Wednesday Wardrobe & The Blue Angels: The Petite Professor

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The Amazing Blue Angels flying over Annapolis, Maryland. All photos by Stephanie Verni.

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For those of us who live in the Annapolis area, today’s a big day. Huge. It should be declared a holiday in Anne Arundel County where the Naval Academy is situated on the grounds of Annapolis in the city because the Blue Angels fly as part of graduation week. All of us, whether we know someone at the Academy or not, benefit from this wonderful tradition.

My clever mother booked us at the Severn Inn, which sits on the Severn River across from the Naval Academy, for the second year in a row. Our table was on the deck of the restaurant with a clear view of the river, the perfect vantage point to see the Blue Angels fly. I brought my Nikon with my super-duper zoom lens and strived to take some good photos to share with you. (Mind you, they travel at 400 miles per hour, and I am an amateur photographer, so I did my best)!

I also wore a new dress (yes, Wednesday Wardrobe | The Petite Professor segment will continue to run this summer on Wednesdays for fun), and I’m sharing what I wore here with you. My daughter and her friend also looked cute in their sundresses, and I’m posting their outfits as well.

If you have followed my blog for a bit, you know that I’m an author and that my first novel called Beneath the Mimosa Tree is set in Annapolis. I did my best to pay homage to our beautiful city, a place where I grew up and spent tons of time with family and friends. The actual neighborhood where Michael and Annabelle, the two main characters live, is the neighborhood adjacent to and up the hill from the Severn Inn. (I’m sentimental about my hometown; what can I say?)

The skills of the pilots who fly the Blue Angels marvel me every single time I see these planes fly. The precision of their flight patterns and their tricks delight all of us who put this day on our calendars year after year after year.

I hope you enjoy the photos I took today, and I hope you had a great Hump Day!

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Our group today!
Stylish high schoolers!
My husband and me.
Wednesday Wardrobe | The Petite Professor. Dress from Marshall’s, Calvin Klein shoes. Sunglasses by Panama Jack.

“Your stories give me hope,” she said.

 

Writer
Writer.

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“Your stories give me hope,” the woman said to me when she told me how much she liked Inn Significant. “Where do you get your inspiration?” she asked.

I told her I get my inspiration from people—mostly from people I know or I’ve loved along the way in my life.

“You are an optimist?” she asked me.

“I like to think I am,” I said.

“Well, keep writing. You give me hope for the future. Will there be a sequel to Inn Significant?”

“I’m toying with it,” I said.

“Well, stop toying and get to it. I want to see what becomes of these people.”

I guess to both of us, they are real, and not just characters. And in some way they are.

That’s a conversation I will treasure for a long time.

 

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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

Playing With Book Covers For An Upcoming Collection

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I’ve started the editing process for my upcoming book entitled, The Postcard and Other Short Stories & Poetry. So far, I’ve organized the stories and made a comprehensive list of what will be included and what is getting pitched. It looks like the book will feature 15 longer short stories, 25 pieces of flash fiction, and about 20 poems. Along with the organization comes the idea of what the cover of the book might look like. As a visual person, I need to have this in my head as I work toward completion. For me, the whole creative process of putting a collection together encompasses so much—the storytelling is at the forefront, but the book packaging is so vital as well. When you are in the business of independent publishing and act as your own curator, designer, and editor, it takes time to comb through each short story and decide if it is worthy of your readers. (You all put a lot of pressure on us to deliver good stuff, and we take making you happy as a reader as the most important aspect of our writing!) Then, of course, it takes time to make it visually pleasing.

I’ve organized myself so that I will work on one story a day, at least to get myself going and not slow down this process. I’ll read each story as a reader, and then I’ll start attacking it as an editor/reviser. It’s sort of fun to look at things you’ve written a while ago and then immerse yourself in it again, but this time with a more intense approach to getting the story just right.

Below are four possible cover ideas that I have so far. If you have any input on which is floating your boat the most, please comment below to let me hear your opinions.

Have a great Monday, you all. If you need me, I’ll be right here…editing.

stephanie verniThe Postard-2thepostcardcoverThe Postcard & Other Short Stories & Poems

Become A Writer, They Said.

