Category Archives: Ms. Hettie

1.68 Coffee and Critters

My sack of deep-fried perfection sat forgotten in my lap. 

Now I understood why cops eat doughnuts and drink coffee, they’re essential tools in stimulating the cognitive processes. 

Continuing to wrack my brain – I didn’t think I’d spoken or been spoken to while we traversed the walkway. I certainly hadn’t sung the sea shanty. 

The Sea Shanty.

That’s how she knew where we went, the last line before the refrain, ‘Now we are bound for Nevermore.’ (Plus a bit of dumb luck on her part, we might have gone anywhere)

But why? What would Ms. Hettie gain by calling Little Ben? 

That’s why I suppose they call them the million dollar questions – if they were easy – anyone could answer them. Uncrossing my legs I rubbed my calves and thighs, ignoring the pins and needle sensation running down them and into my feet.

“If you don’t finish eating those up you’re going to find yourself surrounded by seagulls soon.”

The voice’s good point removed me from my revery, prompting me to nibble one of the bite-sized bits of perfection. Proving my theory wouldn’t happen today, and while I’d put the Sunny Valley Farm problem to bed, I still had other irons in the fire.

Me: “Good morning Mazy.”

Mazy is Nevermore’s Resident Naturalist.

Mazy: “Good Morning Caretaker.” 

She stood next to me, and we watched the critters scamper to and fro enjoying their unexpectedly easy breakfast.

Mazy (excited): “Oh! There’s my little guy! The little grey squirrel with the white tuft on the top of his tail, he’s eating some crumbs from the middle mound! See, right there!”

Mazy loves her squirrel buddy very much. Orin’s sweet on Mazy. Which is why he’d tried his hand at extortion during our escape. The quickest way to her heart is to help one of her critters. Since Joseph actually sent him to help us (and the fact he’d played a practical joke), Orin couldn’t really hold me to my promise. But I didn’t feel like splitting hairs about it. 

Me: “Mazy, I will come by and feed him as often as I am able, but it won’t be every day…”

Mazy (smiling widely): “No problem! A couple of extra meals a week should fatten him right up! I’ll let you know if he moves from this thicket, but I think he’s chosen his favorite tree now.”

Me (putting on my serious face): “Mazy can you do me a favor and pass a message to Joseph for me?”

Mazy: “No problem!”

Me: “Tell him that she’ll arrive in five days.” 

Mazy (upbeat as ever): “Easy! I’ll go let him know now.”

On that note, she skipped away following her squirrel buddy (and presumably also towards Joseph) into the thicket. Since it was finally light enough, I slid with less grace than an elephant on ice, off of the Princess’s hood. Climbing into the car I put the remaining doughnuts in my lap (they were in a bag btw – though at this point with the amount of powdered sugar on my person I am not sure that distinction really mattered) made sure my coffees were accessible and set out for a drive.

If my maths were correct (and most math done when you are trying to sleep is) the early start to my day meant I could drive up, buy fifty bucks worth of marshmallows and be back before I needed to start my shift. 

Switching my stereo over to the cd player I settled into the beautiful drive into the mountains – the Princess and I alone on the road.

1.47 Deadlines

The First Annual Fall Foliage Tour (even with its stressful bits) turned out rather grand. 

Sam got a fat tip from me (for obvious reasons), from Wood (for providing surreptitious Bundesliga scores) and from Beatrice (for carrying her luggage up the trail to the Princess). 

Beatrice earned eternal appreciation by finding Wood’s lost keys (again), the danish filching kid’s glasses, his dad’s book and the staff’s unofficial mascot Beans the beagle (which netted a ten percent discount on our rooms). 

Sarah loved ditching her extended family for the weekend (she’s number seven of eight kids and still lives with her folks).

Wood finally taught Laney bridge, and he’s now entertaining high hopes of hosting his own bridge night (Laney’s not sold on the idea). 

Laney merely enjoyed a weekend sans soccer.

We all decided the Second Fall Foliage Tour needed to happen next October. 

