This July 4th, Americans will spend more on beer, wine than fireworks

Americans will spend $1.6 billion on Fourth of July beer and wine, surpassing the amount they are expected to spend on fireworks, according to a new report from WalletHub.

And AAA found that a record 48.9 million Americans plan to travel over the holiday, a 4.1 percent increase from last year.

“This holiday builds on the strong travel demand seen for Memorial Day, and with schools now out of session across the country, families coast to coast are eager to travel,” Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel, said in a news release.
For those living in Philadelphia or spending their holiday in the city, Visit Philadelphia compiled an Independence Day guide describing the annual Wawa Welcome America festival, which includes the Party on the Parkway, free or pay-as-you-wish entrance to 22 museums and attractions, and a birthday party at the Independence Visitor Center with Betsy Ross.
AAA warned travelers of delays near major cities, and the mix of commuters and holiday travelers on Wednesday was expected to make it the worst day for traffic. Delays nationwide are expected to increase about 9 percent, but around major cities, commutes could take up to four times as long.
“With record-level travelers hitting the road this holiday, drivers must be prepared for delays around our major metros,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX Inc., a Washington-based transportation analytics company.
The Fourth of July celebrations include an expected $1 billion being spent on fireworks, $6.8 billion on food, and $5.4 million worth of imported American flags, according to the WalletHub report. And 150 million hot dogs are eaten each year.
Although more Americans (61 percent) plan to have a cookout than celebrate with fireworks (40 percent), Philadelphia city leaders still encourage residents to leave the fireworks to those trained to set them off.
Last year, five people died from fireworks-related injuries nationwide, according to a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“While it can be tempting to get in on the action on July Fourth and other holidays, we always encourage Philadelphians to leave fireworks to the experts,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.
Most Americans do celebrate the nation’s Independence Day, but the National Retail Federation found in a separate report that total spending on food items is down about 5.5 percent from a high of $7.15 billion in 2017.
Still, Americans seem to be getting into the patriotic spirit. Two-thirds of Northeast Americans own an American flag and say they have themed-apparel, according to the report from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
Americans seem to be spending more on Independence Day in the Northeast, too. The retailers group found that this region will spend an average of $78.40 on food, anywhere from about $7 to $12 more per person than the Midwest, West, and South.

 

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25 Unexpected Valentine’s Day 2020 Date Ideas

On Valentine’s Day, the last thing you want to do is get stuck in a Netflix and takeout rut—or, worse, end up at a cheesy, overpriced, and decidedly unoriginal prix-fixe dinner. Whether you’re single, coupled up, or somewhere in between, ensure your V-Day is free of clichés with these non-boring ideas, below.

Have a Bonfire

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Stocksy

If you live in the suburbs, grab some marshmallows, chocolates, and s’mores, then spend the night cuddling up by the fire. Bonus points if you can make one on the beach.


Chocolate Tasting and Truffle Making

Instead of buying crappy chocolates from the drugstore, sign up for a masterclass in chocolate-making. If you’re in the tri-state area, spend the night learning directly from the pros of NYC’s Roni-Sue’s and bring home 12 delicious truffles to eat in bed.

Proceeds from the class will support the Waterkeeper Alliance, which “aims to preserve and protect water by connecting local Waterkeeper organizations worldwide and promoting outspoken, citizen-led advocacy. “


Dancing

Not at the club—we mean real dancing. You can take a class, hit a salsa club, or go see live music that makes you want to groove. For the former, we suggest something like the Valentine’s Day Dirty Dancing Party in Chicago.


A Ghost Tour

The convenient thing about ghosts is that they tend to hang around old cities everywhere. Bonus points if you find a spooky event that includes booze like Portland’s Haunted Brewery Crawl, which comes with beer samples and a guided tour. (Two awesome reasons to sign up.)


Ice Skating and Après Skate

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Getty Images

There’s a reason why couples are always hitting the rink in our favorite rom-coms—you’re pretty much guaranteed to get close to each other. Once you’ve had your fill of the ice, you can enjoy some hard-earned drinks. (Hot toddies, anyone?)


