Snapshots from Green Victoria (tedwords) wrote,
Snapshots from Green Victoria

Good night, Connie...

One of my all time favorite people died this morning.

It makes everything else going on in my life seem petty by comparison.

Wide smile.

Large Sally Jessie glasses.

Fancied herself to be another Lucy.

Wild, short cropped hair, usually dyed dark brown, but with grey streaks, peaking through. When stressed, she would clutch at her hair, as if she could pull the answer from her roots.

I once wrote a 400 page novel about her. Called it "Friday Nights at the Red Pine Motel."

Always supported my craft. Always pushing me to do another play. Particularly fond of a series of mystery nights I wrote and directed.

The godmother to Ashley.

Bright eyed innocence, at the most inexplicable of times.

That stare, the stare she would get when she thought she had a great idea.

Those crazy stories, that wild glimpse of brilliance.

The inner sadness.

I'm going to post some text here, wild and raw. The way I want to remember her. The story's too long, the writing is rough, the formatting's totally askew, but I'm tired and it's late and I just want to get down...I just want to set down...a memory...a memory of Sandy. The way I remember her. A story I wrote. But an actual night. A snapshot. A story told in younger times.

She passed away after a short three days, at the age of 59. She had an anuerism, then a stroke, then slipped into a coma. Then died.

I didn't know until it was too late.

I love you, Connie. Always have. Always will.

The world now has one less color in the rainbow.

Matt almost made it. He had gotten through the bathroom and even straightened out the living room, despite Krista-Anne's frantic attempts to frustrate his efforts. Krista-Anne's bedroom was beyond saving, but that was okay, since all the bedroom doors could be closed--except for the master bedroom, which Josie had broken down and agreed to straighten up. At present, he had almost finished in the kitchen, and only had a few more dishes left to wash. Unfortunately, the dishes in question were the heavy duty ones that, perpetual procrastinator that he was, he always saved until last, like the heavy pan crusted with dried meatloaf that stared up at him from a sea of soapy bubbles.

As Matt's determination started to give way to despair, he was saved from his chores by a knock on the outside of their apartment. He heard Josie sigh heavily from the other room, her radar sense alerting her to the fact that everything in the house wasn't one hundred percent aesthetically perfect.

Almost simultaneously, Matt heard Krista-Anne groan from her bedroom. "You okay, Pooh?" he called out to her.

"I still have a headache," she replied, her voice sounding small and thin.

Josie walked into the kitchen. She had changed from a thick green bathrobe with nothing on underneath to a long red sweater and black sweatpants.

"Why didn't you keep what you had on?" inquired Matt innocently.

"You get the door, I'll take care of Krista," barked Josie, passing him by and entering Krista's bedroom. Matt crossed to the front door and opened it. Nancy Nutt stood outside, huffing and puffing from the three story walk. One hand clutched her chest, the other gripped a bookcase they had placed in the entranceway for wont of space. On top of it, Matt noted, lay an ashtray that had been there since the last time Nancy had visited, which Nancy grabbed as she started to lurch into the apartment.

"You've really got to give up smoking," remarked Matt.

"You've really got to get a first floor apartment," replied Nancy. Matt walked over and gave Nancy a big hug. "Oh!" cried Nancy, breaking away from Matt. She placed her ashtray on their kitchen table and walked back to the entranceway, producing from behind the bookcase a pink stuffed bunny shoved into a black hat and a card. "For Kayla," she informed Matt, offering her gifts up to him. "From her godmother to be."

"Thanks! She's asleep, by the way." Matt waited until she was back into the kitchen to shut the door. "So, come on. Tell me what's going on."

"Just let me--heh--catch my breath for a minute," Nancy replied, taking a couple of steps to lean heavily on the kitchen table. Matt deposited the bunny and the card next to her. "It plays 'Mammy,' you know," explained Nancy, staring down at it. " take the bunny out of his little black hat, and..." The hat started to sing merrily in a stiff, mechanized tone.

