[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 – 12.]
by David E. Booker
“Tricia’s mom suspected my father of sleeping with a neighbor lady and one day while Dad and the woman were away, she broke into the woman’s house looking for evidence. She didn’t find any, but she found this recipe. According to the story Tricia’s mom told me once, this recipe was out on the counter and just for spite, she stole it. She didn’t even know what it was. She was just angry and looking for some way to let this woman know that if she was going to steal from her, she was going to steal from this neighbor lady.”“Does this neighbor lady have a name?”
Rachel shook her head. “She does, but I don’t remember it. ‘Neighbor lady’ was all my step-mom ever called her. I guess that’s all that stuck. Is it important?”
I shrugged. “Better to know than not.”
She smiled. “You sound like my dad, except he wasn’t saying it about knowledge, if you know what I mean.”
“Is your dad still living?”
Rachel shook her head. “He died in the arms of another woman, you might say.”
“Another woman he was have an affair with?”
“You could say that. Except this woman was a man … in woman’s clothing. He was one of those shemales, I guess they’re called. Disgusting is what they are. This one even had the gall to come to the funeral. Best fucking dressed bitch at the viewing. Had men slobbering after her until somebody pointed out the bump in the front of the skirt.”
“I bet that was you,” I said.
Rachel blushed slightly. It took the edge off her indignation and made her appear almost childlike – as if she’d been caught doing something she shouldn’t have, and while embarrassed, not fully repentant.
“Sure caused a titter or two at Dad’s send off.” She then started giggling. It was almost infectious. Even I smiled, but resisted the urge to join along.
“Would this transsexual have anything to do with the recipe?”
I raised a hand. “Just thought I’d ask.”
“Though the bitch did try to get a piece of the pie, if you will, after Daddy died, claiming that he’d promised this he-thing several thousand dollars toward some final surgery.”
I wasn’t sure where to go. This still seemed more like some intra-family feud, and not one that would put food on my table.
“I think a family councilor would help you all better than a private cop.”
Rachel stared at me, and then nodded. “You’re probably right.” She gathered up her purse and her money, and then stood up from the booth. “Thank you for your time.”
She turned and marched out the front door of The Time Warp Tea Room. In the background, on the big TV screen, a black-and-white western played. A man dressed in a white hat and light-colored clothes was facing down a group of dark-dressed, black-hatted guys.
Bang, bang, you’re broke.
“A string of fools does not a strand of pearls make.”
I looked up from one of my bills and saw Father Brown standing across the desk from me. He had moved so quietly, I had not heard him.
“Some Bible passage I missed?” I asked.
Brown chuckled briefly. It was almost more of a snort. “I dare say not.”
“Not even ‘The Bible according to Father Brown’?”
“To do such a thing would be blasphemy.”
“Many of your brethren, especially on TV on Sunday mornings would disagree.”
“Barbarians and charlatans.”
“And for a modest donation, you, too, can receive this soiled section of cloth that I have put to my forehead as I prayed to God over your situation. He has shown me the truth and for only a few dollars more—”
“They wouldn’t use the word ‘soiled’ or the phrase ‘for only a few dollars more,” Brown said. “They wouldn’t be so crass.”
“But the intent would be just the same,” I said. “For a few dollars more, take you to the point of taking a few dollars more.”
“You are a cynical man,” Brown said. “I shall pray for the deliverance of your immortal soul.”
“While you’re at it, pray from some daily bread. If I don’t find paying work soon, your God may get his soul back sooner than he planned.”
“God is never surprised,” Brown said.
Brown smiled, and then shook his head. “If you don’t believe, then why’d you take me in?”
“Maybe I’m hedging my bets. Or maybe I like pissing off my neighbors.”
“I shall leave you to your ponderings.”
“And my immortal soul?”
“I shall leave you with that, too. At least for now.”
I thought about asking if it had any market value, but wasn’t sure I was ready to make any Faustian bargains with something I didn’t think I had.
Then my cell phone buzzed in its holster and I didn’t have to think about it any longer. “Gumshoe Detective Agency. We pound the pavement so you don’t have to.”
“You think you’re funny with that line? ‘We pound the pavement so you don’t have to.’” The guy’s falsetto wasn’t too grating, but I didn’t care of the mocking tone that went along with it. “I outa come over there and knock your block off.”
I hadn’t heard that phrase in a while. Nobody ever dictated that threats had to original. They might be more fun if they were.
“Come on over,” I said. “I’ll wait.”
There was silence on the wavelength. I don’t think he was expecting that. Maybe that was the reason he hung up … and then called back. I didn’t bother with my opening spiel. I already knew how he felt about that.
“You’re a real piece of work, you know that, refusing to take my wife’s case.”
“Which wife is that?” I was only half-joking. I didn’t know if Rachel was married and I didn’t know if Tricia was, either. Neither one had said and I hadn’t asked.
“Rachel, you jackass.”
“Whoever you are, if you are the husband, I think you should look after your wife, because she’ll probably have one hell of a headache. And tempting as it was to take the money she was flashing around like loose feathers from a down comforter, I try not to take money from drunk people wanting to hire me. They usually sober up and regret it.”
“She’s sobering up now, and she still wants you to take the case.” Then he said in a lower voice, “And if you don’t, I won’t hear the end of it.”
It may be sexist to say I felt sorry for the man when I heard him say it, but I did. I had spent a little time with Rachel and I could see how he might not hear the end of it. I took his address and told him I would be there in thirty minutes.
He hung up without saying thanks and that annoyed me. Manners have disappeared from the face of civility, leaving this unkempt mess of rules and political correctness. You fart in public now and you don’t say excuse me. Instead you fart and then you condescendingly sneer at anyone who looks your way as if to say, “How do you like me now, baby?”
(To be continued.)