A Wine Bar Crawl

Instead of sticking to just one spot, hop from place-to-place and order different kinds of wine and tapas along the way. It’s waaay more interesting than a boring ol’ sit-down dinner. Of course, it doesn’t hurt stashing one away for later too.


A Scavenger Hunt

You can make up your own, complete with creative challenges, photo missions, and sexy prizes.


A Night at the Museum

A view of the interior walkways May 14,
STAN HONDAGetty Images

When museums stay open after hours, they tend to spice things up by throwing a party or holding a special event—especially on V-Day. Take an after-dark art tour for two like the one offered at the Guggenheim complete with chocolate truffles and champagne, accompanied by live music.


A Themed Dinner and Movie Night at Home

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Getty Images

Watching Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck fall in love in Roman Holiday is definitely more satisfying when accompanied by a big plate of homemade spaghetti and meatballs.


Go to a Basketball or Hockey Game

Use the night as an excuse to cheer on your favorite teams. For the more competitive couples, take a bet on the winning team and see who’s really buying dinner for the next week.

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 10

Barbara arrived last. That girl was constantly late. One day, she would be late for her own funeral. But, as she liked to say, she was ‘worth the wait’. I was in the garage when she pulled in, gathering the tools we would need tomorrow, for taking the dock out of the water and closing the boathouse. That meant I was the first to greet her.

She had changed her clothes before getting into the car, that much was for sure. There was no way that she could have gone out in public with what she was wearing – not without getting arrested for indecent exposure. She had on a short denim skirt that covered very, very little. On top, she was wearing a white shirt, knotted just under her magnificent breasts. Her lacy black bra showed through quite plainly.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if you told me that Barbara purchased her bras from a parachute manufacturer. She had extra-large hooters, and went to great pains to make sure that everyone knew it. The rest of her body was nothing special.

But Barbara’s face was like the Portrait of Dorian Gray: it revealed every vice and every sin that she had ever committed, considered, or even contemplated. She wore just that little extra bit of eye make-up, and her lipstick was always freshly applied. She was far from shy. I have to give her this much credit: Barbara was no home-wrecker. Guys in relationships were perfectly safe from her attentions. But single men – and, if the rumours had any truth to them, single women – were certainly fair game.

Teresa let Barb greet everyone and get settled in. Perhaps half an hour later, she called us all together. By then, most of us were on our second or third drink. Anticipation was growing, and tongues were beginning to wag more freely.

“Welcome, everyone!” said Teresa. “I want to thank our hostess, Eliza, for sharing her wonderful cottage and providing us with a place to play.”

– “You can pay me back tomorrow.” responded Eliza.

Teresa carried on. “The main floor of the house will be our main deck. The kitchen will be our communal galley.” She turned to point in the opposite direction. “The master bedroom – thanks again, Ee – will henceforth be the Captain’s cabin. As such, it is off limits to you scurvy dogs. Except for Lena, who will be sharing it with me.”

That led to a chorus of “Ooohs”, led by Ben and Barb.

– “Not like that.” said Teresa. There is a bathroom off the master bedroom, if the need is urgent. Otherwise, there is a very large bathroom upstairs, and another downstairs. Upstairs will now be known as the upper deck, and that is where most of you will be bunking. There are four bedrooms: Eliza and Claire get the first, Barb and Sheila share the second. Gentlemen, you are at the end of the hall. Ben and Craig will share, and Leo bunks with Eric.”

Leo looked at me, mildly concerned. He was a fussy sleeper, and did not know Eric well.

– “Teresa – sorry.” I interrupted. “I thought you had me rooming with Eric.”

– “I drew lots among the guys, Colin – and you lost. You’ll be camping in the den, right over there. I brought along an air mattress and a sleeping bag.” The den was on the other side of the stairs from the master bedroom.