"You want something to drink?" asked Matt.

"Just a glass of water," gasped Nutt.

Josie re-entered the room. "Get one for Krista, too, while you're at it."

"Is she okay?" asked Matt.

"She'll be fine. I'm giving her a wet facecloth and some children's Tylenol." Josie stared at the stuffed bunny playing "Mammy" and grabbed the unopened card. "Oh, Nancy!" she enthused. Josie was always so much better at niceties than Matt. She started to open the envelope. "Do you mind if I read It?"
"No," replied Nancy sternly, looking up from her hunched position. " I want you to keep it sealed for the next eight years, until Kayla's old enough to read." Josie paused, never sure how to read the difference between Nancy's whims and her jokes. Nancy started to laugh. Reassured that she was just joking, Josie finished tearing open the envelope. "I just felt like getting her something for the hell of it."

"How's work going?" asked Josie, looking over the blue and green card with little angels on the cover. "This is so nice..."

"Hokay. How's it feel being out of work?"

"Even better," replied Josie. "And kind of weird. I feel a little guilty staying home all day, with nothing to do except watch soap operas and talk shows."

"It certainly never enters her head to do any housework," teased Matt.

"You keep up those jokes and you'll see what it's like if I don't," Josie shot back, handing Matt the card.

"I'd better get those drinks," muttered Matt nervously. "Cute little card..."

"Matt's convinced that you've come over to ask his expert opinion on the Chopstick Auction that you're in charge of," whispered Josie in a conspiratorial voice, although Matt could easily hear her. He glared at her. He hated it when Josie told people things he had said in confidence.

"Oh, no, not at all," replied Nutt, her thick brown eyebrows furrowed. She started to absently twirl a strand of her curly brown hair, heavily laced with streaks of gray. "Why? You think I should?"

"Not if you want to make any money!" replied Josie.

Matt turned around from the refrigerator. "What's that?" He slammed the door shut. "I'll have you know that if Nutt asked me to help her run that Chopstick Auction, I'd sell so many chopsticks for Our Lady of the Smelly Flower that all the Chinese restaurants in Eldridge wouldn't be able to do business for weeks!" Matt grabbed two glasses from his pile of drying dishes and started to pour water into them.

"Sure you would," said Nancy, her husky voice laced with sarcasm.

Matt tired of small talk. "So anyway, if that's not your reason for coming over--and a fine reason it would be, let me tell you--what's your big news?" He handed her a glass of water and gave the other glass to Josie, who rose to deliver it to Krista-Anne.

"You may want to keep sitting, Josie," Nancy said, her brown eyes, somewhat obscured by a pair of red Sally Jesse Raphael type glasses, twinkling merrily. She paused, to heighten the tension, then boomed out dramatically. "I am in love!"

Matt and Josie looked at each other, puzzled.

"You can't be in love," replied Matt, matter-of-factly. "You're married to BJ."

"So what has he got to do with anything?" cried Nancy.

Matt and Josie looked at each other again.

"You mean--" began Josie. Nancy nodded. Josie sat down, surprised.

"I think I need a seat," said Matt. But instead, he grabbed the water glass from Josie and headed into the bathroom to get Krista-Anne the Children's Tylenol.

Matt located the medicine quickly and headed into Krista's room. Krista-Anne lay in bed, reading a chapter book and holding a wet towel to her forehead. "This towel's not cold enough any more," she complained upon seeing Matt.

"I'll wet it for you again," said Matt. "Sit up, honey."

Krista sat up and took the aspirins Matt handed her. "Who's Aunt Nancy in love with?" she asked.
Matt handed her the glass of water, patted her head and grabbed the face cloth. "That's a good question," Matt replied.

"I hope it's someone nice," remarked Krista-Anne.

