Category Archives: Nevermore

Little Ben Strikes Again….

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While taking Mrs. Lewis’s cat, Mitzy, to the Vet I found this on their bulletin board…

Little Ben’s plans for the Sunny Valley Farm expansion for Nevermore. His plans always sound good, that’s where he gets you! They always sound reasonable until you get down to the nuts and bolts, that’s where they fall apart.

Like placing the pet cemetery on ground which floods regularly.

Hopefully the Brace Affair will change his mind.

1.50 Dealing

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We’d both employed the same cunning strategy – waiting. Perhaps my “plan” wasn’t as lame as I’d previously thought. 

The coffee seemed to need a few more minutes to seep into my system to bad I didn’t have the time. Even in this deluge maintenance would be working (death doesn’t wait for a sunny day) and I really didn’t want to answer the inevitable questions they’d ask if they ran across me sitting in my car. I had a feeling my hair would give away last night’s sleeping arrangements. 

Which meant Joseph and I had a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time.

Joseph (still looking amused): “So why were you waiting for me?”

Me (taking another swig straight from the thermos): “The Stalker, isn’t a Stalker, she’s a Woman In White.”

Joseph (his gaze sharpened): “Tell me.”

Me: “I found her genesis point when I went up into the mountains…”

While I laid the relevant events from the Fall Foliage Tour into a coherent narrative, Joseph sat in the passenger’s seat listening, his fingers tracing the inside band of his grey fedora over and over while I talked. 

Joseph (enunciating each word): “You think she will come here, at some point.”

Me (nodding): “Yes. After I got back I asked Aunt Pearl about the whole affair, she told me Tiffany’s father still lives in Rye, so I expect she’ll come to Nevermore. When she does, we’ll need a plan.”

Aunt Pearl also hinted at some other old gossip about Tiffany, but wouldn’t repeat it, “not wishing to speak ill of the dead.” 

Joseph: “A plan?”

Me (nodding): “If she’s allowed to wander the grounds she will find a Resident then hunt down the others. She won’t hesitate to increase her own power at their expense. With my odd hours and the uncertainty of when she’ll arrive we need to coordinate. You can contain her until I get here and salt her bones directly, right?”

Utterly oblivious to my companion, I failed to notice his amusement and continued to spout off half-formed ideas.

Still Me (spacing out for a moment): “Sarah would call me the moment she arrives if I asked…. Though if she’s cremated that would eliminate all our worries since fire purifies everything… I could ask Sarah to try to steer things that way…Then there’s the rubber ducks, work, sabotage, and I’ll need to shower sometime…”

Joseph (interrupting my revery, amused): “Phoebe.” 

Me (fretting): “I could sleep in my car here after she’s found so I could be on hand more.”

Joseph (plonking me in the forehead with his index finger): “Phoebe. The Residents and I can manage her. What do you think happened before you came here?”

Me (puzzling): “I never put much thought into it.”

My brain jumping the tracks, how did they cope? The first burial happened in 1840, Nevermore (as it is now) came about in 1846, and I’ve been coming here for twenty-seven years, so that leaves one-hundred-and-seventy-eight-years unaccounted for. Something to think about later…

Joseph (catching my attention again): “…Woman In White.”

Me (my mind reversing from its derailed state): “Pardon?”

Joseph: “I will handle the Woman In White.”

Me (nodding, my head still not entirely on this portion of the conversation): “Okay, I’ll leave her to you…”

Joseph (a hard look creeping into his eyes): “You have a handle on Little Ben’s expansion? I assume there’s a problem.”

Me (nodding, diverted by the small opening he’d given me): “Yes to both…How did the Residents cope before I came?”

Joseph (his hands finally still): “They have me. I protect Nevermore and the Residents from all threats.”

Me (slowly sinking into the quicksand of the conversation): “Like Women In White, Stalkers, Walkers, and Soldiers?” 

Joseph (somber): “And anything else.”

