In SPECIAL DELIVERY, I wanted to show a travelling nurse come to help her mean, obnoxious grandfather decide on a health care plan when he's no longer able to take care of himself. The man has always been a menace, and his kids left home as soon as they could. Old age hasn't improved him, but the man loves food. And Karli learns that if she cooks for him everyday, he's easier to deal with.
Food is mentioned a lot in book 6, because food is what makes the old man love her, and she shows that she cares for him by cooking him meals. Of course, a romance is thrown into the mix, too. Mill Pond's mailman has kept track of Axel all these years, and he's the one who called Karli's mom to say that Axel needed help of some kind.
Here's an excerpt:
Axel was a banty rooster with an attitude. Karli knocked on the door with more force, ready to push it open, when a tall, lean man cracked it wide for her. She stepped back and stared. Not hard on the eyes.
He nodded a welcome. “You must be Karli. Your mom said you’d come to help settle things with Axel. I couldn’t come to the door earlier. I was helping him back in bed after changing his sheets.” Karli raised her brows and he said, “They weren’t wet, but he ate crackers and they were full of crumbs.”
The house had that “old people” smell. Keagan acted immune to it. He didn’t look like someone who’d live in Mill Pond. He wore his golden-brown hair pulled back in a short ponytail. Looked artistic. Of course, plenty of artists owned shops in town. At least, that’s what she’d heard. Her family never stopped by any of them, but that’s why tourists came here. She stared, riveted by his cobalt-blue eyes and long lashes, hardly even noticed the puckered skin and scars on the left side of his face.
He shrugged. “When I was a kid, I pulled a pan of boiling water off the stove when my mom wasn’t looking. It takes people a while to get used to how I look.”
She blinked. “I was staring at your eyes. They’re beautiful.”
His lips curved in a smile. “Mom said your mother was short and plump with straight, blonde hair. Not a bit like you.”
She raised an eyebrow. Was that an innocent comment? A compliment? Men noticed her coloring—thick, black masses of long, curly hair and brown eyes. She was a little overweight and didn’t give a damn. If a man wanted a model, he was sniffing after the wrong girl. Most men didn’t seem to mind.
She looked him up and down. Khakis instead of jeans. A thermal shirt that showed off his muscles. The man seemed awfully secure in his own skin. “Are you the Keagan my mom talked about?”
“Yup, that’s me. Mill Pond’s mailman. I know everyone in the area, and I notice changes when they happen. Axel hadn’t emptied his mailbox for a few days, so I decided to check on him. Just down with the flu, thank God, but his stove was on. It’s a good thing no pot was on the burner. I don’t know the last time anyone’s mowed the yard. He’s reaching a point where he shouldn’t be alone, so I called your mom.”
A gravelly voice called from the back of the house. “Damn you, boy! Couldn’t you just mind your own business? Leave me in peace?”
Keagan looked amused. “Sure, if I didn’t bring you groceries once a week and watch your house fall down around your ears.” He turned to Karli. “Don’t let the old man fool you. He’s like a kid. He has supersonic ears. I’ve found his stove on three times when I come, and the man doesn’t even cook.”
He was talking her language now. As a nurse, she liked assessments and specifics. “Hopefully, I can set up some kind of home care for him. If that’s not enough, I’ll help him choose a good nursing center.”
Keagan raised an eyebrow, doubtful. “He’s never made anything easy. You’ll be lucky if he cooperates with you.”
No matter. “If worse comes to worse, I’ll have to call in health services, but thanks for alerting us to the problem.”
He laughed. “I deliver mail. I’m Mill Pond’s watchdog.” He opened the door wider and stepped back. “Come on in.”
She crossed the threshold and stopped. Good grief. The inside of the house was worse than the outside. The rooms she could see looked as though no one had set foot in them for years. No one had dusted in a decade and cobwebs hung from corners. It smelled musty, and a faint scent of urine drifted from a back room.
Keagan pressed his lips in a grimace. “It’s not pretty. A woman comes in to clean his room every other week, but he won’t let her touch anything else. I fetch groceries for him when he needs them, but I think he stopped cooking a while ago. The only empty containers I’ve seen in the trash lately held applesauce, cottage cheese, and Ensure.”
Karli turned a serious gaze on him. “You’re awfully nice to a mean, old man.”
The voice called again. “Mean, huh? Which one of Donna’s miserable kids did she send? She was too much of a chicken shit to come herself.”
Karli was glad she could spare her mom this. She could have dealt with it, but thankfully, Mom had put her growing up pains behind her. Why stir them up again?
“I don’t see any other kids lining up to rescue you!” Karli followed the voice toward the back room—a depressing journey. The kitchen had worn linoleum flooring and a grease covered, four-burner stove. Flies buzzed an open can of peaches. She shook her head. “Can he get around?”
Keagan nodded. “Everything’s set up for his wheelchair, but he’s moving less and less these days.”
Keagan kept walking until they stepped into a three-season room. Axel sat nearly upright in a hospital bed, cranked so that he could see out the windows. He had on stained pajamas, and his steel-gray hair hadn’t been washed. A black garbage can sat close by, and the corner of an adult diaper drooped over its edge.
“For God’s sake, shut the damn thing!” Keagan cracked the lid and let the diaper slide inside, then quickly shut it.
Axel looked a lot like she remembered him—average height, lots of long, messy, gray hair, and a stubbly chin. But his shoulders were stooped, his frame withered, and his legs thin and frail. Age was taking its toll.
He glared at her. “I don’t need rescued!”
I want to mention right now that I've often posted free short stories, novellas, and novels on my webpage. I don't have the time to write free stories and meet deadlines anymore. I'm happy to post excerpts and news every week, but I know a lot of readers follow my page for the free stories. I just want to be honest and tell you that I don't have the time to do that anymore. And I love comments. I'd be happy to hear from you!