Friday, August 30, 2013

Mamie Barlowe, Episode 5

       “It’s the time of the devil’s moon, the devil’s moon, the devil’s moon . . . Out with the bad, in with the good . . . Out with the bad, in with the good. Breathe life into this mortal soul, oh Cratorious, God of the planet Soltaris . . . breathe love into her heart, Oh Calippias, Goddess of the planet Soltaris . . . I exhort you both . . . I implore you both . . . Bring this mortal soul back to life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . SHE’S MY GRANDDAUGHTER FOR HEAVEN SAKE’S!”
That did it. I open sluggy eyes to slits. I wish I hadn’t, see. A wrinkly, black-haired skinny old woman wearing a purple mumu two sizes too big, a purple cape, and a purple turban, stands at the foot of my bed. Grandma Barlowe? Beads are everywhere. I hear them dropping to the floor every time I move my head. I smell something vile. Incense? Where the heaven am I? Must be having a nightmare. I blink my eyes several times. Nope, she’s still there. Only a little blurrier. I rasp out, “Water, I need water.” That doesn’t generate any action. I croak, “Help . . . I need . . . help!”
Grandma abruptly disappears. I hear chanting, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Oh ye Gods of Light and Sun and Love . . . Thank you, thank you, I will forever be in your debt . . . but you remember I’m on the installment plan, right? Thank you, this is Hetty Barlowe signing off.”
“What are you doing here, Grandma?” Warm, soft hands suddenly grip mine.
“Now, now, Marnie . . . stay calm, dearie.”
“It’s Mamie, Grandma.” Maybe being dead might have been the better option. 
“Marnie, Mamie, what’s the difference? I brought you back to life, sweetums.” She starts to grind my forehead with . . . sandpaper? I jerk my head away. “Ouch. What are you doing?”
She chants, “Out with the bad . . . in with the good . . . The portal where all things good and bad enter is through the forehead.” She beams. “I’m widening the opening for all things good.”
“It works both ways, Grandma.”
“Meh . . . the good will outweigh the bad. At least in your case, dearie. It’s a gamble I know . . . but what choice do I have?”
I struggle to sit up. Pain knocks me back down. “Ok, where’s the nurse? I’m thirsty.”
“She’s resting in the bathroom, dearie. She’ll be good to go soon.”
“WHAT?”  My voice is back to normal. Despite the pain, I glare at the old woman. “WHY?”
“I had to do the ritual, Marnie. To bring you back. And it worked!” My Grandma grins like a hyena about to eat a good meal.
“Oh, for the love of heaven . . . Where’s Mother Barlowe?”
“I sent her off on a mission. To buy you delicates, sweetums. You aren’t wearing any.”
I feel my backside. She’s right. But that isn’t important now. “Grandma, you are in major trouble with the law, see. Where’s Chill? I need to speak to him.” A few seconds go by. The increasing light in Grandma’s eyes blinds me. I look at the ceiling. “Ok, where is he?”
A shrug. From Grandma that means trouble with a capital T, see. Now here comes the kind of lie that mixes in with the truth, like a dye job gone real bad. 
“I don’t know, sweetums. Haven’t seen him lately.”
“We gotta get out of here.” I test the floor with my feet, and groan. Broken rib or two feels like.
“Good idea, sweetums. I figured you’d want to escape, see. But we have to be quick. Nurse Busybody wake up soon.” Short pause. Means confession time. “And your mother’s probably still stuck in the parking lot. She might get mad and come yell at me.”
I stare hard at Grandma. “I don’t want to know what you did.” That’s not true, see. And Grandma knows it. She giggles.
“Hatpin. I always carry a hatpin, dearie.”
How can an old lady look so happy? Easy. Daughter-in-law and mother-in-law fight like two scarecrows over a crop circle, see. “Where are my clothes?”
“Here.” Grandma reaches under the bed. “Don’t ask me why.”
I hold my breath as I slowly get dressed. Grandma tries to help. She makes it worse, see. She even helps me fall back onto the bed. I want to scream in pain. But I don’t, see. I’m tougher than a nutcracker dancing in an S & M parlor. “Where’s my Kevlar vest?”
“Oh that. I put it on, dearie. Didn’t want that thing lying around. Might give the wrong impression.” She pulls off the mumu in short order. And you don’t want to know what’s underneath, see. I turn my head away. She takes the vest off and hands it over. “Heavy. Flattens my bosoms like a bad tire. But I don’t mind the sacrifice, dearie. At my age, they hang like rotting eggplants.” Sometimes, Grandma Barlowe speaks the absolute truth.
I hear moaning noises in the bathroom. “Ok, Grandma, you go distract the nurses out in the hallway. I’ll slip out in the confusion.”
Her eyes light up. “Perfect plan, sweetums. I know exactly what to do.” And she was gone, see. 
