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“Holly’s Corner,” part 10

[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 – 9.]

by David E. Booker

“Tea anyone?” Father Brown wriggled himself around me and walked into the room carrying a wicker service tray that was sagging slightly toward the center from the weight of the teapot.

I pointed toward the low coffee table and said, “Now.”

He gave me a look like I was demanding tea immediately.

“In a minute,” he said.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly's Corner.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly’s Corner.

I helped him put it on the coffee table. Maybe Father believed he could beat gravity, but I had other faith. Once the tray was on the coffee table, he shooed me away.

“Take care of your client.”

I could not want to tell him she was not my client. She would have heard and he seemed almost too please that there was one.

I walked over to my desk and took a seat behind it, letting Father Brown serve the tea and make a few pleasant bits of small talk as he did so. When he was done, I asked him to leave.

He frowned.

“Investigator / client privilege,” I said.

“But I found her first,” he said.

“Hey,” she said. “Nobody found me. I found you.”

“And so you did,” I said. “I don’t believe I caught your name.”

“Probably ’cause I ain’t thrown it at you.”

I had a feeling that she was teetering on the edge of sobriety and that whatever repercussions from her dip into alcohol would be manifesting themselves soon. I preferred they didn’t manifest themselves in my office.

“My name’s Rachel. Rachel Ray. Friends call me Ray Ray. I hate Ray Ray. They think they’re being sweet or cute or something or other, but mostly they’re being fuckin’ annoying.”

She took another breath and was about to go on, when I said, “Mrs. Ray.”

“Miss Ray or Ms Ray. I am not now nor have I ever been married.”

“You say it like you’re swearing an oath.”

She smirked at me and then reached for her rolling pin. I decided not to duck.

“I want to hire you.”

“I don’t do recipes.”

“That’s what you think this is about.”

“And you carry around a rolling pin because it is the latest in fashion accessories?”

She lowered the pin. “I don’t believe in guns.”

“The same can’t be said for threats.”

“Do you always speak your mind?”

(To be continued.)

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Filed under 2016, photo by David E. Booker, Story by author

“Holly’s Corner,” part 9

[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 – 8.]

by David E. Booker

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.

#

“You heard her side of the story. You’re going to hear mine,” she said.

“I’m not the Dear Abby of the recipe world.”

She was sitting in my one good client chair. I decided not to sit down. Maybe she’d get the hint and stand up and step out.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly's Corner.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly’s Corner.

“That little trollop would spread lies about Christ himself if she thought it would advantage her.”

“Be careful what you say,” I said. “There’s a priest in the office.”

She sloshed her disheveled hairdo toward the other room. “Him? He’s harmless. We had a nice conversation waiting for you, we did.”

She was looking up at me. There seemed the hint of a foreign accent in her speech. English maybe. Either that or that’s the way she talked when she was inebriated. I once knew a Jewish guy who took on a Russian accent when he was drunk. He would also start referring to himself in the third person and how “that worthless Jew” needed a trip to a pogrom. In the past few years I had lost contact with him and hoped he wasn’t off somewhere punishing himself. I think he wanted to be comedy writer.

“Your half-sister is not my client, so you don’t have to stay,” I said, still standing near the doorway.

“Then I want to hire you.” She curled away from me and toward her purse, which was beside her on the chair. She popped it open, jammed her right hand inside, then pulled out a wad of bills and shook them at me like a rustling bouquet of flowers. Green flowers. Andrew Jackson and Benjamin Franklin flowers.

“Tea anyone?” Father Brown wriggled himself around me and walked into the room carrying a wicker service tray that was sagging slightly toward the center from the weight of the teapot.

(To be continued.)

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Filed under 2015, photo by David E. Booker, Story by author

“Holly’s Corner,” part 8

[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.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly's Corner.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly’s Corner.

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.)