This one got me giggling.

As I sat in my office this morning looking at all the short stories I am planning to include in my upcoming collection, I started to panic. The same thoughts go through my head as I start gearing up for publication. It sort of goes like the above meme as well as like this one below.

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We love to second guess everything we write. And worse than that, when a short story we wrote was written a while ago, we are so tempted to go in and change it. A lot of it.

Mostly what I’ll be doing is fixing things — making them better for the collection. I’ll edit, add, delete, embellish, extend, and then I’ll wonder if I did anything right at all.

That’s the way it goes as a writer.

We have confidence, and we lack confidence. It’s a never-ending cycle.

But we go through this oddly pleasurable torture for the love of writing, because we can’t imagine not doing it.

Even if everything we write isn’t just so perfect.

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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

 

Wednesday Wardrobe – The Petite Professor: Rompers & Jumpsuits

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So maybe this romper does harken back to Orioles Orange (PMS 1655, a number I will never forget as the former director of publishing for the ballclub), but I love it. It’s by Victoria Beckham for Target and the cute scalloped top is flattering along with the romper being all one color. It’s a quality piece and it’s fun. A tan might help a little. 🙂

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Jumpers and Rompers are HOT this year.

Why?

Because…

  • They are easy and breezy.
  • They are one piece, and a one-piece item (same color top and bottom) does not break the visual line of clothing, therefore making you look taller and often more slender.
  • They are comfortable.
  • They can be dressed up or down.
  • They are a great alternative to a skirt, dress, or pants.
  • They look elegant without trying very hard.

If you haven’t tried one yet, you may want to do so. You can find them everywhere, from Marshall’s to Anthropologie and Banana Republic (pictured below). You can spend very little or spend a fortune.

The two rompers I am wearing in today’s post were quite affordable. The orange one shown above I got last year, and is by Victoria Beckham made exclusively for Target. The other floral one below is from Marshall’s. This year, I bought a black romper with an open back, which I’ll save for a later post.

Even someone like me, who is petite (5’1″ with short, muscular legs), can wear this type of clothing. In high school, I was called “thunder thighs.” I’ve always had strong, muscular legs, and I tried not to let those words bother me. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been self-conscious of my legs ever since those days in high school, but with age comes wisdom, and now I don’t really care if my legs are “thunder thighs.” I’m not going to try to hide them all the time. I’ve learned to accept myself the way I am.

I’m still on the hunt for a jumpsuit, so let me know if you find one you love.

The lesson is always the same with dressing ourselves. We don’t have to have bodies like the models below, but that doesn’t mean we can’t love clothing and try to buy things that suit our frames.

We are too hard on ourselves.

Love yourself and be good to yourself.

Claremont Jumpsuit

Jumpsuit from Anthropologie

 

Romper From Banana Republic

 

Juniors' Candie's® Walk-Through Halter Dress
A fun, flirty version from Kohl’s
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An elegant black jumpsuit from Macy’s

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A floral number I got from Marshall’s last season…bringing it back out again this year

 

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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

 

 

 

When We Were Very Young

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The collection my mother gave me for Mother’s Day.

On Sunday—MOTHER’S DAY—my mother gave me quite a special present.

But first we have to backtrack to a few weeks ago when…

…my daughter, husband and I watched Goodbye Christopher Robin, a film about the writer A.A. Milne, and what happened after he created that lovable Winnie-the-Pooh character, along with Christopher Robin, who was based on his own son. While the story was melancholy to say the least, it made me remember fondly my love for Pooh. My daughter loved Pooh, too, and carried around Lumpy, the Heffalump, as a small child. She loved Lumpy more than anything.

So back to my mother’s gift…

As a kid, I had the four-book collection that A.A. Milne wrote in hardback. I asked my mother if she still had them. She said she wasn’t sure, that she may have given them away.

You know what’s coming…

On Mother’s Day, I opened my gifts, and at the bottom of the bag was something heavy. Bound together with a pretty ribbon were the Pooh books that were mine as a kid, and I will cherish them forever. I love books, and keep a small library of my favorites, often lending them to friends, unless, of course, they are super sentimental, and then, they have to remain at my house. Pride & Prejudice, A Christmas Carol, and Austen’s collection are among those, now with the A.A. Milne collection, that cannot be checked out from the Verni Library.