Me (feeling small): “So Nevermore doesn’t really need my help.” 

Joseph (his tone commanding me to meet his eyes): “You value those who’ve been forgotten. You find the lost and bring them home. You protect those who undervalue you – no matter the cost. You are Nevermore’s most unique Resident because you choose to be here. You are needed, never doubt that.”

Not know what to say and trying not to cry – I moved on – Joseph doesn’t do tears. 

Me (blinking rapidly): “Since I’m not here as much right now, how can I find you if I don’t want to ask a Resident to pass on a message?”

Joseph (looking at me thoughtfully, pausing for a beat longer than I’d anticipated): “Knock on a gate, Toby will lead you to me.”

Me: “What’s a Toby? And any gate?”

Joseph (smiling): “He’s shy. But I think he’s ready for you to meet him. And yes, any gate in Nevermore.”

Me (startled into dry eyes): “Wait, there’s a Resident I haven’t met yet?” 

Joseph smiled, put on his hat an exited the Princess, the rain (plus his grey suit) erased him almost instantly from my sight. So many layers to the conversation, but no time to consider them if the clock on my dash was correct. I had precisely forty-five minutes to get home, shower, change and eat before my shift starts. 

Aspirin, I also needed to take many aspirins, not being able to turn my head right – due to a stupid crick – won’t make my day any easier.

(Unsplash Picture Credit Here)

1.49 My Flawless Plan

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While Rye does not contain a single drive-thru Asian joint (which is a travesty), it does include an Italian one. So instead of eggrolls, I am eating spaghetti for dinner.

While both countries of culinary origin reside in the same hemisphere – spaghetti does not satisfy an eggroll craving.

In case you are wondering.

Despite the lack of pork, cabbage and plum sauce I attacked my dinner with gusto. While spaghetti & meatballs wasn’t what my stomach demanded, it did sate my hangries, leaving me in a mellower frame of mind. I offered up silent thanks to whichever god steered Joseph away from me pre-food. If he’d stopped by before, I might have taken him up on his offer to actively ‘persuade’ Little Ben to leave Nevermore.

After stowing away my trash, I snuggled under the Princess’s matching afghans and propped my tablet up against the steering wheel. Deciding my neurons needed a jump-start, I snagged one of the three thermoses of coffee from the back seat.

No rest for the wicked. 

My brain and I needed to start working on my other problem, Sunny Valley Farm.

If Wood’s ridiculously fun Brace Affair didn’t do the job, I needed a fallback plan – which unfortunately placed the corner of Bitter and Sweet. Because, subversion, subterfuge, and counterfeiting aren’t pleasant words, but they defined what I might be forced to do to keep Nevermore safe.

Turning on my tablet, I opened my copy of the program Little Ben loves to use when concocting his proposals, campaigns, and announcements. Over the past few days, I’d retyped all of Little Ben’s original text and yesterday I’d copied all the graphics from the Sunny Valley Farm website (which thankfully did not include the proposed location yet).

All of this allowed me to while away the time waiting for Joseph by creating and/or updating the documents from the press packet Sarah’d given me.

Turns out this was only a one thermos task.

Switching tracks I tuned (which just sounds nicer than googled) my tablet to KARB hoping to catch the news. Leaning my seat back a bit and pulling the afghans over my arms I listened to the cymbals, drums, and piano of Brubeck’s Take Five start playing….

…..Copland………..Gershwin…………………………………………zzzzzz…………………………………..

The rain beat down in time Diana Krall’s Devil May Care while my brain struggled to convince my unwilling eyes to open up just a crack. Yup, it was raining, the drops obscuring the mausoleums from my vision (which was impressive as they were touching distance away). With this small sensory input, my nerves decided to chime in and let my brain know their displeasure at sleeping in the Princess’s drivers seat….for, well crap, five hours.

An amused voice addressed me: “Good Morning.”

Crappity crap crap crap. 

