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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Short Story "Drive By Reception"

*In light of the quarantine and the effect it's having on my niece's wedding, I submit this short story I wrote several years ago but which had an odd relevance now. Happy Quarantine, everyone, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Drive By Reception
By Josi S. Kilpack
Written  2003

            “Thank goodness you’re home!” Sharon Harkness said as she threw open the door from the garage and pulled her husband inside by his tie. The door slammed shut behind him. Sharon turned toward the kitchen talking quickly as her husband rubbed his sore neck. “Benny’s throwing a tantrum in the basement and we need to go. It’s the Johnson girl’s wedding reception tonight.”
            Henry Harkness raised his eyebrows. “What are they serving?” he asked, no longer concerned with the pain in his neck—meaning the pulled tie, not his wife.
            “Oh, you’re as bad as the children,” his wife said with a roll of her eyes and a shake of her head. “The invitation didn’t say. Now, go get Benny dressed. He’s been naked all day long—ugh, potty training. I’ll get the rest of the kids.” She glanced at the clock and increased her pace down the hall. “We’ll have to hurry if we’re going to get the car washed in time.”
            Eighteen and a half minutes later, the Harkness family piled into the minivan and headed east toward Buggy Bubbles—they gave discounts if you showed your invitation. “What time does the reception start?” fourteen-year-old Josh asked from the back seat.
            “It started at six o’clock,” Sharon said as she put the final coat of mascara on her thickly clumped lashes, using the mirror conveniently located on the passenger side visor. She was dressed in grey sweats and a black T-shirt—perfect for a drive-by reception, which first and foremost was about comfort and convenience.
            “But it’s already 6:10,” Josh whined. “Can’t we skip the carwash? At the Dodson’s reception last year they were out of Coke by the time we got to the drink station. I had to get Sprite zero.”
            Sharon turned and glared at her son. “What does it take to teach kids manners these days?” She shook her bleached blonde head. “You do not go to a reception in a dirty car, Joshua. Didn’t you see how soiled the bride's dress was that night? It was absolutely disgraceful that she had to brush up against so many dirty cars all evening.”
            There was a line at Buggy Bubbles seeing as how it was prime wedding season. As they waited their turn, Henry was wondering what drinks would be served. The last reception they’d attended had only given out bottled water—water! It had been a huge disappointment since it was mostly the booze that Henry was interested in at these things. He remembered with fondness the open bar at the Kirkham’s wedding last fall. He’d gone home with two beers and a mini-bottle of Jack Daniels. He hoped the Johnson’s would be similarly accommodating. It was Friday night and the end of a very long work week. He could use a good drink to get the weekend off on the right foot. 
            “Oh, here it is,” Sharon said nearly twenty minutes later, squirming with excitement as a huge pink and teal balloon arch came into view at the entrance to the reception center. She flipped up the mirror on the car visor again and adjusted her hair for the upteenth time. The kids stopped fighting, or at least turned down the volume, and Henry, realizing he was still in his tie, quickly slipped the knot out and stashed it under the seat. He was still overdressed in his pressed white shirt and dress pants, but after wrestling Benny into his superman pajamas, he hadn’t had time to change. 
            They followed the signs and pulled into the east entrance of the looping outdoor reception facility, the one-way road curving through the immaculate lawns. As they were in the city, this was a more suburban reception center, without woods or themed stops like some places, but its convenience to the car washes proved a valuable aspect. There were no canopies set up along the route, since the weather was so good, but each stop had the old fashioned light post that directed the car to stop and to go in forty-five second increments.
A young man in a tuxedo approached the car at the first stop. His name read “Brandon McCormick—Brother of the Groom.” 
            “Pink means go, teal means stop. Here’s your program.” Brandon passed the paper through the window and stepped back. Sharon thanked him, but he was already out of earshot. She grabbed the paper from her husband and eagerly scanned it as the light turned pink and Henry moved forward. It was a sad crush, but that meant there was plenty of time to read the program.
            “This is odd,” Sharon said after a moment. Henry pulled slowly forward behind a long line of cars. “From 6:00 to 7:00 the parents of the bride will be on the driver’s side and the parents of the groom will be on the passenger side. At 7:00 they switch places.”
            “Don’t they usually have the parents at separate stops?” Josh asked from the back, poking his head between the two front seats of the suburban.
