Summary: A pregnant manatee is rare at any zoo, and a first for the Grove City Zoo in Ohio. Ankh is a delight to zoo patrons, a concern to its staff, and the unintentional victim of two con men. She has no idea how many human relationships, problems, and dreams tangle around her.
Jerry is a young developmentally disabled man who happily follows Ankh’s pregnancy on the zoo’s webcam. He has a shy crush on Janelle, a pretty college student who volunteers for his group home’s outings to the zoo.
Jerry’s Aunt Vera also loves nature and runs an environmental retreat center. But all is not well, with Vera or the center. The center needs money and is under investigation as a cult. Amid their college studies, Janelle and her friend Cecily try to help. Instead, Janelle re-awakens an old obsession in Vera when an innocent tarot reading hints at how the center might be saved.
Two bumbling con men are attempting to sabotage the region’s electrical grid as part of a lucrative scheme. But Jerry accidentally gets in their way and becomes their captive.
When the con men surprisingly succeed in bringing the grid down, it spells danger for Ankh, her unborn pup, and the many people tied to them both. With investigations of their own, Cecily and Janelle try to untangle it all to find Jerry, save a manatee’s life, and rescue Vera from herself. Tangled Ties to a Manatee is a humorous crime thriller with environmental themes that is revealed through multiple points of view. The novel emphasizes college-aged characters, though not all, such as the developmentally disabled ones, are in college.
“Is a card missing?” Vera questioned.
“I only use nine. I know some use ten or more, but I find extra cards clutter the message. My grandmother taught me to stick with what works.” Janelle turned over the center card first. Uh-oh. Not very complimentary. Still, her grandmother had insisted when people paid for readings, you gave them what the cards revealed.
“Okay, this is the Four of Pentacles reversed. This represents you regarding the question at hand. It suggests you’ve been hoarding your power, but money worries are causing you to, well, lose it.”
“Lose what?” Vera asked.
Janelle was surprised by the question. Most clients either nodded agreeably or gave a blank stare until she finished. Occasionally, a client would become upset and walk off. “Uh, lose your ability to handle the situation by holding onto power.”
Vera sighed. “I wouldn’t ask about it if it were all under control.”
“The second card to the east represents the distant past,” Janelle flipped it over. “The Eight of Swords.”
“That doesn’t look good.”
“This shows a feeling of being trapped by your past.” Janelle breathed in quickly. That odd feeling she’d had once before when performing a reading swept over her. Her grandmother had called it an aura, part of an oracular reading. Although Janelle was frightened the first time, her grandmother reassured her it meant the reading was special. But, Janelle had an odd week after her experience with it. She’d felt a strong empathic connection with the reading’s subject. She’d since convinced herself she’d imagined the feeling. With Vera’s reading, she once again wondered if the aura were real.
“Uh, the third card is about the more recent past and is the Five of Wands. That means a heavy competition. Maybe it’s a competition over who will be your successor.”
“Competition? My people should show more commitment if they’re competing.”
“I see.” Janelle was getting the idea Vera was hard to work for. She continued. “The fourth card represents the present and it is the Lovers reversed, from the major arcana. One meaning is someone wronged in a relationship.”
“I don’t see how that could apply to me,” Vera said.
“It doesn’t have to be about sexual lovers, although I sense it is here. Maybe it has to do with those competing to succeed you.”
About the author
Tangled Ties to a Manatee is his debut novel.
He has had poetry published and several plays, both one act and full-length, produced locally. Two short stories have been published as well. “Feral” is a short story published in Off the Rocks, v. 14, ed Allison Fradkin, NewTown Writers Chicago, 2010, pp. 119-126. “Transforming Oracle” is a self-published short story available at Smashwords.
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