Rubbing my eyes…

Me (thickly): “Morning.”

Vision moderately clearer I attempted to turn my neck. Well, that was a bad idea. A crick informed me that under no uncertain terms should I attempt trying that feat again in the near future. 

Turning my entire body, I leaned against the driver’s door and blinked at the man in my passenger seat. 

The crease in his dove grey pants could slice a steak in half. 

Trying to remove the custard filling from my head I leaned forward to snag the full thermos from behind the passenger’s seat. Not bothering with the cup I drank straight from the top. 

Cold coffee is better than no coffee at all.

Joseph looked even more amused when I put the thermos down.

Joseph: “Long night?”

Me (it took a moment for me to quit staring at him): “Yes, I’ve been here since midnight.”

Joseph (tilting his head): “Problem with your new rooms?”

Me (waiting for the coffee to catch up): “No, nothing like that. I was waiting for you.”

Joseph (laughing quietly): “Funny, I’ve been waiting for you to wake up.”

1.48 Wrinkles

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Day six of my fourteen hour fortnight.

FLYT held a general meeting last Friday which I missed due to the Fall Foliage Tour. It turns out one of the drivers came in sick with – swine, C, Spanish, bird, #10 – some variety of nasty flu which knocked out almost the entire fleet of FLYT drivers. Not wanting another rideshare program to “muscle into their territory” they asked the last standing healthy drivers to extend their service hours for a rather nice bonus, plus base pay, and tips. 

When FLYT emailed me about Flu-Gate, I immediately contacted the Senior Center. I wasn’t the only driver the members used, but I didn’t want someone going without services because they couldn’t get a ride. It turns out one of the Center’s members did scheduling for Rye Memorial Hospital for forty years and hasn’t lost her touch. With sacred promises made by all not to fork up her work, she set a two-week schedule (for me, another driver who works the Center and the members). I think she may have issued a veiled threat somewhere to ensure compliance – hard to remember now – it feels like a hundred years ago. 

At this point, I am not sure if the Princess’s driver’s seat is taking on my butt shape or my butt is taking on seat shape. These are the things I wonder about now. Either way, it’s been firmly planted since Tuesday morning.

Last night I dreamt scientist created a bottomless cup of coffee.   

Even with all this driving, I’ve managed to wedge a tiny bit of multitasking into my day – monitoring the radio waves. Without a single fib I’ve managed to keep the Princess’s radio dial planted on KARB 98.1, Rye’s jazz/classical station – ‘Giving you energy thru the day!’. My fares grumbled a bit at first (they love their rock music) but gave in when they figured out I was working from 6 am to 8 pm helping them out.

Why am I on tenterhooks at the top of each hour? Because KARB’s news desk delights in scooping The Daily Harvest every chance they get (a feud which according to my Aunt Pearl dates back to an incident in high school between the Newspaper’s Managing Editor and Radio Station’s Manager). In the last year they’d been the first to report Stripper Gate (former mayor taking out visiting officials to said establishments), the apprehension of the Cascadia Con-man and the reacquisition of six lost Dutch Masters by RAM (Rye Art Museum and it turns out the paintings weren’t lost so much as stolen).

KARB is the only non-news station, west of the Mississippi, which employs four full-time investigative reporters – I’m pretty sure. So I figured if/when the sourest member of the Thin Green Line follows up on my materials – they will broadcast it first (it’s harder to monitor the Daily Harvest, traffic cops frown on reading & driving). 

Are drive-thru egg rolls are a thing?

If they aren’t, they really should be because my shift’s finally over and I can’t go home yet and I’d really like some egg rolls or Mongolian beef with fried rice or pad thai or pho or banh mi or sushi. 

Visions of wontons dance through my head… 

Wouldn’t be the first time I ate dinner whilst wandering through Nevermore. According to my phone Rye doesn’t have a drive-thru Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese or Japanese restaurants, drat.

So Nevermore. 