"I do, too." Matt smiled and winked at Krista-Anne. she smiled weakly, her eyes heavy. Matt guessed she'd be fast asleep inside of five minutes. He started for the bathroom, taking a sideways glance back in Krista's direction, watching her sip at the water he had given her. He wet the towel, returned it to Krista and then headed back for adult quarters. Nancy had by then made herself quite comfortable at the kitchen table, lighting up a cigarette (which Matt normally prohibited, with the baby around) and leaning back in her chair, talking animatedly with Josie.

"Okay, Nutt," demanded Matt. "Spill it all."

"Where did you meet him?" asked Josie.

"Where else?" asked Nancy, " At work."

"You're dating a PRIEST??" exclaimed Matt, a trifle hysterical.

"No, I am not dating a priest," replied Nancy, disgusted. "He works in the cafeteria. He's the head chef. His name is Daniel. And he's wonderful!"

"Well, at least he's not a priest," sighed Matt, relieved.

"How did you two get together?" asked Josie.

"Does BJ know about this?" asked Matt, almost simultaneously.

"No, and believe me, I'm giving the greatest acting job of my life," replied Nancy. She turned to Josie. "It's like this. I used to go to the cafeteria, you know, on my lunch breaks, or before work, to get a coffee, or to get a couple of cups of Joe for the fathers, and I always noticed this guy in the kitchen, watching me while I stood at the cash register. So I just started looking back at him. But for months and months we didn't say a word to each other, we just kept staring, checking each other out, you know what I mean?"

"What's he look like?" asked Matt.

"Real good. Big, broad shoulders. Blue eyes. Black hair. About my age." Nancy paused, then looked up at the ceiling. "Married..."

Matt's jaw dropped. "Ma--"

"--Anyway," drawled Nancy. "We didn't say anything, until I started to organize this Chopstick Auction, and then I had to go down to the cafeteria to arrange for them to bake food for the event. So I went down to talk to Brucie, who's the guy who I know who works the cash register--"

"I thought your old asshole boss was named Brucie," said Matt.

"He is," replied Nancy. "This is someone else."

"There's somebody else named Brucie?" asked Matt, mainly to himself.

"--And so I start to talk to Brucie, only he tells me that he doesn't handle those sort of things, and pointed to Daniel in the kitchen...So I walked over to talk to this Daniel--who is, of course, the man who'd been looking me over for ages--and he was in the back room, taking inventory. And--get this--before I could get a word out of my mouth, he turns around from his box of chick peas, looks me straight in the eye, and says, "I knew you couldn't stay away from me forever." Oh, he looked so smug, I was ready to whack him in the jaw."

"Sounds like true love to me," said Matt.

"So how did you two get together?" repeated Josie.

"Well, we had to work closely, you see, in order to organize the Chopstick Auction. This is a very big deal at our Lady, you know."

"It is?" asked Matt dubiously.

"Sure!" exclaimed Nancy, "They hold it every year, and man-o-war, you wouldn't believe the bucks they rake in. Or the gifts that they get. You couldn't imagine what some people donate to Our Lady of the Holy Flower. Watches, and televisions, and crates of canned tuna...I tell you, if you folks at ECT had let me hold that cowchip auction--which you should have--and I'd been able to raise a quarter of what I've gotten for Our Lady, ECT would have been swimming in dough."

"A lot of people go to this event! And because it attracts so many people, the cafeteria works overtime. So Daniel, being the head chef, has to consult with me about coffee, and danishes, and should he increase his meal count for the day, and is there anything special I'd like him to make on the day of the auction...In fact, after a while, I started to get the feeling that he was consulting with me a bit too often...we started taking long coffee breaks to discuss the Auction, then lunches, and finally...he asked me to dinner."

"Did you know he was married?" asked Matt.

"Sure did! And he knew that I was, too. We talked all about BJ. It didn't matter. By the way, do you mind that I'm smoking in here?"

"Yes," said Matt.

"No," replied Josie at the same time.