Even better? I found an absurd little spot to mail my missive on the way home, a general store/diner/butcher/post office. An establishment where locals congregate and tourists invariably stop at (since it houses the only “public” bathroom on a thirty mile stretch of road). What sealed the deal for me was the fact there I didn’t see a single camera anywhere. The envelope might smell of bacon (from the diner) when the Prickliest Ranger receives it, but I didn’t think anyone could trace it beyond these walls.

Unbeknownst to the Unfriendliest Ranger, he had exactly three weeks to work up the nerve to investigate the tip I’d sent him. If he let me down, Rye authorities and reporters would find themselves in the midst of an informational deluge until someone finally decided to take a hike. Not a flawless plan, but the best one I got. 

Which gave me a bit lead time before news broke about the contents of the cairn.

When we returned to the Lavender Lady, I ignored my impending date with the washing machine (my luggage was filled with the stuff) and headed back outside to take care of the Princess. 

When we’d stopped at the idiosyncratic general store, Beatrice and Sarah fell in love with its candy counter. Where they indulged their sweet tooth (or teeth in this case) by purchasing homemade snow caps, skittles, lemon drops, licorice, taffy, sweet tarts, gummy bears, peanut brittle, toffee, candied flowers, caramel apples, and marshmallows. I think the store made their daily numbers just off their sugar rush. The upshot of having two friends indulge their inner nine-year-olds? Besides witnessing them inflict giant tummy aches on themselves? They ended up filling my car with a wealth of candy-related detritus.

Tomorrow being Monday and all, I needed to get The Pink Princess ready for work, especially since my FLYT passengers absolutely love her. They’d be shocked and dismayed if they saw her in this state. So spending the rest of the afternoon cleaning my car seemed wise.

On the plus side, it allowed me to avoid listening to my roommate’s groans. She’s currently curled up on the couch cradling a bottle of bismuth. 

The downside? It summoned a giant pain in my…… 

Ms. Hettie: “People in this neighborhood don’t need to know about your appalling eating habits.” 

Me (barely missing the door jamb with my head when I stood up too quickly): “Well, they’ll just think I’m colorful.”

A fist full of skittles wrappers disappeared into the garbage bag I was filling up while I inwardly cursed the stealth of soft soled shoes.

Ms. Hettie (sniffing loudly): “Isn’t there someplace else you can do this?”

Me (trying not to give her an opening): “Nope.”

Several fast food containers followed the candy wrappers into the bag, continuing on with my task while trying to ignore my landlady. I wonder if I needed to monitor Beatrice to make sure she didn’t fall into a diabetic coma. Or at the very least I could supply her with a bucket…

Ms. Hettie (sensing my inattention croaked louder): “That cousin of yours was hardly here this weekend.”

Me (standing up again to peer over the Princess’s ragtop): “Really? I’ll keep your observations in mind.”

Ms. Hettie’s enviable rosy cheeks almost hid the blush which crept across her nose. At least she hadn’t called the cops on Robbie thinking he was a prowler (I’d had visions).

Ms. Hettie (undeterred): “If you both go out of town again, make sure to tell me when you’ll be back.”

Making a noncommittal sound I hunkered down, trying to fish the last crumpled candy wrapper from under the driver’s seat. She’d want a full itinerary next. Funny thing is I don’t think she’s anxious about being alone in the Lavender Lady.

Ms. Hettie (working back to her original complaint and walking around to address her comments to my rump): “Well if you insist on cleaning this car out here, be quick about it.”

Me (failing in my efforts not to rise to her bait, I sat back on my heels): “If I you hadn’t stopped by, I’d be much farther along.”

This earned a hairy eyeball from Ms. Hettie, who finally left me in peace, I assume to reacquaint herself with the contents of an oubliette. Who on earth did she think could see me back here? Besides herself and Beatrice?

When the car no longer crinkled (it did smell like a cross between candy floss and windex) I decided to remove the fine film of dirt and bugs encrusting the pink paint. Choosing to save a few pennies and irritate my landlady further (an added bonus) I  washed her myself. Being a completionist, I decided to make her shine so out came the wax. When I finished The Pink Princess positively sparkled (though the battery operated dewdrop lights I strung up inside helped). 

Even better than a clean car? 