Teresa then led us downstairs. “This area will be known as the hold.” she said. There was a bathroom, and a very large games room, featuring a pool table and a ping pong table (or table tennis, if you prefer). Further off, there was a storage room, and a laundry room.

That is where Teresa led us. “This room is off limits.” she said, indicating the laundry room. “It is the brig. This is where the dread pirate Redbeard is imprisoned. As Captain Fairwind, I will have the only key. Redbeard will not be leaving this room until we arrive in Barbados – for his hanging.”

“As for outside – for our purposes, everything between the house and the dock is considered part of the ship. That includes the deck, leading outside from the kitchen, the garage, the patio, and the boathouse. Your cars are not considered part of the ship. If you need to go back to your car, you are out of character there.”

“I have a copy here of your character sketch and the introduction, in case you’ve misplaced yours. These envelopes also contain some new instructions, as well as any items or money that you may be carrying.”

“We’re ready to begin. I want everyone to go and put on their costume. Then get yourself a drink, and we will gather on the main deck. Claire – here’s your envelope. Eliza …”

I was last – Teresa was sticking to the order she had posted in the kitchen. She handed me my envelope, with that lovely half-smile on her face, and whispered: “Good luck.”

https://lapetitemort17.wordpress.com/?p=268

 

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Another Life – Chapter 6

Marty was treating Caroline like the protagonist in a fucking Jane Austen novel – in another eight or nine years, he’d have progressed to holding her hand.

I had no problem with Caroline. Actually, I didn’t know her all that well. I’d been trying to stay away from her – and to keep her sisters with me – to give Marty some room. Lord knows what he was doing with it.

He kept asking me to go to their house with him – and I kept going. I asked myself why: really, I did. Maybe 60% of it was loyalty to my buddy. The rest? Fucked if I know.

Tanya was jailbait. Avoid at all costs. That didn’t mean that I was blind. She was funny, with a caustic sense of humor and a sharp tongue. Ron was probably right: one of these days she was going to turn into a proper little hottie. Couldn’t fault her taste in music, either.

Sam was a conundrum, shrouded in a mystery, wrapped in a nutbar. I couldn’t figure her out – and I couldn’t decide how I felt about her. Dumb as a bag of rocks. Pretty. Sweet, at times.

Best left alone.

Against my better judgment, I took up with Anne again. That was a mistake. We both knew it, right after the first time we ended up in bed. But it took a second fuck, in her bedroom, before we were smart enough to call it quits.

Then Marty invited me to a cottage party.

– “I’ll drive, if you can get us a case of beer.” he said.

– “Let me guess: we’re taking the sisters.”

– “If that’s okay with you.”

It turned out to be a massive party, with incredibly loud music, over 100 people, and a beautiful night sky.

– “Sit near me.” I ordered Sam and Tanya. I didn’t want either one getting into trouble.

Quite a few beers were drunk that night – many of them by me. I was feeling a bit … melancholy. Maybe it was breaking up with Anne again. But I snapped out of it when I heard the first chords of Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ blaring over the speakers.

– “Listen to this.” I told Tanya. “The drums. Everybody hears the guitar – or Ann Wilson’s voice.”

– “She’s awesome.” said Tanya.

– “I know – but the listen to the drummer. He’s kicking the shit out of this song!”

Tanya just grinned. She loved it when I talked to her, made her the centre of my attention. She listened to me for twenty minutes solid, as I switched to Zeppelin, trying to explain what made John Bonham such an incredible drummer.

– “Tanya? Could you get Uncle Joe another beer? And one for yourself and your sister, if you don’t mind.”

– “I’ll get them!” yelled Sam, as she sprang to her feet. She was no longer a brunette – she’d dyed her hair blonde again. Off she ran. Tanya watched her go, and then turned to me.

– “Joe?”

– “Yeah?”

– “If I was 18, would you go out with me?”

Shit. Shitshitshit.

– “Tanya – you’re a bright girl.” I said. She could tell that I was building up to a ‘but’.

“I think you like me.” she said.

