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“Holly’s Corner,” part 12

[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 – 11.]

by David E. Booker

She looked up, saw him, and recoiled back in the chair, her feet swiping through the vomit.
Father Brown left the room again.

I didn’t want to, but I got up and stepped into the other room and told him he didn’t need to come into the room again, that I would handle it.

“But you have a low threshold for puke,” Brown said. “You’ll probably vomit on top of hers.”

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

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

The smell from the other room was not appealing, either. Sharp, sour, and with a hint of booze to it.

“I would suggest you take her outside and I will clean up.”

“That would involve going back in there,” I said.

“Would you prefer I did?”

“No. That’s what started all this.”

I turned back to the room and stepped inside.

#

“Things ain’t always what they seem to be,” Rachel said.

I had escorted her outside and we had made it to the sidewalk before she started feeling queasy again. We made it to the alley behind the building and as is the case of many alleys, it became the home of something you don’t want to see on the main street.

There wasn’t much to her second upheaval, and when she was done, we walked a couple of doors down to The Time Warp Tea Room, where I bought her a water and a soda, hoping one of the other might help settled her stomach. I bought nothing for myself, just in case. I had almost thrown up in the alley, too.

The Time Warp Tea Room is an eclectic mix of vintage motorcycles, pinball and early video games, and a pressed metal ceiling bought from a company in Alabama and installed over the main part of the large main room. The rest of the ceiling is square tiles used often in modern drop ceilings. A large wooden circular table dominates the back of the main room and a dark-stained wooden bar with a mirror and fretwork fills much of the wall to your right as you enter. A photo of Cas Walker and an album cover of Dolly Parton’s are part of the bar décor.

We were sitting at one of the booths on the opposite wall.

“It’s not what you think.”

She had said that already, but it had been a little while ago and in a less sober state. I nodded and tried to let her get past it. She picked up a pepper shaker from the table and shock it once at me. “People killed for this at one time.” She then picked up the salt shaker. “And this used to be worth more than gold in some circles at one time.”

“How does that pertain to your recipe?”

“You must know, I don’t hate my step-sister. Or I do my best not to, but she does get on my nerves at times.”

“And this is one of those times?”

She glared at me as if I were interrupting her, which I was.

“I am willing to share the rewards from the recipe with her, but she says it was her mother’s recipe and it should be all hers.”

“Is it?”

Rachel hesitated. Not usually a good sign.

“If I tell you the truth, what does it get me.”

“The knowledge you won’t have to cover anything up, remember what lies you told, and in what order.”

“You mean people who tell the truth remember things in the exact same order every time.”

“Not every time. We can all get forgetful or tell a story out of order no matter how many times we’ve told it. But usually the same facts are there and the order can more easily be corrected. The value of telling the truth is that you only have to remember one set of facts. Even if you don’t always remember them in the right order.”

“Doesn’t sound like much.”

“Nobody ever said there was profit in truth.”

“You sound like a philosopher or shrink doctor.”

“I hang around with a priest. Some of it might rub off.”

Rachel gave me a quizzical look. My sense of humor tends to bring that out in people.

“Truth be told, the recipe belongs to a dead woman, a woman our father was sleeping with when she died.”

“Then how did your step-mother get it?” I asked.

“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?”

(To be continued.)

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

“Holly’s Corner,” part 11

[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 – 10.]

by David E. Booker

“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?”

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

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

“I try to. Saves me having to remember things.”

She smirked again. She was a plump-but-not-fat redhead who stood probably five-seven or so. I did my best to guess with her sitting in my one overstuffed client’s chair. She wasn’t wearing any heels, little or no makeup, and the end of her nose and her nostrils flared like the loops of a three-leaf clover. She was a strawberry blond with freckles that almost worked to make her look younger than she was.

She caught me staring. “Get an eye full.”

“Enough to describe you to the police should you point your pin at me again.”

She smiled, then laughed. The small crows’ feet at the corners of her eyes. They made her face more pleasant.

“Ooohh, my head….” Rachel leaned forward and brought her hands up to the sides of her head. The rolling pin clattered to the scuffed and marred hardwood floor. Another mark wasn’t going to be noticed.

Father Brown stepped in carrying a glass of water and what looked like a couple of aspirin. When Rachel looked up, he urged her to take them. She hesitated, and then accepted. He turned and left the room.

She looked at me. “Do you always provide your clients such service?”

“Father Brown has a knack and since you are not my client, he does it for non-clients, too.”

“’Father’?”

“Retired priest.”

She had started swallowing the aspirin, then stopped.

“He … naht … chilf … masqaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauhhh.”

I nodded. “Yeah, that one.”

She started choking.

“I suggest-—”

Too late. She jerked forward and threw up on my rug. It was a yard sale special, so it wasn’t my favorite color or pattern, but I couldn’t afford a new one.

Father Brown rushed back into the room, bucket in hand, but Rachel had wretched her last bit of food out and onto the rug. She had a few bits of spit for the blue plastic container.

She looked up, saw him, and recoiled back in the chair, her feet swiping through the vomit.

(To be continued.)

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

“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