December 1, 2008|Comments (23)
If you are new to this story, then you will want to start from the beginning. Click here to do so. And please, help me out with a title. I’m afraid I am clueless when it comes to these things. Let me know what you think:
Accidentally stolen ink pens and piles of crumpled receipts marked the distance between the discovery of the finger bone to the present. Time trickled, dripped, and tripped steadily onward yet Evelyn often found her mind wandering back to the events of that spring day while scrubbing a commode or struggling in and out of her Wellies on the stoops of the drab adobe houses of the Sheltering Arms Retirement Community.
As she left Barbara Goodlin’s house (which was piled with unopened UPS packages containing items ordered from the Home Shopping Network on countless credit cards) and turned to head home, she noticed a large chocolate lab bounding toward her just in time for the great muddy beast to place two huge paws on her shoulders and send her sprawling onto Mrs. Goodlin’s lawn. Her cleaning supplies launched into the air as if a grenade had gone off in the bottom of the bucket. Evelyn lay in the wet grass unable to breathe, surrounded by damp rags, toilet brushes, and bottles of cleaning solutions. The dog, delighted to have found a new friend, lay across her chest and proceeded to lovingly lick her face with a broad pink tongue.
Evelyn could just make out a man’s voice above the panting and slurping. The dog was suddenly lifted from her chest and hands grasped her shoulders to pull her upright. The hands belonged to a rather rumpled looking priest complete with a lopsided clerical collar.
“I am so sorry. Are you alright? Samson ducked out of his collar and took off.” The man looked down at her and blushed. “It appears that he’s done considerable damage to your clothing.”
It was only then that Evelyn became aware of her attire. The dog’s paws had not only covered her in mud but had also torn her blouse. She grabbed at her coat in an attempt to cover herself which only seemed to make the priest even more embarrassed. His blush deepened and he looked away.
“I would drive you home but I don’t have a car. I took the bus here and then just walked.” He told her as he helped her to her feet. Samson looked up at her with such apologetic eyes that she very nearly forgave him for knocking the wind out of her. “I’ll help you collect and carry the cleaning stuff to your car. Okay?”
She smiled gratefully, “That would be lovely. I live just around the corner and don’t have a car either.”
He immediately began picking up the brushes, rags, and bottles while she patted the dog’s head and stroked his ears. Why was she allowing this man to help her? Had she really just agreed to let him walk her home? And why on earth was she standing in Barbara Goodlin’s yard with a ripped blouse petting a mud-caked beast while a man at least twenty years her senior wearing a clerical collar cheerfully tossed toilet brushes into her cleaning bucket?
“People don’t walk anymore. Our society is so completely motorized that they assume that a person walking alongside a road must be drunk or part of a prison roadside cleanup. You know?” He grinned as they strolled toward her condo with Samson leading the way. “I had to get a dog so people would stop locking their doors as the drove by me.”
They chatted all the way to her front door and even as she fished for her key. She heard herself invite him in the house for tea and felt a surge of happiness when he accepted. In just a few minutes, she’d changed clothes, the kettle was whistling while Samson lay on her kitchen floor with his tail thumping and the priest was seated at the table telling her how he’d adopted Samson after the dog had wandered down the center aisle during an Easter vigil and shook mud and fur all over the kneeling parishioners and visiting Bishop.
“I just realized that I don’t even know your name.” Evelyn said as she introduced herself.
“Neil Hammond,” he said and shook her hand. “Rector at St. Andrew’s Episcopal. I came to the area to visit a girl I dated before I left for Korea. I shipped off just after we decided to get married and I always wondered what happened to her. We lost touch during the war and when I finally returned, she’d gone to Canada to visit family and I was told she’d met someone else. I never had the guts to hunt her down.”
How sad, thought Evelyn. “I know all of the residents. Who were you looking for?”
“She may have a different last name now. Goodness knows that enough time has passed. I’ve never forgotten her though.” He stared into his cup of tea so intensely and with such a lonely far away look that Evelyn felt an overwhelming urge to just hug the poor man. “Recently, I was told that she returned from Canada after the War with a child. I have to know if that’s true. Don’t let the collar or age fool you — there’s a chance that I’m the father. Helen was something else.”
Apparently all roads lead to the mysterious Miss Helen Clifton.
October 10, 2008|Comments (22)
If you are new to this story, then you will want to start from the beginning. Click here to do so. And please, help me out with a title. It’s driving me batty. Let me know what you think:
Perhaps it was a tragic chainsaw accident and someone’s finger simply launched through the air and into Miss Helen’s back garden. Or perhaps it was a lovers quarrel in which the owner of the finger pulled a Vincent van Gogh and lopped it off — ring and all — as a testament of his great love for Helen, the exotic temptress from the photos and sketches. Evelyn could not stop coming up with scenarios.
Evelyn gazed at the ring and finger bones nestled in the damp earth. Without really knowing why, she pulled out a Dairy Queen paper napkin from her pocket and folded the ring inside (and bones) to examine when she wasn’t seated in wet bottomed jeans not four feet from the snoozing Miss Helen.
With one eye fixed on Miss Helen, she dug a bit deeper into the hole and set her findings on the ground in front of her. In just a few minutes time, she’d pieced together a hand and forearm. This was not the product of an unfortunate chainsaw accident. She buried the bones, stood up, and began brushing off her jeans.
“Well, I’m off to Mrs. Heatwole’s house, Miss Clifton.” Evelyn said to the still sleeping Helen. Her lashes fluttered and caught the sunlight. Good Lord, the woman had lashes like Rita Hayworth.