This could sour fast. Grandma never knows what to do. But then I hear wailing. Like a banshee, see. I understand there may be a whole new side to Grandma Barlowe. Only problem? Subverting the purposes of Section 5150 for personal gain is against the laws of karma. But it’s smart thinking. Might get her off on the assault charge. I’m impressed. She’s good at crazy. 
I slip unnoticed into the elevator. But I’m breathless. The Vest saved my life, but it cost me plenty in pain, see. I reach the car. As I drive out of the parking lot, there’s an older woman sitting on a parking bumper. She’s reading one of those electronic devices. Looks a bit like Mother Barlowe. I catch a glimpse of a tow truck. At least she’s getting help. 
I have other fish to fry, see; like finding a certain female “clent” who hired me to do that cheating job in the first place; like finding Billy The Chimp, who is approximately three feet tall, hatless and bootless, and wearing blue jeans with a custom made Triple K Double drop holster belted rig drawn through the loops, a pearl-studded blue-plaid shirt, and a red-kerchief around his neck. Apparently, Billy is also carrying one, .22 caliber 1960 Colt Frontier Scout with great Cowboy action. I got that much before he shot me. 
But here’s the deal, see. Billy needs an apartment at the zoo like I need a knocker job. Sable won’t let him go without a fight. Yeah, he’s one of Sable’s boys. And one of the most vicious chimps I’ve ever encountered. But did he shoot Mick the Creep and his girlfriend? That’s the ten thousand dollar question, see. I’m heading down Emerald Boulevard to get me some answers. I take out my cell phone and call Chill Tornado. I wait for him to pickup, then look in the rear-view mirror. Headlights are speeding toward me like a football headed for the ol’ breadbasket. Only I’m not in the mood to play catch, see. I toss the phone down. Time to take evasive action. When the headlights reflect off my rear bumper, I step on the brakes, and swerve a 180. The classic car following me almost rides up my tookus. Shots are fired. Two. Both missed by a football field. From, guess who? Yeah, that’s who. The other car squeals like a pig porking in a pumpkin patch before it vamooses. I park my car to the side of the road. The pain in my chest is so bad, I take out my cell and text Sable:  get glasseds u dum twiy!
An almost instant reply. Sable’s good about that, see:  u wisg. eet mi snoy. What? I decode the message by checking the alpha pad on my phone. Then I laugh so hard the pain jumps to a twenty. I keel over and think about my bucket list. First up, send Sable a $12 pair of glasses from Value mart!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Bath Follies," Episode 3

Now, it is (also) ofttimes bandied about in certain intellectual circles that perhaps the best way out of a most unpleasant situation wherein the tables have been turned so abruptly on one’s head—such as what happened to poor Lord Brumbly, despite having made a good and honest attempt to help his niece through her great trial and tribulation—is to either take the high road—a road paved with true sincerity and the spirit of humility and apology, allowing one to rectify a gross misapprehension—or, take the low road—a road paved by the cobblestones of cowardice, allowing one to straightwith run from a “fire” before it rages out of control—and leave all comfortings as need be, or, such cleanings up of the dramatics, to the female of the species—such as what Uncle Peter ultimately did to his wife, Joan, who, he was perfectly convinced, possessed the requisite sensitivity with which to deal with overwrought females.  And so my dear readers, it was with that spirit of pusillanimity which resided so permanently in his heart, that Lord Brumbly quickly withdrew from Lady Angela’s bedchamber without another word to his niece!
But, poor Aunt Joan, after putting forth a valiant effort to calm the Lady Angela, yet did the rainstorm of tears continue, and she began to despair and doubt her ability to calm the flood; therefore, accompanied by handwringing of the sort not seen since a near fatal episode involving Roger, a milk pail, and a cussed bull, she decided firmer action was in order; it was, after all, of great necessity and importance to find out the true nature of the walk her niece so eloquently spouted off about, particular as it had been attended by the sort of sufferings Aunt Joan had never been privy to witness in her dear niece’s entire life! However, enough was enough. Therefore, Aunt Joan turned to Roger who had been lurking about the hallway for the entire performance. 
“My dearest Roger,” she hissed most urgently, “pray do come here. I have a request of the utmost importance.” Scarcely had she mentioned his name before the young boy appeared abruptly before her, a mixture of eagerness and concern on his fresh young face, unspotted by freckles of any kind, and more fair than rays of sun beaming off a parterre of hedges whose noble crowns are perpetually barbered to perfection, excepting that his dark hair was perpetually in a state of disgrace with curls so thick the total picture was one of continual, and unwholesome untidiness, though Aunt Joan was forever smoothing his hair down, and had even resorted to cutting it close to his head. A mere month later the picture was the same as dear Roger’s hair grew at an alarming rate! “Yes, Auntie Joan, what may I do, what may I do?” the boy replied with utmost eagerness. 