            “They always have them separate,” Sharon said with a click of her tongue. She looked at her husband. “They really should have told us that on the invitation so that we could plan accordingly. We’ll have to manage two different conversations from both sides of the car. Awkward, to say the least.”
            Henry nodded absently as he tried to look ahead of the other cars for a glimpse of the drink station.
            A few minutes later they reached the smiling bride and groom. The bride leaned through the window to say hello to each of the kids, and Sharon gave Josh a triumphant look. She’d been right about the importance of having the car washed. They “oooed” and “ahhed” appropriately and then their forty-five seconds were up, indicated by the station light turning pink. They said farewell and moved on.
            The next station featured the parents of the bride and groom, both couples leaning in from their designated sides. Since the Harkness family was acquainted with the bride, Sharon was forced to make meaningless conversation with complete strangers until their light turned mercifully pink, and the Harkness family said goodbye. Henry was able to talk politics with Eric Johnson—lucky!
            Henry spotted the drink station a few stops ahead. He considered asking Sharon to change places so that he could enjoy his drinks immediately, but the program stated in big bold letters that guests were not allowed out of their cars. He took a deep breath and came to a stop at the guest book station. The book was passed to them by the bride’s little sister, Julia. She was decked out in a pink version of Cinderella’s gown and looked pleased as punch with the whole situation and her vital role at the reception. They spent forty-five seconds at this stop, and she was still going on and on about the ceremony when the light turned pink. The car behind them honked and Sharon scowled into her side mirror; the program expressly stated that no honking was allowed. “How rude,” she muttered under her breath. 
            “When do we get our food?” Clara whined from the back seat. “I’m staaaaaaarving.”
            The next step confused them, there seemed to be no purpose to it—the food station, complete with a kitchen built to look like a charming cottage—was one stop ahead. Food always followed the guest book. A young man stepped forward, “Good evening, I’m Clark, the best man, and I’ll be taking your order for your individual, custom refreshment bags.” He had a headset on like the ones worn at McDonalds.
            “What a great idea!” Sharon said, bouncing slightly in her seat. “What are our choices?”
            Clark rattled off several candy bars and brands of chips. There was also string cheese, snack pack pudding cups, Go-gurt, and surprises for guests twelve years of age and younger. The kids went wild, and each person in the car chose three of the aforementioned treats—not including the surprise. Henry wondered if he’d be able to order from a wine list as inclusive as this snack list. His mouth began to water as the best man relayed their food orders into the headset with each occupants name for proper distribution. He gave them a thumbs up sign at the same time the light turned from teal to pink and waved them on.
            Their refreshment bags were waiting at the food station just a few yards ahead and handed through the window by one of two bridesmaids at this station. The kids cheered, digging into their bags to find their surprises. The boys got miniature water guns and the girls got plastic bracelets—all of which ended up on the floor before the light could change. Josh was very vocal about it not being fair that he didn’t get a prize just cause he wasn’t under the age of 12. He loved water guns. A third bridesmaid with a headset like the best man’s stepped up to the passenger side window. “What would you like to drink at the next stop? Soft drinks or cranberry juice?” the bridesmaid asked. 
            “What about champagne or a beer?” Henry asked in dismay.
            She cocked her head to the side. “We decided against serving alcohol, for safety purposes.” Henry’s face fell. They should have mentioned that on the invitation! He’d have sent Sharon with the kids and had a half an hour at home all to himself.
            The girl continued. “Oh, and we need you to sign this disclaimer sheet stating that you understand the wedding party is not responsible for any injury or accident sustained during the reception.” 
            Sharon signed her name on the clipboard the bridesmaid handed her while Henry continued to glower on his side of the car. He didn’t even want his stupid Nut Roll and BBQ chips anymore. Well, maybe the chips. 
            They pulled ahead as the kids gobbled their goodies.
            “Remember the hot dogs at the Dodson’s wedding?” Josh commented. Henry couldn’t help but smile at the memory, temporarily forgetting his disappointment over the prohibition.
            “That was a very unfortunate decision, even if it did fit the theme of World Series” Sharon said with a shake of her head. “By the end of the evening all the bridesmaids were covered in ketchup and mustard—poor planning, for sure.”
