Category Archives: Ms. Hettie

2.49.b It’s not Biscuits & Gravy…But It’ll Do

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Between the intensity of the conversation and my zeroed in concentration on the cutting board, I nearly lopped off my own fingertip when the buzzer above the oven sounded off. Beatrice, leaving the place settings on the counter, strode over to the stove and picked up the red hot orange pot. Setting aside the bloodthirsty blade, I scooted around Beatrice trivet in hand, placing it on the table where she wanted to set our sweet-smelling supper. 

No longer able to maintain my feeble facade of non-existence, I wordlessly started shepherding the arroz con pollo trimmings (I’d already sampled for quality assurance purposes) to the table. 

Beatrice began setting it – for two.

Ms. Hettie, who’d fallen silent after Beatrice’s cryptic observation, swirled her scotch and eyed me for a moment before shifting her gaze onto her great-niece.

Ms. Hettie (scour-pad voice scraping across the eardrum): “I know my bible-thumping sister and the rest of her brood are a bunch of nogoodniks Beatrice, but Grace is facing prison.”

Beatrice (thumping a plate onto the table): “A predicament that didn’t interest them the least when it was mine.”

Ms. Hettie: “Just think about it.”

Draining her glass in a single swallow, Ms. Hettie (who was wearing a sky blue sweatshirt with kittens chasing silver snowflakes across her bosoms today) levered herself out of the chair, casting significant looks at each of us before ambling out of the kitchen. The sound of the front door opening and closing followed a few seconds later.

Beatrice (dropping bonelessly into a chair): “Sorry, I didn’t think she’d keep hounding me if you were here.”

Me (placing spoons in the sides): “No worries, I’ve been on the receiving end of my fair share of familial guilt trips.”

Beatrice (rubbing her temples): “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not talk about it.”

Watching Beatrice, I realized her gaze was fixed sightlessly on the glass of Oban Ms. Hettie had been sipping during their ‘discussion’. Unsure my liver had fully recovered from the last time we hit a bottle I caste about for a distraction.

Me (sitting down across from her): “Don’t worry about it. I’d rather not give Ms. Hettie the satisfaction.”

Beatrice (her hand pausing halfway to the bottle): “Satisfaction?”

Me (smiling): “She named the puppy. So I’d ask questions we’d talk and hopefully, in the end, convince you to do whatever it is she wants you to do. As I’m not interested in doing her dirty work, you needn’t explain a thing to me.”

Beatrice (flicking a glance at the three-quarter full bottle): “Damned, I always forget how good she is.”

Me (catching sight of the dull gold strip peaking out my pack next to me): “Funnily enough, Ms. Hettie’s not the only one hoping for your help tonight.”

Quirking an eyebrow at me, Beatrice waited a moment for me to elaborate. However, due to the proximity of the fragrant arroz con pollo – plus the knot of containers filled with lettuce, queso fresco, tomatoes, black beans, avocado, and steaming tortillas – my stomach chose that moment to issue a long and LOUD complaint.

Beatrice (corners of her mouth twitching): “Why don’t you explain after you’ve sated the beast.”

Feeling the tips of my ears grow hot, I simply nodded and started dishing up. After my first helping made a cameo appearance on my plate, my hands stopped shaking, and the hangries receded enough to resume polite conversation. 

Leaning to the left slightly, I pulled the brown paper wrapped book from my pack and handed it to her. Pushing aside her plate and the nearest containers, she wiped the table with her napkin before carefully opening the cover and gently leafing thru the first few pages.

Me (speaking around a bite of beans and cheese): “I was hoping you’d have better luck deciphering it than I am currently. The handwriting gives me a splitting headache after ten minutes.”

Beatrice (eyebrows drew together in concentration): “Why not just stop reading it?”

Me (holding my breath for a second): “Because that’s the only copy of the Nevermore Conventions I can lay my hands on at the moment. As all the others, including mine, have disappeared. I’m hoping the reason why is somewhere inside.”

Beatrice (tilting her head and looking up at me): “And a bit more besides?”

Me (smiling wryly): “Yes.”

Beatrice (wrinkling her nose): “And the sooner I finish it, the better?”

Me (deflating slightly): “I know it’s a lot to ask…”

Beatrice (nodding once): “No problem.”

Me: “Really?”

Beatrice (an edge of her mouth tipping upwards a little): “Consider it a thank-you for not falling into Ms. Hettie’s trap.”

Me (grinning): “Can I push my luck and borrow your laptop again?”

Beatrice (shrugging): “Sure. Why?”

