My husband reminded me yesterday I'd been off work for a month.
It feels longer. Odd how that would be, but it's still great!
I hurt my knee last week (and really, it doesn't surprise me), so I've been taking it easy. Other than painting the wooden steps to the porch--had to paint a primer, as it was raw wood, and next I'll give it a coat of paint. All in due time.
Since the mosquitoes came out, the woodsy garden is taking care of its own as of late. Other than spraying something on vegetation so that deer won't eat it, I haven't been back there much. I've concentrated on the other gardens. One up by the house. I had to get in the last of the annuals. That's about when I felt the twinge in my knee. I've upped my doses of Glucosamine Chondroitin complex--I'd dropped my dose to 2 pill per day, but decided maybe that wasn't such a good idea, since my knee was beginning to complain. This helps with the soft cartilage in knees so that you can move freely (and not have to use a frigging walker!!). I began taking this many years ago. All I know is it works for me. If I hadn't discovered it, who knows what would have happened. Since I'm not a fan of doctors operating unnecessarily on me (my sister had knee surgery, last year, and it took her a year to recuperate, and she'd gained weight because of all the sitting). I'd recommend it to anyone with painful knees. There's my plug for the day.
Other than that, I have been working on my works in progress.
Today we'll examine Murder on the Mississippi. I'm still debating whether to keep it Murder ON the Mississippi, or maybe AT, since the murder happens in a nearby park, not exactly on the river, but near it. Would anyone care?
Well, I've got this one character, I just love him. His name is Ed Lamont. He's an elderly gentleman who happens to resemble Mark Twain enough he does a show on his own riverboat--which is currently in repairing state. Ed is great uncle to Lainey--my MC. She calls him "Uncle Ed", as he doesn't want to be reminded how old he is. Which is fine with her. A lot of folks in town think he's a bit loopy, because he may, from time to time go into his Mark Twain bit. Always wearing the clothes, has the bushy mustache and white hair that circles his head like a cloud.
Lainey is a bit confused by the way people have claimed their dislike for the girl from her class who was murdered. In this scene, Ed--Uncle Ed--helps her categorize her friends and acquaintances.
“Morning,” I said as he took my hand and gave it the usual kiss on the back.
“Mind if I join you?” he asked.
“Not at all. Take a load off,” I said, motioning to the rest of the bench.
He did with a windy gush as he sat.
“Did'ja go to church?” he asked.
“Nope,” I said.
“I guess I'm not the only sinner in town, eh?” We both laughed. He patted my arm with his amusement. I gazed up at him. Pursing his lips, he whipped out that slim cigar, posed himself at the end of the bench, the other hand grasping the lapel of his coat. I knew he was going to go into a Mark Twain quote or two.
“There has been only one Christian. They caught him and crucified him—early.” He leaned toward me on the end of that, to make it seem significant. I caught it easily enough. A Christian would turn red in the face and bombast him. My lips curled, despite myself. In a way I had to agree.
“Faith,” he went on in his eloquent and rich voice, “is believing something you know ain't true.”
“Did he really say that?” I asked, astonished.
“Oh, yes.” Lamont tucked the unlit cigar between the first and second finger and crossed his knees, eyes settled on me. “You look upset, my child. What is it? Talk to me.”
I smiled. Out of all the people I knew, Uncle Ed was the kindest, most honest and most intelligent man I knew. I was astonished that I was actually related to him. At times I told him things—shared things with him—I simply couldn't share with my aunt, or even my girlfriends. Ours was a unique friendship, a bond that was based on the fact we understood and agreed with each other more times than not. I remember touring his house with my aunt, and saw all the art, beautiful and colorful paintings of flowers and landscapes that looked as though someone had taken a picture, that's how good the artist was. In many nooks and crannies there were hand-thrown clay pieces in unusual shapes and colors. I'd learned his wife had been the artist. Whatever she touched, she turned into a piece of art. She actually did shows in all the major cities. I could tell he missed his wife, Elaine, calling her “El” for short.
He leaned toward me slightly, “Are you upset about that young lady's death? What was her name again?” Thick brows that I swear were long enough to be curled, bunched together.
“Arline,” I said. “And actually, I'm not upset about her death, as much as I am about how people around town felt about her.”
He sat back, cigar perched in his hand as an elbow leaned on the chair's arm. “I see. And what do all these fine people of this fine town think, or say about his poor, dead young lady?”
“They pretty much hated her. My friends—” I broke off and shook my head and for a moment had to gather my thoughts. My uncle patiently waited for me to go on. “One is pretty much indifferent, the other definitely hated her.” I made a little frustrated gasp. “Today I'm wondering why I'm even friends with them,” I said, despondently. This had been another spiraling thought in my head last night. I confused about my feelings. I felt guilty for being angry at them, but because they were my friends, I felt I should stick up for them. But I just couldn't help it. I didn't see it their way.
“I don't know how to—oh, what's the word I need?” I squinted out across Front Street where an old fashioned-looking street lamp on the corner stood next to the Decadence shop, which had all sorts of hand-made deviant chocolates and fudge, reminding me I needed a hunk of fudge desperately. Decorative brickwork, with more ginkgo trees, looking as though they sprouted from the bricks naturally, decorated our main thoroughfare. The overall effect gave it a nice aesthetic and orderly look, and hinted at its heyday in the early to mid-1800's. Old brick buildings hunched together on the other side of the old street. Beyond these buildings, the mighty Mississippi shown like a broad silver ribbon. Directly across from me was Aunt Bea's Fanciful Emporium with everything you didn't need, but once you saw it, you had to buy it. The dark green awnings and flags out front fluttered in the breeze. Behind the buildings, a train slowly rumbled into view, then made a couple of short bursts on the horn. We waited until the noise from the train's engine and horn went by.