            Josh continued to laugh as he unwrapped his snickers bar. At the drink station, the groomsman began handing drinks through the driver’s side window.
            “Why no lids?” Henry asked as he carefully passed the plastic soda bottles to each person in the van.
            The groomsman leaned in close, as if not wanting to be overheard. “Last summer,” he whispered, “some wedding guests threw lids at the ushers as they exited because they were angry about not having a bar. We decided to remove the caps rather than sign the projectile damage and injury addendum. The wedding couple would be liable for hefty fines and damages if the guests did not behave themselves. No one wants to start marriage with debt.”
            “I think that’s a very sensible decision,” Sharon said. She’d had to lean halfway across the car to hear the explanation. Henry wasn’t above throwing objects in his current state of disappointment. Where were those water guns the kids had received? He could get some speed behind one of those if he took a minute to loosen up his shoulder.
            They chatted for a few more seconds until the station light turned green, then they moved ahead to the gift table. Sharon handed the beautifully wrapped gift to Henry to hand to the groomsman, but the young man put up his hand and shook his head. “Please remove the paper, Ma’am.”
            “To ensure the safety of all guests and attendees, we are unable to accept wrapped packages. Please remove the paper.”
            Sharon scowled, but she did as she was asked, undoing her perfectly looped tulle bow and trying to remove the paper carefully enough to save—she hoped this wasn’t a new fad that would gain traction. Henry handed the set of Tupperware to the groomsman who put it on the table without even looking at it. It was really nice Tupperware.
            “Thank you,” he said. “Now, would you prefer a card, an email, or a faxed thank you?”
            “Oh, a card, for sure,” Sharon said with a nod. “It’s the most personal.”
            The groomsman nodded, pulled a card from his inside pocket, and handed it through the window. Sharon thanked him and opened the card, inscribed with the wedding couple’s names—Ellie and Logan—on the front.
            “Oh, listen, Henry,” Sharon said as they headed toward the exit. She paused to clear her throat in an attempt to keep the emotion out of her reading voice. “’Friends like you are what life is all about. Thank you for your support and encouragement on this, the happiest day of our lives.’ And it’s printed in teal, one of the wedding colors. Isn’t that sweet?”
            “Very sweet,” Henry commented as they stopped at the final group of bridesmaids and groomsmen who hadn’t had a duty thus far. A young man with an acne problem approached the car and handed them a jar that said “Tips” 
            Sharon and Henry stared at the jar with confusion. “Iths a tip jaw,” the groomsman said with an unfortunate lisp. “To Covew the expentheth of the Gwoomthmen and bwidethmaidth.”
            Sharon began scouring the car for loose change. After a frenzied search, she deposited seventy-nine cents in the jar and smiled nervously, her face red with embarrassment.
            “Thank you,” the groomsman said. He didn’t look very impressed. “Youw hewp ith much appwethiated.”
            Sharon nodded as they pulled away and then collapsed against her seat. “How humiliating,” she muttered with a shake of her head. "I'll make sure to have more change on hand next time, or bring some cash. I had no idea."
            Henry reached the street and looked both ways. It was 6:47, the whole reception had taken them less than thirteen minutes. At least he had time to make it to the liquor store before they closed at seven.
            “What did you guys put in your refreshment bags when you got married?” Clara asked as she finished the last of her tapioca pudding cup.
            “Oh, well, we didn’t have refreshment bags back then.” 
            The kids went silent. “You didn’t?” Clara asked once the shock faded.
            “Oh no. Back in the old days the guest had to get out their cars and go inside the building. The food was usually laid out on tables and you filled up little plastic plates with what you wanted.”
            “Gross!” Josh exclaimed. “Isn’t that against health code?”
            “Not back then,” Sharon said with a sigh. “Receptions are much more guest oriented these days—taking into account everyone’s busy schedules. At our reception people had to get dressed up, stand in line, and shake hands with everyone in the wedding party.”
            “You’re kidding!” Clara said with absolute shock. “That is so weird.”
            Sharon and Henry shared a smile. “Well, it had a certain charm to it,” Sharon said as Henry pulled into the liquor store drive thru.
He rolled down his window but a sniffle from his wife stopped him. He turned to see her blinking back tears.
            “What’s the matter, dear?”
            “Oh,” she said with a trembling voice as she began fishing in the glove compartment for a stray napkin. “I just love weddings.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