“Oh, that’s just fine, Evelyn. You be sure and tell Glenda that I said hello. Won’t you? Do you need any spending money?” Helen smiled up at Evelyn from the Adirondack chair and reached for her purse. Helen, like many of the retired ladies, carried her purse everywhere.
Eveyln rattled off the usual speech about how the helpers weren’t allowed to take tips and that it was Sheltering Arms policy. Then a funny thing happened… Evelyn became very aware that tucked deep in her pocket, wrapped carefully in a crumpled paper napkin with mustard stains from lunch was the bone of a person that Helen probably knew and possibly killed.
“Is something the matter, dear? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost!” cried Helen as she reached her arms out to Evelyn as if she might crumple gracefully like in the movies.
Evelyn didn’t faint gracefully.
She fell like a tree.
Eyes like chlorine pools with golden flecks searched her face. Eyes that had her dancing across billowing grasses in flowing skirts and belting out Rogers & Hammerstein songs. If she was sleeping, she didn’t want to wake and possibly loose out on a single second of soaking him in like a pagan sun worshiper with arms outstretched and radiating heat in her veins.
“Evelyn? Honey, it’s Helen. You’ve had a bit of a fall and it’s just a lucky thing my son was coming up the walk when it happened. What’s Dean’s number? Do we need to call him?” Helen’s concerned pixie face came into view as she spoke.
As her vision cleared, Evelyn realized that she was laying on Helen’s comfy couch with her feet propped up on a stack of old magazines and the piano cover draped over her. Seated on the floor next to her was the master of those glorious eyes and on the heavily varnished coffee table perched a very worried Helen. Son? Miss Helen Clifton, the former pinup with a skeleton in her garden had a son?
Helen smiled and winked at the owner of the eyes as Evelyn sat up. “This is my son, Anthony. Won’t you have some tea with us?”
Anthony wore a brown herringbone tweed blazer and khaki pants with a blue oxford cloth shirt. Apparently he walked directly out of an L.L. Bean catalog. With that full head of dark wavy hair and just the tiniest bit gray at his temples, Evelyn knew she needed to get out of there. If her knees would support her, that is.
She somehow managed to convince them that she was fine and promised to go straight home instead of Mrs. Heatwole’s house. As she walked up the steps to her condo, she reached in her pocket for the wad of paper napkin. Finally she was away from Helen, Helen’s dreamy son, and the gossipy ladies of Sheltering Arms. Seated in her bright little kitchen with its buttercream walls, toile de jouy curtains, and cheerful potted plants, she opened the napkin with trembling hands — her mind raced with the rush of it all. She felt like a character in a poorly written mystery novel, the kind where murder victims magically appeared wherever they went and then in Jessica Fletcher fashion they solved the crime and secured a confession.
It was empty.
Evelyn searched all of her pockets and even stepped out of her jeans. She stood in her kitchen frantically shaking out dirt-stained denim, sending crumbles of earth flying with her mind turning somersaults. How?
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October 7, 2008|Comments (19)
Okay, so you’ll have to read Story Start–Untitled–Part 1 to know what this whole story is actually about. Anyway, here’s the second installment which really needs a title, y’all:
Toilet tissue. That’s the first thing she bought after escaping prison. Some might have thought it would be a stiff drink or maybe a weapon but within just a few hours of her escape she was seated on the cool tile floor of the Woolworths sniffing and squishing rolls of toilet tissue. The TP in the prison was made of crushed glass and wood splinters. It could easily have been strung up to replace the barbed wire which topped the fence of the prison yard. Had the police ever done time… they might have guessed where she’d go.
A guard had taken a liking to her and smuggled her a dress which she’d kept in her pillow. The guard, a grandfatherly fellow, thought it was an odd request until she’d explained how much she missed the feel of soft fabric on her skin. Before long, he’d brought her a pretty cerulean blue checkered dress of light cotton.
As she walked down to the bus stop, her thoughts turned to Dean and her sweet little Charlie with his mop of swirling flaxen curls.
They’d married just a few days after they’d met. She’d looked deeply into his heavily lashed Frank Sinatra eyes and never looked back. Dean worked as a mechanic though he dreamed of being an artist. She loved catching him with his sketchbook tucked behind his Bible — drawing her as she cooked dinner, brushed her dirty-dishwater blonde hair, or kissed Charlie’s pudgy hands while he squirmed in her lap. Charlie was barely two when he started getting sick. The doctors weren’t sure what was wrong and the bills mounted up. Dean and those eyes of his said it all… the worry, the stress of having a sick baby, and the ache of knowing that there just wasn’t enough money.
Somehow in the blur of the hospital, the late night calls from doctors, and the impenetrable depths of Dean’s eyes… she failed to see the well-dressed men in her living room or the strange hours Dean was pulling at work. She didn’t notice that the piles of bills disappeared or that Dean no longer came home with grease on his uniform — or perhaps she just didn’t care. She didn’t realize just what Dean had done until little Charlie closed his eyes forever and she turned away from the tiny casket to see a church full of people she only knew from the papers.
That night, she confronted Dean. Dean worked making the plates used to print money for the folks that need that sort of thing. The same folks that slaughtered family members then mourned them publicly. The extra money paid Charlie’s bills but Dean knew it wouldn’t be long before he would be eliminated. It was all set. She was to run away in the morning and never return to their tiny apartment in the low rent section of Chicago.
Of course, things never go as planned.
She pushed those thoughts out of her head and clutched her grocery bag of toilet tissue. She had a brand new life ahead of her. As she took a seat on the bus in her rumpled gingham dress, the driver turned toward her with her ticket still in his stubby fingers and said, “All the way to Virginia with no luggage, Miss Evelyn?”
“I’ve gone longer with less.” She replied and turned to look out the smudged window as the bus roared away from the curb.
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