Tag Archives: love

Grotto Falls

(Author’s Note: Sometime truth is best expressed as fiction. Your lost loved is always with you, even if just in a dream.)
“I don’t think I can make it.”
“Of course, you can.”
“No, really,” the wife said. “I have to sit down for a while.”
“But we can’t say we’ve been to the Smokey Mountains if we haven’t hiked up to see Grotto Falls,” the husband protested light-heartedly.
“Yes, but the first time was forty years ago. We were young.” She paused. “Oh look. There’s a nice big rock. Come on, let’s sit down for a while.” After she sat, she made a face. “Yuck. It’s wet.”
“It rained this morning, remember,” he said. “Everything is wet. The trees are still dripping with rain. Leaves are a deeper green after rain, don’t you think?”
“Are you going to sit down or not?” the wife asked.
“Naw.”
“Why not?”
“I don’t want to get my butt wet,” he replied.
She laughed.
“Do you feel better now?” he asked.
“Not much. Why don’t you go on without me?”
“No. I have to have you with me so I can kiss you under the falls,” he explained.
“I tell you what,” she began her bargain, “you go up to the falls alone, and I’ll give you a big kiss when you come back.”
“It won’t be the same.” He took a moment to pout. “I think I can hear the falls from here. It can’t be too much further.” He sniffed. “I can even smell the water spray.”
“You know I can’t smell anything.” She took his hand. “Look in my eyes. Can’t you see I can’t take another step?”
He didn’t have to look. He knew. “All right. But you better have your kisser ready when I come back around that bend in the trail.”
“Absolutely. Now go ahead so we can get back to town for supper.” She smiled. “I tell you what. You cup your hands and fill them with water from the falls. Then you can splash me with it.”
“You don’t like being splashed.”
“Just this once. Just for you.”
He looked up the trail and started plodding along. “She’s always been a party pooper,” he mumbled. As he went around the bend he saw the falls. “I knew we were almost there.” He paused and glanced down the trail. She could still make it, he thought. He knew she could. Then he shook his head. “I think I’d rather splash her with the water.”
The falls were crowded with families. Children laughed as they dipped their feet in the cold mountain stream.
“I knew it,” he whispered. He didn’t want the others to notice the old man was talking to himself. “It’s not as much fun without her.”
He cupped his hands and dipped them into the pool in front of the falls. He began his trip back to his wife. When he turned the corner he saw the boulder where she was sitting. The water slipped through his fingers. She was gone.
“Where did she go? Where did she go? Where did she go?” He started running and tripped over a tree root.
As his old body crashed onto the floor he awoke and found himself in his bedroom. Lifting himself up, he crawled back into bed and reached over to the other side—her side—and found it empty.

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty-Three

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia. Cecelia woos Billy. The good guys finally get the goods on Tent.
“You may have me, but as my last act as chief inspector of Scotland Yard I will arrest the Man in the Red Underwear!” Tent’s voice was filled with unbowed haughtiness.

Cecelia, Millicent and Eddie were shocked. “You will?”

“Yes!” He turned dramatically to point at the lounge. “I arrest you! Lord Andrew Taylor!”

The accusation broke momentarily his concentration on Bedelia and he reverted to his dressmaker affectations. “Oh inspector! How quaint! How droll! How divine! You’re bringing the giggles out of me!”

“Do you dare drop your pants and let us see your underwear?”

“Here!?” Andy stood and swished over to Tent. “Oh inspector! I don’t know what to think! I mean, I hardly know you.”

“Cut the act, Taylor. I’m on to you.”

“Ooh! I don’t know what you mean!” Andy futilely feigned feyness one last time.

“Drop ‘em.” He sounded like a boot camp instructor ordering a recruit to do twenty push-ups.

Bedelia, Eddie, Cecelia and Millicent broke into poetry tinged with a sense of urgency.

Don’t do it, Andy, it’s a trap to catch you with your trousers down.
So keep them up, don’t give the chief inspector cause to send you to jail!
He has no proof no way to say you are the Man in the Red Underwear.
It’s just his word against the word of everyone so don’t you dare
Reveal your underwear so he can cart you off to jail.
But if you do, don’t fret, don’t stew, we’ll pool our dough to make your bail!
Don’t drop your pants! You got no ants! So under no dire circumstance
Don’t drop your pants!
Don’t be naïve. It’s not the time to wear your heart upon your sleeve.
Remember Tent is the real crook; so don’t you let him off the hook.
He’s the one that’s criminal. We must be sure he’s off the street.
We’ve worked so hard, we’re almost there. He’s down and out. He’s almost beat.
We all love you, you’re our best friend. We’ll root for you right to the end.
So keep your trousers ‘round your waist. Please take your time, no need for haste!
Don’t drop your pants! You got no ants! So under no dire circumstance,
Don’t drop your pants!

