Tag Archives: storytelling

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Nineteen

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. The good guys let Cecelia in on the plot.
Inspector Tent and Bedelia entered from the ballroom, breaking up the conspiratorial atmosphere in the library. The fearless foursome huddled around the chaise lounge.

“Lady Snob-Johnson,” Tent announced, “I’d be more careful about the household help if I were you. Your butler turned out to be the Man in the Red Underwear.”

She fluttered her eyes ingenuously. “You’re quite mistaken. My butler is seventy years old and weighs two hundred and fifty pounds.”

“I didn’t mean your real butler was the Man in the Red Underwear. But the Man in the Red Underwear was masquerading as your butler.” He paused a moment, thinking of a pun and congratulating himself for being so clever. “A sort of red butler.”

“He’d have to use a lot of padding.” Cecelia didn’t catch the joke because she rarely read American novels that hadn’t been written yet.

“Has a packet been delivered for me in the last few minutes while I was dancing with Miss Smart-Astin?” the inspector asked.

The quartet exchanged knowing glances.

“No,” she replied, her eyes all aflutter again.

“May I pour myself a glass of wine? The dancing has made me quite thirsty, and the rum punch being served in the ballroom is a bit too sweet.”

Cecelia’s left eyebrow went up. She was not accustomed to her guests being so totally honest. Decent people lied about the quality of refreshments. Recovering, she managed a wan smile. “Help yourself.”

“Miss Smart-Astin, would you care for a glass wine?” Tent inquired as he pointed to the cabinet of beverages.

“Why, I think I would, inspector.”

“Do you mind if I pour out white?” His eyes strayed. “There’s been way too much red this evening for my satisfaction.”

“Certainly.”

After handing Bedelia her drink, Tent held up his own in a mild toast. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed our dance.”

“Thank you.” She blushed, like a shy rosé. “You’re much too kind.”

His crooked smile took on a predatory slant. “Do you know you’re even more beautiful up close?”

“Oh my. Are you trying to sweep me off my feet?”

“That’s not a bad idea.” He leaned in to press his advantage. “I know our ages are vastly different, but there are such things as May-December romances.”

Taken aback from this tactic, Bedelia was left with no recourse but to break out in verse.

You don’t look old, dear Malcolm Tent. You have no gray hairs on your head.
You took care of that problem by applying dye on them instead.
You don’t look old, oh no not you, the fittest at Scotland Yard.
But when you look across the room your eyes are squinting hard.
Don’t mind that you are just a few years younger than my Dad.
And all your family members now are dying off, how sad.
But you’re not old, inspector dear, that’s one thing you can never fear.
So catch your breath, ignore that Mister Death is lingering near.
I can’t accept your marriage plea. I really need more time.
And is it wise to compromise to wed one past his prime?
In truth, I’m drawn to one who has more physical attraction.
I can’t deny he drives me to the edge of mad distraction.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact your character is strong.
It’s just that I can’t risk the chance your life won’t be that long.
But you’re not old, inspector dear, that’s one thing you can never fear.
So catch your breath, ignore that Mister Death is lingering near.

Andy, from his position near the lounge, noticed how intimate Tent and Bedelia were acting, and he felt compelled to cross the room so he could break up the apparent tryst. “Bedelia, darling! Have you seen the grenadine?”

Tent’s eyes wandered beyond Andy to focus on Cecelia, Millicent and the young shirtless prince. “What are they huddling about?”

“I have no idea. Why don’t you join them?” He pushed the inspector in their direction. “I’m sure they’d just love your company.”

With his erstwhile competition now distracted by the others by the lounge, Andy smiled ingratiatingly at Bedelia.

“You wanted a drink with grenadine?”

“Grenadine?” He was taken aback. “I hate grenadine—I mean, I adore grenadine but not just right now.”

“You don’t want a drink?” Her instinctive skills to analyze bizarre situations left her for the moment.

“No, I’m afraid that was a ruse to talk to you.” Andy glanced at the inspector. “To keep you from that other man.”

“He proposed.” She took a quick sip, her head poised with confidence.

“Proposed what?” He too succumbed to dull comprehension.

“Marriage, sort of.”

Andy’s mouth flew open. “You turned him down, I hope.”

“And why should I?” Her tone was couched with a challenge for Andy to make a counteroffer.

“Because—because he’s old and has oodles and oodles of wrinkles.” Even though he knew that sounded ridiculous, Andy tried valiantly to disguise his embarrassment.