At the time I didn’t realize how serendipitous running into Joseph at The Crossroads was. When I’d taken care of Nevermore, we spoke daily, no big deal. Now that I’m out in the cold it’s not so easy, which fills me with an uncontrollable urge to kick Little Ben in the shins.

Why you ask is my chest crammed with a thousand angry bees who’d like a word with my former manager? Since returning from the Fall Foliage Tour seven and a half days ago, I’ve been unable to locate Joseph and let him know about the looming problem getting ready to land in Nevermore. Not wanting to alarm the Residents I’ve kept the news to myself but he needs to know, and we need to fix on a solution. 

Why not ask them where Joseph is? Or pass a message onto him? Since my exile, this might lead to panic amongst the Residents, which could mean some uncomfortable nights for Little Ben in the cottage. 

So I’d worked out a cunning plan which cut the Residents out of the equation entirely. Regrettably, it requires my butt to remain planted in the driver’s seat for a few more hours (hopefully only minutes, but I’m not holding my breath). My bright idea? I will sit in the Princess, in Nevermore until Joseph finds me – listening to the radio – drinking coffee. 

Without egg rolls.

1.23 Is It Tresspasing If You Have Keys?

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The upside about driving for FLYT? My black uniform doubles as ninja gear or perhaps cat burglar attire, either way, I am tough to see at night (I prefer ninja btw). When Ben gave me my walking papers, he was so intent on wresting my cottage keys from my fingers he forgot about my ring of skeleton keys to Nevermore. Since old habits die hard, I never leave home without them, fortuitous in this case since I need to make one more stop tonight.

The Princess’s tires rolled quietly over the pavement away from Mr. Grindle’s house towards Ash and Second – unofficially known as the Nevermore Crossroads. 

The bane of my professional existence. 

Well, when my professional title included the word caretaker in it. Why? High schoolers insist on scaling the walls for the thrill (and bragging rites) of drinking atop the moldering bones of notorious criminals sent to the gallows and the poor souls who died by their own hand (when they started defacing the graves, I actively started discouraged them). Fortunately for me, the next foray by these teenage hooligans would be soon – the streetlight on the crossroads was out – thickening the shadows on both sides of the wall by a factor of ten. Which, at this moment, suited me just fine. 

After parking the Princess two streets down, I hugged the shadows (which was ridiculously easy) until I reached the Crossroads’ gates, where I used my master key to open the West one (the South one tended to squeak) and slipped thru. The moon, obscured by clouds, didn’t illuminate much tonight. So I pulled a small flashlight out of my purse and turned it on then started following the perimeter wall north. 

I felt the probability of my discovery pretty low. Little Ben loathed this corner of the property, even during the day, claiming it unsettled him, meaning he would not step foot here at night on patrol. Since the high school hooligans found another spot for their shenanigans this evening, they wouldn’t rat me out either. So unless some weird cult decided to take up residence in the past week, my trusty flashlight and I were fine. Plus I needed it to navigate, graveyards at night and obstacle courses share many painful similarities – only one has more atmosphere.

Pretty soon the cheap concrete markers of the condemned gave way to the more conventional marble ones of Rye’s working class. Just on the other side of this invisible border, I spied Joseph leaning against a headstone, the brim of his fedora giving him away (no statue in the entirety of Nevermore wore more than garland on their heads). And because my focus wavered from the ground level obstacles for a split second too long, my toe found the edge of one of the aforementioned marble headstones. On the upside, my foot forgot where Mr. Grindle had stepped on it repeatedly a half hour earlier. By the time I’d finished whisper yelling ‘Ow!’ and clutching my poor toes Joseph stood next to me.

Joseph (amusement coloring his voice): “You rang?”

Me (trying hard not to put too much weight on my injured foot): “Hardy har har.”

Joseph (his hands hovering near my elbow): “You should sit, give your foot a rest.”

Me: “No, I can’t stay that long.”