Andy stared into Tent’s eyes, squared his jaw and dropped his pants, revealing red underwear.

“Come along, Lord Taylor. We have a date at headquarters.” Tent took Andy by his elbow.

Eddie stepped forward. “Excuse me, chief inspector.”

“Yes, what do you want?”

“Why do you think Andy is the Man in the Red Underwear?” One might supposed that Prince Eddie was, indeed, the dumbest person in the British Empire, but a rare intellectual glint in his eyes made one pause.

“Because he’s wearing red underwear, you idiot!” Tent retorted.

“Is that yo’r only evidence?”

“Of course not!”

One who loved to be in the middle of any conversation, Cecelia added, “What other evidence do you have?

“Miss Smart-Astin just announced, ‘I’d know that kiss anywhere!’ You are the Man in the Red Underwear!”

Millicent smiled broadly, a sign that she knew what Eddie was trying to present as Andy’s defense. “Bedelia, darling, do you remember saying that?”

“Me? Why I never said such a thing.”

“Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!” Tent paused, realizing he had lapsed into schoolyard behavior. “I still have him in red. That is evidence enough.”

“Wull, that ain’t no evidence at all.” Eddie nodded to the others indicating it was time for an all-out poetry performance, starting with Cecelia.

It’s plain to see you have no fashion sense, you dummy Malcolm Tent!
No one in London doesn’t know
That all the best dressed jills and joes
Are wearing red from head to toe!

Everyone else—except Tent and Billy, of course—came forward.

Valentine’s Day

He sat across from his wife of 40 years in their den and wondered what to get her for Valentine’s Day.
Way back in the old days, he bought the biggest heart-shaped box of chocolates he would find, with all the fancy ribbons and bows on top. And if he could find one, he would get it in orange, not red. Orange was her favorite color. Often she kept the boxes, saying they were too pretty to throw out and she just knew she could find some use for them. She never did, and when the colors faded and the closet filled with old heart-shaped boxes, she threw them out.
Candy was always an easy choice. She loved chocolate. He loved chocolate. She let him eat her chocolates. What wasn’t there to love? After 40 years, though, they couldn’t eat as much chocolate as they used to. They still had candy left over from Christmas.
For a while he bought her roses. She liked those, especially when he could find orange ones, but now her allergies were worse and fresh cut flowers made her sneeze.
“Do you want to go out for dinner on Valentines?” he asked her.
“I don’t know. What day of the week is that?”
“Tuesday,” he replied.
“We eat breakfast out with our friends on Tuesday,” she said. “That would be eating out two meals in one day.”
“Would that be so bad?”
“Sometimes I eat so much for breakfast I don’t want anything else the rest of the day, except maybe a chunk of cheese.” She had her nose stuck in the newspaper.
“Well, I can’t give you chocolate. We got way too much chocolate left over from Christmas.”
“Yeah, I don’t know why, but I haven’t been in the mood to eat chocolate lately.”
“Would you like to go to a movie?”
“On a Tuesday night? Aren’t the theaters crowded on Tuesday night?”
“Why would the theater be crowded on Tuesday night?”
“I don’t know.”
He felt his blood pressure rising. “Well, maybe I shouldn’t get you anything for Valentine’s this year.”
“Well, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.”
“Of course, I want to give you something for Valentine’s Day. Why do you think I asked you if you wanted to go out for dinner?”
“I don’t know.”
“You do this to me all the time, and it drives me nuts.”
“I’ve already bought you something.”
He decided to go ahead and buy her fresh cut roses for Valentine’s Day. He didn’t care if she sneezed her head off.
“I was in Wal Mart today. They had the nicest selection of roses I’ve seen in years. They had them in all colors. I also picked up a new allergy prescription.”
Okay, he would get the orange ones.

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty-Two

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia. Cecelia woos Billy. The good guys finally get the goods on Tent.
In the meantime, Bedelia pulled away from Andy, an air of recognition engulfed her body. She was so filled with rhapsody that she broke out in verse right then and there.

