It's officially summer (well, to us anyway, calendar be damned) and so it's officially time for a beach read. Claire Cook has been releasing crowd-pleasers like Seven Year Switch and Life's a Beach just in time for the sun-and-sand season for years, and 2011 is no different. Best Staged Plans follows Sandy Sullivan, a professional home stager in the Boston suburbs who finds that she, herself, is in need of a change in scenery. Here's an excerpt from the first chapter:
Read more excerpts at Kirkus with Amy Finley's How to Eat a Small Country.
Okay, so I accidentally wrapped my reading glasses in one of the packages I mailed.
“It could have happened to anyone,” I said to my daughter Shannon.
“Wow, that’s pretty lame. Even for you, Mom.” The all-knowingness of her three-and-a-half months of marriage reverberated through the phone line.
I ignored it. “If you get them, just mail them back, okay, honey?”
The minute life starts getting easier, your eyes go. So the time you once spent looking after your kids is now spent looking for your reading glasses. I hated that.
“Good one, Sand,” my best friend Denise said when I called her next. “Remember that time you left Luke at the pediatrician’s office in his baby carrier?”
“Your point?” I said.
As if summoned by the decades-old reference, Luke lumbered into the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. He nodded once, either by way of thanks or a belated good morning, then turned and thudded his way back down to the bat cave.
“Good morning to you, too, honey,” I yelled after him.
I was packing up our old life in order to drag my husband kicking and screaming into a new one. The rest of the morning’s boxes were still sitting on the kitchen island, so I rifled through them quickly. Styrofoam packing peanuts fluttered to the floor like a dusting of snow. As soon as each box proved itself glasses-free, I tore a strip from a mammoth roll of packing tape and sealed it shut.
It’s not like I didn’t have other readers. There were at least a dozen pairs scattered throughout the house. Somewhere. But this pair had been my hands-down absolute favorite. Midnight blue with subtle black stripes and a little extra bling from some silver detailing on the sidepieces. The perfect strong rectangular shape to offset my swiftly sagging jaw line. Unique in a world of boring drugstore glasses, they were my go-to readers whenever I needed to see anything smaller than a breadbox. The only thing about them that drove me crazy was their tendency to fall off my face when I leaned forward.
It turned out to be their fatal flaw.
Once I’d determined that they’d left the premises, I’d retraced my steps to the post office. The man who’d waited on me earlier was a total jerk. So, of course, wouldn’t you just know he’d still be working when I walked back in.
A kind of angry arrogance radiated from this guy, maybe fueled by the inadequacy of a spindly gray ponytail that petered out inches after it began. “Anything liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous?” he’d always ask in such a bullying tone that he’d manage to convince me I was a closet pyromaniac and he was the first to catch on.
I thought my best bet was to strategize to get the nice woman at the other end of the counter, so I counted the people in the single line, divided by two, and gave up my place to the person behind me.
Somehow I still got the mean guy.
“Anything liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous?” he sneered.
“Yeah,” I said. “Apparently my life.” I laughed my best laugh, the one designed to melt the heart of even a great big bully of a jerk.
His flat eyes scanned me like a barcode. “This. Is. Not. A. Joking. Matter.” He took a slow step back and reached for something under the counter. An alarm? A can of Mace? A double barrel shotgun?
I held up one hand like it might actually protect me. “Sorry,” I said. “Sorry, sorry, sorry. It’s just that you’re not going to believe what I—”
His hand was still under the counter. The crowded post office had gone quiet. I seemed to have fallen into a Seinfeld episode. The guy behind the counter was the post office Nazi. I was Elaine. At least I hoped I was Elaine and not George. Or even Newman. Oh, God, please don’t let me be Newman.
“Answer. The. Question.”
“No,” I said.
One gray eyebrow shot up. “No? You’re refusing to answer the question?”
“No,” I said. “No is the answer to the potentially hazardous question.”
The whole room was staring. I tried to imagine a graceful segue to getting my packages back just long enough for a quick peek inside. No post office rules about once you send them, neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor reading glasses can impede your packages’ journey to their final destination. No extra charge for double mailing. Ponytail Guy would even help me tape my packages back up with federally funded tape.
I shook my head. “Never mind,” I said. “Final answer.”
Excerpted from BEST STAGED PLANS by Claire Cook. Copyright © 2010 Claire Cook. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.