Roberta lay awake in her room listening to the sounds of the TV, downstairs where her parents watched late-night talk shows. At 11:00, she heard Johnny and Ed saying good night. Then her parents turned off the television. Her dad checked the locks on the doors as her mother trudged to the master bedroom that overlooked the back garden at the rear of the second floor. She feigned sleep when her mom looked in on her and listened through the thin walls. Mom went into the bathroom, peed, flushed the toilet and washed her hands. It wasn’t long after that when she heard her father flick off the porch light and spring up the stairs to repeat the same bathroom routine as his wife.
She listened to her parents argue for a while, but neither of them must have been invested in the fight, it drifted off pretty fast. Roberta listened with her eyes open as the night settled on the house like a stone . Now was where her plan got tricky. There was no room for mistakes. After an interminable amount of time, she crawled from the bed and slowly opened the door to the hallway. Staying close to the wall, she crept to her parents’ door and put her ear against it. There was no light coming from beneath the door, a good sign. She could hear her mother snoring faintly. There was no noise from her father. It was now or never.
Back in her bedroom, Roberta pulled on her jeans and an old peasant blouse that had belonged to her mother. She put on her black wool pea coat and pulled a ball cap low over her eyes. She rummaged under the bed and pulled out her old backpack. It was a pink one with a Nike swoosh. She stuck her hand inside and made sure it was empty. Then she crept all the way downstairs to her father’s workbench in the basement. The work light came on when she turned the switch. In its glow, she knelt to operate the Master Lock on the old grey school locker where dad kept his girlie magazines. She pulled out the stack of dog-eared pornography and set it on the concrete floor. Reaching deep into the locker, she felt what she was looking for. So she began pulling out the pipe bombs that her father had been assembling for the last few weeks. She placed them in her pink backpack. There were fifteen of them. Each was about six inches long and heavier than she had expected.
Another look in the locker revealed a thick envelope stuffed full of hundred-dollar bills. There was also a plastic sandwich bag, filled with marijuana. There were three or four already rolled joints in the bag and a pack of rolling papers. Roberta had seen people roll cigarettes before. Her grandma did it all the time, but Roberta had never done it herself. Oh well, she could learn. She stuffed the cash and the dope into the pockets of her coat, climbed back up the stairs and out the front door, into the night.
It was a four-mile walk to the Starbucks on Central, but Roberta was in a hurry and made it in about forty-five minutes. It wasn’t crowded. She put her backpack on a chair near the front door and meandered over to the counter to order coffee in a paper cup. Keeping the bill of her cap low and looking down as much as possible, Roberta ordered a single espresso and avoided small talk with the barista.
The espresso was delicious, and she gulped about half of it down before standing and leaving through the front door. She didn’t think anyone had seen her go. Moving fast but careful not to draw attention to herself, she hurried away from the coffee shop. It was another three miles to the Greyhound terminal. Chubby’s all-night diner was about half the way there. There was still a phone booth outside Chubby’s, where she called the cops to report a bomb in the Starbucks.
There was a bus getting ready to leave for Eugene when Roberta breezed through the doors of the station. She bought a ticket from the old man at the counter. He wore plastic-framed glasses low on his nose, a green visor on his head and had a non-filter cigarette tucked behind his ear. He barely looked up at her. She showed her ticket to the driver, who punched a hole in it before making her way to the back of the bus. She slumped low and made herself small in a window seat. She got off the bus in Roseburg where she pulled her hair back into a high, tight ponytail and bought another ticket, heading back south.
It took almost a full day to get to Los Angeles from Roseburg.
Dinner had been a beer-marinated Tri-tip With Blue Cheese, Wild Mushrooms, Onions, and freshly baked sourdough bread, heavily buttered.
Lynette served it all with an American Pinot Noir from Sonoma. She had Beignets & Berries served as dessert and had even piped a berry whipped cream into the Beignets. He could tell that she had put a lot of thought into the meal. He almost regretted his plan to kill her. First, though, he wanted to talk more, maybe a coffee. He thought espresso would finish the meal perfectly.