Green

Green is my favorite color. It goes back to the fifties and the Davy Crockett craze—movies, songs, television shows, coonskin caps, the whole bit.
I’m the great-great-great grandson of Crockett so all that attention was like it was for me. There was a skip in my step every time I heard, “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free.”
I may have been born in Texas, which was the biggest state at that time, but my heart was in the greenest state. Any time I had a choice in clothing, food, you name it, I picked green, spinach, lettuce, lime sherbet, and a lot of green shirts. After I graduated from college and I could live anywhere I wanted I bought a green Ford Torino and drove to Tennessee and fell in love with the trees, the mountains and my wife. She was actually from Virginia but her last name was Hawkins, the same as the county in Tennessee where Crockett’s grandparents are buried.
My bedroom has always been painted green. It’s really a restful color to look at as I close my eyes in sleep. Green represents good things too—serenity, ecology, renewal, hope, guacamole, pistachios, Jolly Green Giant, Kermit the Frog, Green Eggs and Ham, freshly mowed grass which smells like watermelon, also green, and the best traffic light, green which means let’s go.
Nothing reduces my blood pressure better than a drive down a road with tall trees whose branches hover over the pavement with green leaves in all shades from chartreuse to forest, and everything in between, olive, celery, sage, parsley and Kelly. The green trees are filled with life, squirrels, birds, insects and tiny microbes.
Christmas trees are green, and what can be better than Christmas trees? They have presents underneath them. Children gather around them to giggle and play. And when the children go to bed, parents can sit by the Christmas tree to kiss and cuddle.
Green goes well with other colors too. Who doesn’t like to see a blue sky peeking through the trees? And at night, when the sky is black and speckled with tiny white lights, green tones down its shade to blend in. Green with orange in the fall says it’s time for harvest, and green with red means it’s time for Santa Claus. Green with yellow is the time of spring. Green with purple means it’s time to have the color adjusted on the television.
And, of course, green is the color of money. Who doesn’t like money? Getting a check is nice. Checking the bank account and seeing new deposits is great. But nothing beats seeing green bills being handed over, lots of them with pictures of Jackson, Grant and Franklin. It would be fun to jump into a pool filled with green bills, especially if I knew all those bills were mine.
The nicest thing about green is that it doesn’t have to be money to make you happy. Green leaves work just as well, which is good because it’s easier to be surrounded by leaves than dollar bills. Green food, like guacamole and lime sherbet tastes better than dollar bills too. I haven’t tried it but common sense tells me money tastes terrible and has little nutritional value.
As they say, the best things in life are free. And many of those things are green.

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Eighteen

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. The good guys let Cecelia in on the plot.
Just then the door opened and Andy entered performing his best tango moves in perfect timing with the music. He closed the door, took the picture of Lily Langtry from his jacket pocket and presented it with aplomb to Cecelia.

“Lily!” She held the picture to her breast. “Oh, I’m so pleased.” Cecelia returned it to its place of honor on the mantle and turned back to Andy. It was as though a light had gone off in her head. She pointed at the picture and then at Andy. “So that must mean you’re the Man in the Red Underwear!”

“At your service, Lady Snob-Johnson.” He bowed deeply.

“Oh good! I’ve always liked your family. So, you’re not—happy?”

“I don’t think thut’s the word—“ Eddie didn’t finished because Millicent put her hand over his mouth.

“Not even giddy,” Andy assured her.

“So what we want you to do is notify us immediately upon Billy Doggerel’s arrival,” Millicent instructed her mother. “We’re sure he will have the packet on his person.”

“And what a person.” She started swooning again.

“Please, Mother! This is important.”

“All right. But I think I’m in love. Oh dear, does this mean he’ll have to go to prison?”

“I’m afraid so,” Andy said.

“Oh well, this is my punishment for exposing Millicent to danger.”

“Shall we bring Bedelia into our confidence?” her daughter asked.

“Yes!” Andy beamed.

“No!” Cecelia glowered.

“Why not?” Eddie scratched his head.

“Mother’s lost her head over the fact Bedelia’s parents were never married.”

Millicent should have known better than give a logical explanation to Eddie about anything, because he immediately went to Cecelia and carefully looked at her face, both ears and the back of her head.

“It’s right thar.”

“What is?” Cecelia fluttered her eyes in annoyance.

“Yo’r haid.”

“Why, of course it is!”

“Millie jest said you lost it, but how could you lose it when it’s still on yo’r shoulders?” Yes, he was really that stupid.

“Shall we return to the business at hand?” Andy smiled, trying to overlook his friend’s irritating observations.

“Yes, please.” Cecelia was ready to move on also.

“If we let Bedelia into our confidence then she’d know I’m the same man who’s always loved her,” Andy tried to make his point.

“Unfortunately, I think mother is right,” Millicent offered as sympathetically as possible. “Bedelia has fallen under the chief inspector’s spell.”

“I don’t know what a fine young man like you wants with a girl like her, anyway,” Cecelia told him.

Andy decided the only way to express his feeling for Bedelia to Cecelia was through poetry.

She’s a flower, her petals smooth.
I want to touch and make her move.

“Oh, Andy.” Cecelia smiled sweetly. She finally caught it.

Eddie leaned over to whisper to Millicent, “Psst, Millie, that part about her bein’ a flower and him wantin’ to touch her petals and watchin’ her move, I think that’s kinda dirty.”

“Eddie, shut up.” There were even limits to Millicent’s patience.

“We must catch Tent with the packet tonight.” Andy circled the room deep in thought. “I doubt another merchant will cooperate with us if we fail.”

