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Thursday, January 23, 2020

That's a First! WIth author Jacqueline Simon Gunn + giveaway

That's a First!
*A story about the first time I had to pump my own gasoline

The Right Hook

By Jacqueline Simon Gunn
“Heeelp!” I ran toward the convenience store, my heart pounding, my arms flailing. I whipped open the glass door, my hands and knees shaking.

“May I help you?” An awkwardly thin man appeared from behind the cash register. His lanky body and fragile stature left me anxious. How was he going to help me? It was dark. It was 4 a.m. And I was in a store off the endless, lonely Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I had moved to Pittsburgh to attend graduate school only a week before and was on the seven-hour long drive back home to northeastern New Jersey for a visit. The night felt strange. The turnpike seemed evacuated. There were stretches of time when I was the only car on the highway. The unchanging scenery left me with the uncanny sense that I treaded along the same patch of road for hours. Being alone with my imagination, I wondered if I had missed a warning to vacate the area. Pearl Jam blasted. I sang along, sipping black coffee while my thoughts vacillated between envisioning an alien invasion that left me as the sole survivor and a class I had had earlier that day on Heidegger’s Being and Time, which felt like a religious sermon.

At some point, I realized that I only had about a quarter tank of gas left. I needed to stop, so I was on the watch for a gas station. There for nothing for miles. Then a glow, amidst the darkness, illuminated a building that seemed to appear from out of nowhere. As I approached, I saw it was a gas station.

I pulled up, hopped out and began fumbling with the gas hose. Pumping your own gas is illegal in New Jersey, so I was still getting the hang of it. While in the midst of untangling the long hose, which somehow got wrapped around my leg, a peculiar little man with a potbelly wearing a pin-striped suit approached me. He offered assistance. His attire made him seem misplaced. He was dressed for Wall Street, but his gesture appeared genuine, so feeling grateful, I handed him the gas hose.

The peculiar little man grabbed the hose and tossed it to the side, then grasped my shoulders and shoved me against my car. My computer sat in the passenger seat and my keys were in the ignition. He pressed his body against mine. With my back against the car, we were nose-to-nose. I smelled his polluted breath as he mumbled something about getting in my car for a little fun.

I shook. He had me pinned. Thoughts raced through my mind, then, on reflex, I raised my leg and kneed him in the balls. He hunched over, groaning and cursing, releasing me.

I ran into the adjoining store screaming for help. At first it seemed deserted. I screamed again, my eyes darting around, planning my next mode of defense. And that’s when the awkwardly thin man materialized from behind the counter asking how he could assist me.

I placed my shaking hand on my heart, trying to keep it from pounding out of my chest. “I - this man – outside, he – he pushed up against me. He – I think he was going to assault me and my car still has the keys in it.” I leaned forward, placing my hand on my knee, and took a long, labored inhale.

The awkwardly thin man listened. I thought he might lock the door and call the police, but he surprised me when he offered to escort me outside, help me fill my gas tank and wait until I had safely departed back into the dark, empty abyss that was the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I studied his delicate stature and manner and his warm, serene expression.

“He was very aggressive and he could have a gun or something. Aren’t you afraid?” I asked.

“Don’t you worry. We’ll be fine.” He raised his right arm. The sleeve of his shirt scrunched down and he gestured for me to look. “I have this.”

My jaw dropped. Instead of a hand, the awkwardly thin man had a steel hook. I tried to wipe the astonishment I felt from my expression when we met eyes and shared a nod. He did just as he promised. He walked me out, pumped my gas, his hook glaring under the light as he stared menacingly at the peculiar little potbellied man, who completely backed off and drove off before my gas tank was even full.

I graciously thanked the awkwardly thin man over and over, even offering him a monetary tip, which he declined. I then got back in my car and continued my trip east on the dark, lonely highway, feeling like I’d experienced an altered reality.

I thought about the awkwardly thin man and the experience for quite a while after that. And even though I made that same trip many times while I lived in Pittsburgh, I was never able to find that gas station, ever again.

The Cat Who Ate His Tail

by Jacqueline Simon Gunn
November 15, 2019
Genre: Animal Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Psychological Fiction
ISBN: 978-1699608081
Number of pages: 324
Word Count: 76,059
Have you ever wondered what your pets are thinking?