I’d know that kiss anywhere! You’re the Man in the Red Underwear!
Those lips! Those hips! They say you care! You’re the Man in the Red Underwear!
How could I have been so blind?
You’re the man that’s completely kind!
It was really dumb of me, I have to say!
It’s clear to see you love me! You are not–

Andy was equally aroused by romantic compulsion and kissed her again which piqued Tent’s curiosity immensely. Billy was licking his lips remembering the hot kiss Cecelia had laid on him. Eddie opened the packet, but Millicent and her mother snatched it from his hands and began to read.

“Does it tell us everything we need to know?” Cecelia asked.

“More than enough,” Millicent replied. “Tent and his gang will be in prison a long time.”

Bedelia pulled away from again and regaled the group with the second verse of her revelation.

I’d know that kiss anywhere! You’re the Man in the Red Underwear!
Oh Andrew dear, please hold me near, tell me you forgive my frowns.
I thought you loved to sew those gowns!
But you’re the bravest man in town!
Only you can make me feel this way!
How on earth could I doubt you’re not–

Andy kissed her once more which would lead one to believe he was trying to stop Bedelia from revealing his scandalous persona.

Taking as imperious tone as he could muster, Eddie stepped forward and pointed at Tent, “Chief Inspector Malcontent—“

Andy and Bedelia stopped their amorous lip lock to look at Eddie and correct him in perfect unison, “That’s Malcolm Tent!”

“Whoever.” He cleared his throat and proceeded with a proper English accent, a miracle long prayed for by the royal family, “I, Prince Edward, by the authority of Granny Vicky—I mean, Queen Victoria of England—do hereby arrest you on charges of—of—“

Unfortunately the miracle was not permanent and soon he was floundering and looking around for help.

“Extortion,” Cecelia provided the correct judicial terminology.

“–of doin’ folks dirty. Here’s the evidence to prove it!” He pointed to the packet now in Millicent’s possession.

“Yes! We have the money and a note from the merchant!” Millicent’s eyes flamed in righteous indignation.

“Yup. Yo’re done for,” Eddie said.

“And besides that, you’re a terribly impolite guest at a gala,” Cecelia added a zinger which was intended to crush his sense of social decorum.

Bedelia’s face expressed supreme bewilderment. “You mean you were the villain all along?”

“Yes!”

“Then you didn’t mean all those things you said to me?”

“No!”

The situation finally dawned on her. “Then you didn’t really want to take me on a cruise?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say that.” Tent’s smile was crooked and on the verge of vulgarity.

“But I don’t understand why I didn’t figure it out, since I am the illegitimate daughter of the recently retired chief inspector of Scotland Yard?” Bedelia shook her head.

“Because your father was stupid! He never solved a case in his life!”

“Oh. Maybe that’s why.” She walked slowly to the lounge and sat, her entire self-image in shambles.

Andy, dismayed by his true love’s mournful sighs, joined her, putting his arm around her in consolation.

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty-One

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia. Cecelia woos Billy. There’s a whole lot of wooing going on.
Before Cecelia could finish her proposition, Tent, Bedelia, Millicent, Eddie and Andy enter from the ballroom, swinging and swaying to a ragtime beat. After Andy closed the door, the music faded away, and the gang settled into more sedentary forms of partying.

“Billy! Come here!”

Everyone jumped because the inspector forgot to use his inside voice.

“Just a minute, boss.” He gobbled down the last canapé. “You sure do know how to cook, Lady Chatalot.”

Cecelia smiled seductively. “Oh, that’s just one of my many talents.”

“Billy!” Tent was losing his patience, if he had any in the first place.

“You can cook some more for me later.” He licked his thick lips and then stood. “Comin’, boss.”

Tent led Billy over to the window to discuss their business matters away from prying eyes. Andy, Eddie and Millicent joined Cecelia at the chaise lounge to compare notes while Bedelia took a devil-may-care pose by the fireplace and tried to keep an eye on everyone.

“Did everything go according to plan?” Tent whispered.

“Aye, boss.” Billy nodded and handed Tent a packet.

“What’s this?” He opened the packet, expecting to find a wad of bills but came a letter along with the payoff dough.

“A note from the merchant,” Billy replied.

Tent’s eyes widened as he read the letter. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

Billy was right on his heels as they began their escape. “Aye, boss.”

When Tent opened the door, a rousing rodeo hoedown blared through, knocking them back on their heels. Eddie jumped on the lounge and clapped his hands.

“Hey that’s my kind of music! I love that sound! Let’s go to town with the rodeo hoedown!”

Cecelia grabbed Billy, Millicent took Tent by the elbow, Andy put his arm around Bedelia, and they began to prance around the room, following Eddie’s every command.