Joseph (sensing the tone): “Alright. What’s the news?”

Me (gingerly standing upright again): “Stalker.” 

Joseph, his full attention on me, waited for more words.

Me: I happened on her tonight while driving a fare. She claimed to have injured Mr. Grindle and was able to shift her gaze for a moment. 

Joseph (looking up at the stars): “You questioned her.”

Me: Yes, circuitously. I needed more information than just my fare’s name and address.

Joseph shook his head and started on a rant I knew would not paint me with flattering colors. I cut him off.

Me: “Look, I needed information, and I got what I needed. She is so focused on him she’ll forget me by tomorrow.” 

Joseph (obviously not happy): “What’s next?”

Me (wishing I could’ve burned that pink slip): “Spread the word among the Residents, no one wanders east of my new apartment or into downtown proper until I get this fixed.” 

Joseph: “No problem.”

He turned and started walking away. I knew his unhappiness stemmed from the risk I took engaging Miss 80’s glam. Drat.

Me (trying for levity): “Thanks, Joseph. Oh, and tell the Residents I am also looking into this Farm nonsense Ben is starting.”

Joseph touched the brim of his hat and disappeared from the circle of light from my flashlight. 

Sigh.

Home again, home again jiggety jig.

1.21 When It Rains….

On the upside finding parking near Mr. Grindle’s event proved rather easy. A poorly lit lot provided by a neighborhood park worked out just fine. Might kill my eyes to plumb the depths of the internet in the low light but I suppose that’s just the price of doing business. I chose to ignore the hostile looks from the kids drinking in the bushes off to my right. It seems that even the frigid weather won’t deter them from passing a bottle around.

But I already knew that.

I didn’t lie when I told Mr. Grindle I was going to read while he ate dinner and drank champagne. No clue if this was the actual menu, but he looked way too snazzy to snack on pizza bites and swill beer (personally, mine feature copious amounts of melted cheese and mixed vodka drinks). Back to the point – I didn’t let slip my intention to investigate him.

While the woman’s words were disturbing their accuracy needed establishing.

First I plugged his last name into the internet and discovered it wasn’t nearly unique enough for so broad a search. So unless I was interested in a ninety-three-year-old bird watcher in Ontario, a doctor who practiced in Florida or numerous marathon participants I needed to look elsewhere. I decided to try The Daily Harvest, our local paper (proving the history of puns and local newspapers runs deep – our town’s name is Rye) – where I struck out – kinda. The keyword search came up with several articles mentioning cases Mr. Grindle won (he’s a lawyer) and three or four features about charitable endowments he’d made. 

None of the text I read linked him to a missing or murdered woman.

The possibility the woman lied crossed my mind. Then I read a small disclaimer at the bottom of my search window, The Daily Harvest’s online archive only went back to 2000, which might explain her absence from it. 

Only by raiding the closets of a young Mellisa Milano, Molly Ringwald, Cyndi Lauper, or an early Madonna would you achieve the same look The Woman sported. The neon pink of her top made the Pink Princess look positively drab by comparison. Add that to her acid washed jeans, three inches of rubber bracelets on her wrist and blond hair teased within an inch of its life, even I’m able to carbon date those fashion trends. 

Didn’t hurt that I’d witnessed them first hand.

All of which meant a nice visit with Mrs. Schmit at the Rye Public Library. They’ve kept copies of the Daily Harvest since the very first edition hit newsstands in 1898. Luckily for me, I only needed to go back thirty years to the totally tubular eighties.

Plan in place I focused back on my phone, started to quit my search when a familiar logo popped out from the advertisers’ column…

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I read the advert.

I reread it.

Ben laid me off to start a Pet Cemetery Farm.

Hey, boys and girls don’t worry about Lucky – he’ll spend eternity fertilizing our crops! Helping them grow big and strong! You won’t need to wait even a season to see him again! His essence will live on in every carrot, turnip, and parsnip – which you can purchase (at a reasonable price in our market) and put in your soup pot! The circle of life in action! 