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My maiden name in the book in my 3rd-grade handwriting.

Winnie-the-Pooh stories remind us of innocence. Of friendship. Of the love that happens between friends that is good and pure and sweet. The books remind us that often the simple things in life are to be treasured and valued. Winnie-the-Pooh reminds us of our own childhoods, growing pains, and of finding our place in the world.

So…

The books are on my shelf, if you’d like to come and peruse them for a while.

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Remembering Venice Through Poetry

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I think of Venice often, even though it’s been many years since I’ve been there. It was the most unique and amazing place I have ever visited; Italy in general holds a special place in my heart because both my family and my husband’s family are of Italian heritage. Many people say the Grand Canal is the most beautiful street in the world; I think they may be right. Last year, in my Poetry class, we were asked to write a haibun and a haiku that flowed together. As we could choose any subject to write about, Venice was my choice. When I travel, I keep a copious journal, so it is easy for me to recall sights, sounds, people, and feelings I had at the time simply by referring to my journal, as I did when I wrote the following piece:

Haibun meets Haiku: One with Venezia

We hoist our luggage from the train. We follow the steps from Venezia Santa Lucia to meet the Vaporetto. I pause, convinced I am in a postcard. I touch my face. I am not dreaming. It looks exactly as I imagined, the history and miracle of this place. The sky above, blue, the hues of the city vibrant. In an instant, it seeps into my skin, my soul. A pigeon descends. I look at my husband; we have tears in our eyes.

Hotel Monaco delights us, Grand Canal and San Marco in sight. In minutes, I have become this place, feel its pulse, its people. Blissful pedestrians, bikers, gondoliers. The canals are clean, clear. We hear the swishing of the water—a relaxing sound. The magnificent buildings showcase their architecture. I want to absorb it, walk the streets and bridges, taste the food, see the stars and moon glisten off the canals. I want to be among its people, laugh, taste the wine. Our tummies rumble and we head for Dorsoduro. The canals echo, just us.

Heels tap streets, click, click—
gondolier sings “Volare;”
the city won’t sink tonight.

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Friday Fodder – Somes News & Updates

Happy Friday! I hope this post finds you well.

Instead of writing about just one thing today, I thought I’d touch on a few various things I’ve wanted to share with you from this week.

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First, I have a great book recommendation for you. The late Anita Shreve, author of books such as The Pilot’s Wife and Stella Bain, outdid herself with her most recent novel prior to her death from cancer. The book is called The Stars Are Fire, and it was picked as our book club book for last month. I couldn’t put this novel down. To me, Shreve’s writing is hypnotic; I love the way she constructs her paragraphs and chooses the perfect words for her type of storytelling. As a reader, I was swept away with her writing. As for the plot, it’s set in 1947, when wildfires ravaged towns along the coast of Maine. The story centers around one main character and her children, along with her somewhat mysterious husband. Shreve’s masterful plot kept me guessing—and guessing wrong in some instances—as I did not see a few of the paths the character took coming. From the darkness of the fires and the trapped feeling of a woman in a less than idyllic marriage to the lightness of the aftermath of a woman finding her place in the world, this book will have you rooting for our main gal and wondering what will become of her and the children.

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Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 11.28.02 AMSecond, it’s the end of finals (hooray!), and almost the official start of summer vacation. I still have grades to input and a few meetings to attend, but the semester officially ends today. Students in my sports communication classes gave presentations suggesting initiatives for existing sports teams; students in my public relations class completed their press kits and executed their press conferences; and students in my magazine class uploaded their final stories to our online magazine called NEXT STEP MAGAZINE. Finally, The Mill at Stevenson University, a course I co-taught with my fellow professor, Inna Alesina, wrapped up last week with a formal presentation to our client, Rails to Trails. It was a very productive and exciting semester, that also incorporated our helping to plan and execute the Eastern Communication Association Convention in Pittsburgh the last week of April. A BIG shout out to our colleague, Dr. Leeanne Bell Mcmanus (with whom, along with Professor Chip Rouse, we co-wrote our textbook entitled Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice published by Kendall-Hunt), for planning an amazing convention that left people talking about the event and the amazing cookie table that was the hit of the conference. I’m so proud of her, and now she will guide ECA as the president for the upcoming year. You’re the best, Leeanne.