We git real low down, go round and round! Do si do the rodeo hoedown!
Yell yee haw, like your ma and pa with all your might!
Stomp your feet, clap your hands and hoedown through the night!
Gals line up to one side ‘cause that’s what you do.
Gents line up facing gals, even Billy too.
We’ve had fun, but now it’s done. Tune out the racket.
I’ll tell you just when to try to grab that packet!
Go Milly, boo Billy, why don’t you get bent!
Go Andy, you’re dandy! Stop that Inspector Tent!
Milly’s mom, you’re the bomb! Stay by Billy’s hide!
The packet, we got the packet! Hooray for our side!

At one point or another during the reel, every participant had hold of the incriminating packet. When Bedelia snatched it from Andy, Cecelia–like a bat out of hell—swooped in, grabbed it and handed it forthwith to Eddie on the lounge. Cecelia planted a huge wet kiss on Billy, distracting him from knocking Eddie from his perch and retrieving the object of everyone’s desire at that moment. Bedelia, in her misguided allegiance to the chief inspector, tried to go after the packet again as well, but Andy wrapped his arms around her and smothered her in smooches.

“Curses!” Tent thundered.

“Yes, I know!” Millicent retorted in triumph. “Foiled again!”

Eddie jumped down from the furniture and waved to Millicent and Cecelia. “Come on, Millie! You and yo’r maw help me figger this stuff out!”

Reluctantly Cecelia pulled away from Billy, whose eyes had taken on a romantic glow which probably had never been there before. “I’m sorry, my dear. I’m needed elsewhere. I shall return.”

“Yes, me Lady Chatalot.” He attempted a deep bow which did not come across as suavely as he might have hoped.

Millicent stopped in her tracks and looked quizzically at her mother. “What did he call you?”

“Never mind.” She waved at Eddie. “Look in the packet.”

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia.
A part of Bedelia was pleased to have aroused such a high level of jealousy in Andy, although she was dismayed with the way he articulated it. She was sure she had never heard the word “oodles” escape his lips before today. Brushing her concerns aside, Bedelia decided to press on with the jealousy ploy. “There’s more to marriage than mere physical attraction.”

“Of course. Like friendship. Friendships formed when nothing else mattered except being friends.” He paused to stare into her lovely eyes, but quickly giggled and looked away. “But I really don’t remember things like that.” Unable to resist temptation he turned back to her and whispered, “But if I were in love, I would want to be in love with you.” Andy was going in for a kiss when he heard the unmistakable clip-clop of Inspector Tent’s boots. “Wouldn’t it be peachy if we could go shopping together? I’d just love to pick out some material to make you a dress. He scrutinized her. “I don’t think pastels.”

“Would you care for another dance, Miss Smart-Astin?” Tent asked in a tone quite unsuited for the content of his proposition.

“Yes, inspector, that would be— “Her voice trailed off in unrequited longing.

Tent opened the door just as a male voice rang out, “Not another bloody tango!”

Both Bedelia and Tent beamed as they go into verse.

Let’s do the Russian tango! Let’s go as far as we can go!
Oh go girl go! Oh go man go! Let’s do the Russian tango!

They slinked out of the library in a sultry embrace. Andy glanced at the others and shrugged before engaging Cecelia in a dance clutch and followed them. Eddie and Millicent grabbed each other to join the crowd. The community spirit of ballroom dance did not last long, however, as Cecelia noticed Billy entering the front door. She quickly greeted him and led him into the library, shutting the door behind her, breathing deeply from the exertion of the sensual frolic.

“Where’s me boss, ducks?” Billy asked.

“You didn’t see him in the ballroom?” Cecelia approached him, like a cougar entrapping its prey. “He was dancing with Miss Smart-Astin.”

“Naw. I didn’t see nobody.”

“May I offer you a—“she hesitated provocatively “–glass of wine, Mr. Canine-erel?

“Naw,I don’t want no sissy wine.” He stood his ground, even stepping closer. “And stop callin’ me that stupid name. Me name’s Billy Doggerel, and I’m proud of it. If you can’t call me Billy then go—“he offered his own pregnant pause “–fly a kite.”

“All right, Billy.” She smiled seductively. “I just love it when a man is forceful. My late husband Sampson Elias Johnson could be quite forceful.” Cecelia nearly swooned from the aroma of his breath. “Would you care for some beer? I’m sure the servants have some in the kitchen, somewhere.”

“Not now, ducks. I’m on business.” He stepped toward the door. “Maybe later, if yer lucky. Now where’s me boss?”