“So we must be very careful to see in which pocket the inspector puts the packet,” Millicent agreed.

The four of them recited in unison.

Let’s plan the plan as only we can plan to foil old Malcolm Tent,
We must catch him red-handed with that most incriminating packet
Completely filled with allegations and evidence to back it.

“What will he do with it when it arrives?” Andy asked.

“He’ll put it in his pocket!” Millicent replied with a snap of her fingers.

“So we must watch which packet in his jacket he will put the packet in.” Cecelia nodded.

“Then we must snatch the packet from the pocket in his jacket,” Andy said.

“Yes that is what we must do.” Eddie was so pleased he know what was going on.

“He has a charm upon a chain in his left front pocket,” Millicent remembered. “I felt it there when I jumped upon his back before the fencing match.”

“Well, you felt him up purty good, didn’t you?” For an amiable dumb guy, Eddie was capable of jealousy.

Cecelia put forth, “So he won’t put the packet in the pocket with the locket.”

“He carries a revolver in the right front pocket because all chief inspectors carry one in that exact same pocket.” Andy furrowed his brow retrieving information from his memory.

Cecelia shrugged. “So he won’t put the packet there—“

“For fear he might cock it,” Millicent said.

Eddie tapped her shoulder. “But in the ballroom I saw him lookin’ at a pawn ticket.”

“Then he may well have pawned away his company revolver,” Andy hypothesized.

“I didn’t feel it when I was on his back.” Millicent shook her head.

Andy looked at each member of their little cadre. “So he just might have put the packet in the jacket pocket that held the revolver—“

Millicent continued the thought, “Without fear he would cock it—“

“Because he had to hock it!” Cecelia completed their deduction.

“Oh please! I’m getting’ dizzy!” Eddie had to sit on the lounge to stop his head from spinning.

Bug Poem

A bug flew up my nose.
What kind of bug, nobody knows,
But a bug flew up my nose.
It must have thought my nose was a rose.
Why else would a bug fly up my nose?
That bug must have screamed a lot
When it discovered it was snot
A rose but a nose where it had got.
It continued through my sinus holes
To find a way out of my nose,
Defying the laws of gravity
As it navigated through each cavity.
The bug found the exit, there he goes!
Vowing never again to mistake for a rose
The inside of an old man’s nose.

More Than Just Toilet Paper

Billy enjoyed his daily walks with his grandpa. Most children didn’t have an old man in the family whose sole purpose was to entertain and protect little ones.
Mothers were too busy having babies, cleaning house and cooking to spend time with their daughters and sons. Fathers were rarely home. Mothers explained that the men had to go out hunting, gathering nuts and berries and protecting the family honor by killing anyone who looked like he was going to hurt the women and children. Fathers also killed anyone who owned some special object which the fathers decided rightfully belonged to them.
For the longest time Billy and his grandpa would take long hikes upon cracked concrete paths that led to fascinating places. In particular Billy enjoyed the tall mountains that his grandfather told him people from long ago built. Sometimes they went exploring inside the man-made mountains. Some were like hanging gardens with all the pretty vines which covered everything. A few times the light would go away too soon so Billy and his grandpa had to sleep inside the marvelous mountains. Lately, however, his grandpa walked slower, rested more and remembered less about what his grandfather told him about the world they lived in.
“Now what is that big bright thing in the sky?” Billy asked.
“Let me see.” Grandpa paused to think. “The sun.”
Billy wrinkled his little brow. “But I thought I was the son.”
“Well, the same word can mean a lot of different things.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Why didn’t they go ahead and come up with a different word for each thing?”
Grandpa smiled. “My grandfather told me they were just too lazy.” He shrugged. “I just think they were stupid.” He put his hand on Billy’s shoulder and headed him in another direction. “We got to get some toilet paper before the sun goes away again.”
Now Billy knew what toilet paper was. That was one of the most important things in the whole world. Soon they walked up the steps to a stone two-story building and entered. Stacked all around them were toilet paper sheets bound together and covered with two sheets that were thicker and stiffer than the rest of the toilet paper. He picked one up and leafed through it. Billy found them fascinating. Some of the pages had pretty pictures and others were covered with markings with crosses, dots, and squiggly lines.
“Why did they bother to make them look pretty if it was only toilet paper?”
“Like I said, they were stupid,” his grandpa replied. “Well, bring that one with us. We don’t want to get caught in the dark.”
As they walked back home along the broken concrete path, Billy pointed at the rusted little houses with four circles in each corner. “And what were those things?”
“I told you once before they were called cars,” his grandpa said rather impatiently.
“I’m sorry. Sometimes I don’t remember things too good.”
His grandpa patted his shoulder. “Neither can I. I wish I could remember everything my grandfather told me. He said people were powerful a long time ago. Then great flames leapt from the sun and all the…the machines—that’s what he called them—didn’t work no more. Eventually they forgot everything they knew. Grandfather called it history.”
“History? What is this thing called history?”
“History is a grandfather’s stories. His story. Get it?”
“I guess so.” They walked a while before Billy thought of another question. He liked to ask them over and over again to make his grandpa feel better when he could answer them. “What was the toilet paper building called?”
His grandpa shook his head. “I know my grandfather told me, but for the life of me I can’t come up with it.” He then snapped his fingers. “I remember now. It was called a library.”