A warm smile appeared on his aunt’s face. “Dear Roger, what would I do without your charming ferventness to be pleasing at all times.” She commenced to smooth his errant curls down. “You may fetch me a pail of water this instant.”
The boy was gone in a flash! the pitter patter of excitement beating fast and furious in his bird-like breast, knowing in his heart of hearts that his sister was about to receive her just reward for scaring everybody half to death with a performance so spontaneously outlandish, Roger was perfectly convinced a douse of cold water could only do his beloved sister much good; in point of fact, it was the only solution! And Roger was most profoundly happy to be the pail bearer; though, that is not to say he did not love his sister—for he most assuredly did, but it is a well-known fact in society that Lady Angela Rosecroft’s ego is so entirely out-of-control, so overwhelmingly and unnecessarily prideful, that there must needs be a vital correction in the manner of a set-down that will be both dramatic and effective.

By the by, Roger returned with a pail of water, though half-empty from when first he had filled it, as a great portion of it had ended up on the stairs due to his most excitable state, and in his prodigious haste to return to his sister’s bedchamber to do his aunt’s bidding. Still, there was enough to shock Angela back to some form of life. Roger burst into the room without so much as a by your leave, and when confronted by his sister’s unceasing sobs that were increasing in intensity, and being most frightened at this continual hysteria of tears—which were, truth to tell, invariably breaking his heart—the over-anxious boy dashed forward to the bed; and failing to heed his aunt standing in the wings waiting most patiently with an outstretched hand to take the water pail so she could gently, and quite lightly splash a little liquid onto the back of her niece’s sobbing head—just a tad to get the poor girl’s attention—Roger—he with that great spirit of devotion common to all children, he with the tender soul of a young pup eager to please its master, he with a compelling, masculine need to be useful in such times of extreme crisis—he chucked the contents of the pail right smack onto his sister’s head with a great deal of speed, and splash!
Lady Angela instantly responded in a most impolitic way; that is to say, she bounded off the bed with great dexterity, flexibility and quickness, her sobs having ceased to the instant; and, with a roar to near match her uncle’s, she roundly boxed dear Roger on the ears causing the young boy to howl with much pain! Aunt Joan, with a most grievous expression on her face, rounded up the sobbing boy and hurried out of the room, but not before she left words of severe rebuke. 
“Upon my word, Angela, you have gone far beyond the pale in this matter. You may stay in your room until such time as you apologize to your brother; a merciless assault on an innocent child ten years younger is exceedingly monstrous, and shows a complete lack of moral character!” With that pronouncement Aunt Joan swiftly left the room, a comforting, maternal arm wrapped around her tearful nephew. Some seconds after she left, the sound of a lamp shattering against the door made the charitable woman wince, and Roger to cower. Aunt Joan turned and went back to the room. She tentatively opened the door, and with exceeding caution stuck her head in the narrow opening before remarking, “And there will be no supper for you, my dear . . . none at all.” She closed the door with some force as to make her point, but the Lady Angela was now too busily thinking determinedly in this way: she would most certainly not stay in her room; she would leave whenever she wished, to visit with whomever she wished, whenever she wished; and, not to make too fine point on it, but she would also deign to eat whenever she wanted. 
At one and twenty, it went doubly beyond the pale for her Beloved aunt to chastise her thusly, treating her as if she were a mere child. And then, to not even address, much less acknowledge her despair, and her most grievously wounded heart regarding the serious matter of the assault on her person by a man most foul, most bestial in nature—even if his countenance could be likened to that of Antinous, whose Famous beauty captured the love, loyalty and life-long devotion of the Emperor Hadrian—went triply beyond the pale!  Lady Angela threw herself back on the bed, but instead of tears, a sudden more thoughtful, more avaricious gleam appeared, though avaricious might, upon first appearance anyway, to be much too strong a word to describe with sufficient accuracy of what she was truly thinking—or, perhaps it was not; for, in her mind, a man with such a glorious horse as Lucifer, must of necessity be of high social standing, even the nobility, with a portion to rival the wealthiest families in Bath, the Brumbly’s for one; and even though he lacked certain qualities pertaining to courtly, gentleman-like ways, well, Lady Angela was quite sure she could be as fine a teacher as one could hope for! 
She must endeavor to find out his name. She bounced off the bed, donned a day gown of like quality to the Infamous dreadful one of the Disastrous morning, and flew out the door to make the necessary apology. After all, Roger, her dear beloved brother, really did not deserve such a comeuppance, for he was, she supposed, doing only that which her aunt was going to do. And Lady Angela did concede the possibility she had minor weaknesses to her character—she was still very young after all; though the mere fact that in this particular instance the apology came at a most convenient time—which, even you must admit dear reader, could not have come at a better time, though, if supposing it had come at a more inconvenient time such that she stood not to benefit from such confessions and apologies of a contrite spirit, oh! how impressive that would be, and perhaps we would not then suspicion that her actions to be superficial in nature, and all part of a devious plan!   