– “You’re smart, and you have you good taste in music.” I told her. “You still have to recognize why Neil Peart is a fucking great drummer, too … but you’re pretty cool.”

– “You didn’t answer my question.” she said.

– “What was the question?” I asked. I’d already had more beers than I needed.

– “Here you go!” shouted Sam. She handed us both a fresh beer.

I have to admit it: I was on my way to getting seriously blitzed. I hadn’t intended to. But keeping track of Sam and Tanya was hard work.

We ended up sitting around a huge bonfire. Sam was drunk, and clingy. Tanya was drunk, and growing incoherent. I was drunk – and not sure what was going on.

I do remember someone hijacking the turntable, and putting on ‘Achilles’ Last Stand.’ Martin found us there. While Caroline glared at us, he got us to our feet. Somehow, we got the drunken sisters into the back seat of his car. I ended up in the middle, with a sister on either side of me.

Tanya was fairly wasted, and a bit queasy. We rolled down her window, and made sure that she got a steady supply of fresh air. Sam wasn’t so far gone.

I was. I saw her pretty face, hovering near mine. And I leaned forward – and kissed her.

Lord knows what I was thinking. Maybe I wasn’t thinking at all. Her lips tasted sweet, though. Sam tickled my lip with her tongue. I did what any red-blooded male would have done, and slid my tongue into her mouth.

Yes, I was kissing Sam. French-kissing Sam, to be exact. Marty drove, while Caroline talked to him. I kept Tanya’s head near the open window, in case she was tempted to spew. Other than that, I necked with Sam. I did have the occasional lucid moment, and I did ask myself: what the fuck are you doing?

I ignored myself, and kept smooching with Sam. She was a good kisser. I did pull back, once, to look at her. Maybe I was drunk. Actually, I was quite drunk – but she looked just fine. And she tasted very nice.

On my other side, Tanya was snoring. At least she didn’t puke.

Marty got us home safely.

https://lapetitemort17.wordpress.com/?p=377

 

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Another Life – Chapter 3

We took them to a movie – Dutch treat. I didn’t catch much of the film: Sam kept leaning over to whisper in my ear. “Who is that?” she’d ask. Or, “Why is he doing that?”

She had a hundred questions. Some of them were truly stupid. I think she genuinely had trouble following the plot. Or maybe she thought she had missed something important.

But it didn’t escape my notice that every time she had a question, she leaned over, rested her hand on my arm, and put her lips next to my ear. Once I even felt the pressure of her boob on my shoulder. Sam wasn’t skinny everywhere. Tanya kept shushing her. Sam tried to justify herself. I had to promise to explain the movie to her afterwards.

We went for ice cream (Marty’s idea). I kept my word, and summarized the film’s plot for Sam. It turned out that she really did think that she had missed a key scene, near the beginning. After that, she felt like she was struggling to catch up. Tanya rolled her eyes so energetically, I was afraid she was going to hurt herself.

I wasn’t sure that I believed Sam – not entirely. But while I was explaining the movie, I discovered a few things. For one, if I was doing the talking, that shut off most of Sam’s inane chatter. She listened attentively, with a big smile, her eyes never leaving my face.

It’s flattering, for an 18-year old guy, to have a girl focus on him like that – no matter how dumb she might be.

Besides, I had no problem looking at Sam. When she wasn’t saying something stupid, she was actually quite pretty: long blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a cute face. In fact, if she wasn’t talking or giggling, Sam was downright attractive.

She had narrow hips, and not much of an ass, but she was far from flat-chested. Then she giggled, and put her hand on mine. “You’re so smart!” she said.

It was like throwing a bucket of water on me. I immediately remembered where I was, and who I was with. I wasn’t immune to flattery, but …

– “I think she likes you.” said Marty, after we had dropped them off.

– “Great deduction, Sherlock.” I said, with a snort. “Lucky me.”

– “Come on, Joe – it’s not so bad, is it?”