As Wide as The Sky Release and Book Launch

I am REALLY excited about the release of my first national market women's fiction novel, As Wide as the Sky, which will be released on July 31st from Kensington Books. This will also be the first novel I have done under a pen name--Jessica Pack. The reason for the pen name is to differentiate this novel from my other novels, as this one has different content. While I hope many current fans of Josi S. Kilpack novels will also enjoy As Wide As the Sky, I'm hoping to build a new audience too :-) In light of getting the word out about Jessica Pack and As Wide as the Sky, I'm running a contest for five autographed copies. Multiple entries via this link: a Rafflecopter giveaway.

  • Purchase and Pre-order links as well as the first chapter for As Wide as the Sky are available on my website here: As Wide As the Sky
  • You can follow Jessica Pack's social media networks on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.
  • If you are in the Salt Lake area I would LOVE for you to attend the in person launch party:

Book Launch Information

The King's English Book Shop
Tuesday, August 7th, 7:00 PM

1511 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City

There will be a presentation starting at 7:00 as well as refreshments, a prize drawing, and a book signing. Photos will be posted on the Facebook event page during and after the event. (you can join the event via the rafflecopter give away above--might as well, right? :-)  )

Right now the two names I'm writing under are overlapping in regard to how I'm putting the word out, but I'll be separating over time. If you're interested in works like As Wide as the Sky, you'll want to make sure you're following Jessica Pack.

Thank you so much--Happy reading!

Friday, February 09, 2018

A Night Owl "Book and Tea Party" Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunts are always fun; but scavenger hunts involving BOOKS? That's really fun. I'm a sponsor this year for the Night Owl Romance "Books and Tea Party" Scavenger Hunt. The event runs from February 15th - March 8th and will include lots of opportunities to learn about some great new books, as well as the chance to win the grand prize: a $100 Amazon gift card.

Click below to learn more about the event, and enter to win!

Friday, December 01, 2017

12 Days of Clean Romance

Know what makes great Christmas presents? BOOKS!! What's even better, free books! Kathy, from I Am a Reader is hosting an amazing giveaway this Christmas--12 Days of Clean Romance--from a list of some pretty amazing authors.

Read below to see the list of participating Authors:

Jennifer Peel – December 4th
Taylor Hart – December 5th
Rachael Anderson – December 6th
Josi S. Kilpack – December 7th
Janette Rallison – December 8th
Jennifer Griffith – December 9th
Taylor Dean – December 11th
Sheralyn Pratt – December 12th
Heather B. Moore – December 13th
Annette K. Larsen – December 14th
Lucy McConnell – December 15th
Cami Checketts – December 16th

There's a $100 Kick-Off Giveaway happening right now! I hope you'll enter to win and learn about a new author or two, Kathy guarantees every book to be "Clean, fun, and 100% worth reading." Follow THIS LINK to get details on how to answer.

Technical stuff:

****Promo Ends 12/17/17 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Books For a Cause

This offer closed on September 29th, 2017. If you are still interested in participating, please contact me individually. If the fundraiser is still open, I'm happy to work with you!

I am the third of nine children. When you're part of a big family, when THEY marry, your family gets even bigger and lucky for me they married really cool people. My younger sister, Crystal (Her name is--and I'm not kidding--Crystal Snow White. Is that not awesome? Sadly she stopped at four kids, I was rooting for seven just to make the most of things 😏 ) married Jairus White. They were high-school sweethearts so I have known Jairus for a loooooooong time--I knew him back when he had a full head of hair, I kid you not. I also know his siblings, including his sister Jenny. Jenny is remarkable. She has a master's degree in Social work and is an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker.) For many years she worked for organizations that helped people who were chronically homeless transition from the streets to a place of their own with supports to help them maintain housing. She worked as an outreach therapist to clients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. She has also been a host home provider for adults with disabilities, both having them live in her home and providing respite care for other care providers for many years.  

In 2012, Jenny met Chris, a Chinese immigrant who came to Utah after converting to the LDS faith. He was already an engineer in China, but had to start over once he got here. They were both in their 30's, and they both wanted a family. They attended months of pre-marital counseling in order to ensure they were compatible and had a shared vision of their future. I was able to follow this circumstance as it happened and it was fascinating to me. Things were different for them than for most, in that shared goals and commitment brought them together before those things developed into love. They married in 2013 and Jenny continued to work while Chris finished his civil engineering degrees. They had their first son, Henry in 2015--chubbiest cheeks I've ever seen--just before Chris graduated with his bachelor's degree. Chris continued to finish his Master's degree the following year.  Chris took a job with an engineering firm in Idaho shortly after graduation, and Jenny was able to be a full time mom, which she had wanted for a long time. 