A scant two days later, our heroine set off to church with her brother,  aunt and uncle, seemingly with the most pleasant of expressions upon her lovely face, such that passerby's did remark upon what startling color of eyes she had—indigo blue in Lady Angela’s case—and so very clear and sparkling, like gems adorning rays of sunshine, that it was oh so veritably a great honor to be on the receiving end of her gaze! Yet, rarely did the eyes of Lady Angela seek out another’s; no, most times they alighted on the Beauteous buildings of Bath, or the elegant barouche’s—to like, or as not, as they paraded down city lanes; and this after noting with great interest the quality of Magnificent horses attached to a particular mode of transportation, such as to their color, how fashionable their mane and tail, and how sufficiently large they were! Even more often, and more avidly did our heroine’s eyes feast upon the youthful female occupants in these fine carriages with their presentable beaus, and thinking with pointed interest as to what style of dress her contemporaries were wearing—such as, were they in the fashion of the season?—and, as to what manner of man did accompany them—such as, was he of the ton, a gentleman, a tradesman, or a military officer?; and, how fortunate, or not, were these couples in looks, as it was most important to Lady Angela that they appear very well put together, like as one to the other. 
It was decidedly these kind of observations that Lady Angela was more often engaged in; and, it is not to say that our heroine was at all envious of these fine young romantic couples, for she knew in her heart of hearts that in the very near future she would be set up in the most conspicuously Grandest barouche of them all, with the most handsome aristocrat of all—once she designed to make her acquaintance with Lord Devilyn in a more socially proper and congenial way, of course, and train him to be at her side; and, how like as not the two of them would be the most Beautiful couple ever to ride the streets of Bath, and how very much like a Queen she would be, waving to her many adoring fans! She would undoubtedly be the envy of all the married and unmarried females in Bath! Nay, in the whole of England!
But of a sudden was there no more time for further reflection and self-adulation! For Lady Angela’s thoughts, which, admittedly were exceedingly pompous and fantastical in nature, were most rudely interrupted when her brother Roger, with great quickness of speed, darted out into the street convinced he had seen a dipper lift the purse the size of a sow’s ear hanging innocently off the side of a nattily-dressed, but rather plumpish woman of some advanced age, who, with both gloved hands, held so tightly onto her parasol as to be in total neglect and disregard for the well-being of her purse; and though it had thinly laid straps of the finest quality leather ever, it would not have taken much effort to cut loose, leaving the guttersnipe to dash away so very quickly it was scarcely to be believed a crime had been committed! But Roger had no such misgivings. He had seen what he had seen; and, as a consequence, he plowed into the middle of the street yelling, Cutpurse! Cutpurse! Cutpurse! before any family members, including our heroine could stop him! It was truly a miracle the dear boy was not hit at once by any of the numerous grand carriages, and barouches parading about on their way to all the Elevated churches so prominently on display in Bath. 
Then—Oh! what with wondrous eyes if we could but behold; yet another blessed miracle was about to unfold! Our heroine did follow through on the most decisive! most self-less! most courageous act of her entire life!—she plucked her brother up by the top of his suit collar and dragged him to the other side of the street—the side upon which the crime had allegedly occurred—though, in her haste to do so, the bottoms of her skirt were in utter ruin from the numerous indelicate, mud-like droppings that Magnificent horses tend to make as they trot exceedingly fine patrons to various places; and, it is at this point that I must make short shrift of any further description of an event that is second nature to these beasts, and the extremely unhappy results that commonly occur when an innocent bystander stumble over such indelicate matter, except to say this: the malodorous smell can nigh be overwhelming at times, so much so, that people walking to and fro from church will often have fanciful embroidered white handkerchiefs available to the ready! 
Leave it enough to be said, that our heroic Lady Angela was most wroth by the time she had Roger safely about; and, with one of his ears pinched in a gloved hand she gave him the scolding of his life! How exceedingly unfortunate it was then, that almost to the exact minute she was scolding dear Roger, our portly Lady of Quality—she of whom Roger swore up and down had had her purse nicked—began to wail for all to hear, that yes, indeed she had been robbed most Tragically! And how doubly unfortunate it was, that when Lady Angela did look up in response to this annoying caterwauling, she was to find that a gilded, satin-lined barouche had come to an abrupt stop beside her. And Oh! what a complete dismantling of Lady Angela’s quite very bold and romantical imaginings when she recognized the male occupant of this noble carriage: he, who did sit very prettily next to a female companion: he, who was now gaping most rapturously at the scene before him: he, to whom we are rather intimately familiar with—Yes! He, that veritable lion of a Beast, Lord Byron Devilyn, the man who ofttimes seeks, as per his mood on any particular day, the ruination of every misfortunate, Beauteous female who crosses his path—a man who might forever be known as the most scandalous scoundrel in Bath, with an Infamous smile to match the most insufferable, most demonic, most unnatural creature ever!  