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 11.26.51 AMThird, it was an honor to receive the Dean’s Excellence Award yesterday from Dean Amanda Hostalka that was presented to both Inna and me for our work with The Mill. It was an exciting launch of a new course in the School of Design.

Fourth, I cannot believe my son will be attending his senior prom tomorrow night. I promise to post photos so you can see how grown up he is as he will embark on his college career in the fall at Widener University.

Fifth, and last (but not least), as the semester winds down summertime fun is upon us, and as for me, some of that fun involves writing. I am working hard to get my collection of short stories out there, dabbling with the sequel to Inn Significant, and working on a new project that has sort of taken hold in my brain. I can’t wait to share some of these new writings with you.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend—and to my students and soon-to-be graduates, thanks for making my career so worthwhile. I wish you all the best with all of your upcoming endeavors.

 

Wednesday Wardrobe – The Petite Professor

At our university, we are in the midst of final exam week. It’s stressful and exciting at the same time because we know summer break is right around the corner. As such, I don’t have a lot of time to write an in-depth fashion post this week–I’m sorry. Grading is taking up every ounce of my energy. But I will share a few snaps of outfits I’ve taken as winter clothes have been put away and we are all embracing this spectacular weather.

I hope you have a good week, and I’ll be back next Wednesday to talk fashion, trends, and style.

Until then, love yourself, no matter your shape or size.




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Teaching’s In My Blood, And In the Blood of My Wonderful Mentors

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Dr. Leeanne Bell McManus and me co-teaching our first-year students.

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I remember my mother asking me the following question just as I was about to graduate from Towson University with a degree in Mass Communication:

Are you sure you don’t want to stay another year or so and get a teaching degree?

No, I told her. I did not. I did not want to teach high school or middle school or elementary school.

If I ever teach, I’d like to teach college, I told her. And we left it at that.

Three months after I graduated, I enrolled in the graduate school at Towson. I entered the Professional Writing program with a focus on public relations for the public and private sectors, as I was working at the Baltimore Orioles in the communication department. I decided to get that master’s degree because I had started to fall in love with learning and because I meant what I said—that maybe a master’s degree could get me a part-time job teaching at a college while I worked at the Baltimore Orioles.

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Fast-forward 25 years, and here I am, teaching full-time at Stevenson University in the Business Communication department where I instruct communication and writing courses.

I love my job.

I loved my job in baseball, too.

It all began after I was asked by a friend to teach a course in public speaking at Anne Arundel Community College back in 1993. I fell in love with teaching the way you fall in love with a person sometimes—rather quickly, like you’ve been hit by a thunderbolt.

My mother taught English for 30+ years, my aunts were teachers, my uncle is a college professor, and we all generally believe in the nature of education, so I’m not surprised that I fell for my new occupation just as they did.

You will not get rich as a teacher monetarily. Few do. But you get rich in so many other ways from it, ways that you cannot possibly ascertain a true price. It is, for the most part, priceless.

From my graduate professor Dr. Geoge Freidman (Towson) and Cheryl Klein (National University) to Mademoiselle Hammerstrom who taught French (her infinite patience was astounding) to Mrs. Shepard who taught History of Maryland and Mrs. Susek who taught Creative Writing, all at Severna Park High School…thank you so much for being great examples of the kind of teacher I aspire to be. And to Chip Rouse…my teaching mentor. I wouldn’t be where I am today without your constant guidance and support.

I’m still learning as I go, still trying to improve courses, and still looking for ways to engage students and get them as excited about learning as I continue to be. That’s why we attend conferences, pick each other’s brains, and read about new technologies and innovations for classroom teaching.

Teaching is a constant learning curve.

And I’m still thunderstruck.

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The students of travel writing class from a few years back, the first time I taught the course. I was so proud of them!

