By J. E. Trayer
2016 – copyright all rights reserved
“What?” responded Charles, the irritation noticeable in his before-my-morning-coffee–voice.
“I said I am very worried about my mother.”
Charles stood in the bathroom, trying to navigate around his wife, his electric toothbrush, and the single sink, which at the moment seemed to be the greatest imposition on earth and certainly the most important subject at hand.
“You just put toothpaste on my hair brush! For God’s sake will you pay attention!”
Charles slumped his shoulders, stuck his toothbrush without toothpaste in his mouth, and shuffled out of the bathroom. Coffee. Coffee will fix all of this, even Miranda’s loonie mother. Charles trudged to the kitchen. Miranda turned on the hair dryer. Good thing. She knew he wouldn’t be able to hear her over that contraption, so at least she would shut up for the next…oh…seven minutes. Enough time to make a cup of very strong coffee and slam it down his throat.
Precisely seven minutes later, Miranda, fully dressed, coiffed and looking perfect as usual waltzed into the kitchen. Her choice of monochromatic attire today – electric blue. Dress, shoes, scarf, jewelry, blue, blue, zap-your-eyes-out-true-to-be-blue. “Did hear me, Charles? I said I’m worried about mother. Maybe you should check on her on your way home.”
“She’s your mother, why do I have to check on her?”
“Because I’m showing a house – that mansion — to three prospective clients this afternoon, that’s why. I won’t have time to drive across town to check on her.”
“Why not just call her?”
“Oh, you know how it is. My mother keeps me on the phone forever. I just don’t have the time.”
Charles frowned. The only forever-conversationalist in this family was Miranda, herself. Mi-Mi, Miranda’s mother, was just the opposite. Usually closed mouthed and tight-lipped. Unless, of course, you talked about things that interested her and then she never shut up. Unfortunately, Mi-Mi’s interests were a bit on the bizarre, so no one much spoke to her, including her own children. Come to think of it, though, he hadn’t seen Mi-Mi in at least three months. Just never thought about it. They weren’t ever close; but, he liked her well enough, and she’d never done anything to make him dislike her.
Miranda bustled to the refrigerator and pulled out an energy shake. “Today’s election day,” she said. “Maybe you could offer to drive Mi-Mi to the polls.”
“Mi-Mi is perfectly capable of driving herself to the polls,” argued Charles, heading for the bathroom now that the way was clear and his brain cells, at least some of them, were kicking in with the Death by Coffee brand of caffeine. “She’s only 76. I don’t understand your fear and I really don’t get why you are trying to drag me into your concerns about your mother” he said over his shoulder. “I have a job, too, you know.”
“Yes, but you work for your father. You can take off whenever you want.”
Charles could feel the old familiar, argument-bile rising in his throat. Just because his family owned the business he worked at, everyone, including his wife, felt that he could just prance around any way he wanted, go wherever and whenever he wanted, and set his own hours which was not the case at all. Most irritating was that he had to be more responsible than anyone else; yet, no one seemed to get that. Being one of the owner’s sons did not make him special. It made him a mule and a target. He sighed. Looked in the mirror. Stuck his tongue out at himself and did not reply to Miranda.
Someday? He would live on the beach and make surfboards.
Not, however, today.
“Okay, so I’m not getting this. Why are you so worried about your mother?” asked Charles as he looked at his reflection in the mirror. Was that another wrinkle? He pulled down his lower eyelid and peered at the red veins snaking across his eyeball.
“Because Mi-Mi is playing Pokepoo,” said a small voice that hovered near the toilet. “She is driving all over town, catching little creatures on her phone and talking about them like they are real. Mommy thinks we are going to have to put her away soon.”
Charles’ eyes slowly scanned the mirror, checking the shadows at the right corner of the reflected bathroom. “Winston?”
Winston grinned. He sat perched on the closed toilet seat, his superhero flannel pajama legs tucked under his butt.
“Do I hear Winston?” called Miranda from the kitchen. “He’s not supposed to be up for another ten minutes.”
Charles scratched his head, turned and stared at his seven-year-old son. “Let me get this straight, and good morning, by the way, your mother is concerned about your grandmother because your grandmother is driving around town playing a video game on her phone – is that right?”
Winston nodded. “Good morning, Daddy.”
“Mi-Mi and a billion other people,” Charles muttered. “I still don’t get why your mother is so concerned.”
Winston was quiet for a moment. Charles wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t want Miranda to hear him and send him back to bed, or if he was just thinking about how to phrase his answer. He rubbed one of his ears, looked down at his bare feet and picked at a toenail. “Because Mommy’s friend, Alicia? She came over yesterday afternoon and told Mommy that Mi-Mi is going crazy. That everyone in town is talking about her. Mommy is afraid that Mi-Mi will embarrass her and then she won’t be able to sell any houses, so she is thinking about putting her away – like a bad puppy in a kennel.”
Charles’ eyes widened. “Bad puppy in a….Miranda!”
Winston slipped off the toilet and scurried back to his bedroom.
Miranda was closing her laptop and packing up her briefcase. “I just said that maybe I should take her to a doctor. She might have Alzheimer’s or dementia.”
“Because she’s playing a video game? You know Winston heard your entire conversation.”
“Well…he wasn’t supposed to! Alicia…seems to think that Mi-Mi is going off the deep end. Did you know that she has spent the last three months taking archery lessons? Who is she going to shoot? She’s 76! She certainly isn’t going to go out in the woods hunting!”