How completely humiliating, and demoralizing should it have been for our Lady Angela to witness a female counterpart compel so vividly to life, the very same ambitious fantasy our heroine had heretofore imagined only just a few minutes before! What soul-debasing, abject mortification!—that is, for anybody other than Lady Angela. Truth to tell, our heroine very rarely suffers the consequences of self-directed, and rather hysterical adjectative prescriptives, which very dramatically describe inner turmoil, particular in regards to deeply rooted self-reflective emotions, which, if properly expressed and appreciated, can lead to transformation of character, albeit slowly! 
      Instead, and plucked forthwith from our heroine’s bag of tricks, Lady Angela’s mouth did drop in a most unladylike manner, and with such extreme vexation, she did glare upon Lord Devilyn and his most attractive female companion with an exceedingly baleful eye!  And of a certainty did our heroine know this particular female. And of a certainly, it must be duly noted, that had Lady Angela her parasol in hand, she would have snapped it shut, and then, oh, much like a paddle ready to strike a ball, so too would her parasol be used as a paddle, excepting the object to be struck in this instance, would be a very prettily constructed head—the profile of which had come lately been made famous by the artist of the day—causing quite possibly the most Wretched destruction of the loveliest, most pastorally-inspired, most fashionably-styled, and expensive bonnet ever made for a Regency woman! 

Author note: 

I made up a word. Can you fine it? (Did you see what I just did? Giggle. Yes, all author's should be fined for using words not in a dictionary!) I probably made up even more, and don't even know it. You know, I absorbed that particular peculiarity from Georgette Heyer by osmosis. She was really good at making up words and passing them off as genuine. But you'd have to be a word wizard to catch her. Or keep a dictionary by the table.  

Thursday, August 08, 2013

"Sucks, Doesn't It?" A Memoir, Entry 29


“What do you mean the lights went out, Liz?”
“I mean everything got dark. Dark, dark, dark. Like a light switch got turned off or something. I don’t remember what happened next. But—”
"Yes?" Pen’s breathing quickens with anticipation.
I shrug. “Nothing. Forget it. Lost my train of thought. And I’m really tired now. Wanna go home.” I start writing out the check.
“Liz, I think it would be good idea if you come twice a week for the time being.”
My turn to blink. “Can’t afford it, Pen. Sorry.” I quickly make another appointment and float out the door.
Back in the car, I surprise B by hopping into the front seat, to talk his ear off  about the session. After fifteen minutes of this non-stop chatting, I direct B to pull over and park next to an office store. I hustle into it, hunting for a small tape recorder.
“Liz, what’re you doing?”
“Nothing, really. I just thought it would be a good idea to get a tape recorder and record my sessions. I can’t remember a thing Pen says anymore.”
“Oh,” I reply irritated. “I don’t know. Just can’t.”
B shrugs and drops it.
Pretty soon we're back on the road. I'm hugging my purchase like it's a boyfriend—someone else's—and I'm very glad I stole him. Why, I don't know. And I also don't know why I bought the recorder. I don’t like them. Never have. Probably has something to do with the warbly affect of a disembodied voice. Don’t like phones for the very same reason. Plus, my voice sucks big tomatoes when I record it and play it back.
       Later that night, I'm in such a bloody good mood, I decide to draw. But after I finish it, my mood sickens unto death. What the hell's wrong with you, Liz? Just great. Pen’s really gonna love this one.
       I drop my head into my hands and sigh, staring with dismay at the childish drawing of circles and knife blade slashes wondering what it all means. Lotta red on this one too. Wow. This is not how I learned to draw in kindergarten.
Suddenly, I take my pen and viciously stab the inside of the circles and slashes, leaving jagged donut holes. I begin to tremble. Nausea does its usual song and dance routine, and I slump to the floor, rocking and moaning, “no, no, no, no” as that familiar, maniacal voice from the past begins its relentless march into my psyche.
“What the hells wrong with you, girl? You gotta stand up for yourself. You cain’t let trash like that n***** take away what’s yours. Don't you never let it happen again! ‘Cos if it do, I'll teach you a real good lesson next time. You hear me, girl?”
“Yessir.” The dark-haired, scruffy head of a little six-year old girl bounces up and down, even as the bile in her liver swims upstream and into her throat passage, threatening to empty its contents onto Mr. M’s feet.