"I like your answer better, Josie," said Nancy, lighting up another cigarette. "So he asked me to go out with him for Chinese food. He said it was to go over the food for the Chopstick Auction, but really, how many times do you need to go over the number of cinnamon buns you're going to order for 300 people? Anyway, I said, yes, and called BJ and told him I was going out with my girl friend Gina that night. So we went out to the Peking Lion and took a dark booth in the corner, and..and...well, I sort of had one too many Scorpion Bowls...and we ended up at the Red Pine Motel..."

"Nancy!" exclaimed Matt, shocked.

"And, um, well, three condoms later..."

"No!" said Josie.

"I don't want to hear this," said Matt, feigning modesty.

"Three condoms?" asked Josie. "Could you introduce him to me?"

"Are you telling me that you consummated your relationship on that very first night?" asked Matt.

"No," replied Nancy testily, "We filled the condoms up with water and tossed water balloons on to other people's heads."

"What did you tell BJ the next day?" asked Matt.

"My, am I thirsty," drawled Nancy, staring into her emptied water cup in a blatant attempt to torture Matt.

"What would you like?" asked Josie.

"You know what would really hit the spot?" asked Nancy enthusiastically. "Those Strawberry Surprise tea bags that I bought you last Christmas."

"Would you like them on a piece of bread or are you just going to eat them raw?" snapped Matt.

"In a cup of hot water, if you don't mind," purred Nancy sweetly, directing her answer to Josie. "Oh! And with some sugar, too, please No milk. And do you have any sugar cookies to nibble on?"

"Will Oreos do?" asked Josie, "I've had a craving for Oreos all day!"

"That will do just fine, dearie," cackled Nancy.

"You're a cruel woman, Nancy Nutt," hissed Matt. Nancy stuck her tongue out at him. Matt laughed. "Don't you stick that thing out unless you intend to use it."

"Matthew, why don't you go check on Krista-Anne," asked Josie, rising to fill the kettle on the stove with water. "She's been real quiet." Josie paused, reflective. "And please get out the Oreo cookies while you're up."

Matt rose and strode over to Krista's room, peering in. "Krista?" he called out. She lay asleep on her bed, her body spread akimbo over her sheets, her chapter book fallen to the floor and the facecloth he had given her lying on top of her damp pillow. Matt's English friend Vanessa had once remarked that she always thought of Krista-Anne as the perfect Snow White, with her red, full lips, black hair, and ivory skin. But at this moment, she looked more like Sleeping Beauty. He grabbed an afghan she had shoved into the crack formed between the bed and the wall, and spread it out over his daughter. Then, bending over her, he planted a kiss on her freckled cheek.

"I love you, Pooh bear," he whispered into her ear. He straightened up and moved away from her, back into the kitchen, where Nancy and Josie sat, talking at the kitchen table. "Asleep," he announced, "and Nancy, you better not have told Josie anything else about your culinary conquests."

"Would I do that?" Nancy asked innocently.

"Hmmph," replied Matt. He moved to one of the kitchen closets, opened it and located a package of Oreos. Closing the closet door, he moved to the kitchen table and slammed the package down.

"Oreos," he announced.

Matt slid his chair back and sat down, across from Nancy. He stared across at her, balefully.

"Talk, Nutt," he demanded.

"Ah, Matt, there's nothing to say, really," she replied, puffing out a mouthful of smoke into his face. "BJ passes out on the couch by 8:30 at night. Daniel and I went out on a Friday evening and BJ didn't have to work the next morning, which means he gets to sleep late. I don't ever sleep late, so when I woke up and flew back home from the Red Pine Motel at 6:30 in the morning, he was still asleep on our sofa. I could stay out every night of the week and BJ would be none the wiser."