Lynette left for the kitchen to make coffees, and when she came back to the table with two demitasse cups of thick brew, he was beginning to look tired. She mentioned it.
“Yeah,” he slurred, “I’m not sure why. The meal was fantastic. You’re a great cook, Lynette.”
“Listen to me. I know why you are feeling tired. It’s because I put Tetradotoxin in that fine California wine. Did you enjoy it?”
His head nodded and sagged. He began to drool, just a bit. Looking even weaker; his head dropped more as he tried to pull his 9mm from its tooled leather shoulder holster. Lynette leaned over the table and helped him retrieve the gun, but she held on to it. He stared at her with questioning eyes as she released the clip and ejected the round that he had chambered.
“Why Lynette?” he mumbled.
“Why?” she parroted back at him, “Why? Because it would have been messy to shoot you and even worse if I had used a knife. I’ve cleaned up enough of your messes. I don’t want to do that anymore.” She watched his head sink and slowly rest on the table. She finished her coffee before reaching over and taking his cup too. She sipped and smiled to herself. She watched as he died, his breathing becoming more and more irregular until it finally ceased altogether.
An X-Ray Image of a Gerber Daisy
Knowing that I have x-ray images of flowers that I took several years ago- I could not resist this challenge.
Posted for CBWC
Jessica had only planned to write a short story that night, so when she got the text from “Sitters-dot-Com” offering her a job with the Yates family at the big old house across from the cemetery (the actual address was #13 Cemetery Creek Road). She took it.
The dispatcher told her that there was only one pre-schooler that he was potty trained, that he had an eight o’clock bedtime, and that the parents should be home before midnight. It sounded like an easy gig and Jess could use the money. She could take her laptop along and finish the story she needed to write for her favourite prompt site before the parents came home.
Jess’ mom dropped her off at 6 pm sharp, “Sorry Jess, I’ve gotta run. You have your cell, right? Call me if you need a ride home.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Jessica looked across the street at the old graveyard. She thought about how it looked kinda spooky in the dark, tilting headstones, gaps in the old wrought iron fence (the fence that was almost overgrown by ivy). She heard the hoot of an owl, shuddered and turned her attention to the house.
The architecture was Queen Anne style with asymmetrical towers and fancy ornamentation. The paint was peeling on the wooden siding and a lot of English Ivy grew up the trellises and onto the roof. The name on the mailbox was Yates.
Oh, Jessica thought. The house is even more spooky than the cemetery! She began picking her way up the crooked walk to the front porch, where she knocked on the door and held her breath. She heard barking and growling from the other side of the door. It was obvious that the Yates’ had a dog.
Soon, she also heard a woman’s voice, “Ulf, get down. Go back into the kitchen. That’s a good boy, Ulf. Good boy.” The door swung open and there stood a petite lady. She looked about thirty years old. She had blonde wavy hair, cut short, but not quite a bob. The lady smiled at Jess with her mouth, but not her eyes. She displayed bright red lipstick painted on to make her face look as though her lips were forever pursed or puckered.
“Oh hello, you must be Jessica,” the woman said. “You have an excellent review on Sitters-dot-com and I’m so excited to meet you and introduce you to Rollin.” Then almost as an afterthought, she added, “Rollin is our son. He’s four years old and he’s having dinner in front of the television right now. Follow me, please and I can get you two acquainted. He’s a wonderful boy.” She turned and began to lead Jessica deeper into the house.
The house was larger than Jessica could have imagined and the two walked for what seemed like a long time. Finally, Ms Yates stopped at a door roughly midway down a long corridor. The walls were lined with identical doors and lots of paintings. They were primarily portraits of old-timey people. There were paintings of men with funny whiskers and ladies wearing elegant printed, or embroidered, gowns. There were young boys dressed in shorts with starched white shirts tucked in at the waist. There were young girls in frilly pink and white dresses with scores of petticoats evident beneath.