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Seventeen

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. They fight over her.
Cecelia walked over to Inspector Tent and extended her hand so he might steady himself and finally make it to his feet. Once he was eye to eye again, Lady Snob-Johnson withdrew her hand and spoke in her haughtiest tone. “Excuse me, Chief Inspector Tent, but I wish to speak to my daughter and Prince Edward in private. So will you and Miss Smart-Astin kindly leave the room?”

“But of course, kind lady.” He gave her his best deep bow with a flourish, although by the time he reached the nadir of his gracious genuflection he observed her well-endowed posterior heading for the ballroom door.

As Cecelia opened it, a blast of tango music invaded the library which caused both Tent and Bedelia to brighten significantly. They quickly assumed their dance positions and proudly spouted in unison and slithered into the ballroom.

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!

Cecelia closed the door and crossed to the lounge. “My dearest Millicent, I owe you an apology. I let my emotions carry me away.” She stopped abruptly when she noticed the writhing on her furniture. “What on earth are you doing?”

“Oh, um. I was just giving Eddie a massage,” she explained as she leapt to her feet, straightening the wrinkles on her lovely gown.

“Is thut whut you wuz doin’? I thought you wuz tryin’ to turn me on. And you wuz doin’ a good job of it too!” Eddie raised himself on his elbows and displayed a crooked grin.

Millicent cut him off and turned to face Cecelia, feigning interest in her comment. “What were you saying, Mother?”

Cecelia looked back and forth from her daughter and Victoria’s grandson and decided discretion was the better part of valor; therefore, ignored the embarrassing activity on her chaise lounge. “I was apologizing for putting you in that unpleasant situation earlier this evening.”

“Think nothing of it. I found it quite exhilarating.” Millicent smiled as she attempted to return her hairdo to its proper manifestation.

“No, I shan’t forget it. I shall try to redeem myself. And I know exactly how to do it. I overheard something you might find interesting.” She took her usual posture when about to impart a particularly juicy bit of gossip. “Well, do you remember when that awful William Canine-erel came in to see Chief Inspector Tent? He was that terrible, dirty, hulking man.” She seemed to be fading into her own realm of erotic fantasy. “You know, just like those hairy, muscular animals that work on the streets. Those ignorant, filthy, sweaty, gorgeous men with their bulging muscles—“

“Mother!”

Her daughter’s shocked admonition brought her back to reality. “Oh. Well. Yes. Anyway, he spoke to the inspector and I happened to hear him say that a merchant in Soho—“

Millicent turned sharply to look at Eddie at the mention of the site of the recent crime wave. “Soho!”

“Ho ho!” Eddie stood as a flash of recognition crossed his dull face.

“–was going to make a payment to the inspector tonight and Mr. Canine-erel would bring the packet here.”

Millicent grabbed her mother’s hands. “Mother, this is very important. You must swear yourself to secrecy.”

“Must I?”

“Swear on your picture of Lily Langtry.” Millicent looked at the mantle and frowned when she saw that the picture was missing. “Where’s Lily?”

“The Man in the Red Underwear took it away so that nasty Malcolm Tent couldn’t steal it, “Cecelia explained. “Don’t worry. I’m sure he’ll return it.”

“I know he will.” Millicent nodded knowingly. “But for now, swear on the memory of the autographed picture of Lily Langtry that you will keep what I tell you a secret.”

“Is it that serious?”

“Yup, it’s thut serious,” Eddie assured her.

“Very well, then. I swear on Lily Langtry. So ahead.” Cecelia was almost drooling in anticipation. “What is it?”

“Queen Victoria has commissioned Eddie and me to investigate the recent robberies in Soho.”

“Ho ho!” Now why Prince Eddie thought it clever to repeat his nonsensical rhyme no one will ever know. It wasn’t important anyway.

“We have reason to believe Chief Inspector Malcolm Tent is forcing merchants to pay to keep his henchmen from robbing them,” Millicent pronounced.

“I knew there had to be a good reason why I didn’t like that man.”

“And Andy is helping us,” Millicent continued in a whisper.

“Him! I don’t believe it!”

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Sixteen

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. She’s popular.
Bedelia stood and turned her back to Andy to avoid the incoming kiss. She was afraid she would like it too much. “No, we weren’t.” Before she could evaluate his situation and how to escape the outcome she actually wanted to happen, Bedelia felt warm, masculine breath on the nape of her neck. Her eyes fluttered.

“Yes, we were.”

“How impudent!”

Andy put his hands on her slender shoulder, turned her around and went in for the kiss. “And you love it!”

Again Bedelia stepped away, and Andy ended up kissing air. She decided to confront the Man in the Red Underwear with the cold hard facts. “Is it true you plan to steal a packet of important papers from Chief Inspector Tent tonight?”