Inspired by true events, this heartwarming story is told from the perspective of Sneakers, a curious cat with serious emotional baggage. Neglected and ultimately abandoned by his original owner, he compensates for the trauma by overeating and making droll observations about the crazy love life of his new owner… who also happens to be a psychologist.

Through paying attention to her work, the loving home she provides and watching her own trials and tribulations, Sneakers learns so much more about life, love and the ways of the world. Both their lives take unexpected turns, both suffer for their own inability to see their inherent worth. But just maybe they can help each other learn the most important lesson of all before it’s too late: If you let it, love can heal even the deepest wounds.

Sometimes you must be willing to take that second chance.

“I love her,” he raised his voice. His feet were right next to the couch. Please, don’t make me kill you. I’d be the cat who ate his tail and killed a human on the Upper Eastside. This would not look good for me. They’d judge me based on the tail incident and assume the murder was due to my instability, never considering the duress that preceded his demise.

That’s why he was living with a shrink. Nut job. I heard the newscasters saying.

My eyes followed his feet. He bent down, glaring at me underneath the couch, and yelled, “I love her. You hear me. Just because she isn’t the girl I want to spend my life with doesn’t mean I don’t love her.”

What kind of catnip was he sniffing? Leave her alone then.

I stared back at him, my heart pounding even harder.

I heard rummaging. From his shadow, I thought he was in her desk. Probably trying to sift through her drawers. Maybe looking for notes or things she’d written down, so he knew what she was thinking. Then the couch bounced as he plopped down onto the middle cushion. I wondered how this was going to go down when she came home and found him. Which would be worse: finding him dead or alive, I wondered. But before I had to choose, he got up, and I heard him fumbling around in the kitchen, and then the front door closed.

I waited an ample amount of time, inhaling to get my breathing even, then strutted into the kitchen, sniffing around where he’d left his sour scent, the only evidence of him being here. I knew humans’ sense of smell wasn’t as strong. I wondered if my mom would know just by intuition that Moby had come. I thought of ways I might communicate it to her. I was lying on my chair ruminating about this when I heard my mom turning the doorknob, then her voice mixing with that of a strange man’s.

I took a heavy breath. What a stressful night. Now I had to scrutinize the new guy while figuring out how to tell her about Moby’s appearance. I was exhausted and crashing from the adrenalin of what had happened earlier.

“What’s wrong, handsome?” She kneeled beside me, rubbing my head. Looking up at this new tall man-human who had a warm smile, she explained, “He always greets me at the door. Something feels weird in here.”

“Whadaya mean?”

“Like someone was here.”

“Like a break-in? “Or like a ghost?”

She looked around. “Nothing looks out of place on first glance. Do you believe in ghosts?”

“I do, and I think cats see them. Maybe he saw something.”

“He does look spooked by something, doesn’t he?”

“It’s hard to tell.” He bent down and rubbed my head. “He is a good-looking cat.” He rubbed under my neck. “Did you see something?” he asked me.

“Maybe they see things that aren’t there. Maybe he thought he saw something.” She wore a perplexed looked, but it got me thinking and wondering if that ghost thing was possible.

Maybe I was losing my mind. Was Moby here or did I imagine the whole thing because the idea of him haunted me?

Gosh, maybe that last catnip pillow was laced with something.

About the Author:
Jacqueline Simon Gunn is a Manhattan-based clinical psychologist and writer. She has authored two non-fiction books, and co-authored two others. She has published many articles, both scholarly and mainstream, and currently works as a freelance writer. Gunn is now writing psychological fiction. Always in search of truth and fascinated by human behavior, her fiction writing, like psychology, is a way for her to explore human nature — motivation, emotions, relationships.

In addition to her clinical practice and writing, Gunn is an avid runner and reader. Gunn is currently working on multiple writing projects, including a spin-off of “Forever and One Day,” the third book in the Where You’ll Land series and a book written from her cat’s POV.

Tour Giveaway
 ebook copy  and  $5 Amazon gift card


  1. love the post. any time i start out with a chuckle, it's a good thing
    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. I can't wait to read this! I love books like this from the cats POV.