The Real People Who Have Inspired My Leading Men

BooksAs I did a few weeks ago, I thought I’d continue this series which was inspired by a fellow writer’s blog whereby he wrote a post about people who have inspired his characters along the way. I loved reading his insights and what informed his writing, so I’m going to continue doing so with people who have inspired some of my own characters in my novels.

Again, I’ll pick three, one from each book.

MICHAEL CONTELLI from BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE

BTMTNEWCOVER3-17.inddWhen I was little and my grandmother and grandfather (Nanny and Poppy) lived in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, on Myrtle Avenue, I would regularly visit. We didn’t move from New Jersey to Maryland until I was five, and I played with my grandmother’s next-door-neighbor’s child, named Michael, quite often. We would ride our trikes on the driveway and were little playmates.

When my grandmother passed away years later when I was in my mid-twenties and we were at her viewing, a lovely family came up to my mother to pay their respects. When I asked who they were, my mother told me they were Nanny’s neighbors, and that I used to play with their son, Michael. I asked them to show me a picture of grown-up Michael, and they did. He was big and muscular–a grown man now.

As I drove home from the funeral, I was stressing because I had to write a short story for the graduate class I was taking with Dr. Friedman at Towson University. The idea of a short story popped into my head as I thought about Michael and our days together as five-year-old kids. At the time, it begged the question: What would happen if you grew up next door to the person you fell in love with? And what if it didn’t work out?

The resulting short story is called Contelli’s Mimosa (Contelli was not Michael’s last name, I just pulled that one out of the air), and the story caused Dr. Friedman to tell me, as he handed back the story with a grade on it, that I might have a novel somewhere within the pages of that short story and that he hoped that someday I would write it. I trusted this professor more than any other, and he happened to also teach a course called Writing the Novel, which I was never able to take. My loss.

It only took me twenty years and the prospect that I had to write a book as my final thesis for my Masters of Fine Arts Degree (MFA) at National University that pushed me to turn that short story into a novel. Beneath the Mimosa Tree was born, with little remaining of that original short story, as I blew it up and started fresh. Incidentally, that original short story will be featured in my upcoming collection of short stories and poetry coming this summer.

Furthermore, of all the leading men in my novels, Michael is most like my husband, Anthony.

JACK THOMPSON from BASEBALL GIRL

BaseballGirl2018When you work in baseball for a while, you are surrounded by a lot of men, either in uniform or those who work in and around the sport. Jack Thompson’s character is that of a sports reporter with a bit of sadness to his storyline (I won’t tell you and spoil it).

I was friends with a lot of reporters when I worked at the Orioles, as it was part of my job to work with the media. Therefore, you come in contact with journalists on a regular basis. Jack, like many of my characters, is made up of characteristics of many people I know. And, if truth be told, in my younger days, I did go out a couple of times with someone who was a reporter and covered the Orioles, though no romance ever resulted from those interactions.

Therefore, Jack isn’t entirely based on that reporter, but more on what a relationship could be for Frankie with someone who was a really decent guy. That was most important to me overall; Jack had to be someone who had some commonalities with Frankie, which meant he had to be sharp, funny, vulnerable, and somewhat sentimental. I also didn’t want the romance to be only linked up with a ballplayer. I wanted readers to have someone grounded for Frankie, although many people have told me they wish there had been more with Joe Clarkson. 🙂

JOHN SALVIE from INN SIGNIFICANT

I know a couple of people who have served in the military and who have suffered from PTSD. One particular person even allowed me to pick his brain prior to writing Inn Significant to learn a little more about serving our country and being in the military.

John was a tough character to write (similar to Michael Contelli) because John had to be both macho and have his own thing to deal with as he fell madly in love with Milly. He is reserved and ridiculously patient, and I am neither of those two things in real life, so I had to find a way to write this male character who was believable. It’s not always easy writing the male lead because you want him to be realistic and so likable, and yet not be YOU at all.

John is based on a few people I have known over the years, however, his kindness was the one constant quality I wanted to hone in on with him. He may be fighting his own internal battle, but his love for Milly gives him strength and makes him that steady-Eddie she may just need.

That’s it for now.

For more about my books, visit Stephanie Verni on Amazon.com.