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Filed under 2015, photo by David E. Booker, Story by author

“Holly’s Corner,” part seven

[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 – 6.]

by David E. Booker

“Possibly not,” I said, then took a bite of my sandwich. I didn’t have much money left and if this case didn’t pan out, I was going to have to look for 9 – 5 work, which was something I loathed. But a recipe? Had I stooped so low as I need to chase down some family heirloom the world had not heard of nor was likely ever to?

She pushed up from stall seat, turned, and stomped out the door.

My charming personality was working wonders again.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly's Corner.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly’s Corner.

I pulled out my cell phone and was checking to see if I had any messages, any other potential clients. None. No text messages either. I was about to say something I probably shouldn’t in public when I felt somebody staring at me. I looked up. Standing near my table, casting a shadow like a greasy plate of cold fries stood Marc. Spelled with a “c” and not a “k.”

I looked up.

“Got my tip?”

“Tip means To Insure Prompt Service. Should be an E, but probably nobody would say Tep. Your service was neither prompt nor ensured. Go tell your rock climbing boss he’ll get paid when I get paid, assuming my client feels like paying.”

“That’s not the deal.”

“The original deal didn’t call for you to put my client on life support, either.”

“Not my fault.”

“Those hot chocolate burns didn’t happen by themselves.”

The tables nearest us were empty and not being refilled. Since Holly’s was a seat yourself place, I could only take that to mean Marc and I were being avoided and bad for business. I liked the place and wanted to be able to come back, but before I could think of some way to end this, Marc stepped forward, picked up the half of sandwich I hadn’t gotten to yet and brought it up to his mouth. He took a big bite.

I glanced over at the nearly empty hot sauce bottle. When Tricia left, I decided I’d have the other half the way I usually do. I looked up at Marc. His broad, dark face had an eerie placidness about it as beads of sweat popped out of his forehead and scurried down his face only to be followed by another one or two or a dozen.

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.

#

(To be continued.)

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Filed under 2015, photo by David E. Booker, Story by author

“Holly’s Corner,” part 6

[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 – 5.]

by David E. Booker

Tricia slumped back in her booth seat. There was a slight frown on her face, which only served to make her look even more attractive. She was almost too pretty: blond hair, thin, big teeth, large blue eyes. The wrinkles made her look more human, more accessible, at least to a shlub like me.

“You’re right,” she said. She reached forward and fiddled with her paper napkin.

“Tell you what. I’ll eat the other half as is. As it was made by the chef.”

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly's Corner.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly’s Corner.

She smiled, but there was no radiance in it. Something told me when she really smiled, lights dimmed in comparison. “Now you’re patronizing me.”

“I’m offering a compromise, which is what happens most often in life. Maybe not in politics.”

Her face wrinkled again. “You don’t know my family. They don’t compromise.”

“And you?”

She sighed and then shrugged. “Sometimes.”

Some things transcend genetics and even behavioral environment. They exist somewhere in between. Some habits fall from the family zeitgeist. Nature versus nurture was an old but simplistic dynamic.

“So, what do you want me for?” I asked.

“I want you to find a recipe.”

I stopped chewing on my sandwich. “The Colonel’s secret sauce?”

“That’s eleven herbs and spices. You’re mocking me.”

I guess I was. I had had a woman shake her rolling pin at me, driving me into the mud, and now I found out the woman was drunk and it was all over a recipe.

“You don’t understand….”

I hate that phrase, but let it go. Obviously, I was missing something. Or she was. I decided to spice up the second half of my sandwich. She saw what I was doing and stopped talking.

“You are obviously not the person for this case.”

“Possibly not,” I said, then took a bite of my sandwich. I didn’t have much money left and if this case didn’t pan out, I was going to have to look for 9 – 5 work, which was something I loathed. But a recipe? Had I stopped so low as I need to chase down some family heirloom the world had not heard of nor was likely even to?

She pushed up from stall seat, turned, and stomped out the door.

(To be continued.)

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Filed under 2015, photo by David E. Booker, Story by author

“Holly’s Corner,” part 5

[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 – 4.]

by David E. Booker

I felt a little heat come into my ears.

