Paradise Palms is a fast-paced narrative of friendship and the consequences that flow from it when events challenge how far friends should go to help one another. The novel weaves together the intersection of a drug dealer, an exotic dancer and an altruistic neighbor with the troubled protagonist who seeks redemption from a tragic mistake in his past. The twists and turns in the story culminate with a series of unexpected resolutions.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The idea of a story set in a manufactured home neighborhood came to me while passing just such a place on my way to work and back. The characters and plot also originated on my long commutes to work and back in Atlanta.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main characters were developed with certain types and traits of people I wanted in the story and then I filled in the details for each one.
After the dishes were done, Chris brought out his two foot high, red, white and blue glass bong. In twenty minutes Taylor knew she was very stoned, much more than she usually was when she smoked a joint with Mark. “I really want some white wine, Chris,” she pleaded, “are you sure you don’t have anything to drink but red wine and beer?”
Chris was completely nonplussed by her request because he was sure Mark had told him she only drank red wine. “I thought you drank red wine. Man, I messed up! But wait right here and I’ll be back before you know it with your white wine.”
“Wait a minute, Chris, you can’t drive; we’re all wrecked. Please don’t go, really. I can drink red wine tonight. I think I can drink anything right now,” Taylor exclaimed, and she burst out laughing and then rolled on the floor in front of where Mark filled one of the bean bag chairs. “Bring me some chips with that red wine, or… popcorn will do. How about Fig Newtons, have you got any of those?” she asked as she kicked off her sandals.
“I got Oreos, bags of ‘em! I’ll grab them and your red wine. Mark, you good or you need another beer?”
“Yeah, I could take another, thanks, but first, I need help to get up out of this damn thing to go take a piss.”
“Here you go,” Chris said, as he gripped Mark’s hand and helped pull him up. “I’d guess you guys aren’t used to the high quality weed we regularly enjoy in my neck of the woods. And that bong of mine is so smooth you can take a bigger hit than you realize. C’mon, let’s take that piss outside, under the stars, like we used to do!”
Mark looked up at the clear night sky with a vivid full moon and thought about his mom, dead ten years ago from the cervical cancer that had ravaged her body in less than a year. It seemed just like yesterday she was here, he thought. She was the leader of their small family— just the three of them. He remembered her enthusiasm for life and for her family. He still missed her so much it hurt deep inside. He’d felt rudderless after her death and ever since, really. The year she died he was a senior at Florida State with a B average in computer science. He’d stayed so stoned or drunk after her death that he missed half his classes, flunked out and never returned. But he knew it wasn’t only her death that had derailed him. Mark shook his head in an effort to disconnect from his morbid thoughts.
“Hey, did you see that shooting star?” Chris asked eagerly. “It was like…it was like it was right above us and I could jump up and grab it, know what I mean? Far out!”
“No, I didn’t see it, sorry buddy,” Mark replied absently. “I better get back to Taylor. She’ll be wondering if I fell in a hole or something.”
At 7 a.m. Mark heard banging at the front door and shot straight up in bed. His eyes blinked rapidly. He next heard the police identify themselves and demand that someone open the door or they would break down the door. He hurriedly put on his shorts and shirt. “Taylor, get up. Now! Get dressed!”
Taylor kicked the sheet off and Mark glanced at her naked body. “God, my head hurts. I drank too much wine. “Who’s pounding on the door? What time is it?”
“The police—or I think they said Sheriff’s Department—that’s who.” Mark grabbed her clothes lying on the floor and threw them on the bed. “You better get dressed unless you want to greet them with nothing on.”
Mark opened the bedroom door just as Chris opened the front door. Three khaki clad sheriff’s deputies stood on the stoop. One of them asked Chris his name and then handed him a search warrant. “I’m Sergeant Warren of the Orange County Sheriff’s office. The search warrant is for illegal drugs in the mobile home and for any car on the property registered to Chris Worden. Please stand over there in front of the couch with your hands at your sides. Who are you?” he asked when Mark entered the room, the deputy’s right hand now resting on the gun in its holster.
“I’m Mark Harrison. I’m just visiting Chris for a few days. I’m from Atlanta. We…we’re old college friends.”
“Is there anyone else here?” the sergeant asked.
“My girlfriend—Taylor,” Mark answered nervously. She’s getting dressed in the bedroom.” One of the other deputies quickly went to the closed bedroom door, knocked once, opened it and held Taylor’s arm as he escorted her to the living room.
Taylor was bewildered. Her arms wrapped around her chest, with just her panties and blue tank top on, she asked, “What’s happening here? Why are the police here?” as she looked searchingly at Mark and Chris.
“Please stay calm, Miss,” the sergeant replied, while he looked up and down Taylor’s shapely legs. You need to stand there quietly with the others while we execute the search warrant. Are there any weapons in the house, or in a car we should know about?”
“No, there’re no weapons,” Chris answered.
“And none of you have any weapons on you, is that correct?”
Each of them answered no.
“Okay. Good. Here’s what we’re going to do. Deputy Lyons here—and he pointed to the burly deputy to his right—will stay here with you. After he searches Mr. Worden, he’ll need to see the identifications of you two,” as he nodded at Mark and Taylor. Deputy Gordon and I will conduct the search.”
“Which car is the car you own?” he turned and asked Chris.
“The green Subaru in the grass is mine. The keys are on the kitchen table.”
In less than thirty minutes the deputies were finished and had found inside Chris’s closet two bongs and a pipe. Chris had flushed the marijuana left from last night before he answered the door. But, in a small outbuilding behind Chris’s mobile home, mostly hidden by trees and bushes, the Sergeant found a bag of marijuana inside a tool chest with what looked to be an ounce or more of pot. Chris was arrested for intent to distribute and for possession of drug paraphernalia. He was handcuffed and read his rights. Nothing was found in the car and the deputy returned the car keys back to the kitchen table. Before they left with Chris, Sergeant Warren asked Chris if Mark and Taylor had his permission to remain on the property.
“Yes, they do,” Chris responded. “Mark, please look after my place for me. The house keys are on top of the dresser in my room. I’ll call you just as soon as I can. But it might be a couple of days before I’m able to. I’ll need your help, Mark!” he exclaimed.
“That will have to do,” the deputy said, who squeezed Chris’s arm and steered him to the front door.
“All right, you two, you can do what you want, for now, but my strong advice to you is to leave here and find some better friends than drug dealers. Someone may be back to impound his vehicle. That will be up to Captain Riley. Since no drugs were found in it they might leave it alone. I don’t know, not our call, like I said.”
The three deputies departed with Chris in the backseat of one of the two police cars. Mark stood outside with a stunned expression and watched them drive away.
When he returned inside Taylor was bent over the bed busily packing her suitcase. “What are you doing?”
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