A WIP (work in progress) For My Short Story Collection – ISO Love in a Bottle

I’m blaming this entire work in progress on two things: Sting and Disney.

Sting because I got the notion for this story as I drove to work this week, and I’ve been waiting to write it as I let it sort of take hold in my head. Disney, because, well…we need a happy ending in this fairy-tale-ish story that I intended to be a little far-fetched, but still a little quirky and fun.

I’m planning to add it (when it’s entirely done…remember…this is a WIP, with the potential to change a lot) to my collection of short stories to be released late summer.

Hope you like it, and feel free to offer comments, as I love reader feedback.

Thank you.

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ISO Love in a Bottle

The first time Lizzie saw the bottle float by, she moved her buttocks to the edge of the dock and tried to grab it with her two bare feet as it bobbed below her. The second time it floated back around, the tide had become a little bit higher, and she placed herself tummy down on the dock and tried to reach it with her hands. No luck. The third time she saw it, the sun causing it to glisten in the water as the light reflected off the glass, two young boys had arrived at the pier with their mother, who sat along the shore with a book, to go crabbing. The boys ran up on the pier with their bucket and crabbing gear.

“May I borrow your net for a moment,” she asked one of the kids, and the one with the blonde hair falling over his eyes cautiously handed over the net.

“You’ll give in back, right?” he asked, hesitant to let go of it.

“I’ll give it back in two shakes,” she said.

“Whatever that means,” the boy said under his breath.

Lizzie raced toward the back of the pier where she believed the current would take the bottle. When she saw it moving her way, she steadied herself, legs wide apart, and gently put the net into the water, the two boys following and watching from not too far behind her. She caught it and pulled the bottle up from the water. Inside the bottle was rolled up paper, and she could see as she pulled it closer that there was writing on it.

“You got it!” the boy with the blonde hair shouted.

“I did,” she said, turning to them with a smile.

“Awesome!” the other kid, wearing a red Nike hat, said.

“What is it?” the boys asked, curious about the prize that was inside their net.

“I’m going to read the note.”

“What if it’s from a pirate? How will you get a note back to his ship?”

“That’s a very good question,” she said, taken with the boy’s astute insight. “Thank you for letting me use your net. I’ll read it and tell you what it says.”

“Promise?” the boys asked.

“Promise,” she said. “Now, you’d better get back to your crabbing before the they scurry away.”


The boys began lowering their stinky chicken wings tied with strings into the water, fastening them to the iron boat hooks on the dock. Lizzie walked back over to where she was sitting, feeling the breeze come off the water, as the sun warmed her body all over.

Her hand was shaking, and she felt like a child opening a present on Christmas morning after the long anticipation of the season.

A message in a bottle.

Suddenly, the sound of Sting’s voice popped into her head. Not the sound of Sting’s voice in the studio version The Police recorded years ago, but the one he performed acoustically on Inside the Actors Studio, a show she never misses. She was holding it. A message in a bottle.

Sting had always been one of her favorite artists. That voice, so unique, so definitively…Sting. Message in a Bottle had always been one of her favorite songs. She liked the rock version, the punk version, the acoustic version, and even the recent Bruno Mars version.

And now, here she was, sitting on a dock, uncorking a message in a bottle.

She popped the cork, which took a moment. The bottle had been properly sealed so no water could get inside it, although it looked as if some moisture had broken through. Using her pinky finger to pull the letter out, careful not to rip it at all, she finagled her way inside and began to shimmy it out. Trying to keep it in its rolled form, she got an edge and with the bottle secured between her two legs, she used her other hand to catch the edge of the paper and began to gently pull.

It took a few minutes of careful maneuvering, but soon, it was fully out of the bottle. Message out of the bottle. She began to unfurl it, noticing the penmanship and artistry of the writing.

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The letter began:

Dear B.O. (that would be Bottle Opener, not Body Odor):

 They say it’s always good to break the ice with a little humor.

 I tried.

 I’m glad that this letter has found you. You are probably wondering its origin. Where did it originate and from whom?