Me: “I need to organize my thoughts and that mind-mapping program you’ve got looked like an excellent way to do it.”

Beatrice (looking very much like her Great-Aunt for a moment): “These events wouldn’t include Sarah ratting us out to Little Ben the night of the Brace Affair, would it?”

Well crap, so much for me not being an awful friend.

2.49.a Taco Tuesday

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Tuesday night, after my second shift for FLYT, I was starving. 

Due to a series of unfortunate events (my last Senior Center fare running late, hitting every single red light in Rye and a peewee soccer team taking over the preponderance of tables at The Diner On The Corner), I failed to secure myself some supper in-between shifts.

(BTW – A leftover handful of plantain chips and pumpkin seeds does not a dinner make.)

Exacerbating the hollowness of my midsection, I ferried about a gentleman who would not stop waxing poetic about either his takeout or the new food truck at THE HUB. (Which apparently serves the ‘world’s best biscuits and gravy’ – according to their propaganda and the guy’s ravings. Which of course, I took silent umbrage with – because no food truck in the history of ever can beat a woman who’s been making them from scratch once a week for well over seventy-five years. But I digress.) 

Rather than committing petty theft and sampling the second-best biscuits in Rye – I knocked off a half-hour early instead. 

Fortunately for everyone on the road, my tummy waited until after I pulled the Princess into the alley before hijacking every iota of processing power my brain possessed in order to recall the proper way to make a roux. Once I was completely free from worrying about silly things like crashing into a tree or creaming Ms. Hettie’s guard gnome (the Lavender Lady may be too stately to sport cute lawn ornaments, but it seems her garage is not). My tummy commandeered the remainder of my cognitive abilities to conduct a mental inventory of the contents of the fridge, freezer, and pantry. 

Indeed, so enthralled was I in recalling Wood’s Gran’s instruction on the proper way of making a roux…I not only missed the actual aromas emanating from the kitchen, but the raised voices reverberating through its door. Until both the chagrin of walking into the middle of the personal conversation and the heady bouquet of chicken, cumin, cilantro, tomatoes, spicy peppers, and rice – hit me simultaneously. 

Successfully jarring my mind and tummy from their culinary fixation. 

Ms. Hettie (sitting at the table sipping some amber liquid out of a mason jar):”…regrets disowning you.”

Beatrice (using a paring knife to emphasize her point): “She only regrets it because she wants my help…evening Phoebe, dinner’s nearly done.”

Ms. Hettie (turning towards me rasped out): “If you would kindly give us a moment, we are discussing a family matter.”

Me (stammering and backing out the door): “I’ll just…”

Beatrice (stabbing an avocado): “Ms. Hettie and I are done with our discussion if you could grab some plates that would be great.”

Ms. Hettie (smacking the bottom of the jam jar against the tabletop): “We most certainly are not.” 

Without a word, I dumped my pack, cap, and coat onto the nearest chair and scurried over to Beatrice’s side. Sighing with relief as I managed to save her fingers and the avocado from the colossal sized cleaver she’d swapped the paring knife for in a fit of frustration over her trouble deseeding the large berry.

Me (surveying the bevy of brightly colored veggies lined up next to the cutting board): “I’ll finish up?”

Beatrice (shaking her head while surrendering the massive knife): “The garnish.”

Nodding, I switched from her knife of choice to one slightly less Brobdingnagian, then went to work opening up the Avocado while trying to fade into the foreground.

Beatrice (pulling some placemats out of a drawer): “How can you ask me to go back there?”

Ms. Hettie (wheezing after a large sip of scotch): “You find things for strangers all the time.”

Beatrice (utensils tinking together as she yanked open another drawer): “Treat them as clients? They’d never abide by the contract or pay me.”

Ms. Hettie (refilling her drink): “So make them, I’ll lend a hand if needed. I doubt either of us can fall any further in their opinion.”

Beatrice (closing the cupboard): “Unless I happen to prove she did it.”

Covey or Bevy?

Version 2

Ms. Hettie and I were indeed bickering about Quail when Beatrice found us. Or more specifically we were passionately discussing if a group of quail are called a Covey or a Bevy and of course we couldn’t agree….though we did both think the word flock to ordinary for such quirky birds!

2.17.b The Next Miss Marple I’m Not

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Choking on my pull of pumpkin milkshake, I wrestled with the Princess’s steering wheel trying to keep her from swerving into the oncoming lane (there wasn’t anyone else in sight, but keeping up good habits is always recommended). Not once, in our months of sharing rooms in the Lavender Lady, did I suspect Ms. Hettie and Beatrice were related.