The tall, stubby-headed man wipes the spittle from his mouth with a bare forearm. “But we take care of our own, young’un. You see.”
You see, you see, you see . . .Oh, how I hate echoes. A disturbing memory drifts lazily in and out of my mind. It finally centers itself, and becomes a moving picture.
“Swing higher, Lizzie. Up, up, up. To the white clouds.” A tiny, undernourished girl all of six years old, obeys an inner voice and pumps her legs faster and faster to reach her goal. “Wheeee, this is fun!” She suddenly giggles, an unusual occurrence. It feels real good, until…
“Get offa my swing!”
Startled by the ugly command, the tiny girl stops laughing. Fear gnaws at her innards. She stops pumping her short skinny legs and slows down, her feet scraping the ground. Turning her head in the direction from whence the voice came, she is confronted by an enormous girl, arms folded across her wide chest, a belligerent look on her face.
The tiny girl lifts her pointy little chin. “No! It ain’t your swing. Anyways, I got here first.” She turns back around and begins to swing again. Suddenly, a violent shove from behind propels her off the swing, and onto her stomach. Her forehead bounces off the gravel. Stunned for a bit, she slowly gets to her feet, determined not to cry, though the tears are damming up in her eyes, ready to flood the skeletal expanse of thin dirty cheeks. She silently watches as the girl sticks out her tongue and triumphantly takes possession of the swing.
“I told you to get offa it, skinny. That’s what you get.” She starts to swing.
But seemingly out of nowhere, a woman built like an Amazon and with a mad dog look on her face, grabs the rope and stops the swing. Reaching out, she yanks the girl off the seat, and yells, “You are in big trouble, Ruby Pickens. You do not push other children around. I keep telling you this every single day. Now, I’m taking you to the principal’s office. He’ll teach you to mind your manners. A good paddling is what you need. Then he’s going to call your parents to come pick you up. Maybe a few days away from school will get you to thinking right.”
The teacher turns to the now crying skinny girl, and says softly, “Are you hurt, child?”
"No, ma’am."
Smiling gently, teacher says,“Come with me. I’ll take you to the nurse and she’ll fix that cut on your forehead. Then I’ll call your parents to come pick you up. That was a nasty fall.”
Nervous, the skinny girl says with a sniffle,“She dint mean t’do it, teacher. It was a acc’dent.”
Teacher glares at skinny girl. “Don’t make it worse by lying, child. I saw exactly what happen. And Ruby Pickens needs to be taught a lesson . . . all her kind do,” she mutters. Then teacher viciously pinches Ruby’s arm and shoves her forward. Ruby begins to wail . . .
The hateful voices from the past die away. Thankfully, I’m rational once again. I float back to my feet and think, gee, I wonder what little Ruby Pickens is doing now? Does she remember that day in the playground too?
I head for the medicine cabinet and take some valium. I fervently hope Ruby Pickens fared better than I had when the school informed her parents what had happened.
I start feeling sleepy and decide to take a nap. I’m dozing off when Psycho Voice casually remarks, “Lizzie, Ruby Pickens never came back to school. She vanished, poof, gone, outta sight, just like that. Don’t you remember?”
Out loud I answer my own question. “Hmm … not really.” Drowsily I add, “Mebbe she got ‘espelled. Them colored kids was all the time yellin’ and fightin’ . . .”
“Then riddle me this, genius, why did the coppers come and question Mr. M?”
“'Cos you was all the time tellin’ lies to little childrens about seein’ people killt . . . Anyways, who cares anymore. We all growed up now. Go to sleep.”
“But Lizzie, what if they weren’t lies?” 

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Mamie Barlowe, Episode 4

Ten minutes on the job, I'm heading out the office. A bullet whizzes by my head and hits the doorframe. I jump back inside and take out my watch. It’s a priceless family heirloom: a pocket watch with a gold fob, the crystal face framed by tiny diamonds. It hangs off a 24k gold chain. Grandma Barlowe gave it to me. I was on a stakeout, see. The mug spotted me, see. There’s a reason he spotted me. A 90-year-old woman in the passenger seat of my car got real bored. She decided to freshen up her makeup. First, she primped her two storey, dyed blacker-than-midnight bouffant hairdo. A coupla ribbons were sagging. Next, she reapplied ruby red lipstick. Only she used a compact mirror, the kind of mirror that kills a stakeout faster than I can yell, GET DOWN! I spotted the flashing light, but not before a bullet took out my front white wall tire. Then I yelled GET DOWN, but the second bullet was already on its way, see. It collapsed the second storey of Grandma Barlowe’s hair before slamming into the side of a street meter. She ducked. I ducked. I took out my glock to return fire. Grandma handed the watch over. I was a little busy, see. But she felt bad. I knew why. I took the watch.