It wasn’t. That’s why I agreed to go a party with Marty and the two older sisters a few weeks later. Tanya was there when we picked them up, and from the expression on her face, she wasn’t too happy to be excluded.

– “Don’t be late!” she said.

Marty drove. I picked up a case of beer. Caroline sat quietly; she didn’t say much at the best of times. Her older sister made up for it, with a non-stop flow of questions: who was hosting, would they know anyone there, could she have a beer – or two …?

The host was a friend of Marty’s, a guy from our high school named Jim. He had a cute sister, who had been a grade behind us. But if I had had any plans to check her out, those were immediately torpedoed.

Sam attached herself to me like a barnacle. She kept one hand on my arm at all times, as if she was afraid to lose contact. I couldn’t entirely blame her: she didn’t know a soul at the party. It didn’t stop her from asking questions about every single person there, though.

Did I know him? Did I know her? Had I dated her? Would I date her? Did I think she (another girl) was pretty? Could she (Sam) have another beer? Half of her questions I couldn’t even hear, because the music in Jim’s basement was on so loud. They were playing the Cars album – I’d heard it too often on the radio.

I steered Sam up the stairs, and into the backyard. It was a nice autumn night, with a clear sky. We sat down on a bench. To keep Sam from talking, I told her a long story, about how Marty and I had met, and become friends.

– “He likes Caroline.” she said, with a giggle.

– “Yeah, he does.” I agreed. “Does she like him?”

– “I dunno.” she said, with a shrug. Well, that made sense. I doubt that either of her sisters ever confided in her. Telling Sam a secret would be the equivalent of putting it on a billboard.

At that point, Jim came out into the backyard with a buddy of his. Introductions were made, and Jim said “Hope we’re not interrupting.”

– “Not at all.” I assured him. I didn’t want Sam to start chattering, so I asked Jim what he’d been up to since graduation.

– “Working with my Dad, mostly. Learning the ropes. Have to get started, if I’m going to take over the business some day.”

– “What kind of business?” asked Sam. I held my breath when she started to talk, but to my relief, it wasn’t a stupid question at all.

– “Men’s clothing.” said Jim.

– “Is it hard work?” she asked. I had to turn, and look at Sam. She worked in a major department store – in the women’s clothing department!

Jim started explaining the trials and tribulations of selling suits to ignorant customers, or cheap customers, and working with temperamental tailors.

– “And then you have to deal with the Jews …”

My eyebrows rose.

– “I’m Jewish.” I said.

Jim stopped dead. Then he started backtracking. “I was just … umm … I didn’t mean …”

I didn’t say anything. I just let him squirm. His buddy looked embarrassed. Finally Jim remembered that he needed to refresh his drink, and went inside.

– “I didn’t know you were Jewish.” said Sam.

– “I’m not.”

Jim’s buddy grinned. “Nice one.” he said. “Have to remember that.” Then he excused himself, and left us alone.

– “I don’t get it.” said Sam. “Why did you say you’re Jewish when you’re not? Was it just to make him stop? Oh … that’s it, isn’t it?”

I told Sam another story. “There was a kid in Grade 4 who got picked on, just because he was dark and had kinky hair. I didn’t stand up for him, then – but I knew I should’ve.”

“My uncle Ray lives with a woman from Guyana. Nice lady. My stepmother calls her names, makes fun of her. I call her on it. I can’t stand that shit. One more reason we don’t get along so well.”

Then I remembered something. “Sam, you work in clothing.”

– “Yeah. In a department store.”

– “Why did you ask Jim if it’s hard work? If anyone would know, you would.”

– “I know.” she said. “But … I didn’t want to start talking about my job. It’s not very important. Besides – I can tell … you don’t like it when I talk too much.”

“I know I’m not very bright.” she continued. “I say – and do – silly things. My sisters tell me, all the time.”

– “What about at work?” I asked.

– “I’m fine at work. I know what I’m doing. And if I have a problem, or a question, I can just ask Mrs. Maguire – my supervisor.”