“Yes, your business.” Cecelia sat on the lounge and patted the cushion next to her. “Please, Billy, come sit with me. I’d like to talk to you about your business.”

Billy rolled his massive shoulders forward with indifference and smiled. “Well, if me boss ain’t around, I wouldn’t mind takin’ a load off me feet.” He sat next to her on the lounge.

“You know, Billy, it’s never too late to turn from a life of crime.” Cecelia leaned in to inhale the full luxuriance of street rabble stench, which almost made her swoon.

“Who says I lead a life of crime?” He winked and smiled, revealing a mouth filled with yellowed teeth.

“Of course, you don’t.” Cecelia hit at his bulk playfully. “But if you did, you might prefer working for me instead.”

“That sounds like fun.” He paused to give her the once over. “Maybe I could call you Lady Chatalot, ‘cause you do like to chat a lot, doncha ducks?”

“You know me all too well, Billy.”

“So what would you have me doin’, Lady Chatalot?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe taking care of my chess board, my checkers and mah jong tiles.” Her hands made a pass across her ample bosom. “You know, all the things people like to play with.”

“You mean I’d be Lady Chatalot’s gameskeeper?”

“Yes, lover, what a novel idea.” Curiously enough, Cecelia caught the reference to this novel which hadn’t been written yet. Perhaps she connected telepathically better with Billy than Inspector Tent. “Of course, I’d have to bathe you first.”

“This is a big body, Lady Chatalot.” He puffed out his chest. “There’s a lot of dirt on it.”

“Oh, Billy!” The sexual badinage overwhelmed her, and she grabbed Billy and thrust her tongue into his mouth.

He aggressively leaned into her as though they were going for two-out-of-three falls when his foot wandered under the lounge and bumped into the previously hidden tray of liver-tinged delights.

“Me foot’s stuck on somethin’.” He leaned down to pull out the damaged goods.

“The canapés!” Cecelia gasped. Of all times to be reminded of her horrible culinary skills.

Billy shoved one into his mouth and started chewing. “Not bad. Did you make these, Lady Chatalot?”

“Yes I did.” She looked at tray.” But it looks like someone stepped on them.”

“Didn’t hurt ‘em none.” He stuffed in another one.

“You really like my canapés?” Cecelia’s face lit.

“Do I detect a ‘int of marjoram?”

“Why, yes.” Her hand impulsively went to his face to stroke his stubbly chin. “My, my, you do have a sophisticated palate, Billy!”

“Me ol’ mum used marjoram in everythin’ she cooked.” He swallowed hard as his eyes filled with tears. “I miss ‘er.”

“Oh, did your mother pass away recently?” She then stroked his cheek.

“Yeah, me ol’ man shot ‘er.”

Cecelia sat up in surprise. “How dreadful!”

“She tried slippin’ arsenic into ‘is meat pie. ‘E tasted it and blew ‘er brains out. I got me delicate palate from me ol’ man. Now ‘e’s in prison and I’m all alone.” Billy dissolved into sobs, hiding his head into her bosom.

Cecelia rocked back and forth as though she were comforting a baby. She whispered a spontaneously composed lullaby.

Billy dirty Billy, now don’t you dare cry.
Your own lady will make your eyes dry.

Even though she was romantically aroused, she had not forgotten her purpose and her allegiance to Lillie Langtry. “Um, Billy dear—you don’t mind if I call you dear, do you?”

He pulled a stained handkerchief from his back pocket to blow his nose. When he finished he looked soulfully into her eyes. “Me Lady Chatalot can call me anythin’ she wants.”

“Billy, dear, I have a business proposition for you.”

He looked around conspiratorially. “I’m all ears.”

“Frankly, I know that you have a packet to give to Chief Inspector Tent tonight. Now, if you give it to me instead—“

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Fourteen

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws her annual society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent threatens Cecelia’s daughter Millicent. The man in red saves her.
By the time Bedelia returned with a bobby, the Man in the Red Underwear had mysteriously disappeared in the heavy London fog. Inspector Tent had retreated to a corner to lick his wounds, and the crowd had settled back into a nice, boring existence of dancing to proper waltz music. Cecelia and Millicent made a convincing argument to the bobby that Bedelia had merely mistook a prearranged entertainment as a real duel. He bowed and made a quick exit.

“Who wants some fish and chips?” Bedelia called out.

Men abandoned their dance to dash for the bags of food. A minor brawl broke out and half of them ended up rolling on the ballroom floor trying to grab fried fish fillets from each other’s hands. Curiously, Lady Snob-Johnson grinned and leaned in to speak to Millicent.