In 2016 they learned they were expecting again. At four months gestation they learned that their baby--another boy--had a serious heart defect. The defect is called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) and means that the left side of his heart did not develop correctly. They have to essentially remodel his heart so that the right side does everything for his entire body. The repair requires three surgeries, the first 4-6 days after birth ( Dieter had his at 2 days because it was so severe, his aorta and valves were 1/10 the size they needed to be and were restricting worse everyday.) The second surgery will take place when he is about 4-6 months old.  The third surgery will take place when he is about three years old. It's a new type of treatment and has only been in use for about 30 years. Because Chris's job is new, he had limited options for time off and took most of his time when Dieter was born and had his first surgery.  They have health insurance--thank goodness--but need to keep the job secure and can't afford to take any additional leave. There is a $14,000 out of pocket maximum. Depending on the timing of his second surgery, they may need to turn around and pay this again for 2018 as well. They have a two year old. They live about 360 miles from Primary Children's Hospital. They have a lot of hope, but there are also a lot of considerations they have to deal with. 

Dieter Shengxian Chen was born August 14th 2017 at the University of Utah Hospital. He was immediately sent to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Primary Children's hospital and will be there for a long time. Jenny is staying in Provo, at a friends town home, 45 minutes from the hospital. Chris works in Nampa, Idaho Monday through Thursday then comes to Salt Lake on the weekends--good friends are covering the expenses for him to fly back and forth so that he can travel more safely and spend as much time with his family as possible. Henry is being cared for by family most of time.  The family continues to see the amazing blessings they have been given through this ordeal. They continue to exercise faith, patience and hope. Deiter has good days and bad days, he's needed additional surgery to help with his breathing. He is on a feeding tube, but making progress. We hope that soon he will have more good days than bad. Jenny is at the hospital daily.  She uses a breast pump so that he can receive his mother's milk through his feeding tube. Things are going well, but are still very hard. 

My sister Crystal put together a You Caring account in hopes of raising money to be used toward the deductible and portion of expenses that won't be covered in other ways.  The Chen's greatest desire is to one day be able to "pay it forward" as soon as they are able.

There's not much I can do, but in considering the situation I realized there was something I COULD do. I write books. When I publish a new book I get what are called author copies--copies for me to do with as I please. I give them away to my family members, people who helped me with the book, and via contests on social media. But I currently have quite a few books on hand. So, I am making them available to you guys in exchange for you to donate to Jenny, Chris, Henry, and Deiter. 

Here's how it works:

Click on THIS LINK and make a donation. Any amount, whether it's $5 or $50 or $5,000 (insert grin.) Come back here and post that you made a donation--don't tell me how much. Please include in your donation something that can be shared with Jenny and Chris: a scripture, a quote, a personal encouragement. And then email me at with the subject line "Donation for Dieter" and tell me what books you would like. I will send you one copy of how ever many titles you would like THAT I HAVE ON HAND, which are the following:

Anthology Collections in which I participated:
  • Timeless Romance: All Regency (limited copies)
  • Timeless Romance: Spring Vacation (limited copies)
  • Christmas Spirit (limited copies)
  • A Mother's Prayer (limited copies)

LDS novels:
  • Tempest Tossed
  • Unsung Lullaby
  • Sheep's Clothing (limited copies)
  • Her Good Name
Culinary Mysteries:
  • English Trifle
  • Black Berry Crumble (limited copies)
  • Pumpkin Roll
  • Tres Leches Cupcake (limited copies)
  • Rocky Road (limited copies)
  • Fortune Cookie (limited copies)
  • Wedding Cake

Newport Ladies Bookclub:
  • Daisy
  • Shannon's Hope (limited copies)
  • Tying the Knot (limited copies)
Historical Romance:
  • A Heart Revealed (limited copies)
  • Lord Fenton's Folly
  • Forever And Forever (limited copies)
  • Lady of the Lakes (limited copies)
  • The Vicar's Daughter (limited copies)
  • ARC of All That Makes Life Bright (limited copies)
  • Pumpkin Roll
  • Banana Split
  • Baked Alaska
  • Rocky Road
  • Fortune Cookie
  • Wedding Cake
  • A Heart Revealed (limited copies)
  • Lord Fenton's Folly (limited copies)
  • Forever And Forever
  • Lady of the Lakes (limited copies)
  • The Vicar's Daughter (limited copies)

These books are available on a first come, first serve basis, I will try to keep up with this list as titles are gone. I also hope you will share this opportunity with others. 

Thank you so much for your support, whether through a prayer, adding their names to a temple roll or prayer list, or via this option. A lot of people doing a little can become a whole lot. 

By the way, Dieter means Warrior :-) Lets help the fight!