This came as a revelation to me. Sam was … well, pretty dumb. But she knew it. In my limited experience, most stupid people have absolutely no idea just how ignorant they really are. On the contrary, many of them actually believe that they’re smart.

“I just … I guess I try too hard, sometimes.” said Sam. “I just want people to like me.”

– “I like you, Sam.” I said. At that moment, it was no more than the truth.

– “Really?”

– “Really.”

– “That’s nice.” she said, with a smile that didn’t look goofy at all. “You know, I was really impressed – what you said to that guy.”

– “Let’s get you another beer.” I suggested.

 

https://lapetitemort17.wordpress.com/?p=369

 

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A Unique Gift – Chapter 1

This is part one of a new series I want to write that mixes mind control with transformation elements. This is the first time I have written something primarily based on mind control and while this first part is very smut heavy later parts will have more focus on the mind control aspects for other purposes (as well as smut). I hope you enjoy and please give me feedback, it would really help!

*****

Jack sighed as he made his way to college. At nineteen he felt he should have more of a handle of his life than he did. He was stuck taking classes he didn’t enjoy and working a job he hated to pay for those classes. He had barely any friends and he hadn’t had sex in almost a year. Overall life was pretty dull. He sat down in his least favorite class, economics. Not only did he find the subject exceptionally boring it was taught by his least favorite teacher Miss Jameson.

She was extremely attractive and Jack, like most guys in the class, had grinned when they first saw her walk into their classroom. She was tall, just shy of six feet tall, with long legs, curved hips, a small waist and generously sized breasts. There had been quite the debate over whether they were D or DD. She didn’t just have the body, she had the face to match. She was very pretty with green eyes that was typical of someone with her red hair which she always wore in a neat bun.

Obviously with a teacher like that it was no surprise all the guys had been excited when they first saw her but it had been short lived. They had all soon realized she was a complete bitch. Always serious, always angry and always willing to berate her students for the most minor of transgressions. Jack had quickly learnt to keep his head down, keep quiet and stay under her radar. Which for the most part had worked. He folded his arms and rested them on his desk with his chin perched on top of them as she began her lecture.

She droned on and Jack felt himself getting sleepy as he listened. He wasn’t in the mood to take notes so instead he rested his head on his arms. He didn’t even realize he had fallen asleep until he suddenly heard someone shouting, loudly. He looked up to find the whole room staring at him and Miss Jameson seething with anger.

“I’m sorry am I boring you?” She asked.

“No sorry,” Jack apologized. This was the last thing he needed today.

“So what have I spent the last ten minutes talking about?” Miss Jameson asked. Jack tried to think, he looked at the clock and felt a pang of panic, he had been asleep for almost forty minutes.

“I don’t know,” he admitted to much smirking from his class mates.

“Come see me this evening, we need to have a talk about your performance in this class,” Miss Jameson clipped before turning to the rest of the room and continuing her class. Jack groaned, the last thing he wanted was to spend another hour with her at the end of the day. It wasn’t like detention like back in high school, no that was easy. Turn up, sit there for an hour, catch up on homework and leave. No this was worse. This was going to be an hour of being lectured and berated by the queen bitch.

By the time he got home Jack was exhausted. He made his way back to his house, which was a short drive from campus. It was the only time in his life he had ever been lucky. It was actually his sisters house, she was seven years older than him and seemed to be the lucky one of the family. She had graduated from the same college he was now attending and landed and extremely high paying job, which to Jacks fortune, meant she would be spending most of the next four years out of the country.

As such she had let Jack live in her house. It was close to the college and meant that she didn’t have to sell her house or worry about leaving it vacant for months at a time. So other than a few weekends here and there when she would be home, Jack had the house to himself. He unlocked the door and almost missed the small box someone had hidden behind the plant pot by the door. He picked it up, briefly wondering what was in the small package and went inside. He put the package down and made himself some dinner.

 

https://lapetitemort17.wordpress.com/?p=80

 

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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 2

As I expected, Eric had no plans for Thanksgiving weekend. He found the whole concept a bit twisted. He understood the appeal of trying to solve the mystery, but not the costumes.