“How cute,” Tricia said, her eyesight back to normal.

“Glad I could entertain.”

I turned and walked up to bar to order a sandwich. Diving into the mud and straddling a 2×6 had left me wet and hungry. The wet part would have to resolve itself with time. The hunger part I could do something about.

“I’ll have a Ricky Ricardo,” I said. “Don’t tell Lucy.”

The young woman behind the counter had a rainbow of colors in her hair, and if perplexed could be a color, she had that one on her face.

I made my glass of tea and found where Tricia was sitting. It was in a booth that looked out one of the front windows. On the window was painted a pig carrying a rolling pin and words underneath about bacon being a salvation. Beyond the pig was the outside world, the sidewalk where I had taken my dive, and the rain that continued its drumming on the world. My client had had a front row seat to my brush with a rolling pin.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly's Corner.

It was a cool, rainy day down at Holly’s Corner.

Tricia already had a sandwich, something vegetarian and most of it eaten or at least nibbled into.

“That was my sister that threatened you.”

I didn’t bother correcting the second that. “She doesn’t look anything like you.”

“Well … technically she’s my step-sister. My dad remarried after my mom died.”

“I’m sorry.”

Tricia shrugged. I was two when mom died. Don’t remember much about her. My step-mom was the only mom I really knew, and she was okay … when she wasn’t drinking. And I’m afraid my sister has inherited her predilection.”

I raised an eyebrow slightly. I was impressed that Tricia knew what predilection meant and wasn’t afraid to use it.

My sandwich arrived. I had snagged a bottle of hot sauce from the small round table nearby. The sandwich was cut into two pieces. I lifted the top off one half and added some of the sauce. Tricia winced.

“Don’t like hot sauce?”

“You’re ruining the chef’s work.”

“The chef doesn’t put enough heat on my Ricky.”

Tricia slumped back in her booth seat. There was a slight frown on her face, which only served to make her look even more attractive. She was almost too pretty: blond hair, thin, big teeth, large blue eyes. The wrinkles made her look more human, more accessible, at least to a shlub like me.

“You’re right,” she said. She reached forward and fiddled with her paper napkin.

“Tell you what. I’ll eat the other half as is. As it was made by the chef.”

(To be continued.)

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Filed under 2015, photo by David E. Booker, Story by author

“Holly’s Corner,” part 4

[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 – 3.]

by David E. Booker

Rainy day down on the corner.

Rainy day down on the corner.

I brushed my hands together and only managed to smear the mud in one palm on the other. My pants were wet. So was my rain jacket and baseball cap. I brushed my hands down the sides of my jacket and then stepped inside Holly’s.

Plans were for me to meet my new client here. We had only talked on the phone. I had no idea what she looked like. I stood inside the doorway, dripping on the concrete floor. Holly’s had once been a bar called The Corner Lounge, then a used bookstore with a poster of Cormac McCarthy and the words “McCarthy for President” underneath it. Rumor had it that McCarthy used to visit The Corner Lounge when he lived in Knoxville. Now all that remained of the Lounge was a dark, curved wooden bar where you placed your food orders. McCarthy probably didn’t hang out here on the infrequent occasions he came back to town.

“Hey, are you looking for me?”

I pivoted. Water flew off the bill of my ball cap and hit a woman squarely in the eye. She flinched.

“Are you—?”

“Tricia,” she said as she rubbed her eye. “It’s usually the second date before I let the guy poke me in the eye.”

“Technically, it wasn’t a poke.” Another rivulet of rainwater ran off the bill of the cap. This one fell harmlessly to the floor.

“You going to argue with a client?”

“I haven’t introduced myself.”

“I saw the rolling pin woman through the window. I couldn’t help but laugh when you dived into the mud.”

I felt a little heat come into my ears.

“How cute,” Tricia said, her eyesight back to normal.

“Glad I could entertain.”

(To be continued.)

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Filed under 2015, photo by David E. Booker, story, Story by author