“The only thing I plan to steal tonight is your heart.” He swaggered toward her.

“I dare you try! I warn you I’m quite proficient in protecting myself with this!” She held up her riding crop.

“Oh.” His voice dripped with drollness. “Do you really think I’d let that riding crop stop me if I wanted to feel those tender lips pressed against mine?”

“How dare you!” Bedelia raised her arm to strike but he grabbed her by the wrist. She struggled only a moment, then dropped her head back, ready to be kissed. “Be gentle, please.”

“Many women would willingly give me their kisses. Why should I struggle for yours?” The Man in Red released his grip, walked to the lounge where he stretched out seductively.

Bedelia looked at her crop, went to the door and shouted into the ballroom, “Does anyone out there want to buy a riding crop—cheap? No? Oh well. Without aiming, she tossed the crop into the crowd.

The same guest who earlier begged for something to eat was beaned in the head and screamed in pain. “I’m never coming to a party in this house again!”

“Sorry.” She closed the door and walked to the lounge. “And what makes you think I want to offer you a kiss?”

Before the Man in the Red Underwear could respond, Bedelia pounced on him and began kissing his lips with extreme ardor. He struggled to sit and up gently push her away.

“Please, please. As I would not steal your kisses, you should not steal mine. I give them to you willingly.”

They stared into each other’s eyes, slowly moving in for a kiss. It was quite tender but also smoldered with such intensity that their lips were in danger of third degree burns. When they finally came up for air, the lovers were ready for some more poetry. Bedelia started.

You are the stars that dot the night.
You sparkle bright, you are the light.
Like diamonds in a wedding ring,
A moon-lit pond that’s glistening.
These are the images I see
In dreams of lovers, you and me.

The Man in the Red Underwear, not to be outdone in the sizzling verse category, offer his own admiration for his love.

You are a candle’s flickering flame,
A gentle glow, always the same.
You give me warmth, you make me cry
For life with you forever new until we die.

They were going in for another kiss when the door to the ballroom flew open and Inspector Tent barged in.

“Aha!” he exclaimed as though catching some street urchin with his sooty hand in Queen Victoria’s cookie jar. He rushed to the mantel to retrieve a sword. After getting his weapon, he took a proper parrying pose.

“Aha!” the Man in Red repeated. For a person who created romantic poetry off the top of his head quite easily, he wasn’t much for riposte repartee. The sword practically flew from the mantel and into his hand.

“En garde!” Tent issued forth in a challenge.

“En garde!” Once again red boy went with the traditional reply.

Bedelia, still seated on the lounge, was aghast. “Oh no! Not that! Don’t hurt him!”

Each man stopped to look at her. “To whom are you speaking?”

“Um, both!” She shrugged and smiled in awkwardness.

“I thought I taught you a lesson earlier!” The Man in Red began with a lunge.

“You know what they say. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” Tent maneuvered as he deflected the incoming blows until he was facing the open doorway to the ballroom. “Look!” He pointed to the party crowd. “A woman is being mugged!”

“You can’t fool me with that one again.” The Man in Red refused to turn his attention away from the inspector.

However, Bedelia stood, went to the door and gasped. “But there is a woman being mugged in the ballroom!”

That observation stopped the duel in its tracks as the two men joined her at the door. “What?” For two people who didn’t like each other very much, they were learning to speak in unison quite well.

“Oh. No.” Bedelia shook her head. “My mistake. It’s only an extremely voluptuous woman trying to scratch her back. It’s nothing. Continue.”

“Hey! Another sword fight!” a random voice shouted out from the ballroom which ignited a stampede for the doorway, creating a logjam of sorts.

“Dammit! I can’t see!” another voice bawled.

The duelists pranced around the library as the crowd applauded more rounds of thrusting and blocking. The Man in Red abruptly stopped to point at Bedelia. “Miss Smart-Astin! Your pants are unbuttoned!”

“What!?” The dirty old man turned to look, his eyes filled with lustful anticipation.

His red-festooned opponent kicked him in the posterior, knocking the inspector down, causing him to drop his sword. Deftly the younger man swooped the weapon up and for only the slightest of moments held it beneath Tent’s chin.

“You fool me, shame on me. I fool you, shame on you.”

Bedelia double-checked her trousers. “Why, I’m buttoned,” she announced in amazement. Then she approached the Man in Red. “But you didn’t kill him.” By this time she was totally confused, astounded and sexually aroused.

Adroitly he put both swords in one hand, dipped Bedelia with the free arm and kissed her passionately on her pouty red lips.

“The Man in the Red Underwear is no villain. Remember that.” He stood her up and walked toward the open window. He paused long enough to add, “By the way, tell Lady Snob-Johnson I shall return her swords tomorrow.”