– “You mean people dress up to do this shit?” he asked.

– “They do indeed.” I told him. “And so will you.”

– “Alright. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. There will be rum, right?”

Sheila was a lot more enthusiastic, when she answered my phone call.

– “And we get to dress up? Like pirates?” she asked.

– “That’s the plan.” I agreed.

– “I don’t have to be a saucy wench, or a watery tart?”

– “No.” I laughed. “That’s Monty Python, as you well know. This is Teresa we’re talking about: women can be pirate captains, and swashbuckle like the men. If that’s a word.”

– “What part do I get?” Sheila wanted to know.

– “Teresa will be letting us know once we’re all aboard.” I said.

– “Ooh – ship puns. Or is it that shit puns?” she said. “I better start practicing.” She held the phone a few inches from her face, and let loose a loud ‘Aaaaargh, matey!’ With her deep, mannish voice, it sounded awesome. “I love the idea, Colin. You can tell her I’m in for sure.”

I called Teresa with the good news.

– “Perfect.” she said. “Thank you, Colin. We’re almost ready to start. I’ll send out the introduction and the character descriptions. But I’d like to use you as a guinea pig, if you don’t mind. Can I show you what I’m planning to send the others, and get your feedback?”

– “I would be glad to help.” I told her.

We met at the cafe again. Teresa greeted me warmly once again, and then turned her laptop around to show me the screen.

– “Here’s the intro.” she said.

For more than three decades, the dread pirate Redbeard terrorized the Caribbean, plundering and pillaging far and wide. No one was safe: Spanish, Dutch, English and French ships and towns were all targets of his insatiable greed and bloodlust. In the course of his far-flung depredations, Redbeard was said to have accumulated a considerable treasure hoard. According to legend, the old pirate was too paranoid to bury his ill-gotten gains on some deserted island. Instead, he carried them with him, aboard his pirate ship, the notorious Sea Demon.

Finally, justice caught up with the dread pirate. An anonymous tip led the Governor of Jamaica’s soldiers to the Mouldy Maggot, a dockside tavern where Redbeard and members of his crew were drinking and roistering while the Sea Demon rode at anchor in Kingston harbour. Thoroughly inebriated, Redbeard was easily overcome by the redcoats, and captured. His erstwhile crew scattered to the four winds. The Governor loaded the dread pirate with chains, and confiscated his ship, the Sea Demon. The vessel was appropriated by the Royal Navy, and re-christened HMS Retribution.

The Governor has ordered Captain Teresa Fairwind to transport the prisoner to Bermuda, where he will face a swift trial and public execution. Captain Fairwind has been given the Royal Navy’s newest vessel, HMS Retribution. A new crew was swiftly recruited from the experienced local sailors and sea-dogs.

YOU are a member of the crew.

Read the description of your character, and dress appropriately. Further instructions will be made available upon arrival.

When I had finished reading, I looked up at her.

– “What do you think?” she asked.

– “Honestly?”

– Aren’t you always honest with me?” she asked, with that bewitching half-smile. It had been one of our favourite ‘pet’ phrases when we were dating.

– “It’s cute.” I said. “A bit melodramatic, a bit campy – like an old Errol Flynn movie.”

– “That’s fine.” she said. “Kind of what I was aiming for.”

– “And you’re the Captain?”

She nodded. “I thought it would be easier than coming up with complicated instructions for one of the players. Speaking of which: here are your instructions.” Teresa spun the laptop around, opened a new file, and then turned it back to face me again.

You are NED MULLIGAN.

– “Ned Mulligan?” I asked her. “Really?”

– “Remember that time you took me golfing?” she reminded me.

I did. Like most novices, Teresa missed the ball completely several times, but she also managed to knock three golf balls into the water, and hit two golf carts and a vending machine. She was able to laugh at herself, and enjoyed the outing, but she found the whole concept of a ‘mulligan’ fascinating’.