“You mean categorize?” he asked, getting back to our discussion.
He nodded, looking out across the street as I had. “Well, I'll tell you mine. Maybe you'll be able to figure out where your friends fit.” I sat forward, and poised my pen on the page, just in case I felt what he said was brilliant—which it could very well be. Since I'd known him these past two years, I'd always wanted to record his words. So, today I would.
“There are those I love—” he looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes “—among which, of course, are you and your aunt.” He patted my hand. I wrote down the word LOVE. Then I added a 'D' so it was 'loved'.
“Then there are acquaintances—people I like, and I speak to on a regular bases.”
“Then, there are those I tolerate.”
I wrote ACQUAINTANCES on the next line and below that TOLERABLE.
“And then there are those I avoid at all cost.”
I paused trying to find the antonym for “tolerate”. He leaned over and said, “Try insufferable.”
I laughed as I wrote that one down.
“What you do is put all the people you know under those headings.” He nodded toward my notebook. “Whatever heading your friends come under, only you can know. It's a fine line with friendships. But again, you can be friends with a bear, but you don't want to be around when he's hungry.”
I laughed again. “So, those you tolerate, do you like them at all?”
“That would depend. I like my mail lady. She's the in the tolerable column.” His voice went growly on the last few words as he made a sour face. “Barely tolerable,” he amended.
“She yammers too much, for one. And also,” he leaned and lowered his voice, “thinks I'd be a good catch, if you know what I mean.”
“Ah. So you merely tolerate her.”
“Yes.” He nodded, slotting the tip of the cigar between his lips. “And avoid her when I can.” He shook his head with a chuckle.
“And the ones who are insufferable, do you hate them?”
“Hate is a strong word, Lainey. I choose not to use it, if I can.” He pondered his next words for a moment. “However there are certain people in public office I genuinely despise. And maybe, if some of them died of natural causes, I wouldn't loose a wink of sleep.” He smiled as though he were thinking of the very ones at that moment. “But in this life you will find that you will come across certain people who don't care for you, and likewise, you care naught for them. It's just human nature. And while the feelings are mutual, it wouldn't be a stretch to say I genuinely despise someone, but I wouldn't want to wish them ill. Do you understand, Lainey, my dear?”
“Yes. I think I do.”
“It's just easier for me to categorize the people in my life, so I know what side of the street to walk on, which shops to avoid, and who I don't want making me a meal at a local diner, if you know what I mean. Does it help?”
“I think so.” I looked at my list. I tried to decide where to put a few people. AJ I barely tolerated. Arline, I didn't know, but I had nothing against her, so I decided she was an acquaintance. Someone I knew, but had no feelings one way or another about. I began labeling a few others. Under LOVE, there were only a few people. Uncle Ed would be one, along with my aunt, of course. But I couldn't really put my friends under that heading. At the moment, I was hovering over placing Wendy under “Tolerate” at the moment. I really didn't understand her emotions over Arline. Possibly it was the overreacting teenage hormones at work here. Or, perhaps, she merely hadn't matured as much as I had. Or, it was something more organic.
The last of the clicking train cars disappeared from view, and the warm, humid air fluttered flags and awnings a little harder, making a noise behind us. Birdsong in the tree above us gave way to a few cars that shushed by.
“The sheriff arrested AJ Beaumont, last night,” I announced, and waited for his reaction.
“Beaumont?” He paused and thought a moment. “That name rings a bell.”
“His father's a lawyer.”
“Ah!” he barked. “That overbearing curmudgeon? His father was a—well, I won't say it in front of you. But his son?”
“Yes. He graduated with me, just this past June.”
He nodded. “So, it's believed he killed this young lady?”
“A piece of jewelry was found in her hand. They think it belonged to him. I saw him wearing it—or one just like it.”
“Incriminating evidence.” He nodded.
I doodled on a new page, and then found myself writing the words, incriminating evidence, necklace/jewelry. And a big question mark. Lamont watched me.
“What else is bothering you, Lainey, my dear?”
“I mean motive. Why he killed her. If he did.”
“Ah, yes. Presumed guilty until proven otherwise.”
“I just wish I could get into Arline's apartment before it's cleared out.”
I shrugged. “I might be able to find something the police missed.”
“An excellent idea. Where does she live?”
“I know Madeline Couch, the owner-manager,” he said.
“An acquaintance?” I smiled.
He smiled back. “Yes, a good acquaintance. I could give her a call. Tell her you'd like to come out there and look around.”
“That would be great!” I said. “But I'd have to tell Sheriff Weeks, first, and have his approval.”
“Then call him. Tell him.”
I twisted my mouth with indecision. “He'll just think I'm meddling in police business.”
“Lainey, you've a gift,” he said patting my hand. “You have great instincts for a young lady. I do believe you've an old soul. And your power of observation is better than most flat-footed policemen.”
“You're embarrassing me.” I chuckled. It wasn't the first time I'd been told I had an old soul. But someone had actually noticed I had the power of observation, and good instincts. Maybe I should have him speak to my aunt.
“When would you be going out there?” he asked, a small fold-out cell phone in hand. It was odd seeing a man who so resembling a famous early-twentieth century writer holding a twenty-first century electronic gadget.
“Probably tomorrow, since we're closed.”
He made the connection, and while he spoke to the woman on the other end—making small talk—my aunt drove up in her blue Toyota. I hopped up and stepped over to the curb, knowing she'd need help. Poe was first to jump out of the front seat and into my arms. I petted him with a kiss to the top of the head. Loved.