The Last Day for Rob Rhino
by Kathleen O'Donnell
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery
Stuck on the same flight, bound for the same eccentric town, she hates him on sight. She thinks she knows all there is to know about him but is dying to find out more. He’s disinterested but somehow still sees right through her. But they’ve both got big problems. Hers is in the Louis Vuitton carryon in the overhead. His is in his pants.
To Claire’s dismay, Rob turns up everywhere she goes, yet they form the unlikeliest of friendships. He cares for her in ways she’s never known before. He could be the best thing in her life—or the worst.
In a place full of secrets, including their own, they help each other find answers they didn’t even know they were looking for, yet some questions linger. What happened to Rob’s first wife? What happened to Claire’s husband? Will they live through the answers?
The Last Day for Rob Rhino is a dark, tragic, and funny novel about the bonds of family and friendship. If you’d love a Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, or Stieg Larsson novel with a humorous twist, this would be it.
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“I bought you the hat because you’re scary bald.”
Claire held the phone away from her ear, nostrils flaring. “I wouldn’t wear a hat if Philip
Treacy sailed it over himself on the QE2.” She strolled the gateway to watch the planes take off
through the windows. Her reflection in the glass mirrored back, her head shiny, embryonic.
Her stepdaughter let out a puff of breath. “Claire, you know how much his hats cost. It’s
just lying here on the floor.”
“I don’t give a flying—” Claire caught herself, counted to five. Annabelle meant well. “I
don’t do hats. I do bald. It is what it is.”
“Listen, why don’t you take a vacation?” The wheedling commenced. “Instead of going
wherever, to do whatever, you could go to that place I told you about in Hawaii.” Annabelle spoke
in run-ons. “They have a state-of-the-art meditation center.”
A woman wearing sweats gawked going by, smiling, nodding. Claire’s condition elicited
the sympathy of strangers. Maybe it was terminal. Whatever it was it looked bad.
“That place where I can sit around all day touching myself?”
“You can get in touch with yourself, Claire.”
“I’m halfway to Pennsylvania where I want to go.” Claire’s free hand pushed against the
window. “Me and my bald head.” Airport foot traffic hurried behind her in both directions.
“Well, you look like crap. Please reconsider Hawaii. It’s a luxurious place, the—”
“It’s not an ashram. It’s a—”
“Loony bin?” A harried traveler knocked her purse sitting by her feet. The pill bottles at
the bottom rolled and shook, cha, cha, cha, a druggist’s maraca.
“It’s a retreat center. Andrew sent Meg there for her birthday. He said she loved it.”
“Are you listening?”
Claire suffered in silence as loud as she could.
Annabelle tried a different way. “I’m worried about you. Jordan is too. Dad—”
Claire’s sudden tears annoyed her. She stabbed her phone off with one rigid finger, rammed
it into her purse. Enough of that nonsense. You can cry yourself a river, but you can’t cry your hair
back, or your life the way you wanted it.
Claire stared at the homeless looking guy sleeping on the airport floor and brushed the tears
from her lashless eyes.
She looked around. There were serious looking men in expensive suits waiting for their
flights. Most poking at their iPhones. Liam used to think every man who crossed her path wanted
to sleep with her. Now if they saw her at all she repulsed them. Claire had been a beauty until she
wasn’t. An emerald-eyed, fair-haired princess, her dad used to say. A long, tall, drink of water.
Before she’d been stared at, smiled on, envied. Now she was just stared at. Sometimes laughed or
pointed at and almost always pitied.
The wreck on the floor moved. Propped up on his scaly elbows, nodding off, his mouth
open, eyes closed. Even in his unwashed state he looked familiar. Like someone who used to be
famous. Claire scanned the crowded O’Hare terminal but didn’t notice anyone else looking at him.
Maybe she was wrong. Maybe he was just another loser. She looked at her Rolex and wondered
how late the flight was going to be. She couldn’t remember now what the voice said on the
announcement. Between the noise and the sedatives it was hard to keep up.