“Miranda – listen to yourself. Do you realize that you are judging your mother off of the gossip of a known two-faced acquaintance that just happens to be related to you fifty times removed?”
Miranda’s expression grew cold and solid. “I’ll thank you for keeping your opinions about my friends to yourself. Alicia would never say anything to hurt Mi-Mi on purpose.”
“Alicia is a selfish bitch who loves drama and your personal attention, including the clothes you tire of and the furniture you often replace that manages to wander over to her house,” said Charles.
Miranda threw all the items from yesterday’s red purse into today’s blue slouch bag. “Possibly,” she said, lips snapping tight.
“You know it,” said Charles. “Are you really worried?”
Miranda put her head down, her perfectly manicured fingers pausing on the strap of her bag. “I know something is not right. I just…do not know what it is. And I don’t want to ask her because I am afraid I will hear something I don’t want to. That she’s dying of cancer. Or she’s really crazy…or…I just can’t deal with another stressful thing, Charles. Not another thing. I’m showing the Rysdale mansion today – this could be such a big break for our family if I can unload that white elephant of a property! I could make enough money to send Winston to private school, and we could buy that little surf shop you always wanted – if I can just make this sale!”
Charles put his arms around Miranda. “Sweetie, stop making life so complicated. If it makes you feel better, I will go visit Mi-Mi after I drop Winston off at school. Okay?”
Miranda smiled. “Okay.”
Miranda stood in the center of the Rysdale mansion, mouth hanging open, a look of abject terror on her face. She and her clients gazed stupidly at the big screen television that showed lights flashing, people running, and sounds of screaming jelled with sirens wailing.
The cool blonde reporter turned up the collar of her jacket and faced the camera. “Armed terrorists today were thwarted by a Mrs. Mi-Mi Gastonbury as she bravely took them down with her pink compound bow. Tell us, Mrs. Gastonbury, how did you know about the terrorists plan to storm the Rossville polling area?”
The clients turned to Miranda. “Isn’t that your mother?” Asked the woman, her voice dripping with disdain.
The camera panned to a slip of a woman, not more than 4 feet tall with snow white hair and a colorful, jungle motif scarf wrapped around her throat. “Well,” I was playing Pokepoo? The online video game with your phone? And one of the treasure stops is the shooting range in the state game lands. Three weeks ago? I ran into those terrible men practicing shooting their guns. They didn’t think I was paying attention to them because I was just a little old lady playing on her phone. I didn’t want to think they were really bad people, you know? It isn’t polite to believe the worst of foreigners.”
“So you didn’t report them to the authorities?”
“Well, no! How could I? I didn’t hear them saying anything. And they were doing what everyone else does there. They have the right to do that. But, they just gave me a really bad feeling. How do you report that? It bothered me for days, so I went online, and I found a local archery school. See, I’m afraid of guns. I decided that I could at least learn to shoot a bow and arrow. Right? Good exercise. I’m 76,” she said proudly. “But, I wanted to be responsible for my own protection.”
“Miranda? That is your mother!” said the female client.
Miranda wobbled. Shaking her head.
The television continued to blare. “And so you came today to the Rossville polling area to fight off the terrorists?” asked the television announcer with a bit of cruelty on the edge of her voice.
“No!” exclaimed Mi-Mi. “I came to vote! People died so I would have the right to vote. Women were tortured so I could vote. People were killed so I could vote. So! I was voting for me! To acknowledge that even though I don’t like the candidates – that they are all twits? That I vote because I have the right to do so. I vote in honor of the dead ones. They watch over us you know. The dead ones. That’s how I knew the men were bad. Actually, my son-in-law brought me,” Mi-Mi nodded to Charles, hands tucked into his jacket pockets, standing off to the side, clearly trying to avoid the camera.
“So what happened?” asked the reporter, shoving the microphone closer to Mi-Mi.
“I finished voting. I was waiting in the parking lot for Charles, my son-in-law? And I was playing Pokepoo? And I was trying to catch a Blatini? They are really hard to catch! And I saw them fellows from the shooting range through the lens of my game on my phone– they were sneaking across the parking lot with the same guns I saw them with before at the range? They were right behind the Blatini!”
Miranda clutched the edge of the staged sofa. Her female client was smirking. The male looked annoyed. This just could not be happening. The biggest sale of her life. Down the drain. Because her mother decided to beat up,, some terrorists using magick and a pink compound bow.
“And then what happened?” said the announcer, leaning forward.
Miranda and the couple also leaned forward. Miranda swallowed. She was feeling a bit faint.
“I called the Old Ones and cast a circle so their guns would jam! And then I opened the trunk of my car, and I pulled out my weapon, and I shot them with my pink compound bow and my pink arrows! I blew on the arrows so they would fly straight and true! And I compelled the Spirits of Air to help me hit my target at just the right place! I made sure not to kill ‘em, though. I just wounded them so they would drop their guns until the police got here. I’m sure my archery instructor,” she turned her pixie face to the camera and waved, “Hey Harry!! I hit the target! Are ya proud?”
“Indeed,” said the television announcer, backing slightly away from Mi-Mi and rolling her eyes. “Let’s see what Chief Arnold has to say,” she said as the camera panned to a uniformed police officer holding Mi-Mi’s pink compound bow. “Will you be placing charges against Mrs. Glastonbury?” asked the announcer.