My Miss Marple skills need some work. Perhaps I should ask Leo for some knitting lessons….

“Your Great Aunt? That piece of sour candy is your Great Aunt?” 

Holy mother forking shirt balls, I should probably not refer to Ms. Hettie like that to her niece. 

“You should hear what she calls you.” Beatrice said in her mildest voice. “What made you think she snitched on us to Little Ben?”

Distracted from panicking over my gaffe (which also successfully lowered my volume dial from a nine to a five), “She was the only one I could think of, outside of the four of us, who might have known where we were going.”

“How? Oh, right, the sea shanty…”

Glad she glommed onto my train of reasoning so quickly, “She keeps pretty close tabs on us, and Little Ben was tipped off…So I thought she might have made the call.”

Silently nodding her head in time with Moonlight Serenade (KARB was paying tribute to Glenn Miller today), she took a moment to respond, “It makes sense I grant you, but no, she would never do something like that. She can’t stand tattling. Plus, I’m her favorite niece.”

Back to square one. 

Bummed at the conviction Beatrice spoke with, I moved on. “Why didn’t you tell me you two were related?” 

Clearly laughing at me without actually uttering a sound, Beatrice made an effort to smooth my jangled nerves. “Because you two clearly enjoy your skirmishes, and I didn’t want to ruin it.”

“I don’t know if I’d use the word enjoy…”

My statement generated a stare; I could physically feel boring into the right side of my skull. “Really? So you didn’t bake several batches of Earl Grey cookies, filling the entire house with their aroma last week, in order to lure Ms. Hettie into the back garden? Where I found you both enjoying them, drinking London fogs and bickering about quail when I got home?”

Hunching over the steering wheel, “Those were extenuating circumstances, I was going stir crazy, and she brought the tea…” The words sounded petulant, even to my ears. “Fine, I did. But when you say I lured her with cookies, it sounds unsavory.”

Actually laughing now, Beatrice grabbed her lemonade at took a long draw.

“So why don’t you call her Great Aunt Hettie or just Aunt Hettie?”

Fidgeting with the straw, “During a visit, when I was younger, I overheard her telling my mother that being called great by us kids made her feel old, so I started calling Ms. Hettie instead. It stuck.”

Curiosity creeping into my voice, “I’ve never asked, but how did you end up living downstairs from Ms. Hettie?”

Putting down her drink, she ran her thumb up and down the seatbelt a couple of times before answering, “Ms. Hettie took me in and told my family off after we had a falling out. We respect each other’s space, so the arrangement worked well for both of us, now I keep them from pestering her about moving to someplace smaller.

Sensing her reluctance to canvas the topic further, I moved on to something much funner. “Do you think Wood suspects?”

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched a smile slowly chase away her frown, “No. I spoke to Laney yesterday, and he thinks he’s coming over to give you one last check-up and a celebratory dinner. He’s clueless about the evening’s entertainment.”

Grinning, “You’ve tested the VCR?”

“Of course.”

2.17.a Burgers & Revelations

2.18 Lunch

I think I’m in love. 

After one-hundred-and-fifteen years of tinkering, fiddling, and experimentation has culminated in this plate of grass-fed goodness sitting between Beatrice and me (we’re sharing). Containing the ideal ratio of sauce to bun to beef with a wonderful fringe of fresh groceries (lettuce, tomato & onion), this burger is perfect in every particular.

Taking another bite, I closed my eyes, recalling a fun little factoid Wood and I discovered in fifth grade – which blew our minds. 

Did you know the hamburger didn’t gain widespread popularity in the U.S. until the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair? On its own, this doesn’t sound startling. But combined with our family history unit? We couldn’t believe our eyes. 

Born between 1888 and 1902, our great-grandparent’s childhood plates might possibly, have been bereft of our favorite dinnertime staple.

Staring stupidly at the numbers written in our own hand, we turned tail and ran to Wood’s Gran, who didn’t laugh at our horror (though looking back she was probably tempted). Unable to verify our deductions, as she’d never gotten into an in-depth discussion of burgers with her mother, she did disclose an even more shocking piece of information.

She hadn’t tasted her first McDonald’s cheeseburger until her thirty-fifth birthday. His Gran then went on to admit she grew up in a world without  Ronald McDonald, Grimace, The Hamburglar, and Mayor McCheese. Minds blown his Gran gave us both a cookie and told us not to worry – she’d eaten enough cheeseburgers since to make up for her McDonald’s-less childhood.

