so,” Carrie responds. She’s lost most of her senses already thanks to the loud horn and drums fogging her ears and stealing her voice. She didn’t want to lose her sense of pride to the tune of Islands in the Stream.

“Ann? Jean? Mary?” Lizzie calls to everyone else. “Home or karaoke?”

Lizzie lifts up on her tiptoes and leans over the bar to take a swig of Ann’s pink martini.

Ann’s too preoccupied to answer or notice tiny Lizzie sneaking a sip from her drink. The bartender has just placed a receipt for the bar tab on the counter in front of Ann. Her brown eyes glare as if she were trying to set it on fire. Carrie wonders what’s wrong. It takes a lot to make Ann angry. In fact, Carrie isn’t sure she’s ever seen Ann angry.

When no one answers, Lizzie says, “Fine, let’s go back to the house.” She looks disappointed. A sense of anxiety settles in Carrie’s stomach. She doesn’t want to be the one to ruin everyone’s time.

Ann picks up a pen. Carrie thinks she’s going to sign the receipt. Instead, she flips over the long white paper and scrawls a long sentence on the back. Carrie reads the words. Her mouth drops open.

“Ann, why on earth would you write that?” Carrie says.

“Write what?” Lizzie jumps up on a chair to see. Mary and Jean notice Lizzie’s nose pressed up to the receipt-turned-insult and lean closer, curling around Ann to get a better look.

“Wow, Ann, didn’t know you had it in you to write something like that,” Mary says. Her doe eyes have somehow become even rounder with shock.

“That sounds like something I’d write, but harsher,” says Jean, lifting her eyebrows with approval.

The bartender comes over to take the check and the women watch him like he’s prey. They can smell blood. Ann slides the receipt with her wicked words facing up. Her jaw sets tight. Her nostrils flare. She stands up, as if readying herself for a fight. She’s almost as tall as the bartender and she looks even more imposing.

The arrogant grin on the bartender’s face fades as he reads the words. He scratches his goatee. He folds the receipt and puts it in his pocket, but doesn’t look at the women.

“Your drinks are on the house,” he says. You can tell he wants to say something like “ladies” at the end of his sentence. Instead he clears his throat and runs his hands through his hair.

“Damn right they are,” Ann says.

Ann spins around, shoulders thrust back as if they’re the only things keeping her standing.

“Why did you do that?” Carrie whispers in her ear as they step out into the misty night. “If that pen where a knife it would have been like you stabbed him right in the gut.”

Ann’s heart beats fast. She can’t believe what she’s just done. She answers, wondering if she over-reacted, “because he wrote SOCCER MOM on our bar tab.”

“Ah,” Carrie says, understanding. “I bet he’ll never do something like that again.”

Ann shifts her mouth to the right in a satisfied smile.

Version 2

IMG951717.jpgCarrie taps her foot and belts out the lyrics to an old country song she remembers from her childhood. Her voice gets caught in the funnel of the band and swirls away.

“Haters antlers bark in skokie,” Lizzie yells into Carrie’s ear. It takes Carrie a minute to translate this to “Hey, there’s another bar with karaoke. Want to go?”

“Why not?” Carrie responds. She’s lost most of her senses anyway thanks to the loud horn and drums fogging her ears and stealing her voice. Why not lose her sense of pride to the tune of Islands in the Stream?

Lizzie leans in and takes a swig of Ann’s pink martini. “Stop nursing this and let’s go!”

Ann pockets the receipt she’s just scribbled on and glares at the bartender.

“What’s up?” Carrie asks.

She opens the crumpled receipt and points to the words SOCCER MOM.

“That’s what he wrote on the receipt.” Ann smacks the paper as if she wished it were the bartenders goatee-coated face.

Carrie gives her a sympathetic look and pulls her along, hoping karaoke will sooth the slight.

They leave the bar and step into a misty dark street. Most of the houses are shuttered, put away in the attic of winter. A few street lamps line the road like tiny runway lights leading them through the darkness.

“Country, I can sing country,” Carrie says as they turn onto an empty two lane road and spot the bar in the distance. “But anything else and I sound like a dying bird. The irony is, I don’t even like country!”

“Can we all sing together? I don’t know if I want to get up there by myself,” Mary says.

“I like that idea,” Jean agrees.

“I can’t wait! I’ve never sung karaoke before!” Carrie says.

They throw out group song ideas, Prince, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, their excitement growing to a fever pitch as they walk into a brightly lit bar, decorated like the inside of a fishing boat.

It feels as if a record scratches when they enter. The locals spin around in their stools and gawk. The women smile and laugh as they search the bar, looking in corners and crevices for a sign of a karaoke machine.

“Where’s the stage?” Jean casts her eyes around the bar.

“I don’t hear anyone singing,” Mary says.

“Shouldn’t there be a machine or something,” Lizzie calls as she marches over to the bartender, ready to get some answers.

“I have to pee,” Carrie says, hoping someone will solve the mystery of the missing karaoke machine by the time she returns.

Moments later Lizzie flies through the door of the bathroom while Carrie is washing her hands. Mary, Jean and Ann squeeze inside behind her.

“They have no karaoke!” Lizzie throws her arms up in the air.

“Just not tonight?” Carrie asks.

“Not ever,” Jean clarifies.

“What? Who told us there was karaoke here?” Carrie asks.

“I bet it was that bartender,” Ann seethes. “He probably lied to us.”

“Oh, the soccer mom guy? What a jerk,” Jean agrees.

“Hey, listen,” Carrie says, pointing up at the speakers in the ceiling.

“What?” Jean says.

“The song. It’s Free Bird,” Carrie explains.

“So?” Jean asks, her lips scrunching with confusion.

“Free Bird is like the most classic karaoke song of all time,” Carrie says. “It’s a sign.” She starts singing. “Bye, bye free bird, yeah.”

Mary adds her voice. Jean joins in. Lizzie holds an invisible microphone up to her mouth and slides across the floor in a Risky Business type move and straight into a woman trying to enter the bathroom.

They dance out of the bathroom, still singing Free Bird together, so loud that the people at the bar turn to watch them walk through the bar. They don’t need a karaoke machine or stage. For these literary ladies, the world is their stage. It’s an unconventional karaoke experience. But it seems even better than the real thing.

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