"BJ's not the most intelligent guy in the world, you know," she continued, entering into one of her favorite topics. "I mean, for example, the other day, a friend of mine--Bertha--who I hadn't seen for years, called me up out of the blue, just to chew over old times. And we had such a great time, and had forgotten how much we enjoyed talking to each other, that we decided to have dinner a week from that Monday. And so I invited her over to my house, because she had never seen it before, because I don't usually have people over, but I decided, 'What the hell, it might be a good excuse to clean the damn place up.' So I get off the phone and BJ's sitting on the couch--in his underwear--with his balls hanging out--and I turn to him and say, 'I'm going to have Bertha over here a week from Monday. And I'm thinking of cooking a nice spaghetti dinner.'"

"And so he says, 'Oh, that's great. Why don't I pick up some red wine when I come home from work that night. What time is she coming over?' So I told him, six thirty. And he said, 'Hmmm, that'll be a problem, because I have to work until 7:00 on Tuesday night.'"

"So I said to him, 'What's the problem?'"

"And he said to me, 'Well, I won't be able to pick up any wine because I have to work late on Tuesday night.'"

"And I tell you, I really wasn't provoking him (I really was trying to get him to figure out what was going wrong inside that thick skull of his). I very carefully said to him, 'BJ, I'm having Bertha over a week from Monday. So what's the problem?'"

"And he still didn't get it! He just looked at me and repeated everything once again," Nancy scrunched her face up and launched into an imitation of BJ, making her voice sound dumb and slow. "'I told you, I have to work late that Tuesday night.'"

"And I looked him square in the eye and said, 'Right! I understand! You have to work next Tuesday night. So what's the problem? The dinner's a week from Monday. That makes it next Monday, BJ.' And can you believe, he started to tell me I was wrong, that a week from Monday would make the party on a Tuesday night? We ended up fighting for over an hour about this! I finally gave up and said, 'Okay, BJ, you have my party on a Tuesday night, and I'll have mine on a Monday, and if you're here when Bertha comes over, could you pick up a bottle of red wine?'"

"So these are the kind of things that BJ and I argue about," grumbled Nancy, finishing up another cigarette. "Never mind the fact that I've been screwing my brains out with Daniel every Friday night at the Red Pine Motel for five weeks straight. Never mind the fact that I've been giving the greatest performance of my life around the house pretending that nothing's going on. Come to think of it, I could be giving a crummy performance, and the boob still wouldn't know anything was up. Christ! I could probably tattoo Daniel's name on my ass , and just tell BJ I had gotten it done when I was sixteen years old, and why hadn't he ever noticed it before?, and he still wouldn't catch on!"

The kettle started to whistle. Josie got up to make the tea. "What about Daniel's wife?" she asked, "Does she know what's going on?"

"Ah," replied Nancy. "Now that's another kettle of fish."

"She knows?" asked Matt.

"I think she has a good idea what's going on," replied Nancy. "I definitely know she knows he's having an affair. Things haven't been going well in their marriage for years and years, but they stay together because they're both good Catholics and both real active at Our Lady of the Holy Flower, and how would it look if they broke up? Daniel's talked with her about getting a divorce, or at least separating, but she won't hear of it. She's told him if he ever thinks of leaving her, he can just kiss his job at Our Lady good-bye."

"But he's told her about your affair?" asked Matt.

"No he has not. He has told her he's seeing someone else. He has not told her the name of that someone else. You have to keep in mind, Matt, if word ever got out around Our Lady, we'd both be booted out of that place faster than you can say, 'Excommunication.' That's the way it works over there. You can do anything you want, and Lord knows, everyone knows everyone else does--my God, I could tell you stories about some of those brothers that would make your hair stand up...if you still had any hair left, Matthew. But once names and places start getting announced in public, forget about it. Your name is mud. And Daniel's worked hard for that place, for a real long time. Me, I've been there less than a year, it doesn't matter that much what dirty linen gets laundered about me, but Daniel...So, anyway, he hasn't told her who he's seeing, but I don't know...I kind of get the feeling she knows I'm the one."