“Remind me next year to order fish and chips.”

Before Millicent could reply, Bedelia grabbed her around the shoulders. “So was that actually the Man in the Red Underwear?”

Millicent glanced about the room and directed Bedelia to the library. Eddie followed like the faithful puppy that he was. She carefully shut the door behind them.
“Yes, that was the Man in the Red Underwear.”

“How exciting!” Bedelia beamed with bobbysoxer glee until she remembered she should maintain a modicum of civility. “I mean, how terrible that such a criminal should invade the sanctity of your home!”

Millicent nodded knowingly. “You can’t judge a criminal by his appearance. Speaking of appearances, you know Andy may be different than he appears.”

“In my deepest heart of hearts I still love Andy.” She shook her head and took a few steps away. “But after seeing him tonight, I don’t know.”

Eddie loped up and put his arm around her shoulder. “Why not? He’s a prince of a fella. Uh no. I’m the prince, ain’t I? I keep fergittin’ that.”

“Eddie, shut up.” Millicent pushed him toward the lounge. “Bedelia dear, what’s wrong?”

“If only I could fall in love with someone brave and dashing.” Her eyes softened in wistfulness. “You know, the way Andy used to be.”

“You mean, like the Man in the Red Underwear?” Millicent asked teasingly.

Before Bedelia could answer, Inspector Tent opened the door. In the background, the orchestra was playing a rodeo hoedown. Eddie jumped from the sofa, grabbed Millicent and began a muscular polka. Then he broke into rhapsodic verse.

Hey, that’s my kind of music! I love that sound! Let’s go to town!
We git low down! Go round and round! Do si do rodeo hoe down!

And with that Eddie and Millicent polkaed into the ballroom. Tent carefully shut the door, leaving the library ominously quiet. He approached Bedelia with a smile that was more menacing than endearing.

“My dear Miss Smart-Astin, I must apologize you had to be upset by the appearance of that terrible criminal.”

As he came closer Bedelia eased away toward the liquor cabinet. “Oh no. That’s quite all right.”

“No, it’s not all right.” Tent chose to ignore her attempts to escape. “It’s my duty as chief inspector of Scotland Yard to protect young ladies from the likes of him. Especially beautiful young ladies.”

Just as he was going in to grab her hand so he could kiss it, Bedelia picked up a bottle of brandy, using it as a sort of barricade to his advances. “Would you care for a drink, chief inspector?”

“No, thank you.” Tent took the bottle from her hand and returned it to the cabinet. “But I would care for something else.”

What better time for a torrid verse of seduction and resistance? Bedelia began with a palm in Tent’s face, but with eyes filled with ardor.

Nyet. Not yet. Before we lust, at first we must begin the dance of hot romance, the Russian tango!

Tent accepted the invitation and placed his arm around her slender waist.

Not one for fussin’ but the Russian? Don’t you mean the Argentine?

She adjusted her stance and stared straight ahead.

The Argentine is so routine. Don’t bore me with the Argentine.
I want it vulgar from the Volga, so stop your fussin’, it’s time to Russian!

They began to glide across the library floor, reciting in unison.

Let’s do the Russian tango! Let’s go as far as we can go!
Oh go, girl, go! Oh go man, go! Let’s do the Russian tango!

Being the chief inspector, Tent never strayed far from his intentions of yearning and then interrogation.

And while we’re dancing cheek to cheek let’s drink some booze
And I’ll suggest while we’re chest to chest, that we go on a cruise.

Bedelia stopped in the middle of this pas de deux to glow with excitement.

Oh how divine! Yet I draw the line, no marriage talk—

This entirely broke the spell for Tent, sending him back into prose. “What?”

“You said go on a cruise.” She crinkled her cute little nose. “That sounds like matrimony.”

“It’s just a little cruise. Don’t stand on sanctimony.”

Bedelia put her hands on her tiny little waist. “Then what do you mean?”

Now this did put Tent into a bind. An immodest proposition loses all of its luster if the gentleman has to spell it out in minute detail. Instead, he punted and returned to his previous dance position. “Let’s tango!”

Before they knew it, they were slithering across the floor again.

Let’s do the Russian tango! Let’s go as far as we can go!
Oh go girl go! Oh go man go! Let’s do the Russian tango!

For practical purposes Tent decided to forgo pursuing his dalliance and practice his interrogation skills.

Let’s talk instead about the man in red, who do you think this cad could be?
He must have friends to meet his ends. He must have two, or maybe three.