I finally figured out where the external light switches were located – no more stumbling up a dim walk for me! 

1.24 One More Time With Feeling

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(My plate after Beatrice and I dished up our late dinner!)

The shadows shrouding the walk between the alley (where I was allowed to park the Princess) and the Lavender Lady were only slightly shallower than those I’d encountered in Nevermore this evening. We really needed some landscape lights back here. 

I’d take a candlelit lantern at this point.

Fearing Ms. Hettie might mistake me for a prowler if I used my flashlight to traverse the walkway, I made do with the intermittent moonlight. Walking at a pace which snails would find laughable, I finally made it to my door, my toes remaining unscathed for the first time tonight. Win!

My victory lasted precisely three paces. 

The same toes which Mr. Grindle’s crutch repeatedly mashed and I stubbed against a tombstone were abused once more when they came to an abrupt halt against the metal joint of my roommate’s suitcase. Which she’d thoughtfully left lying just inside the door. No longer needing to stay silent I gave full voice to the sentiments felt by my beleaguered digits, this venting allowed me to catch myself before kicking the suitcase with the same foot in retaliation for the pain and suffering it caused (who says a fool can’t learn?). 

Me (borrowing the profanity filter from The Good Place): “Holy mother forking shirt balls! Steel-toed Forking boots, part of my first Forking paycheck needs to fund the purchase of Forking steel-toed boots.”

While I hopped about yelling Beatrice stuck her head out of the kitchen.

Beatrice: “While not a traditional greeting, I’ll take it. Hello Phoebe.”

Continuing to hop around, I glared in her general direction while my litany of questionable language streamed on unabated. I wonder if Wood would look at my toes to ascertain if they sustained any hairline fractures this evening…

Beatrice (unfazed by spectacle I presented, waved her hand towards her baggage): “I’ll pick those up in a second. Come into the kitchen. I fixed snacks.”

The swinging door swooshed back and forth when she went back into the kitchen fanning the pleasant aromas of sautéed onions, garlic, and basil in my direction. Snacks? Deciding it was pure foolishness to hop on one foot down a hallway strewn with bags, boxes and a crate (Seriously? A crate? I don’t remember hauling this much stuff to the airport), I put both feet on the floor and threaded my way through the maze. 

Opening the kitchen door with care, I scanned the floor before looking at a rather amused Beatrice and the platter of bruschetta she held in her hands. 

Beatrice: “No new objects in here to trip over in here I’m afraid.”

Placing the platter on the table between us, she waited until I sat down before dividing the tomato topped toast between our two plates.

Beatrice: “Senior dance tonight? I didn’t think the Center was open this late.”

Me (needing a moment to chew and swallow before answering): “Nothing so exciting. Forgot to turn my meter off, got a late fare.” 

Beatrice (arching an eyebrow): “Someone give you a hard time?”

Me: “No, just a weird guy. Good tipper. Speaking of weird, what’s up with Ms. Hettie?”

Beatrice (delicately nibbling her little slice of heaven): “You met our landlady? By the way, do not ever call her that.”

Me: “She accused me of being a thief.”

Beatrice (snorted): “Seriously? You met her? And she conversed with you? Did someone introduce you two?”

Me (muttering): “Technically we spoke if you call throwing accusations and general unhelpfulness speaking.” 

Beatrice (cocking her head): “No you don’t get it, she doesn’t talk to anyone unless introduced to them. Ever.” 

Me: “She wasn’t shy with me.”

Beatrice (hand hovering over her plate): “What happened?”

Describing my fruitless quest of locating the mythical storage area, the general crabbiness of Ms. Hettie and her accusatory air to Beatrice I finally appreciated the ridiculousness of the entire episode. The only hitch in the giddy-up? I still had an island of boxes in the middle of my room which is starting to morph into an oddly shaped laundry pile. 

Beatrice (looked thoughtful while she polished off her portion of the late night snack): “Maybe she likes you? I am not sure. She’s not rude to me, but quirky I suppose could come off the same way…”

Me (finishing off my food, I grabbed our plates and put them in the sink): “Well if you could show me where the storage area is I’d be grateful. Maybe Ms. Hettie will come by while were moving stuff, and you can witness her hostility towards me first hand.”