– “You mean I get to hit it again?” she wanted to know.

– “Yeah. Go ahead and tee it up again.” I said.

– “And it doesn’t count as a stroke?” She looked at me sideways, squinting, as if suspicious that I was trying to trick her.

– “That’s the whole idea.” I confirmed.

– “Isn’t that cheating?” she asked.

– “You wouldn’t do it in a tournament, or if you were playing for money. But it’s only a friendly game, and I’m the one inviting you to take a mulligan. A do-over.”

Now she just smiled at me. “Keep reading.” she said.

As a young man, you were a pirate, and a member of Redbeard’s crew. You were brave and clever, so that Redbeard made you one of his lieutenants. But he grew too bloodthirsty for your taste, and also promoted some unsavoury characters alongside you, including the Falcon, and the Scar.

You chose to leave his crew, and jumped ship at Tortuga, taking a bag of doubloons with you. Redbeard swore revenge, and offered a bounty for your head. Both the Falcon and the Scar vowed that they would earn that bounty. The Scar, in particular, promised to drink a toast from your skull. You have been on the run ever since.

You were in Kingston, Jamaica, and horrified to learn that the Sea Demon was in port. But you were equally delighted to learn of Redbeard’s capture – serves him right. You hear the gossip in the dockside taverns: Redbeard’s crew are all over the place. What if one of them recognizes you? The ship HMS Retribution is leaving for Bermuda. Is Redbeard’s treasure still hidden aboard?

You sign on as a sailor …

YOU HAVE – A PISTOL

YOU KNOW:

– THERE IS A PLOT TO FREE REDBEARD AND HELP HIM ESCAPE

– THE FALCON IS ABOARD, DISGUISED AS A MEMBER OF THE CREW

– THE TREASURE IS HIDDEN SOMEWHERE ABOARD THE SHIP

– YOU ONCE CAUGHT A GLIMPSE OF A LETTER BELONGING TO REDBEARD. IT MAY HAVE CONTAINED THE SECRET OF THE TREASURE’S LOCATION. UNFORTUNATELY, YOU ONLY SAW ONE LETTER … IT WAS THE LETTER ‘C’

– “There’s a treasure, too?” I asked. “Or is that instead of a murder?”

– “Both.” said Teresa. “I’m going to space out the murder mystery clues, so that no one can solve it on the first day. But I thought a treasure made sense. This will keep people searching. Plus, we can have multiple winners – solving the mystery, or finding the treasure.”

– “Very clever.” I told her.

– “How about the character description? What do you think?” she asked me.

– “Couldn’t I be ‘Wicked Ned’, or ‘Lusty Ned Longsword’?”

– “You’re Ned Mulligan.” she told me, firmly. “Get used to it. If it’s any consolation, that’s your secret identity. Until somebody else guesses or uncovers who you really are, they’ll only know you as Able Seaman Colin. Everybody will use their real name as an alias.”

– “How many letters are there in the treasure code?” I had to try.

She wagged a finger at me. “No more clues for you. Seriously, Colin – what do you think?”

– “I love it. The description gives me enough of an idea to base my character on. And I’m all pumped up to go out and get a costume. How does the pistol work? Do I have to get a replica pistol?”

– “No.” she said. “I’ll put the items on pieces of paper, so that people can hide them in a pocket, or wherever.”

We discussed the mechanics of the game, without getting too specific. Knowing the people who were participating, I thought it would work well. I was more than looking forward to it: I was ready to start that very day.

Teresa and I discussed the weekend and the game for a long time. We both had two large coffees, and were beginning to feel the effects of too much caffeine.

– “Walk me home?” she asked.

As we walked, we continued to discuss her ideas. She seemed quite taken with some of my suggestions, but wouldn’t give me any hints about whether she planned to use them or not.

– “And you’ll help people get costumes?” she asked, again.

– “I promised.” I reminded her.

– “I’ll hold you to that.”

 

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https://lapetitemort17.wordpress.com/?p=562

 

 

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