"How?" asked Matt. Josie handed him a cup of tea.

"Just the way she acts around me." She took a cup from Josie as well. "She's always buzzing around Our Lady, volunteering for this or that committee. In fact, she volunteered to work in the ticket booth the day of the Chopstick Auction!" Nancy paused, staring at her friend. "Oh, don't give me that look, Matt. She only did that to keep an eye on the two of us."

"Oh, I get it," replied Matt. "Just to make sure you two don't run out for a quick moment or two of passion in the confessional?"

"Matt-hew," clucked Nancy, squeezing her tea bag . "See this? This is your head." She then squeezed the tea bag, letting its juices flow into her cup. "See this? This is your head after I'm done with you...What else am I going to think? This woman has not said one word to me, not one, the whole time I've been at Our Lady. Then I take up with her husband and all of a sudden she waltzes into my offices and asks to volunteer for the ticket committee. And not perfectly innocently, mind you, oh no no no. She was giving me the fish eye all the time, like this--" Nancy took off her glasses and scrunched up her nose, slightly closing her eyes and frowning in disdain. "It was as if she were trying to tell me something without telling me something, you know what I mean? Anyway, I told her we had all the volunteers we needed, which we don't."

"Well," said Matt, with an authoritative tone that Josie instantly recognized and detested. She clanged her tea cup in annoyance with her spoon. It was time for a sermon on the mount. "I can see your problem, Nutt, but really haven't had much experience in--"

"Oh, that's not my problem," cut in Nancy, confused. "Who said that was my problem? No, actually, I've got a bigger problem than Daniel's wife. Her name is Ginger Arabian."

"Who? Daniel's wife?" asked Matt.

"No," replied Nancy through clenched teeth. "My problem's name is Ginger Arabian. The Cafeteria Assistant from Hell."

"Cafeteria Assistant from Hell, eh?" Matt started to squeeze his Strawberry Surprise tea bag as he warmed up to his subject. "That's quite a title. What's her job description? Does she dress completely in red? Is she supposed to serve only the sinners? Somehow, she sounds a little out of place at Our Lady."

"She is," grimaced Nancy.

"I know I'm really going to regret this," commented Matt to Josie. "Just how does this Satanic layperson figure into this sordid little story?"

"Layperson is right," replied Nancy, bitterly. "That bitch will lay any person she meets."

"Boy, am I glad that Krista-Anne went to bed early tonight," said Matt to Josie. "What wonderful words her Auntie Nancy would be teaching her tonight!"

"And she's met a hell of a lot of people, too!" continued Nancy. "She's a volunteer. Only, she started volunteering after having lunch in the cafeteria and catching a look at Daniel working in the back room."

For some reason, Matt found the whole scenario quite dramatically exciting. "So this girl's some kind of Cafeteria Worker groupie, is that what you're saying? And she's lunching at Our Lady one afternoon, checking out her prospects, when she catches a glimpse of Daniel." Matt's eyes closed, an image forming in his head. Nancy scowled. "Yes, I can see it. Ginger is eating a fish sandwich in the cafeteria. Suddenly her attention is drawn to the back room, where Daniel works over a hot stove. Since it's a hot summer day, Daniel has taken his shirt off, and perspiration covers his hairy chest--not to mention dripping on to the fact, Ginger imagines she tastes some of it in her fish sandwich...Ginger stares at Daniel in fascination. She drops her fish sandwich onto her plate, her mouth hanging open, a bit of fish wedged between her teeth and gums. She marvels at Daniel's firm buns pressed into a pair of tight overalls. Consumed with lust, she at that very moment devises a scheme to infiltrate the cafeteria by volunteering to work there and worm her way into Daniel's affections. 'I will not rest,' she declares, mindless of the people staring at her and the pieces of fish that fly out of her mouth as she utters her proclamation despite the fact that they landed on the plate of a nun sitting by her side, 'I will not rest until that man is mine!'"

