Stan and I sat in the lounge, him in a comfy chair, me on a couch, idly strumming Gramfer’s guitar.
I eventually worked out chords to Summertime Blues, playing and singing, as Stan sang along and said the spoken lines in the “Kingfish” voice. I must’ve played the song to death, but no one seemed to mind; I sensed a strange energy growing in the room, but back then I didn’t yet know what it was or why it was there, much less how to use or control it.
I was still playing when the doorbell rang. Ian ran to answer it, dressed in his “cricket finery,” his face freshly scrubbed. I decided to play it cool and keep strumming, as Ian and Jenny exchanged polite but rather formal pleasantries at the door.
Stan retreated to a remote portion of the lounge as she entered. She turned her attention to me instead, her features growing increasingly irate.
“Will you stop strumming that thing, Reggie,” she said at last.
I grinned; it helped, as it turned out, to hide my own reaction to what I said next.
I stopped strumming as her eyes narrowed. I thought they were going to shoot killer rays, like space aliens or monsters sometimes shot in the sci-fi movies.
“I beg your pardon.”
“Sure – take off the specs and you look just like Jean Seberg?”
The grin froze on my face; it was as if someone else had hijacked my voice and mouth.
Mrs. Tippins’ eyebrows were raised. Ian was in enough of a state of shock to be a candidate for care. But, Jenny was also stunned – nearly blindsided. Stan seized the moment.
“Course y’do – jus’ like Jean Seberg – well, if Jean Seberg was Chinese.”
Slowly, in the strangeness of the moment, Jenny looked as if she were buying it – or at least half-buying it – she started to remove her glasses, then stopped. Ian and Mrs. Tippins looked as if they were relaxing.
I felt my own anxiety ebb away too – but I also felt the new energy ebbing away. I knew I had to follow up now.
“We did’n mean t’exclude you, Jenny,” I said. “We did ignore ya, but only ’cause Stan and I were so busy concentrating on doing our comedy bits to distract everyone as we got Ian our of the room, that we didn’t think clearly about anything else.
‘We did abandon ya, but ‘cause we wa too distracted, not ‘cause we didn’t want ya ’round.”
Jenny’s expression froze. “You’re being repetitious, Reggie,” she said flatly.
I held up my hands. “True repetition though, I swear it.”
“We even called a halt to any board games ’til we all made up.” Stan winced at his remark as soon as he said it.
But, for an instant, for some strange reason, it brought a hint of a smile to Jenny’s face.
Then she screamed.
Ian and I jumped. Stan ran and hid behind his chair, trying in vain to pretend that he didn’t exist. After weeks of exposure to Drusilla Chase, we could all be forgiven, I think, for assuming the worst.
Yet, something in my head instantly countered this reaction and told me to look at Jenny’s face again. At first, she was shaking her head, face down, and I couldn’t see. Then she looked up, and I saw she that she was laughing hysterically.
“I can’t believe how much you three look like a bunch of scared Labrador puppies that have just torn up the back yard,” she gasped, trying to catch her breath.
“I feel like Snow White with seven dwarves – except it’s the three dorks. No, make that two dorks – Ian had no say in what you did, and I can’t believe he’d have gone along if he had.
“Ian’s asked me to help you with your Easter ‘penance’ – and this ‘doo-wop’ group, whatever that is. So, for his sake – and because you two doofuses clearly need a keeper – my answer is ‘yes.’”
Then she went plum colored.
“Oh no! Please forgive my language, Mrs. Tippins. I assure you I am not usually a trash mouth.”
“Exigent circumstances, my dear,” Mrs. Tippins, ever the gracious lady of the house, said reassuringly “Quite understandable.”
“I’ve seen Ian’s copy of the music – not this dotty ‘doo-wop’ stuff, we’ll attend to that later – but the Easter service material.”
Jenny turned to me. “Knowing you, Reggie, you’ll have copious notes, including a fair bit of musical notation. I’d like to borrow it overnight – after I’ve heard the three of you do a run-through of the material.
‘Come, the afternoon is wearing on, and I’ve much to study tonight, if I am to help.”
© 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be available shortly. The next novel of the series, By Good Angels Tenanted, will be available later in 2018.