Going for Kona
“Back of the Book” Blurb:
The Hawaii Ironman triathlon was her husband’s dream, and now in the wake of Adrian’s hit-and-run death, Charlotte Hanson attempts to maintain her connection to him by continuing to train for it alone. Immersed in her own grief, she becomes a spectator to the rest of her life. Her teenage son feels angry and abandoned, spins out of control, and becomes a suspect in Adrian’s death. She loses touch with her step-daughter, who moves in with her birth mother.
It is not until Charlotte comes to believe her husband’s death was murder, and that his killer poses a threat to her son, that she begins to claw her way back. Can she convince the police to redirect their investigation away from her son? Will she identify and stop the killer in time to protect him? Does she have the strength to work through injury, responsibility, and the demands of her self-appointed roles of investigator and avenger and still complete her Ironman quest? And can she mend her damaged relationships, overcome the powerful grief that has consumed her, and find the reason and strength to return to life?
Keep a box of tissue handy, but be ready to laugh, too. Gritty but vulnerable, prepare to cheer for and yell at the high-strung Charlotte as she does the best damn job she can under the worst of circumstances. One part mystery, one part romantic tragedy, one part the story of Charlotte’s physical and emotional strength, and all parts her struggle to prioritize her needs against those of her son. Think “Rose moves from ‘Titanic’ to ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ where she fights to save her child.”
About Going for Kona:
Going for Kona is a completed upmarket women’s fiction manuscript of 80,000 words. Pamela Fagan Hutchins holds the copyright to Going for Kona and all rights are reserved. It has yet to be submitted for consideration for agency representation. If you like what you read and would like to make an agent referral, don’t hold yourself back, though.
Going for Kona, Chapter 1
Pamela Fagan Hutchins
My pink bike sliced through the early morning fog at 20 miles per hour. The heavy dew collected on my sunglasses, making it impossible for me to see County Road 2672 extending in a crooked line in front of me. I shouldn’t have worn the glasses, but it was too late to take them off unless I pulled over, a tricky proposition in a stream of over one hundred blinded cyclists.
“I can’t see shit,” I said to my husband.
“I don’t see any either,” he said.
A laugh escaped my nervous lips. “Adrian. I’m serious. I need to take off my glasses.”
Before he could answer, we both swerved to avoid a bicyclist pedaling in the center of the road, just fast enough to stay upright.
Objects in fog are closer than they appear.
“Excuse the cart, please,” Adrian shouted at him, like the annoying mini-shuttle drivers in the walkways at DFW airport, but with his customary joie de vivre. When Adrian shouted at people, they smiled. As did this fellow, moving to the right.
“Sorry! Have a great ride!”
“You, too,” Adrian said.
I licked the moisture off my lips, then reached up and wiped them with my gloved hands. I only succeeded in smearing the condensation around. I didn’t dare touch the glasses.
“I really can’t see. I either need my glasses off or we need to slow down.” Given a choice, Adrian – a competitive triathlete – never slowed down. “I’m afraid we’re going to hit a cow or something.”
Adrian snort-chuckled. “Charlotte, no self-respecting cow would wander onto the road with all these bicycles zipping by.” He pointed to our right. “That’s what all that barbed-wire is for, anyway.”
“You didn’t grow up around here like me. Cows are stump dumb. And they love to cross the road.”
“You’re thinking of chickens.”
He couldn’t see me roll my eyes behind the dark lenses of my (wet) glasses. “No, cows always go for the grass on the other side of the fence or the road or the ditch or whatever is in their way. I grew up on a ranch. I’m a certified expert in bovine behavior.”
A rider passed Adrian on the left, so close that he almost nicked him. Deliberately close. Adrian didn’t yield an inch. “Whoa, buddy, watch yourself, share the road, save a life,” Adrian said.
“What an asshole,” I said. “I hope he falls.” I didn’t really mean it, though. Cycling wrecks could be deadly. Still, I hated jocks who tried to send a message of athletic superiority, much less at the expense of Adrian who could, as he would say when he got “jacked up” for a race, “make all’a you my bitch”. Nice. But he spoke no lie. Adrian had just qualified for the Hawaii Ironman in Kona; he only let the guy pass him because of the event we rode in. The Tour of Navidad Valley out of tiny Schulenberg, Texas attracted novice cyclists from youth to pre-geriatric. And it was a tour, not a race. Who needed these testosterone-fueled city riders to ruin it for the rest of us? Besides, truth be told, I could probably smoke him, too, and his bad manners made me yearn to open up the throttle with Adrian and teach him a lesson.
“Relax. Breathe. Enjoy.” Adrian relaxed enough for both of us, in a good way. How he could love my tightly wound ass, I’d never know, but I would thank God for it every minute of the rest of our lives.
“Holy shit!” a male voice in front of us, although not far in front of us, screamed. “Watch out!”