In response, Nancy kicked Matt's leg under the table.

"You can make fun of me as much as you want," she replied. "All I know is that since the first day she started working there, she's been following Daniel around like she's his shadow. The poor guy can't even take a leak without her offering to hold it for him. She's even volunteered to help him in the Cafeteria on the day of my Chopstick Auction. And I haven't even told you the worst part, yet..."

Josie's dark eyes grew wide. "You don't mean..."

Nancy nodded. "Mmmm-hmmm."

Matt grew excited. "What? What?"

"Oh, Matt," sighed Josie, "Sometimes you're so dense."

"What?" repeated Matt, thoroughly confused.

"She knows about Daniel and me," said Nancy, staring straight at Matt. "Or at least, she thinks she knows."

"Did she see you doing anything?" asked Matt.

"No. At least, I don't think so. But she's really sneaky. She must have started noticing that we've taken a lot of lunches together. Or maybe she saw me passing Daniel a note." Nancy laughed, self-consciously. "I write him notes, at work, while I'm at the switchboard. I kind of feel like I'm in high school again." Her eyes started to glaze over, but this relaxed state was suddenly interrupted by an instantaneous transformation. Her brown eyes shot open and her held jerked forward. Matt recognized the signs--a thought had just popped into Nancy's head. In Matt's opinion, Nancy Nutt had ideas like most women have orgasms.

"Wait!" Nancy fairly screeched. "Maybe...she did...see something...Yes, it's quite possible. Now that I think about it, Daniel celebrated his birthday about a week ago, so I planned this little surprise for him that day. I snuck into the kitchen while he was away, taking inventory, and left him a cupcake on the counter next to a card and a little gift that I bought. And I didn't think anyone else was around, but as I was going through my pocketbook, looking around for my lighter...and the candle for the cupcake...I kind of looked up for a moment...and I thought I saw a shadow at the door...yes, I'm sure I did...but after I lit the candle, I went back out into the cafeteria to look was empty. Or at least, I thought it was. But when I headed out of the cafeteria I did notice that she was on the sidewalk sweeping up."

"Do you think she went back in and opened your card?" asked Josie.

"Did the card say anything dirty?" asked Matt.

"I don't think so. Daniel didn't mention that the card was opened. But that girl's a sneak, and I wouldn't put anything past her." Nancy turned to Matt, a guilty smile on her face. "And yes, Matt, the card was...intimate..."

"How intimate?" pressed a nosy Matt.

Josie slapped Matt on the back of the hand. "Why do you think she's so sneaky?" she asked.

"You wouldn't believe the things she's been saying to Daniel! She's always cornering him in the kitchen, making dirty comments and touching him all over. And Daniel says he tries to get away, but she trails after him, asking him when they can get together--"

"That's it!" cried Matt, who could take it no longer. "I'm changing jobs! What is this guy, a love God
or something? What does he have that I'm missing?"

"A personality?" mused Josie.

"A body?" asked Nancy.

"Hair?" they said together and laughed. Matt lowered his eyebrows, glowering at them.

"And so, last week, I'm sitting at my desk," continued Nancy, "I'm taking calls, when Daniel calls in, from the kitchen. And he asks me to meet him after work at Morton Park. He sounded really upset. So I drove down to Morton Park after work and parked over by the gazebo. I spotted him over by the animals, so I got out and walked over."

"' What's up?' I asked. He had his back to me and nearly jumped three feet in the air at the sound of my voice."

"'We've got a problem,' he said, really serious. 'Ginger came up to me today and started coming on to me, like she usually does. And I just tried to laugh it off, like I usually do, and this time, she looked me straight in the eye, and you wouldn't believe what she said.'"
Nancy paused and searched around for another cigarette. She frowned in disappointment when she realized that she was all out, much to Matt's relief. She clicked her bag closed.