Let me assure you, I am not a pirate or a psychopath. I didn’t cast this letter off the side of a ship, nor did I pitch it off some Treasure Island. As disappointing and unexciting as this sounds, I cast it into the water from my kayak as I floated along the Chesapeake Bay as a sort of social experiment. It didn’t happen without concern, you realize. I worried that a boat would hit it and destroy both the bottle and the engine. I worried that it would get pummeled along some of the rockier parts of the Bay. (And here is where I must offer my sincere apologies to the folks at Save the Bay—it was not meant to harm the environment). However, in this age of digital communication, online dating, and virtual chat rooms, I decided to see if I could meet someone through the old method of a message in a bottle.

 It may sound ridiculous to you, whoever you are who has found this bottle, but after the dissolution of three horrible sequential relationships—I thought maybe I’d go in search of  love in an old-fashioned way and leave it to the universe. I figured it might work out better than a fix up by friends, a computer telling me who might be my best match, or my mother’s friends trying to hook me up with a friend of a friend of a friend.

 So, here I am.

 I’m a college-educated male, heterosexual, thirty-five, single, and I’ve never been married. I love dogs, but I don’t have one. I play golf twice a month, and Field of Dreams is the one movie that can almost make me cry. I like to read, which is good, because being alone most of the time offers plenty of time for that. I run three times a week and lift weights twice a week, so I try to keep in shape. I just started biking, but what I’d really like to have is a boat along with the kayak I mentioned previously, only I’m sometimes indecisive and don’t know exactly which one I want to buy. I have good friends who maybe raised an eyebrow when I told them of this bottle experiment, but they generally think I’m a good guy with a solid head on his shoulders. I live in a moderate home near the water, but not on it, and I have a solid job as an actuary, where I crunch numbers and analyze things. Mostly I solve problems related to risk.

 And so here I am today taking a risk: a last-ditch, ridiculous risk, to see if someone out there might have the potential to be my better half. Or at least my other half. Or maybe just someone to go to the local firehouse with on Friday nights to play Bingo. (That last part was a joke.)

 If you are a woman reading this and happen to be single seeking a nice man to spend time with, I may be your guy. I like drinking wine or a cold Blue Moon at sunset as the sun fades over the water, and I may even recite one of the two lines of Wordsworth I remember from my days taking poetry class as one of my general electives. I’ll keep those particular passages to myself for now, but please know I’ve got two memorized lines of prose set aside as romantic arsenal.

 If this bottle finds its way into your hands and you have the slightest inclination to see who is the author of this letter, I have a plan.

 For the next six months, on the first Friday of every month, I’ll be waiting to meet you at a restaurant called The Bridges in Queenstown, Maryland near the Kent Narrows Bridge. I’ll be sitting in the far right corner of the restaurant overlooking the docks and water at 7 p.m. wearing a yellow golf shirt and khaki shorts (unless it gets cold, then I may be in jeans depending upon the month you find this letter and seek out its owner). I have dark hair and brown eyes, and I’m about 5’10”. I’ll be waiting.

 Please join me. Take a risk. What have you got to lose?

 Nick

 Lizzie held the note in her hands and looked out across the water.

Charming, she thought.

She had no way of knowing the date of the letter, as it was not written on the paper. Nick had neglected to do that. Would he still be there waiting on Friday nights? Was the letter months old or years old? Was he really thirty-five, or was he forty by now? And was he even still single? Maybe he had found someone in between writing the letter and now and had recited Wordsworth to someone new as they drank a cold Blue Moon and rode off into the sunset together.

Lizzie slapped herself.

Get a grip, she thought.

This is fantasy. Made up. It’s not real. People don’t meet like this…not this way.

No…they meet on Match.com or at a bar downtown at one in the morning when they’ve had one too many. They meet at work or at a sports event. They meet at a business mixer or at a corporate function or through friends and colleagues.

They don’t meet by reading a charming, eloquent, and heartfelt message in a bottle.

Today happened to be Thursday. Tomorrow would be the first Friday in July, and she was sitting here in her spot enjoying her summer break from teaching contemplating acting on this message. She lived her life so conservatively, so by the book. She’d never done anything impulsive in her life. Lizzie felt the wind in her face and wondered why Joe left her right after New Year’s for the young blonde he hired in accounting. She still wasn’t entirely over the hurt of it.