  Now I’m cornered in my office waiting for a second bullet. They always come in pairs, see. I count down: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 . . . Bingo! It hits the door frame. That should do it. Some jasper has called the cops by now. Good thing Sable Mink isn’t a crack shot. She’s nearsighted, see. And that’s not all—and darn if it doesn’t crack me up in a good way—she has an eye phobia, the kind of phobia that doesn't like wearing contacts or glasses; the kind of phobia an eye doc should oughta run away from if he sees ditzy dame Sable stumble into his office.
  Not seeing real good is a major weakness in my line of business. But Sable’s different. She’s part telekinetic, part psycho. Ok, scratch that last part. She’s full on psycho! But she can move objects with her mind, see. Big objects. Not just spoons and baby rattles. I was at a conference once for psychic dicks. Sable showed up. And she wasn’t there to kiss my tookus. She was there to flatten it like this boulder that ‘suddenly’ rolled down a mountain one time, and hit a jeep carrying two mugs who were tailing me. I look at it like this: it saved a junkyard from compacting the tuna can, and it saved the mortuary from having to bury the bodies. Things mostly work out to my advantage, see. When they don’t, I suffer. And Sable ruined that conference. I spent more time dodging bullets, dishes, vases, statuettes, tables and chairs, and less time accumulating biblical knowledge; you know the kind, where 11:00 in the evening means shuffling off to bed, with a man, then smoking a cigarette, then leaving a note that says, stay healthy; stay the heaven away! 
  I reholster the glock. Then take out my cell phone and text Sable: 3 blind ice, c ‘ow the run! I hate texting. But Sable gets the message. She replies, i got mi i on u clent. Stupid dame. She can’t spell for bat guano. Good thing I know what "clent" means. Since Sable doesn’t leave her own “clents” alive many a time, Roxy Binghorton the III is in serious trouble. She’s gotta be the reason Sable knows about my “clent.” Need to find Roxy. Spell things out the way they’re going to be, see. 
I make a few phone calls. Turns out Mrs. Binghorton the III is in Bermuda. I call Mr. COB the III with the information. Told him it could be a ploy. Told him not to let down his guard. He tells me he hired a shadow already. I say good and hang up. Meantime, there’s an easy case I’m working one, the kind of case where the wife 'thinks' her husband is cheating, but the husband doesn’t think she knows he’s cheating. Ha, ha, ha! She does know, you lugs. 100% of the time she knows. And that's before I'm hired. Wifey's just gathering evidence to plan her revenge. 
  Later that same night, I’m driving down Dragon Alley. It’s a strip of road a ghost wouldn’t be caught dead in; you know the kind: red lights flashing, hookers sticking out skinny gams, people hustling with needles sticking out their arms, and drug dealers holding lunch bags in their hands. Chill told me lunch bags went out with sweet innocent little kids; you know the ones, they don’t yap to adults. Unless you make them mad, see. Then the little genius’ come up with two words that should oughta muzzle their mouths. Permanently. I don’t use words like that, see. Mother Barlowe taught me real good that way. I was six. A bad word popped out of my mouth. A word Daddy used a lot. Mother Barlowe lost it. She marched into Grandma Barlowe’s room, and came out holding a small box with these colored tablets inside, see. Grandma told me later they were invented by a Dr. Miles’. Mother Barlowe took out six beauts, and pushed them on Daddy. I begged for some, but Mother Barlowe said no, the kind of ‘no’ that means no. Then she gave Daddy an ultimatum. He swallowed the tabs right away. Guess he didn’t want to sleep on the couch forever. I’d a taken the couch. Daddy stumbled out of the bathroom like he’d been laundered through a Handy Dandy Model Mangle, you know the kind, designed for the modern home and the best in its class. I felt sorry for Daddy. But I never heard bad words again.
  I pull into a dog and pony motel; the kind where raids occur on a daily basis, and people run out their rooms stark naked. They’re holding clothes, keys, wallets, and cellphones with one hand, unmentionables with the other. If they’re men. It’s harder for women. Makes it tough on my eyes. Still, it’s a whole lotta fun to watch. These sinners, as Grandma Barlowe calls’ em, scatter in all the wrong directions. They forget where they park. I don’t. I learned my lesson the first time. But Grandma Barlowe doesn’t know that, see!
  My key turns the lock in a door marked 179. I look around the area, then up at the sky, you know, in case there are any UFO’S with my name on the flagship. I slip inside and close the door. It’s dark, see. But I’m not alone. 
  “That you, Mamie?”
  “No, it’s a butcher with a cleaver. Cover’em up, Luigi.”
  A whole lot of giggling erupts from someplace close. “Hey, come over here and cover’em up for me, Mamie. And call me Lou. How many times I gotta tell you that?”