"She said to him, 'Why don't you like me, Daniel? Is it because you're seeing Nancy Nutt on the side and don't have room for anyone else?"

"And Daniel told me he kind of looked at her like he couldn't believe what she had just said, and she laughed at him and said, 'Oh, you didn't think I knew about her, did you? Well, I do. I've even followed you to your little love nest on a couple of Friday evenings. And let me tell you something...'" Nancy struck the table for emphasis. "'I don't care what it takes, but I'm going to get rid of Nancy Nutt, and I'll get rid of your wife if I have to do that, too. But I'll get you, Daniel. You can count on it.'"

"Are you sure you haven't been watching too many bad soap operas?" asked Matt.

Nancy grabbed Matt's hand from across the table. "I'm serious. This woman's crazy enough to try anything. At least, that's what Daniel thinks. And even if she doesn't try to hurt me, she might go and open her big mouth to one of the brothers. And I can't let that happen, can I?"

Nancy took her hand off Matt's and moved to her big purple pocketbook, digging through its endless inventory. She dug out a used Kleenex, her car keys, and a jar of peanut butter before locating a small writing pad which had sunk to the bottom. She opened up the pad and started flipping through the pages.
"So I've got to take action, only I can't do anything that might tip Ginger off. And I thought and I thought and finally came up with an idea." Nancy located the page she was searching for in the pad and stopped, skimming over the contents. A smile came to her face, and she looked up at both Josie and Matt. "Only I need your help."

"I'm not going to bump anyone off, if that's what you're looking for," replied Matt.

From the baby's bedroom, a thin, high-pitched wail could be heard. Matt, always over-sensitive to anything to do with the baby, looked at Josie in alarm. Josie shook her head, took one last sip of tea and got up to check on Kayla.

"What I've done is written to Father LaSalle, and I'd kind of like you to look it over and see what you think--and have Josie type it up on your computer," Nancy explained. Josie worked for a computer company as a secretary, although she had hired a replacement for herself before she went on maternity leave. Her boss had asked her to return to the company in a new position--that of Marketing Director for one of their products, the C-FOOD, an acronym for some kind of diagnostic thingamajig that Matt didn't pretend to understand or care about. Two weeks before she had left the company to give birth to Kayla, her boss had insisted on installing a computer in their apartment. He had asked Josie to familiarize herself with the design program they used while she was on maternity leave. At present, Josie had primarily used the computer to play solitaire.

Nancy handed her writing pad over to Matt.

"I can't write it myself, because Father LaSalle might recognize my handwriting," she stated, "And I figure that I can't use any of the typewriters at work because they might recognize the print, or see me typing it...and I don't usually have any reason to do any typing." Matt started to skim through the pad. "And you'll notice it's not signed, because I'm going to sign it, 'A Concerned Citizen.' I don't want to name any names, you understand. Oh! And it's important that Josie doesn't touch the letter when she's taking it out of the printer!"

Matt looked up from the pad to Nancy. "Why?" he asked.

"Well, they might be able to test for fingerprints and find out who wrote it," said Nancy.

"They can do that at Our Lady of the Holy Flower?" Matt asked skeptically.

"They might be able to," replied Nancy, "You never know!"

Matt didn't feel like arguing the point. He went back to reading Nancy's letter. Almost instantly, his face started to light up. His brown eyes squinted, his lips parted into a wide smile, as he viewed Nancy's handiwork. He started to chuckle, softly, then a bit more loudly. Then he started to laugh, from the belly.

Josie had just started to quiet Kayla down by standing over her crib and gently stroking her head. She started to exit the bedroom, carefully trying to close the door as softly as possible. Just when the door was fully closed, Matthew's loud, braying laughter filled the air and woke up the baby again. Josie clucked her tongue in annoyance, sighed and started back into the bedroom.

"Sometimes," Matthew informed Nancy, trying to curtail his laughter, and wiping a tear from his eye, "I tend to underestimate just how devious you can truly be."
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