I could not believe Big Ben would ever go for this, this, this tommyrot. Even more pressing – how am I going to explain this to the Residents?

I found the possible culpability of my passenger in murderous activities less disturbing than the advert. Why? The Woman’s account of her death could feature distortions, slight exaggerations or be entirely fictional – facts needed verification. Plus with Mr. Grindle’s very broken leg – I felt confident in my ability to outrun him, or I could drive the Princess into a tree and break his other leg and if desperation truly struck I could drive us to Nevermore. All solid plans.

Sunny Valley? At first glance, it sounds excellent, feeding the poor and euphemizing your kids, all in one fell swoop. But I knew better. Ben’s eye for the absurd never let him down – with his gaze fixed on Nevermore I feared he’d trade up from ridiculous to fiasco in a heartbeat.

And I am not there to fix it.

Of course, my phone rings now.

1.15 Sweet and Sour

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Rolling down the window of sickly pumpkin colored hybrid, “Talking on your phone again?” The opening salvo.

Returning fire, I gestured with my phone, “Sure looks that way.” I opened my email, hoping the glowing screen and obvious inattention would spark the idea of leaving me alone.

No such luck, “Well, could you follow me to the cottage? I have some work to do.”

Seriously, he wouldn’t lift a finger for me unless something caught on fire or froze and now he’s Mr. Fix-It? Pulling patience up from my socks, “Ben, it’s after five, couldn’t it wait until tomorrow? And shouldn’t you be giving your dad a call? You know he wants weekly updates, I am sure he’d like to hear how the cost saving measures went.” Hoping my invoking of the Dad card or my current unemployment status would make him leave (petty I know, but the man was leaning on my last nerve).

Funny thing, Ben wouldn’t look me in the eye. Maybe he did feel bad about letting me go. Normally he’s too focused on his goals to notice other people. “Dad and I switched update days. So since I am free to put in some time tonight, I want to get the new hot water heater installed. I will need your assistance to finish tonight.”

Got that wrong.

Diverted by indignation of his expectation of my participation in the installation I went on the offensive, “Ben, I don’t work here anymore. And my lease, which runs through the end of the month states all non-emergency repairs need to either be completed or halted at the end of the business day, five.” Yes, I reread my lease after he delivered the eviction notice. Ben wouldn’t do anything unlawful, but annoying? Absolutely.

Changing tactics he huffed, “I would have expected more dedication from you.”

Really? The loyalty card? Wrong play. Planting my hands on the hood of the Princess, I leaned towards him. “Ben, until four days ago, I worked here for over eighteen years. You let me go to finance one of your projects. Fine. But I am not going to give you free labor for improvements you should have made to my cottage years ago.”

Retreating he puffed, “Well if you refuse to help, I will do it tomorrow.” With that last wild jab towards my conscience he pulled away, leaving me alone in the dark (dusk doesn’t last long). Leaning against the Princess I discovered that I felt reluctant to return home at this moment. The word “no” didn’t always seep into and saturate Ben’s brain and I didn’t want to get roped into a cottage improvement project. Even the chill spreading through my bones and the tingling of my toes on this clear autumn night could not propel me forth.

“I could convince him to leave you know.” I smiled when I herd his voice, the man in the sleek grey suit leaning next to me could indeed pull such a feat off. Joseph sounded bored with the very idea; I knew better. I rolled around his idea in my mind, but the sugary coating of it dissolved too soon and left nothing but the sour center which sucked the sweetness away.

I leaned my head back and stared at the stars while mirroring his dispassionate tone, “I am not sure you could. He’s sunk a lot of money into two large projects that I know of and I’m not sure he really can afford to live outside Nevermore.”

Turning towards me, “It wouldn’t take much.”