Smiling at the shadow of my past flabbergast, I reopened my eyes just in time to keep our mound of napkins from sailing across the lawn on the brisk breeze snatching at my hair. Beatrice, in her own burger induced thrall, chewed on obliviously. 

Perhaps a bit brisk for alfresco dining, I’d still chosen a picnic table outside, due to the subtle funk still clinging tenaciously to me. Despite using an entire tube of wet wipes and changing into my spare uniform (extras of I stashed in the Princess after the Tomato Soup Incident), I couldn’t entirely shake the unique scent of Muck Duck Pond. 

On the upside, my new swampy perfume put the Von Haeville sisters and Mr. Ottoman off from joining us for lunch, they’d gotten their orders to go. (Mr. John Dupree took a different road home and missed out on this piece of ambrosia.) 

Me (finally feeling human again, we continued our discussion from the Princess): “Did you find what they were looking for?”

Beatrice (dipping a fry in ketchup): “Yes, tucked under a loose floorboard in the master bedroom. Pretty standard hiding place really, not sure why they didn’t find it themselves…Did she really lock you out?”

Having just taken a bite of my burger, all I could do was nod.

Beatrice (licking salt off her fingers and moving on): “Did you find the family plot?”

Me (swallowing): “Yes, and completed an informal study for the Rye Historical Society. If it’s not already in the national registry, they’ll list it and request permission to complete a formal survey.”

(BTW – finishing my infernal ‘informal study’ led directly to my besmirching. After Ina Von Haeville set off to find IT, I lagged behind recording the last three markers on my map. When I finally scrambled through the hedge after her, she was so far ahead that I had to follow her line to keep her in sight – right through Much Duck Pond.) 

Beatrice (grinning): “That will put a bee in the sister’s bonnets.”

Me: “Why?”

Beatrice: “From what Dupree gleaned, they haven’t disclosed the cemetery’s existence to their buyers…”

Me (wry smile curving my lips): “That’ll even the score for making me clean up outside. The Historical Society will make sure the buyers know about it.”

(Yes, they made me walk around the house and clean up in the Princess. The Elder Von Haeville sister staunchly refused to allow me to walk thru the house. When Beatrice wondered aloud why it mattered, as the maid hadn’t mopped up in years, the two really started taking verbal swings at each other. They only stopped when I stepped in and relented to the Elder’s request. Figuring that giving an eyeful to the local fauna, while changing, a small price to pay for keeping my secret, secret.)

Finishing up our shared lunch (and dropping a few loose fries on the ground for the house sparrows hopping about our feet), we headed to the Princess. Where I finally mustered up the courage to broach my million dollar question with Beatrice.

Me (occupying my hands with starting the Princess): “How well do you know Ms. Crab-Apple Hettie?”

Beatrice (wearing a Mona Lisa smile): “Why?”

Me (hedging): “The night we dressed as pirates and planted rubber ducks in Nevermore, do you think she’s the one who warned Little Ben we were coming?”

Beatrice (without hesitating): “No.”

Me (grabbing my milkshake for a sip): “Are you sure?” 

Beatrice (eyes twinkling sporting a wide Cheshire grin): “Pretty sure, she’s my Great Aunt.”

Wait?! What?!!? Crap!!!!! Crapity, Crap, Crap Crap!!!!

2.10 Pink? Pink? What’s Wrong With Pink?

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(The Princess is not the color of medicine!)

The Alter, no matter the time of day, always features fresh-baked baked-goods, so when I barreled thru the doors looking for something sweet, they didn’t let me down. Even better? The barista behind the counter didn’t bat an eyelash at my slightly grubby outfit, which earned her a generous tip after I paid for my chalice of coffee and a raspberry bear claw the size of my face. 

While I waited for the shout proclaiming my order fulfilled, I moseyed over to the altar in the corner. After all the events at Nevermore today, lighting a candle for luck and offering up a handful of Kona coffee beans up to the Fates couldn’t hurt. Some well-timed serendipity might come in handy shortly if today’s events were any indication.

Looking at my watch, I decided against eating my treat on the spot, as I still had an outside chance of beating Beatrice (Wood’s not-so-secret-secret-informant) home, thereby avoiding Wood’s wrath when she spilled the beans about my adventuring.

My plan, such as it was, worked for about one-hundred and twenty seconds after I turned into the Lavender Lady’s alley. Just long enough for me to let out a victorious whoop when I discovered Beatrice’s spot holding nothing but dead leaves, pull the Princess into her slot, shut off the engine and start casting about for my stuff.