Ms Yates turned the knob on the door and pushed it open partway, she peeked around the edge of the door. “Rollin?” she queried, “are you in here?” Jess could hear the muted sound of the TV from behind the open door. Ms Yates pushed the door open further and beckoned Jessica to follow.
“Rollin?” she said to the small boy sitting on the floor with a plate in front of him. “This is Jessica. She’s going to be your babysitter tonight. You remember that your father and I must attend that horrible silent auction for whatever charity it is that he’s supporting this month.” She paused for a moment, “Say hello to Miss Jessica.”
“Hello, Miss Jessica,” Rollin turned his head before immediately refocusing his attention back to the television and his dinner. Jess could make out a heap of mac and cheese along with some sort of red meat on his plate. The meat was almost gone.
Ms Yates was glowing when she turned her attention back to Jess. It looks like he’s almost done,” she said, “When he finishes he might like to play Chinese Checkers or Go Fish. Those are his two favourite games. The Checkerboard and the cards are in that cabinet, there.” She gestured across the room at an ornate Chinese pantry. Then she moved over to a table, that looked more like a plant stand, by the door. Reaching down, she removed a small piece of paper from a silver tray situated precisely in the centre of the table. She proffered the card to Jessica. Who, of course, reached out and took it.
“Here is one of my cards,” she explained, “my mobile number is there. Please call me if you have any questions or problems. I have attached emergency numbers to the refrigerator with a blue glass magnet. To find the kitchen, go back the way we came and turn left. Please help yourself to anything in the icebox that you might want to eat or drink. I’ve got to go now or I’ll be late.” She stared at Jessica as if she were waiting for something.
Jess broke the standoff by saying, “Have a wonderful evening Ms Yates. I’ll take good care of Rollin.”
“I’m sure you will, dear,” Ms Yates said. She turned and left the room without another word.
Jessica listened to her move down the corridor and out a door. She heard a car engine start and move away from the house.
In her turn, Jess went over and sat on the floor next to Rollin. “How’s your dinner Rollin? It looks pretty yummy. I love mac and cheese.”
He looked at her and then turned back to the TV. “Good.” He said.
The boy seemed to be eating well and was fully absorbed in whatever it was that he was watching on the small screen. Jessica settled in, but after a while, she heard someone moving back in the house.
“Is anyone else here, Rollin?” she asked.
“My brother might be here.” He answered. “He’s big, like you.”
At that moment the door opened and an older boy, sixteen or seventeen years of age, entered the room. He wore an old fashioned suit made of dark velvet. He wore his dark hair stylishly long. It glistened as though it were wet. He seemed startled when he saw Jessica sitting next to Rollin.
“Hello,” he said, “I thought only Rollin was in here. Who might you be?” He smiled, and Jessica could feel her heart melt. She now knew what people meant when they said love at first sight.
Standing up, Jess walked toward the young man with her hand held out. “Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m here babysitting for Rollin. I’m afraid that Ms Yates has left for the evening.”
“Good evening Jess. I’m Rollin’s brother Ulf.”
The prompt this week was:
The “Four Food Groups” of a sentence game is fun! How to play: Create your own prompt by mixing/matching one phrase from each column. Example: On a ski trip, a deceitful novelist accidentally reveals a secret.
In a moonlit graveyard, a shy babysitter falls in love with the wrong person.
Several years ago an artist friend did a painting of a rooster that I really liked. She titled it “Cockamamie”.
She knew that I was a woodworker and she had just taken a commission to paint a birdhouse that looked like an ark. Soooo…. she suggested that it might be a good idea to trade the Cockamamie painting for a plain, wooden birdhouse that looked like an ark and that she could paint for her commission.
Of course I agreed.
Here are photos of both the ark and the painting.
Maybe a photo of an ark might help housing the photos of the pairs that Tish Farrell, writer and artist on the edge, is currently featuring?