Rolling my neck so I could look him in the face, “It would leave Nevermore without a Caretaker, the Residents alone and wouldn’t guarantee they’d rehire me. But I appreciate the thought.”

“Well, the offer is a standing one. Just ask.” I smiled, he nodded then departed. A man of few words, Joseph.

An involuntary shiver wracked through me, convincing me that I should head home. Winding my way through the lanes, trees and gravestones, I stopped when I turned the last corner to my cottage – Ben’s hybrid stood in the drive and every window in the cottage glowed with light. Did he think I’d fall for this obvious flanking technique?

Stupid. Adult. Behavior.

Turn the other cheek my ass. Should take Joesph up on his offer. See how he liked my end game!

Thankful of the Princess’s small turning radius I decided to hit the Rusty Hinge for dinner and a very aggressive game of pinball instead. Just as I completed the maneuver and pressed the go pedal, I thought I caught sight of Joseph watching the cottage out the corner of my eye. Of course when I looked back it was only old Hugh standing there (Hugh Grunbaum providing a perch for crows since 1953).

Nope. Not worried about that at all….

1.14 Ointment Meet Fly…

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(A very civilized contract signing!)

I couldn’t hide the grin spreading across my face. The relief at landing in such unexpectedly pleasant surroundings was palpable (with this many books and the promised freedom to borrow would help save a tremendous amount of money – up side? It will keep me from actually acting on any impetuous impulses – in my defense I haven’t ever actually stolen anything – just keeps the mind limber to think how you might try). We both knew she had me, so why act coy? “I would love to move in!”

We settled on terms:

Money: a very reasonable amount.

Move in Date: as soon as I wanted – in fact I left with a set of keys.

Parking: In the alley where it was acceptable.

Schedule: Beatrice’s travel dates.

No fuss, no muss.

I couldn’t pin down the nagging sensation that I forgot to ask Beatrice something, but relief overwhelmed all other emotions quickly. If it was important I would think of it again.

One interesting fact, Old Town where the Lavender Lady resides is only a few minutes from my previous employer. Driving up to the cemetery I spotted a knot of Residents hovering just inside the wrought iron gates.

Right – ointment meet fly.

Pulling over to the side of the drive a bit farther down the lane from the gang (I didn’t want the Princess dinged by the inattentive bereaved) I flexed my toes and waited for the pins and needles to recede to manageable levels and for them to catch up. While I waited I stuck my hands free device in my ear and pulled my phone out of my pocket. When I exited the Princess the Residents started peppering me with questions.

“What is going on?”  “What’s Little Ben doing to the cottage?”  “Why are your things in boxes?”  “Why aren’t you  working in the utility shed?”  “Why did Ben make the rounds this morning?”

I leaned against the pink door letting them slowly peter out. Trying to talk over them would only mean I’d have to repeat myself (I found most people couldn’t talk and listen at the same time). I’d intentionally put this adulting step off; they don’t take change well and I didn’t know how best to sugar coat the news for them. So I just followed my Aunt Pearl’s example and pulled the bandaid off fast, “Ben laid me off last week and I have to move out of Nevermore.”

Wind whipped around us, blowing my hair into my eyes and stray leaves around my knees. Shouting above the noise, “We will work this out. Now stop!” Immediately the wind died down to a persistent (if annoying) breeze and another round of twenty questions started.

“Why?”  “Will you still visit us?”  “What will happen to Nevermore?”  “What is Little Ben going to do now?”  “Can we visit you?”  “Will he hurt my squirrel?”

We stood and talked, and talked and talked – me reassuring them I would not be far away. Yes, I would come and visit them. Yes, they could visit me. Yes, I would explain any changes Ben made to Nevermore. By the time they dispersed, only a gentle breeze blew and dusk settled in around us – I longed to take out my camera, the left-over light of a Fall day made for excellent pictures. But my heart wasn’t in it. I retreated further from the idea when an orange hybrid pulled up next to the Princess.

This should be entertaining.

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