I know you’re right, it’s such a frightening thought but they are here tonight.
It’s Millicent, her mom Cecelia, and her hot steady, dumb Prince Eddie.

Tonight, you see, is coming for me a packet of some great import.
I’m sure the man in red will want to steal this serious report.

You have my word I’ll watch this world of gaiety and vice.
I’ll tell you when they make their move. The man in red will pay the price.

All this criminal investigation talk made them amorous again.

Let’s tango!
Let’s do the Russian tango! Let’s go as far as we can go!
Oh go girl go! Oh go man go! Let’s do the Russian tango!

Before they could go any further, Bedelia snapped her fingers and looked into the inspector’s eyes. “Should I keep an eye on Andy, too? Do you think he’s a member of the conspiracy?”

“Naw,” they said in perfection harmony.

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Eleven

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody of Zorro and The Scarlet Pimpernel and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws her annual society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Cecelia falls for henchman Billy Doggerel.
Millicent returned to Andy and Eddie at the chaise lounge to continue their plans to snatch the packet from the chief inspector. Tent and Billy looked out the window as though they were entranced by the gas street lights.

“Is everything arranged for tonight?” Tent asked.

“Aye, boss,” Billy replied, nodding his head. “I pick up the packet in ‘alf an ‘our.”

“Good, then bring it back to me.”

Bedelia returned to library, wiping tears from her eyes and then cracking her crop against her pants, which, for some odd reason, which can only occur in a bunch of silliness like this, caused everyone else to freeze. This allowed her to go right into a full blown soliloquy.

I’ve had my cry. Now is the time to act. I must in fact
Discover the identity of that red under-wearing rat.
That will impress our properly dressed Lady Cecelia.
A deed the whole town will likely cheer, hip hip hoorah.
Let’s see who can this villain be, could he be in this room?
The suspects are before me now, it’s easy to assume.
The illegitimate daughter of the recently retired chief inspector of Scotland Yard
I’m on the job, I’m more than smart, I’ll never rest until that man’s behind jail bars.

Now who can I suspect? Old Malcolm Tent, oh no, not he.
He was so loyal to my dad, a villain he could never be.
I don’t know who this person is—
He’s so filthy I don’t even want to think about him.
And our dear host, what can I say—
Lady Cecelia loves to gossip and bray.
She would tell all that she’s the one in bright red underwear.
Of course I’m not the one I’m looking for, I know my underwear!
And Millicent wants Eddie’s body—
Too busy for red underwear.
Dear Eddie’s much too dumb—oh dear, he lost his shirt!
Which leaves the dandy, my sweet Andy—
He can’t be the man in red. He’s much too randy.
But never fear I know he’s near, that man in underweer—wear!

Bedelia turned to leave, paused to look back and then cracked her crop against her pants again which caused everyone to unfreeze. (Don’t try to figure it out. Go with the flow, so to speak.) She closed the door with an unexpected bang which caused Cecelia to lose her balance and stumble into Billy.

‘Ey, watch it, ducks,” Billy warned her.

Cecelia rubbed her hands up and down his thick arms. “You are a solid beast, aren’t you?”

I ain’t no cream puff, if that’s what ya thought.”

“If I fancied any notions that your bulk was anything but hard muscle I was mistaken.” A school-girl grin danced across her face.

Tent tried to wedge himself between Cecelia and Billy. “Lady Snob-Johnson, my associate and I are trying to carry on a private conversation.”

“Oh. Well. Carry on.” She broke out in giggles. “I wouldn’t mind carrying on with your associate myself.”

“Thanks. Yer kinda cute too, ducks.” Billy winked.

“You think so? I mean, I do have a grown daughter, you know.” Her hands went to her cheeks, as though trying to smooth away the wrinkles.

“Lady Snob-Johnson, given your propensity for gossip, I must ask you something.” Tent finally nudged Billy out of the way. “Did you just overhear anything?

“You mean you were talking? All I saw was that beautiful chest heaving up and down, up and—“

“Billy, get out of here before she starts to hyperventilate!” Tent ordered.

Before he took his leave, Billy clucked Cecelia under her chin. “Anything you say, boss. ‘Ey, ducks. I likes the ones that’s been around the block a few times. You know what I mean.”

Impulsively, she followed him as he walked to the door. “Will I see you again, soon?”

“If yer lucky.”

Before he could open the door, Billy found Andy blocking the way.