When she walked back to her gate the boarding had already started. She hadn’t heard the
announcement. Again. The man lying on the ground was gone. Maybe security’d shooed him
away. She noted her seat number and got in line. Sweat broke out over her upper lip. Sweating
was a problem with no hair. An added humiliation. She hoped they didn’t dilly-dally too long with
the drinks on the plane. Thank God for the three-hour jump in time going east.
She boarded then hunted for her seat—8B. She really needed to get some glasses. The
plane was a small commuter with three seats across, a single on one side of the aisle, a double on
the other. Claire found aisle 8 and was about to sit in her seat, one of the doubles, on the aisle,
when she saw him.
The dirty hobo from the airport slumped in the window seat, 8C. Right next to her.
He sprawled out over both seats, looking fatter up close, and older, late sixties at least,
despite the desperate dye job and combover. A bushy moustache like a squirrel’s ass wasn’t big
enough to cover his pock-marked face. His gut hung over his thighs. He looked either asleep or
passed out. He reeked.
“This is a mistake.” Claire stopped, twisted around in search of a flight attendant. She
couldn’t see one. The teeming line of travelers behind her tried to keep her going. “This can’t be
right. I can’t possibly sit here,” she said like an Astor in steerage on the Titanic.
The Asian man behind her smiled, moved his head up and down.
She was about to indulge in a hurricane force panic attack when she heard, “This is a full
flight. Please find your seats. Make sure your carry-ons are stored below your seat or in the upper
Claire swung her Louis Vuitton bag into her seat hitting the filthy hobo’s fat leg hard. He
jiggled up with a snort and scooted over to his side. She heaved her matching carry-on into the
overhead bin, sat down, dug a little blue pill out of her bag then swallowed it dry. She made a big
show of settling into her seat so she could turn her head to see what he was doing without seeming
obvious. He leaned against the window, eyes closed, mouth open. She could hear him snoring.
Claire stuffed her bag under the seat in front of her then fastened her seat belt with a click.
When he opened his milky blue-gray eyes he looked at her with eyelids that appeared too heavy
for him. All of a sudden he had the hearing of a dog. One side of his mouth lifted in a lopsided half
smile. He leaned forward to make sure his ragged backpack was still there, fiddled with the seatback
pocket, readjusted his seatbelt. Satisfied that all was as it should be in his area, he gave Claire
another look, one that seemed to urge her to give hers another check just to be safe. She did. In
seconds he slept again.
It occurred to Claire her unwanted traveling companion hadn’t noticed he sat next to a
hairless woman. He didn’t look her up and down and then quickly look away like most people.
Nor did he insist on politically correct earnestness, meaningful, direct eye contact. Her grubby
neighbor seemed to care only that seat trays were upright, all electronic devices were turned off,
and appropriately stored until takeoff. Claire shook her bald head. Whatever drugs he was taking
she had to get some.
The plane was almost full. Claire looked up to see a man about her age. One of the impatient
ones in a pricey suit in the aisle next to her seat. Staring. Oh no. She could feel the color begin to
climb up her neck.
“Hey, aren’t you that guy?” the man in the suit said.
Claire exhaled. She turned to her right, startled.
“Yeah, you’re the guy from that reality show, aren’t you?” The suit wasn’t budging without
“Uh-huh... yeah, I’m him.” Claire’s seatmate slurred, barely stringing the words together.
His double chins fell forward on his chest.
“Rob,” the suit said.
The flight attendant came up behind the man prodding him forward. “I knew it,” he
muttered before moving toward his seat.
That’s where she’d seen him. What’d he say his name was again? She turned toward him.
Asleep again. “Hey,” she elbowed him. “I thought you looked familiar. You were in a reality show.
What else would I have seen you in?” She hardly ever watched reality television—at least not on
He eyed her Rolex and ten-carat diamond ring. “Nothing.”
“I thought you were someone famous when I saw you in the airport.” She knew she was
right. She almost always was. “What else are you famous for?”
His head swiveled toward her, jowls sagging.
“My cock,” he said. “I have a thirteen-inch cock.”
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I am an introverted extrovert.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
An impatient one. And probably not a very good one. I’m an only child, so I like things to be my way or the highway. I wouldn’t be very diplomatic either. I tend to say what I mean, not much of a filter. Probably best I stay off the world stage and stay behind my laptop where I can be as bratty as I want.