A din rose from the voices around us, the owners of which were invisible in the dense fog. Watch out for what? How? Where?
Another shout. The sound of a bicyclist going down. I gripped my back brake. No response. Wet brakes. I pumped them rapidly, attempting to burn the moisture off with friction. I heard another crash and an, “oomph.” And then I saw it. A large dark presence only a couple of feet in front of us, moving from our right to our left. I swerved to the right as quickly as I could without losing traction. Adrian swerved, too, but my trajectory limited his.
Adrian crashed head-on into the half-ton Brahma cow with an anticlimactic thump, followed by the clatter of man and bike hitting pavement. All around me, I heard more riders falling, one after another, like a pile-up on Interstate 45 North at rush hour. Amazingly, the cow not only absorbed most of the impact, it absorbed the sound as well. Maybe it tucked it into the huge hump over its shoulders, or hid it in the dewlap folds hanging under its neck. It grunted. It lowered its horned head and shook it, slinging snot and its droopy ears, then switched its tail, a long string with a black tuft at the end that even now swatted away flies attracted to its barnyard odor. The gray giant bellowed suddenly, causing the smattering of cyclists to gasp. And then she simply walked off the other side of the road into the fog and vanished, leaving the rainbow of carnage behind her.
“Adrian!” I couldn’t get back to him at first because of the other bicycles. Calls of “rider down” still rang out and almost everyone came to a stop rather than trying to wind their way through the rubble. I laid my bike in the grass off the shoulder and ran back to my husband. He already had popped to his feet and was rubbing the gravel out of his road burns.
“Baby, are you OK?”
He looked up at me, still bent over at the waist – and even in the dim visibility, 45-year old Adrian in this posture drew the eyes of all the female and most of the male cyclists gathered around. He said, “What was that you were saying about hitting a cow?”
I groaned. “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s my fault. I summoned it out of my subconscious.” I rubbed some grit off his backside. He probably could have done it himself, but it made me the envy of his audience, and I enjoyed it, too. “Seriously, are you hurt?”
Now he stretched and flexed, showing his bicycling shorts and tight Mellow Johnny jersey to their best advantage. I knew he had to test out his parts, but I suspected he was playing to the crowd. “Nothing another 72 miles on the bike won’t cure.”
Adrian grabbed his fancy schmancy triathlon bike by the seat and dropped it lightly onto its wheels. No bounce. Flat tires. Two of them. We looked at each other.
“Bad cow,” I said. We grinned. “Do you want me to change one tube while you change the other?”
Adrian sucked his top lip inside his bottom one. “Um, small problem. I used the tubes last weekend, and I forgot to replace them.”
I took off my sunglasses, finally, and smiled wider at him. “Not completely unprecedented.” Adrian danced a half step behind the beat of life, but he moved his moneymaker so well no one complained. Besides, I imagined Adrian could snap his fingers in this crowd and tubes would rain down on his golden head, into his finger-length waves.
“Adrian Hanson?” The man speaking to Adrian stood a few feet away, peering closely at my husband as if to confirm recognition.
“I’m Connor Dunn. We haven’t met in person, but I recognize your picture from your byline.”
Adrian worked as a sports writer, although to be honest he wrote mostly about triathlon: running, bicycling, and swimming. He attracted attention not only for his looks and athletic talent, but also because devotees of the sport often recognized him from the picture in the bio that ran with his column and articles.
“Sure, I know the name. We’ve corresponded.” Adrian turned to me. “Allow me to introduce my wife, Charlotte.”
“A name I know well from Adrian’s writing. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you as well.”
Before the ensuing awkward silence settled over us like volcanic dust, the man continued. “Look, I couldn’t help but overhear that you need tubes, and I have a few spares. Why don’t you bring your bike over here,” he gestured back at his bicycle and a woman waved at us, on the opposite side of the road from where mine lay, “and you can fix your flats.”
“Wow, that’d be great. Thanks,” Adrian said, and he immediately started moving in that direction. The Tour might not be a race, but that didn’t mean Adrian wanted to lollygag. He would be itching to get back onto the road.
“I’ll just gather my,” I said, trailing off as I realized neither man listened to me, “things.” Well, Adrian would be able to see me 15 yards away, if he missed me. I pulled out my iPhone and texted our kids, Natalie and Sam. “Dad/Adrian ran into a cow on his bike. No lie. What’s up with y’all?”
I clomped back to my bicycle in my cleated shoes.
A woman followed me. “Do you know that guy?” she asked. I wore a good 10 years more life on me than this “girl.” She wore hot pink and white bicycling gear and full makeup with coordinating lipstick. I supposed men found her attractive, although, like Snow White’s stepmother, I didn’t like facing evidence that I might no longer be the fairest in the land.
“Yes. He’s my husband.”
“Oooooooh,” she said.