The crowd gave him a rousing ovation as he went through the window. The partiers returned to the ballroom where the band was belting out a tune with a syncopated beat. At the same time, however, Millicent led Eddie to lounge, threw him down and pounced on him, smothering him with kisses. Cecelia carefully closed the door and marched toward the inspector who was having quite a time of it getting to his feet. After all he was much older than he appeared to be.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Fifty-Three

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. On their honeymoon they plan to derail a train.
David and Wallis sat finishing their lunch in a small intimate dining room in Schloss Wasserleonburg castle. The bay window exposed the Austrian Alps in its full August splendor. Wallis had been successful in extracting information from Ribbentrop about train activity. Regular deliveries were being made from Salzburg through Villach and across the Italian frontier to the port of Trieste on the extreme northeast border of Italy. Certain rail cars were sealed and marked as property of the Nazi government. David and Wallis relayed the information to MI6, and General Trotter arrived at the castle last week with their orders and preparation. They were to derail the engine and discover what was in the sealed cars. The train would be crossing the Gail River near Arnoldstein about 10 p.m. After a few moments of silent reverence, Wallis reached over to squeeze David’s hand.
“Are you sure we have to go through with this mission?” Her voice was real, for once, filled with apprehension. “Let me go out in the woods and pick the best poisonous vines. Give me a good sturdy hat pin. But carrying sticks of dynamite in a backpack across a mountain to a railroad track, well, it scares the hell out of me.”
David smiled. “Nonsense. Nothing could scare the hell out of you.”
Andreas, the majordomo, entered and bowed. “Was the luncheon to your satisfaction?”
“Of course.” David leaned back in his chair and puffed on a cigarette. His line of vision never left the view through the window. ”The duchess and I were just discussing the beauty of the Austrian Alps. We’ve decided we must be a part of this enchanting forest.”
“Well, not literally a part of the landscape,” Wallis added as she sucked on her own cigarette.
“We would like the kitchen to fix us a picnic supper. We plan to hike down to the Gail River, camp under the stars and return in the morning.”
“Ah,” Andreas exclaimed, “an excellent choice. Many of our guests say a hike to the Gail River is the highlight of their stay in Austria. May we organize your backpacks? Our maids are quite expert—“
“Oh no,” David interrupted. “The duchess loves to pack, don’t you, my dear?”
“Yes, I’m just dying for this adventure.” Wallis crushed her cigarette in what was left of her sunny-side up egg.
David and Wallis spent the afternoon packing. Each had German uniforms. David had an officer’s and Wallis a private’s.
“How come you get to be the colonel?”
“I speak fluent German. It’s my mutter’s tongue.”
“I speak German too.”
“Like what?”
Scheitze. Nein. Weiner schnitzel.”
“That would be fine if we were going to a German beer hall.”
Wallis picked up a revolver.
“And when do I use this?”
“As the Boy Scouts say, be prepared.”
Then she clicked on her torch to make sure the batteries were working. Its light flashed on. “Good. Don‘t stumble through the Alps at night without one.”
Late afternoon they left the castle and entered the Austrian forest wearing fashionable yet jaunty hiking clothes, each shouldering a backpack. As the sun set, David and Wallis sat on a boulder outcrop to eat their supper. They turned on their torches as they returned to the well-worn mountain trail. They had only gone a couple of miles when a grizzled old man pulling along pack mule appeared coming the other way. David waved at him, and he nodded.
“Nothing as invigorating as an evening hike in the Alps,” the duke announced.
“Except for a plunge in the Adriatic,” the man replied.
“I’m starved,” Wallis added. “Do you have sandwiches on you?”
“No.” The old man went to a bag tied around his mule. “But I have something much more satisfying.” He pulled out two sticks of dynamite and handed one to each of them.
“Will that be enough?” she asked.
“You want to derail the train, not blow it to kingdom come. Happy hunting.” The stranger continued to pull his donkey into the darkness and soon disappeared.
“And what are we to do with these?” she asked.
David turned his back to her. “Ever so gently slide it into my pack. “
She followed his direction and then turned so he could put the other stick in her pack.
“Aren’t these things supposed to have fuses?” she asked.
“They’ll be given to us closer to the track.”
A couple of hours passed without much conversation. Soon they heard the sound of rapids from the river. Before they came upon the Gail they saw a portion of a flag hanging from a bush. It was the Union Jack.
“Hello,” David whispered as he took the cloth and stuffed it into his pocket.
“How dreadfully unpatriotic.” Wallis leaned over to look behind the bush where two rolls of fuse wire were nestled. “That’s a lot of wire.”
“Well, you don’t want to be too close when you light one of those things.”
Each took one roll and continued down to the river bank. When they arrived they looked up to see the railroad bridge silhouetted against a half-moon. David and Wallis climbed up to the track where they opened their packs and pulled out the two sticks of dynamite.
They laid the sticks between the two rails, attached the fuses and unrolled the wires back into the forest. Then they opened their packs, pulled out German uniforms and changed clothes. They sat on the ground and waited.
“So how are we going to light these things?” Wallis cracked.
“Don’t you remember the training General Trotter gave us when he visited the castle last week? How fast fuses run and how to calculate igniting the fuse so it explodes right before the engine rolls over it. He went over it several times.” He paused. “You brought your cigarettes, didn’t you? Light the fuse with the lit end.” David smiled at her.
“I could use one now.”
“Don’t you dare.” He looked into her eyes. “Now what can we do under the moonlight while we’re waiting for the train?”
Before Wallis answered, they heard the distant call of a train whistle. They turned off their torches.
“I hope we’re fast learners.” Wallis fumbled for her lighter.
The whistle blew louder. David put his hand on Wallis’s.
“Not yet.”
Soon they saw the engine light appear in the distance.
“Now.”
They lit their fuses and watch the sparkling line go toward the track. The train was now loud, the cars clearly visible.
“Dammit,” she hissed. “We didn’t light them too soon, did we?”
“No, no.” David’s voice did not convey confidence.
The explosion rocked the earth. The engineer threw on his brakes, causing them to squeal. David and Wallis covered their ears and grimaced at the sound. The train slowed a little but not enough to avoid the gaping hole in the track. It hit the broken rail with a heavy thud; the attached cars derailed and overturned. Nazi soldiers crawled out of the train windows and jumped from the doors. They scrambled about the wreckage like a bunch of disturbed cockroaches. David and Wallis put on their helmets, grabbed their revolvers and torches and joined the hysteria.
They had only gone past a couple of cars when they noticed one that had “Nazi government” emblazoned on the side and whose seal was broken. Wallis pointed her torch inside, lighting the contents. They saw piles of fifteen centimeter naval shells.
“They’re making sure their war ships have plenty of ammo when they move into the Mediterranean to fight the British and the French,” David muttered.
A voice behind them bellowed in German. When they turned around they saw a colonel with his revolver drawn. He spat something at them.
“I am Colonel von Seidleman!” David barked in perfect German. “How dare you leave this shipment of shells unprotected!”
“That was exactly what I was doing! How did you arrive here so fast?” the colonel asked.
“That is my job!” David retorted. “Why weren’t you here sooner?”
Seig heil!” Wallis spat out.
The colonel spun toward her. “How dare you speak to me in such a tone!”
“Oh, to hell with it,” Wallis said in English as she pulled out her revolver and shot him in the chest.
In seconds, they were surrounded by other German soldiers.
“We recognized this man to be a British spy!” David pointed to the body on the ground. “Who is responsible for this?”
The colonel moaned. David’s eyes widened before he regained his composure.
“Good! He’s alive. Take him off and interrogate him immediately. Let me know what you find out.”
The soldiers picked up the colonel and carried him to the back of the train. David and Wallis turned and walked up to examine the damage to the engine, then disappeared into the darkness of the forest.
“I thought I told you to say nothing,” David asked in a hiss.
“Oh sheitze.”