What are you passionate about these days?
My family. My terminally ill granddaughter—everyday she’s still here and not suffering is the most precious gift. All of our kids are grown and I’m passionate about how their lives are turning out, hoping they make good choices and that they will all contribute something good to the world.
I’m also passionate about traveling, sharing bucket list experiences with my husband. He and I are lucky to be able to travel quite a bit. Seeing other cultures and how other people live is life changing. Opens up a whole new way of thinking. It’s good for the soul and the brain.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Both actually. The Invisible Heiress might be tougher because the protagonist writes a blog which would be tricky, but not impossible, to transfer to the screen. But definitely The Last Day for Rob Rhino. Very Coen Brothers. It’s what’s popular now. Badly behaved woman, the good characters and the bad aren’t that much different from each other. They’re odd, human and funny. I hope Hollywood is paying attention lol!
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m currently editing my third novel about a disgraced Food Network TV chef who goes back to the backwoods highway town she grew up in. It’s a town that takes care of its own no matter the misdeed. She’s hiding something. It’s written in my usual style, dark and funny. A bit of a departure because it doesn’t move as fast as my first two. It’s a delicious trip that I want the reader to really enjoy.
I’ve also got a couple stories brewing that are still just seeds.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
In an airport. My husband and I saw a 70’s era porn star lying on the floor. He actually sat next to my husband on the plane. I made twenty quick judgments about the guy and I’d never met him. I realized there was a book there somewhere. I started writing it on the plane.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I loved these characters. They made me laugh and cry, exasperated me sometimes. But I loved them. I was so sad when it was done.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Rob Rhino is a guy who’s past haunts him and he can’t shake it. He’s known for the size of his genitalia and at his age he’s tired of that. He was re-born on reality TV but he’s a sad man with a painful secret. He meets Claire, who is an obvious addict, and wants to help her. He takes her under his wing even though she kicks and screams the whole way. She’s got a painful secret too. They form an unlikely and touching bond. They each have an agenda that rules their lives.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
The humor. It’s dark but you can’t help but laugh—a guilty kind of pleasure. Then the ending. It’s a fitting one and it couldn’t have ended any other way. But it’s surprising. Even I was surprised.
What book do you think everyone should read?
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I read this novel when I was fourteen. It was the first time I’d thought about another person’s point of view. Teenagers aren’t known for their introspection. I learned that soldiers on both sides of a war suffer, feel afraid, and miss their homes, their families. Enemies are often just like us. It was a great equalizer for me, realizing we’re all human no matter where we come from.
How long have you been writing?
Not too long, really—about ten years. I’m a late bloomer. I was mid-forties when I started.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
It’s in flux. I think self-publishing, for good and bad, has turned the market upside down. It’s great that anyone can publish a book. There are some talented self-published authors out there that couldn’t break through the barrier of traditional publishing. It makes the playing field more level. It’s bad that everyone can publish a book because the market is on overload and many self-published books aren’t edited properly and aren’t great. So, like everything else it’s got its pros and cons. But with so many novels getting published, self or otherwise, it’s difficult to get traction or to get noticed. The writer has to be very involved in the marketing even with a publisher. And most writers are not great at self- promotion.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Thinking they’re born writers. I definitely think some people have an inbred interest in it and are naturally better at it than others, but every writer has a lot to learn. Writers have to decide why they’re writing. Do they want to get a traditional or indie publisher? Self-publish? Are they just writing for themselves? If you’re writing to put something out in the world it should be your best and you have to learn to be your best, there are no shortcuts. It’s hard, hard work.
However, you also have to be careful because anytime there’s a “wannabe” market there are plenty of dishonest people out there dying to take your money for “guaranteed” publishing or marketing help, or writing classes. Do the research. Don’t fall for anyone who guarantees you anything.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would’ve started much earlier. When my mother died a few years ago I found several pieces I’d written when I was younger. I didn’t remember writing them. So I had an interest but never realized it. I didn’t take it seriously and no one encouraged me to take it seriously. I didn’t know anyone who wrote anything for a living when I was younger. So, I’d tell myself to follow my gut and go for it.
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