[Writer’s note: What began as a writing prompt — photo and first paragraph — has become at least the start of a story. I will endeavor to add short sections to it, at lest as long as there is some interest. It might be a little rough in parts, but that’s because it is coming “hot off the press,” which could be part of the fun of it. In the meantime, you are free to jump off from any part of this story thus far and write your own version. Click Holly’s Corner below to get Parts 1 – 7.]
by David E. Booker
I hadn’t refilled my drink and there wasn’t anything on a nearby table, so Marc dropped the rest of the Ricky Ricardo on the floor, turned and raced out of the restaurant.
Everybody’s a food critic.
Father Brown was waiting for me at what passed for an office. Treehouse with slightly insulated walls was a better way of describing the former storage area, second story walk up. The steps needed repair and were steeper than some parts of the trail at House Mountain. Not exactly inviting for business. And there was an odd smell, like cooked cabbage and roasted Brussel Sprouts that came and went without seeming regularity or reason.
I thought about asking him if he had a hot plate hidden somewhere in my ramshackle pseudo-office, but wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer.Father Brown was in his seventies and had been a Catholic priest. He had been tall in his day, but was now a bit stoop-shouldered, maybe even hunched back, and more than a little reluctant to go outside. His hair was white and he wore a goatee that could make him seem like a mischievous old uncle or a devious old man, depending on what he said and how he said it. His having one slightly lazy eye didn’t help in determining if he was mischievous or malevolent. Being convicted as a pedophile didn’t help either. At least that’s how people heard it. He had actually been convicted of aiding a pedophile, something he said he did not do wittingly. He did not know he was doing it.
He came to me to help him clear his name. The church wasn’t going to help, nor the parents of any of the kids. But a couple of the kids who were now adults came forward and said he had nothing to do with what happened to them. Armed with that, I had tried to move forward, but then Father Brown started losing his mind, so to say. Memories became jumbled, details incoherent or empty in places. Then, out of the blue, details return. Sometimes only for a while.
Doctors, at least the ones I can afford, have not answer. Medicare has not been much help, either, in paying for some specialty tests. Thus far, speculation … excuse me, diagnosis … has run the gamut from chemically based to an emotional one, a form of post-traumatic stress. A few ten thousand dollars more and they might just be able to nail it down … or not.
When lucid, he could be a wonder to have around and for a man of his age. He has taken to the computer as if he’d entered a second childhood. He says he has his own place, but he is always “locking up the office” at the end of the day and is the first one in.
I have found food wrappers and apple cores in the trash sometimes in the morning, but Father Brown says he brings things in and heats them in the microwave he bought at a yard sale, then donated to the office. Once in a while it makes an arcing sounding when heating something and some day may catch fire and burn the place down.
Brown’s first name is John and I can see the headlines now: “John of Arc Sets Self on Fire.”
I should not be so flippant.
“Did you make mud pies at your lunch meeting at Holly’s?” Brown asked when he saw me.
“Probably would have been better off if I had,” I said. “Ran into Marc.”
“I bet that hurt.”
Sometimes Brown took things too literally or maybe he was having fun with me. Sometimes I couldn’t tell. He handed me a damp cloth to wipe myself off.
“The client and I couldn’t agree on terms, so she left and I’m on the search for another replacement.”
“That’s the second one in the past week that you couldn’t reach terms with.”
We were standing in what served as the receptionist area. We had erected a flimsy wall with drapery on a rod across the opening where a door would be. Brown sometimes called it my Les Nessman door.
We were six hours and many years away from a fictional radio station. I would have to make sure Brown had no plans for turkeys this Thanksgiving.
“This one was about finding a family heirloom,” I said.
“Heirlooms can be priceless.”
“Not a recipe.”
“Recipes and spices have played important parts of history.”
“How would you know?”
“Because I told him so.” It was a woman’s voice. It started a little whiny, then turned a little guttural.
I tossed the wet wipe in the trash and stepped through the curtain and behind door number one was the woman who had threatened me with her rolling pin. She was still gripping the deadly device.
(To be continued.)