Lizzie was thirty-seven, a couple of years older than Nick, the letter-writer, depending upon, of course, when he penned that letter.

She, in fact, was single.

And she loved Wordsworth.

The two kids approached her with a big blue crab in their net.

“Look at this guy we got!” they exclaimed, proud of their conquest.

“Amazing!” she said. “What a catch? Are you going to keep him or thrown him back?”

“Throw him back, of course,” the kid wearing the Nike hat said. “We don’t know how to cook them and my mother won’t boil the crabs. She says that’s mean to do to animals.”

“Well then, just be excited about capturing him, and let him swim free when you’re ready,” she said.

“What did the letter say,” the blonde-haired kid asked, pointing to the letter she was clutching in her hand.

“Well, see that spot over there where the sand is white and it meets the river?”

“Yes,” they said.

“Apparently, the guy who wrote this letter, who may or may not be a pirate, said that’s the spot where he found some cool things that washed up to shore. You may want to investigate when you’re done crabbing and see if you find any loot…or any interesting items.”

It was a half-lie, she knew. But how do explain a desperate, but adorable love letter to a couple of six year olds? Plus, when she was little, she did find several interesting things that washed up on the shore over there…some fish skeletons, an old watch, and a St. Christopher necklace.

“Cool,” the boys said. “See ya.” And they walked back over to their bucket of smelly chicken and twine.pexels-photo-129441.jpeg

*

Lizzie showered and did her makeup and hair. She took her time to look just right. I mean, we were talking about Wordsworth, after all. Would he be surprised to know that she teaches high school English? Would he want to read some of her own intimate poetry she’d been hiding in her bedside table, too afraid to share with anyone? She put her hair in a high ponytail and wore the red spaghetti-string summer dress she loved. She selected a simple pair of silver earrings and her favorite bracelet. On her feet: a pair of cream-colored espadrilles. Not too fancy or too casual, she thought.

She informed her own match-making mother that she was potentially meeting someone on a blind date if the timing worked out, and when her mother inquired as to how she knew the gentleman, Lizzie told her that she didn’t know him, but that she was meeting in a public place and that she would be fine. She also reassured her that she had her cellphone on her with the ringer turned way up high just in case, which settled her mother’s nerves. She didn’t tell her about the message, the bottle, or the sentiments expressed on the page.

On her drive across the Bay Bridge, she opened her moon roof and let the smell of the summer’s air fill her car. It was a beautiful evening. She had tucked the letter into her purse, leaving the bottle behind on her kitchen counter. She found the playlist she wanted. The Police.

She cranked the volume, and began to sing along…

“Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh
Another lonely day, with no one here but me, oh
More loneliness than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair, oh…

I’ll send an S.O.S to the world…”

*

“Can I help you?”

“Yes,” Lizzie said. “I’m meeting someone…a man named Nick?”

“Not sure,” the hostess said. “Is this a blind date?”

“Kind of,” Lizzie said, not knowing fully what it was, but not wanting to take the time to explain. “I’ll just go look for him.”

“Sure,” the hostess said, then turning to the next people in line.

Lizzie walked inside the restaurant. The views of the water were spectacular, and it was a beautiful night to sit outside. He said he’d be wearing a yellow shirt and khaki shorts and that he’d been in the corner. She scanned the room for anyone in yellow, and then allowed her eyes to move to the right side of the restaurant where the walls met in the corner near the window.

A man.

A man having dinner in a yellow shirt wearing khakis.

Lizzie’s hands began to tremble, and she swallowed hard.

He was handsome, with dark hair and a receding hairline. He looked fit, and had tanned skin from being outside. Lizzie conjured up all the courage she typically never had and dared herself to walk over to him and give this thing a try.As she approached him, he looked at her, and she reached inside her purse to grab the message that was inside the bottle.

He looked up at her and smiled.

“I believe this belongs to you,” she said, holding out the letter for him to see.

He stood and pulled out the vacant chair at the table, motioning her to join him.

“And I believe this chair belongs to you,” he said.

***

copyright 2018/Stephanie Verni/from The Postcard & Other Short Stories & Poems