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Fifteen

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. Tent woos Bedelia.
The door opened which broke the romantic atmosphere beyond repair. An oddly dressed man, bent over, entered the room. He bowed deeply, displaying the worst looking white-haired toupee ever worn on an English gentleman.

“Excuse me, sir,” the bent over man wearing the bad wig croaked.

“Yes, what do you want?” Tent had a time of it trying to control his exasperation.

“There’s a gentleman at the door to see you, sir.”

Tent’s eyes widened. “That might be my—what I’ve been expecting.” He turned, smiled and took Bedelia’s hand. “You’ll never know how much I value your intelligence.” He kissed her knuckles. “Your cooperation.” He kissed her wrist. “And your friendship.”

She withdrew her hand before he could kiss any further. Tent took the muted rebuff gracefully and retreated from the room. Bedelia wandered to the other side to stare out a window into the foggy London night. The man in the bad disguise ran behind the screen and began tossing items of his costume up, over and every which way. Bedelia was in the mood for another soliloquy.

Alas, my heart in torn in twain—or is it thrain?
Inspector Tent’s so suave and yet so old.
He’s everything a girl should want but let me be bold.
He’ll be stuck in a rocking chair while I’m still pretty young.
And then there’s my old sweetheart when love had just begun.
He’s handsome, kind and gentle too but one thing I must say.
Lord Andrew Taylor seems to have changed, oh hell I think he’s—

A voice bellowed from behind the screen, “Okay, who left the canapés on the damn floor?”

Bedelia furrowed her porcelain-like brow, shook her head and continued in iambic-pentameter.

I must admit there is a third I might could love.
The Man in Red is heaven from above.
He is so brave, exciting but a criminal.
And I have vowed to bring about his fall.
I need a way to take the best traits of all three.
But then again could one of them love me?

The Man in the Red Underwear made a grand entrance from behind the screen, looking dapper in his red tights and red blouse opened to his navel. It would be more than any girl could bear except for the fact the tray of Lady Snob-Johnson’s canapes were stuck to his left foot

You are fair! A gem so rare! True blue and square!
I love your hair! I am the Man in Red Underwear!

He tried valiantly to recite his themed poetry but the tray ruined the moment.

“It’s you! Bedelia ran to the door and opened it. “Oh chief inspector!”