“Yoo hoo. Excuse, me, sir.” Andy tried fluttering his eyes, but his coquette skills were not up to par with those honed by Cecelia.

“Yeah, what do ya want?”

Andy tapped at the lapel of Billy’s coat. “I was just curious how you managed that divine shade of brown on your jacket.”

“It’s dirt.” Billy shoved Andy out of his way and left.

“How original.” Andy took out a lace hanky to wipe his hands.

Cecelia rushed up and spun Andy around. “Lay off of him. You hear me. He’s mine!”

“Anything you say, dearie.” Andy looked over at Millicent and Eddie to point at the retreating bulk of Billy Doggerel. He nodded at them and Millicent nodded back in agreement. Eddie was too busy picking his nose to notice anything important going on.

Cecelia rushed to the front door to wave at Billy as he went down the stairs. “Until later, mon amour.”

The orchestra members began tuning their instruments which brought Cecelia back to reality.

The Baby Shower Part Five

We were home from the baby shower only a couple of weeks we received a phone call from my proud and happy son-in-law. It seems all those kicks in the womb meant Liam Anthony wanted to come out—right now. So on Sunday September 16, he came out, all seven pounds thirteen ounces, twenty inches of him, including, 10 fingers and 10 toes.
Both mom and the baby were in good condition, and I could tell dad was ecstatic. They were home within a couple of days, and then the real work began, all those nightly feedings. My wife chose to bottle feed our children so I was able to take my turn. But with breastfeeding, my daughter has to handle it on her own. And he’s a very hungry little boy.
At the two-week checkup he was already over eight pounds and had grown another inch. My daughter, on the other hand, was worn out, just all all mothers. That’s why they get a special day every day. Sometimes I wonder why fathers get a day. The moms do all the work. But I better shut up because I enjoy my Father’s Day presents too much to lose them.
My granddaughter is a very helpful big sister, and I knew she would be. But I’m a biased grandpa so what do you expect?
As for the baby shower delivery day pool, everyone missed it because he decided to arrive early. My daughter checked the chart to see who came closest and it turned out to be a dear friend and coworker. Her friend she’s going to spend the money on Liam’s first Christmas present, so all turned out well.
Speaking of Christmas, my son and I already have our plane tickets to go up to New York in December. Liam will be three months by then and who knows how big he will be. Now all we have to do is pay off the credit card bills before we plan any trips to see the grandchildren in the new year.

The Baby Shower Part Four

The four-hour wait in the Charlotte airport was over, and we boarded, on our way home from the best baby shower ever. What I had forgotten was that there was this tropical depression which had delayed our departure by a day. It was now a hurricane slowly moving toward Louisiana, but the outer bands were still sweeping across central Florida.
“There’s no reason to cancel the flight, but we do want to apologize ahead of time for any possible turbulence you may experience in the next couple of hours. Enjoy your flight.”
All sorts of thoughts flooded my mind. During a half a century of flying I had never encountered any major degree of turbulence so I suppose I couldn’t complain much. Then again, it only takes one bad storm to bring an airplane down. What a way to ruin a perfectly good baby shower weekend. What if I didn’t die in a crash but the constant dipping and shaking made me sick to my stomach? I checked the pocket in front of me and found the air sickness bag. It didn’t look very big. I could fill that thing up with one really good whoop-whoop.
It was then my eye caught the airline magazine—you know the ones with articles about exotic locales you could visit for next to nothing with your frequent flyer miles, except I didn’t travel that frequently. After I read all the articles I saw three Sudoku puzzles. Now if they couldn’t keep my mind off crashing then nothing could.
I made it through the easy puzzle fairly fast. The medium one took a little more time. However, once we crossed the border from Georgia into Florida the plane started to jiggle some. When I started on the third puzzle, the most difficult one, the flight was getting bumpier. I found it hard to write the numbers in the little boxes without my fingers looking like they were drunk and slurring badly.
“We will be entering Tampa International Airport airspace within the next half hour. Reports say the storm is slowly moving west. However, turbulence is expected to increase before we land. Have a nice day.”
Then we experienced our first major drop. We could hear the baggage in the overhead compartment jumping around.
“Whee!” One child clearly did not understand the implications involved here. This was not a roller coast at Busch Gardens. However, perhaps it was better that the child thought it was fun. If they become hysterical and cried, my stomach might started grumbling and I didn’t want that.
In the amount of time it would take to ride a giant wooden roller coast three times, the turbulence settled and we began our descent, and I still had my lunch. And I was going to live for the next flight to my daughter’s house at Christmas.
What more could I ask for?