September 30, 2008|Comments (27)
Simple Living often means that instead of watching television, you take up other activities like reading, crossword puzzles, or even penning a short story or two. I thought that you might enjoy reading the start of a story I wrote. Just for fun… it doesn’t even have a title. Any title suggestions would be welcomed.
To think that Helen worked as a pinup girl in the forties and fifties, Evelyn pondered from the shade of the sugar maple in the backyard. Dark soil clumped on her trowel as she stabbed the stubborn weed roots in Miss Helen’s veggie patch and tried to imagine the wrinkly old gal as the foxy young thing from the photos. Evelyn glanced over at the dozing Miss Helen curled up in an Adirondack chair with a copy of Ladies Home Journal and wondered if anyone else in the retirement village knew her secret. She guessed not. Men were already a scarcity at the Sheltering Arms Retirement Community and if the ladies knew that Miss Helen was a former pinup — well, it would be disastrous. Little old ladies, particularly the kind living in retirement communities, were merciless gossips.
Just last weekend, the impeccably dressed Barbara Goodlin came to Helen’s to discuss the upcoming garden tour. Evelyn cleaned Barbara’s house and often listened in on the hateful woman’s phone conversations. Barbara had a shopping addiction that was out of control and Evelyn knew it because she’d discovered credit card bills for tens of thousands. Evelyn knew all kinds of things about the residents. She considered it a perk of an otherwise miserable job.
As the ladies chatted, Evelyn investigated Helen’s desk drawers while pretending to dust. It was there that she discovered a scrapbook from Helen’s modeling years. She turned the yellowed pages with care, her fingers tracing over the white edged photos with their thick cardboard backing. A long-legged, smooth skinned Helen smiled into the camera, often with handsome G.I.s throwing an arm around her minuscule waist. Some of the pages contained posters of drawings and sketches of Helen as she leaned against airplane wings, fences, cars, and horses with turned up skirts and garters. Miss Helen had a secret. A BIG secret.
Miss Helen’s house was not originally part of the retirement community. She’d lived in it for at least forty years as far as Evelyn knew. Helen sold the house to Sheltering Arms for almost nothing with the understanding that she would be a member of the community. The Craftsman-style bungalow looked so smug next to the duplexes the retirement community installed all around it. When Helen died or moved to the Sheltering Arms Nursing Care Facility her bungalow would likely be replaced by one of the mock-adobe cookiecutter Flintstones houses. Evelyn knew that Helen was quietly working to declare the home “historical” so that Sheltering Arms couldn’t bulldoze it. Evelyn admired Helen’s spunk.
Evelyn’s spade hit something solid and made a grating sound that had her teeth aching. She dug a gloved hand into the hole which was quite deep. Probably one of the armies of little toy soldiers or matchbox cars planted by Helen’s great nephews, she thought. She felt the offending object and wrapped her fingers around it to bring it up. As her fingers unfolded and the dappled Virginia sunlight trickled over her cheerfully-patterned gloved hand, Evelyn stared in horror and curiosity. It was a finger bone. The only reason she knew it was actually a finger bone was that it wore a manly college ring and she’d spent far too many Saturday nights at home in her PJ’s watching CSI reruns.
It appeared that Miss Helen had more than just one big secret. Of course, so did Evelyn.
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