Don’t act so surprised, missy.
I bared my teeth in what might pass for a polite smile. You’re acting like an insecure ninny. He loves you. I tried again. “Why do you ask?”
“No reason. Just wondering. Did that other man say your husband was a writer?”
Did he? Actually, he didn’t. “No, but he is.”
“Wow, he’s amazing. Do you guys live near here?”
“Not really.” Amazing? I might think so, but I couldn’t believe a woman we had never met would say that to me. What’s with all her questions? I didn’t like this.
“I drove over from Houston for the race today,” she offered.
I ignored her statement and shifted my feet around. I’d give her one more minute and then I’d have to cut this off.
“Who does he write for? Maybe I can read some of his work. Hey, maybe he’ll write about this race. Do you think he’d want to interview me?”
It’s not a race. I lied, “Oh, no. He’s won’t write anything about this event.” I knew as sure as I was certain her breasts were implants that Adrian would write about his cow collision, but my instincts told me to keep this woman away from him. “He’s freelance writer. He writes for a lot of different publications. But he has a monthly column in Multisport.”
She sort of giggled. Suddenly, I hated younger women with bigger tatas than me who giggled. “Well, I’ll have to know his name if I’m going to find his writing,” she said.
I looked at my husband as I mulled over her request. Odd. Adrian and the other man had stopped working on the bike and were engaged in a serious discussion, heads together. Didn’t they agree they’d just met? The woman who had waved at us earlier stood within the zone of their conversation, but didn’t appear as intensely involved. The man punctuated his speech with sharp nods of his head accompanied by smacking his closed fist into his other open hand. He wasn’t just intense; he was upset. Adrian glanced back over his shoulder and caught me staring. He held up a palm facing outward toward the other man and shook his head “no” several times. Finally, the men shook hands, Adrian nodded at the woman, and he walked his bicycle toward me.
“Hello? Ma’am? Your husband’s name?”
I’d forgotten she existed. “Adrian. Adrian Hanson. H-a-n-s-o-n.”
Crapola. I got suckered into that one.
“Great, thanks.” She darted away from me, as if she hadn’t wanted Adrian to see her talking to me. What the hell?
Speaking of what the hell: Adrian. “What was that all about?” I asked him.
“What was what all about?”
“That; that conversation. It seemed like way more than repairing flats.” I spoke to the back of Adrian’s head as he put on his helmet and balanced his bike upright against his hip. It had taken me by surprise when I first started road bicycling that the bikes had no kickstands. My Schwinn 10-speed with its kickstand from my junior high school days constituted my only frame of reference, though.
Without allowing time for eye contact, Adrian spun back to face me and planted a firm kiss on my lips. Distraction technique. “I love you,” he said.
“I love you, too.”
“Regulators, ride!” Adrian repeated the line from Young Guns. He swung his leg over his center post and clipped his right shoe onto his pedal.
I did the same, but I stayed on topic. “You haven’t wiggled out of this.”
Adrian pushed off and I followed suit. He busied himself with shifting gears and getting his cadence up to the right tempo, over-studying his cycle computer with pursed lips as he did so. He was about as subtle as a toddler stealing a cookie from the jar while his mother stood and watched. I accelerated and shifted as well. In the fifteen minutes since Adrian ran into the cow, the visibility had improved considerably, and my glasses had dried. I peered beneath the bottom of the fog line, into the distance; beams of sun spotlighted our path toward the first of the famous painted churches of Navidad Valley. The April wildflowers scented the air – bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, and black-eyed Susans — sometimes cloyingly sweet and sometimes almost imperceptible as we passed.
I’d given him long enough. “Well?”
“We debated Couer d’Alene versus Lake Placid,” Adrian said, referring to two famous U.S. Ironman triathlons.
“He heard Lake Placid was the better race for a first timer. I set him straight.”
“And the woman?”
“What about her?”
“Well, who was she?”
“His wife. She didn’t know much about either race.”
He’s lying. What’s going on here? I replayed the scene in my mind. The image of Ms. Hot Pink Boob Job jumped into the frame, too, as did the cow. Stop. I willed my brain into its “off” position. I breathed for a few seconds.
“OK.” I gave Adrian the answer he expected, but my thoughts still tumbled like Keds tennies in a possessed drier on a setting of “perpetual motion.” I couldn’t make sense of what I’d seen, nor could I justify the irrational dread that had snuck over me. As a marital loser my first time ‘round, I had decided one thing: if I ever got lucky enough to find the real thing, I would not screw it up. I could act the lovesick, paranoid fool or I could be a grown-up. Not the right time or place. Not important enough to ruin our day.
I reached my hand out and my gorgeous husband caught it in his, squeezing it hard. We rode, connected, for a few moments, and then settled in to grind out the next 65 miles.
I’d probably never see any of the unsettling strangers – or bovines – again, anyway.