Beatrice: “How about tomorrow? Early? If you get up around six, I can show you the building before I head to work.”

Me: “Sounds like a plan.”

The early bird catches the worm, right?

1.18 Sugar & Spice and Nothing Nice

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Remember when I I said I forgot to ask Beatrice about something when she toured me through the Lavender Lady? When she lured me into a very reasonable lease?

Yeah, I figured it out.

The penny dropped when I started searching for the promised storage area.

It turns out Beatrice owned a rather nice espresso machine, so I finished unpacking and arranging my books (then rearranging them when I imagined a better way), rebuilding my bed and hanging up my clothes in two days.

However during said process, an island coalesced into existence in the center of my room. Unopened boxes which contained useful yet redundant items; a second set of dishes, silverware, pots and pans, my dinner table and such. While putting my stuff away, I’d poked my nose into all kinds of interesting corners of the apartment and I knew this mythical storage spaces wasn’t inside our four walls (I did earmark a few places for further investigation). Now why didn’t I just ask Beatrice? She left the day after I moved in for Scotland. Pulp sent her to a book festival and she wasn’t going to return until the following Saturday. I didn’t think my itch to finish (and to quit barking my shins on the boxes) warranted a transcontinental call.

Which is why on I found myself on my tiptoes peeking in outbuildings around grounds. I found a tool shed and potting bench, a root cellar (which could also double as an oubliette), a garden shed (which I couldn’t see inside because of some very thorny rose bushes and a locked door) and the garage – which looked promising, but the only thing in it was a vintage Chevy Impala, not a single shelf in sight.

That’s when she caught up with me.

A voice croaked behind me: “What are you doing? Casing up my house?”

Startled, since I hadn’t heard her approach, I whipped around and saw the cutest little old lady standing on the walk. She looked like an advertisement with her long braid of silver hair, rosy cheeks and pleasant plumpness. She wore a frilly apron over her sweater and jeans and a pair of sensible shoes on her feet. I could just imagine her baking sugar cookies for her grandkids’ school bake sale or knitting red woolen mittens for neighborhood kids. I tried to discreetly look around for who’d spoken me – because the voice I heard didn’t match the person standing in front of me.

The vision of sugar and spice opened her mouth: “Well? Are you one of the thieves who robbed me?”

Seriously, the croaking ten-pack-a-day-washed-down-with-a-half-a-bottle-of-bourbon voice came from her and she thought I burgled her house. Fantastic.

Me (with my brain still trying to align incongruous sensory input, fell back onto Aunt Pearl’s axiom ‘politeness never hurt anyone’): “No ma’am. My name is Phoebe Arden, Beatrice’s new roommate…”

Her (cutting me off without any attempt to conceal her suspicion, she barked): “Doesn’t mean you’re not a thief.”

Me (trying again): “I’m not ma’am. Beatrice left for a week and forgot to tell me where the storage space is. So I was seeing if I could find it myself.”

Her: “So snooping then?”

Me (praying she had a cellphone in one of those adorably frilly pockets): “I’m not snooping, ma’am. I am just looking for someplace to put my extra boxes. Call Beatrice, she’ll tell you who I am.”

Her (snorting and crossing her arms over the geese frolicking across the apron top): “Don’t need to. I know who you are and I don’t like snoops.”

Me (an idea finally dawned on me): “I am not snooping. Are you Ms. Hettie?”

Her (a sneered marred the laugh lines around her mouth): “Who else would I be?”

Me (irritated by her manner and lack of manners): “So if you know who I am, you know I’m not going to rob you and I am not snooping around. Will you show me where the storage space is?”

Ms. Hettie: “Beatrice can show you when she gets home.”

With that she turned on her heel and disappeared around the corner of the garage – leaving me gaping like a fish at her unwarranted unpleasant attitude. Then I remembered Beatrice’s comment in Altar about Ms. Hettie and the other shoe dropped, “…when she gets nervous she gets cranky, well crankier.”

Well hell, I forgot to ask Beatrice what her definition of cranky was. Maybe calling her in Scotland wasn’t such a bad idea?