(There’s gotta be a winning roll in there some where….right?)
Thank the lords above and below the recorder only picks up audio. If they ever invent a device that transcribes our thoughts…..well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be playing that recording for Beatrice and Robbie.
Not on account of the initial stabby feelings, the sight of the Brownie Stealing Bench inspired – those are thoroughly documented. (As I reassured the bevy of school counselors, Uncle and Aunt Pearl; I’d much rather my first time in police custody come from my role in The Great Hamster Heist, where I liberate a horde of high functioning furballs in order to save the world. Or on account of The Case of the Missing Corpse Flower, which presumably entails me ‘borrowing’ the noxious bloom to complete a corsage for a member of the Addams family. I’m definitely NOT going to squander my very first time clapped in irons on her.)
No, the reason why I’m thankful some smart-brained engineer hasn’t perfected a thought recorder was; no one, other than me, needed to know about the Tickle-Me-Elmo induced epiphany I had.
“Oh my, you’ve decorated for the holidays! How festive!” The subtle rustle of fabric accompanied Josie’s words as she reached up to touch the dewdrop lights I’d twisted with some silver garland and tacked up along the perimeter of the Princess’s ceiling. “Normally, I find this silver tinsel kitschy, but in here it really works.”
Robbie: “Wow, she didn’t waste any time.”
Me: “Didn’t need too. We were alone.”
“Thanks. Everyone deserves a little holiday cheer, even the Princess.” To cover my eye roll, I slotted home the ignition key and turned the engine over. “Now, where are we heading?”
“Happy Planet Dry Cleaners.” While I programmed the destination into FLYT, Josie (I can’t call her the Brownie Stealing Bench at the moment – otherwise, I’m going to slip and say it to her face) continued to swivel her head taking in her surroundings. My phone picked up the soft clink of the buckles on her handbag, tapping the buttons on her coat. “Normally I wouldn’t use FLYT, as father and I are trying to encourage the public to use mass transit, but then I remembered you worked for a ride-share. So I figured, in the spirit of the season, I’d help a former classmate earn some extra money.”
“If anyone asks, I’ll tell them the tale of your magnanimity.”
Robbie (astonished): “How on earth did you say that without laughing?”
What the audio didn’t convey was the narrow-eyed look Josie shot me when she thought I was concentrating on the road.
“I just can’t get over how adorable the inside of the Piggybank is!”
Making an affirmative sounding noise in the back of my throat, I hit the turn indicator. An action that turned unwelcomely gripping as Josie emitted a sharp squeal of delight, which nearly caused the Princess’s front bumper to kiss the fire hydrant at the end of the turn.
“You’ve collected coins in the ashtray, just like a real piggybank! Are you saving for a rainy day?”
“Nope, a pony.” I’d aimed for a bland tone, but owing to the near-miss, my answer needed to navigate thru clenched teeth. Uninterested in hearing her follow-up snark, I moved our conversation onto safer ground. “Do you need to stop anywhere else after the cleaners?”
Josie’s tittering laughter, tinged with a hint of mockery, lost most of its bite in the playback. As the sustained jingling, rattling, and rifling during her deep dive into the depths of her massive purse muffled the worst of it. The search also kept her entertained until I pulled the Princess between the white lines before the doors of the Happy Planet Cleaners. Whereupon, she removed a wade of small crinkly slips, extracted a yellow call tag from amongst them, and thrust the remaining stack my way. “Can you be a doll and plug these addresses into FLYT for me? I’ll only be a minute.” Without waiting for an affirmative, she got out of the Princess.
Deciding this battle wasn’t worth the fight, I started adding stops in for cobbler, seamstress, pharmacist, post office, bookshop, and department store. “Oh goody, we going to spend the entire evening together…”
Robbie: “So this is when you figured out your phone was still recording?”
Me: “Yup. This was also when the Brownie Stealing Bench walked out of the cleaners looking ready to spit nails at whoever was on the other end of her phone. So I let the recording go.”
Me: “The sixteen-year-old still living inside me wanted to prove I wasn’t ‘thin-skinned.’”
Robbie: “Prove to who?”
Me (shrugging): “The memories of school councilors, my teachers, her sycophants, her.”
Beatrice (carefully): “I get that. But how did you know her composure would crack? From how you’ve described Josie and what I’ve heard, she’s pretty controlled.”
Me: “Oh, she is. Right up until something doesn’t go her way, and that phone call definitely wasn’t.”
Beatrice’s next and no doubt germane query was put on the back burner due to the radda-tap-tap of a knuckle striking our apartment’s front door.