  I make my way over to where I think Luigi is. With Luigi, he could be under the bed, doing things I wouldn’t do with the lights out. But I see a bulky stump standing face against a wall. One of Luigi’s eyes is glued to a sawed-out, quarter-size hole smack in the middle of the wall. Great view for a perv. But Luigi isn’t a perv, see. At least not around me. “Any signs of life?”
  “Yeah, got a flagpole in my pants, ‘cos that perfume you wearin‘ is grippin’ it. Know what I mean? OW! That hurt, bitc—OW! What the hell? Someone tamper with your lady parts? OW! Ok, ok, I give up.”
  Luigi’s rubbing his nose. I think I see the glint of tears. “I asked you a question, Lou.”
  His eyes light up. “Hey, you called me Lou, Mamie. I knew you’d fall for me one day.” Then he gets serious. “No, and I been here at least two hours already.”
    “You been here ten minutes. Most of that time spent on the crap throne.”
  “Damn, Mamie. I can’t lie to you for nothin’. I hate that psychic shit you do. OW! Geez, Louise can’t I say anything without you—OW! Ok, ok, I surrender for good.” His eyes light up again. “Hey, Mamie, I can’t do this seein’ eye thing for ‘while. Got me a new job.” 
  I look at him like his nose sprung a red geyser. “You? What kinda job?”
  He chuckles, then shakes his head like it’s got lice. “No can say. Sworn to secrecy.” He puts his eye back up against the hole. “Haven’t seen nothin’. Bo—ring.”
  I push him out of the way without replying. And look for myself. My psychic nose starts twitching. In a real bad way. Either a rat died in the wall, or a two-legged rat faced another two-legged rat marking its territory with bullets. My vote’s on the latter. “We need to get into that room, Lou.”
  He jumps up excited. “My specialty. I’m outta—OW! Jeebuz, Mame. Don’t ever do that again. I don’t like being pinched. Reminds me of when my brother and sister used to bite me on the arms. I was just a baby.”
  “Yeah? And where is your brother and sister now?”
  “In the stir. But—”
     “No buts, Lou. They’re there, you’re here, get over it. I pinched you for a reason, see.” His eyes grow rounder than 38 Double Dee bralicious cups. Not mine. Mine are bigger, see. Not that I’m bragging. Carrying two tons of weight up front slows me way down. I’m thinking surgery. 
  “Oh, I get it. Somethin’s not right in that room.”
  “Yeah. So open the door, but don’t go inside, capiche?”
  “Capiche with a touch of cappuccino, bosswoman.” He darts out of the room. 
  I’m on his heels like a mosquito at chow time!
  A few minutes later, Luigi’s laid outside the room moaning about missing a few man parts. Luigi don’t listen so good. Drastic action is often necessary to save a life, see. I take out my glock and pause outside the door for signs of activity. I don’t hear any, so I creep inside the room without turning on the light. Bad mistake. I slip on something slick and plant face down into soft mushy flesh. There’s good mushy and bad mushy. This one’s bad, the kind of bad where you want to stick your head into the oven and end it all. But I don’t, see. I heave myself to my knees, and reholster my glock. Then I play patty cake with the corpse. Rigor hasn’t set in. Been dead only a few hours is my guess. And it’s a very naked male. Know how I can tell? No, not like that, see. I’m no perv. It's the body hair. And the hairiest set of arms I’ve ever touched. Reminds me of someone I know. A gorilla by the name of Mick the Creeper. He treats me like a bad check; I treat him like a hairball; there are times I visit the ER for a few broken bones; there are times the hair on his forearms get waxed. He screams real nice. I’m going to miss that. 
        I shake my head and sigh. Mick was Sable's shadow, see. Those two were real tight; corkscrew in a wine bottle kind of tight, see. Hard to believe the gorilla actually had the balls to cheat on Sable. But he wasn't exactly mensa material. Sable and him had a lot in common; dumb and very dumb. I get to my feet, and check out the rest of the room. Nothing. I check out the bathroom, only this time I turn on the light, see. Great. Just great. Naked woman face down on the floor. She never made it to the shower. Two bullets stopped her. One in the back, and one in the right posterior cheek. I hear a weird breathing noise behind the shower curtain. I hold my breath and take out the glock. You know the old saying, shoot first, ask questions later? It's crap. Usually. I rip the shower curtain open. Wow! Big surprise, you know the kind, where your eyes go round and round like a dirty slot machine, and you can't focus for a few seconds! I lower the glock. Ugh! Big mistake, you know the kind, where a bullet penetrates your chest before you can process it all! 
       A dead body breaks my fall. But something small, hairy, and—judging by the wide grin on its face—cocky, uses me as a catapult and jumps out the bathroom. And, is that a cackle I hear?
Good. Probably be the first thing I remember when I come out of my coma . . . Might be a good time to get knocker surgery too!