Fortunately, the approaching bright twin beams of a silver Audi illuminated the Princess’s interior nicely, allowing me to figure out where I’d set my phone.

Fan-forking-tastic.

Abandoning my half-eaten bear claw and coffee dredges, Beatrice and I alighted from our respective rides at the same time, her face split by a grin (knowing she’d busted me). Pulling some chutzpah up from somewhere around my left knee, I attempted to hoodwink my her anyways. 

“Would you believe I came out here to think?”

With a sideways glance at the Princess, then at me, she let loose a laugh, “That explanation might hold water if; your backseat wasn’t filled with boxes, your coat not covered in crumbs and one shoe wasn’t crusted with what is hopefully mud.” 

Still in stitches, she leaned back into her car and grabbed some tied off plastic bags, all which sported the logo of my favorite comfort food joint, off the passenger seat.

“It was an exciting day in the alley?” 

Chuckling, Beatrice landed the final blow, “I gathered. Ms. Hettie called this afternoon to warn me about some mentally unbalanced car thieves who stole the back alley eyesore, the Pepto-mobile, but left her Impala untouched.”

Sputtering for a split second, “Eyesore? Pepto-mobile? The Princess is a cotton candy classic!” Stroking her pink hood soothingly, “Don’t let that delusional old bag of bones get you down. She thinks sweatshirts with embroidered geese are stylish.”

Highly amused over our indirect verbal skirmish, Beatrice moved on, “Come on, let’s get out of the dark and damp. I bought dinner from The Diner On The Corner.”

Honing in once again in on the takeout bags, my mouth started watering, “Pie?” 

(You can never have too many sweets on a day filled with disconcerting information.)

Throwing her own PULP tote over her shoulder, “Only if you can honestly tell me those boxes aren’t heavy.”

Hand over heart, “Sarah did all the hefting. The most substantial thing I heaved was this tote, and it’s mostly scarf now.”

“Sarah?”

“Yeah…” Giving Beatrice an abbreviated version of today’s events, we walked up the path towards the back of the Lavender Lady. She laughed at my description of Leo’s hat in all its snaky glory and my plan to shock my cousins.

When the curtain above our door twitched, I shot a toothy grin at it, Pepto-mobile my ass.

Once inside, Beatrice headed straight back to the kitchen while I removed my grimy shoes, sodden socks and sticky coat in the hallway (the raspberry jam of my bear claw nailed it). When I finally finished (and tossed the PULP tote with its pilfered promotional folders into my room), I joined her in the kitchen.

Beatrice, having shed her own outerwear, stood at the counter, dishing up our dinner. After she declined my help, I walked over to the old radio. Turning it on, I fiddled with the dials until the static resolved itself into the classic strains of Sinatra’s Glad To Be Unhappy. Apparently, KARB’s DJ agrees with my theory, that sorrowful Sinatra songs sound best on rainy days.

The clink of porcelain on Formica pulled me from my reverie, turning from the tuner, I joined Beatrice at the table.

After leaning over to smell the bowl of goodness in front of me, I made my opening gambit, “So, is PULP sending you any place interesting soon?”

Beatrice gave me a wry smile and put her spoon down, “Nope. So why did you split hairs with the doctor’s orders?”

Waffling for a moment, I finally cast my (metaphorical) cards onto the table, “I’ve been going stir-crazy, and Little Ben emailed about some boxes, and it seemed like the perfect reason to leave the house. Plus, I got to take off my slippers. It was just an errand, not a FLYT fare so…”

A shrug finished my sentence, and a bite of my stew filled the conversational void while I waited for Wood’s not-so-secret-secret-informant to declare my fate.

Nodding thoughtfully in time with the radio (Diana Krall’s version of In The Wee Small Hours of The Morning), Beatrice sipped her red wine (btw I got a glass of two-percent milk, per Wood’s instructions) then spoke, “I have a proposition for you.”

With a mouth full of stew soaked biscuit, I could only nod.

Summing up my conundrum, “Our friendly doctor wants to make sure you don’t overdo it. But your well enough to chafe over sitting at home, correct?” At the end of her question, she started playing with her wine glass.

Unwilling to spit my food at her, I nodded again.

Watching the swirling liquid, she continued, “Did you know I have a second job?” Not waiting for an answer, she went on, “And it requires a driver. Since you’re the pro, what do you say? I can make sure you don’t over-do it, you can wear shoes again, and we’ll both stay in Wood’s good graces.”

Gulping down my mouthful, “How do you feel about pink?”

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! 

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