The man in red underwear followed her, his left foot clanging on the hardwood flooring. “You don’t want to do that.” He wedged himself between her and the door, closing it carefully, not making a sound. “If Chief Inspector Tent came in here now I might have to leave—“ He tried to step toward the window but was stopped because Bedelia stood on the tray. They both looked down. She giggled and lifted her tiny foot.

“Oh, excuse me.”

“And then you’d never know if you could fall in love with a brave, dashing, exciting criminal.” He wore that irritating smile that a man wore when he knew the lady had the hots for him.

“It wasn’t very couth of you to eavesdrop on my private thoughts.”

“Do you expect a criminal to be couth?” He pressed his advantage.

Bedelia turned swiftly toward the liquor cabinet. “Would you care for a drink? No, I suppose it isn’t necessary to offer a drink to a criminal, is it? Then I don’t care if you want one or not.”

“Do you know you’re beautiful when you’re confused?” That retort would have been much more effective without the clanging of the tray on his foot.

“How did you get in here?” She looked around the room. “You didn’t hurt that old man, did you?”

“No, he’s just fine.” To prove his point, he spoke in the old man’s voice. “The Man in the Red Underwear is my friend.”

“You scoundrel!”

“A charming scoundrel—“ He looked down at his foot. “Excuse me for just a moment, will you?”

“Of course.” Bedelia made herself comfortable on the lounge as the man in red pulled the tray from his foot.
“Ah, that’s much better. Where was I? Oh yes. A charming scoundrel, you must admit.” He sat on the lounge, leaning forward to kiss Bedelia, but the tray got in the way. “Care for a canapé?”

“Not since you stepped in them.”

“Well, what am I supposed to do with them?” Our hero was getting quite perturbed.

“Why don’t you put them under the chaise lounge?” she offered.

“Splendid idea!” He slid the tray under the lounge and again leaned into Bedelia’s cherubic face. “We were about to kiss, weren’t we?”

The Last Halloween

I was in the sixth grade when I celebrated my last Halloween. That is to say, the last Halloween as a child who enjoyed the Halloween Festival at school and trick-or-treating.
Each classroom was transformed into a special treat. One was a haunted house, another a cake walk, a fishing pond, white elephant sale and many more, each costing a dime or quarter to participate. At the end of the evening was a variety show put on by the parents who all acted very silly. The kids loved it. All the proceeds went to the PTA.
When I was selected as one of five boys to be the “spook” in a Hit the Spook with a Marshmallow game I was thrilled. My mother drove me downtown to a five-and-dime to buy a mask. She stayed in the car while I went in to get something to protect my face from all the marshmallows that were going to be thrown at me. When I reached the big table in the middle of the store with the Halloween masks, I froze.
My mother had a way of criticizing every purchase I ever made. I picked up a mask that I liked but put it back because it cost too much. I looked for something really cheap but they looked like something a first grader would wear. Finally I picked out a face paint kit that cost very little. Pleased that I was going to escape my mother’s wrath for wasting money, I ran out to the car where my mother had been waiting.
“Where have you been?” Her tone was withering. “I thought I was about to die in this heat. (author’s note: we lived in Texas which is still very hot even in the last week of October) I thought you were going to just run in, grab something and be right back out! How long does it take to buy a silly Halloween mask anyway?”
I showed her the makeup kit and tried to explain how cheap it was when she interrupted me.
“Now how is that going to protect your face from those marshmallows? I thought the whole idea of getting a mask was to protect yourself.”
Back home I sewed together some old sheets into what I thought looked like a ghost costume. I use the term sewing very loosely. I used an old treadle machine which my mother and threaded for me. At Halloween sunset my mother told me she was too tired to drive me back to school and I would have to walk. It wasn’t that far so I didn’t mind.
Halfway there, however, I remembered I had not brought my money which I had carefully put aside for the past month just for spending at the festival. It was too late to go back home to get it and be at the school on time.
When I did arrive I found out none of the other boys had shown up so I had to be the only “spook” getting pelted by marshmallows. It was that night that I realized I really wasn’t that popular at school. Too many of the boys were way too thrilled in throwing marshmallows at me. This went on for an hour.
Finally the teacher closed down the attraction and said I could go enjoy the rest of the festival. Only I couldn’t. I didn’t have any money to pay to play. I couldn’t even see the variety show.
One woman—I can’t remember if it were a teacher or a parent—who asked me what I was dressed up as. “Are you supposed to be a little girl.”
“No,” I responded weakly. “A ghost.”
“Well, you look more like a little girl.”
When I walked home I didn’t even feel like trick-or-tricking at the neighbors’ houses. The bloom was off the pumpkin, so to speak.
The next time I remember having a good time at Halloween was when I had small children and chaperoned them around trick-or-treating. We decorated the house with fake cobwebs and jack-o-lanterns. Now the kids are grown and the local parents sent out emails asking if everyone was participating in trick or treating. I’m old and tired so I replied no.
Ah, but in the early years, that was fun, before the last Halloween came along.