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(Our Story So Far: Having gotten himself trapped by his Aunt Harriet into an attempt to steal her knitting club’s trophy, the Champion Knockers Award (get your mind out of the gutter; the club is called the Needle Knockers), back from the evil Letitia Mortimer, and then dragooned Carolyn Emblehoff, ex-flame and current Dragon Lady of the Tort Courts to help take Brutus the Wonder Pit out of the equation, Ponsie finds out that he has to pretend to be married to Carolyn as the price of her co-operation so that she can foil the attentions of ex-suitor Mike McCoy, a wrestler known as the Pukin’ Nuke. They have paused to eat in a diner on the way to Letitia’s party, and during the interval Ponsie has explained his history as McCoy’s erstwhile creator. As we rejoin our tale, already in progress, Ponsie and Carolyn are once again on the road to Brewster, Letitia’s ancestral seat in upstate NY.)

Carolyn slouched in the passenger seat as I turned onto the highway, apparently unaware that her skirt had ridden up so high that the only thing preventing total exposure of her, um, nether regions was a shadow not quite as wide as wheat thin. Not that the skirt was all that wide to begin with (see pic).  “So you’re the one who turned that nice boy into a circus monkey?” she asked with all the old prosecutorial tone I hadn’t heard for nearly an hour.

“You make it sound like a Bad Thing,” I complained reasonably.

“Puking on muscle-bound morons in front of thousands of screaming fans, none of whom have enough IQ to power the flashlight on my key ring?” she drawled sarcastically. “You don’t see anything even faintly degrading about that?”

“Hey, he’s made a nice living out of puking on morons. Morons got a right to be happy too, you know, and if puking on them does it, what’s so wrong about that? Besides, I was just trying to help him out. As a friend.”

“A friend.”

“Exactly.” I was proud of myself for coming up with that one. It was, I thought, unanswerable.

I was wrong.

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Once we got all that straightened out and Diego introduced us, we got on fine. I even liked him, the way you might like a big dumb puppy who, yes, blunders around breaking the furniture, but you can tell even while he’s doing it that he means well. As a matter of fact, I was the one who got him into wrestling.

“You?” Carolyn squealed. “Why, that’s wonderful, Ponsie!”

“Why?”

“Because he’s undoubtedly grateful and fond of you and he’ll think you’re worthy and it will all be over. Gad, I’m one lucky broad. Fancy you being his mentor. He must love you.”

“He must, must he?”

“Oodles and oodles.”

I didn’t say anything. There was nothing I could say.

“Doesn’t he?” There was a warning tone in her voice that suggested she was beginning to suspect that all was not quite as chummy between myself and the Puker as it had at first appeared. I wriggled uncomfortably on the seat and pretended I hadn’t heard her. “I’m sorry. What was the question?” Read the rest of this entry »

Carolyn donned a long wooly sweater as she got out of the car, this despite the heat of the day. It hung well below her knees and was so bulky that even on a specimen like her it wasn’t entirely clear which gender was hiding under its lumps and folds.

“You’re punishing me, aren’t you?”

She sniffed. “It’s to protect me from the rats and roaches, since you won’t take me to a reasonable dining establishment.”

I didn’t bother to argue. The 5-star rumbling in my tummy would have done it for me had Carolyn been listening. She wasn’t. She was too busy crinkling her nose at imaginary spots on the table and demanding that someone in authority sandblast the bench she would have to sit on.

“Carolyn,” I said wearily, “you’re making a scene.”

She smiled that ghastly sweet smile again. “Nothing to the one I’ll make when I collapse from breathing the fumes of anthrax that are wafting from whatever is beneath this…seat.”

I groaned. “It’s just a diner, Carolyn, not the pestilential core of a New Jersey landfill.”

She glanced at her surroundings, a nice little chrome-and-wood diner from the age of art deco. “You could have fooled me.” Read the rest of this entry »

If I could have sunk any lower, my butt would have been dragging like the anchor on a sinking ship. Through the pall of gloom that surrounded me like a gang of loan sharks on payday, I sensed rather than saw that I was missing something. There was something there, something just beyond the edge of the waiting scaffold, something that had flown by me like a snake with wings. Then…I had it. “What about the bet?”

“What?”

“You said you lost a bet.”

“Now don’t try to change the subject, Ponsie. I want to know everything. You and Mike. Give, son, or I’ll pull my skirt down.”

I sighed. In this mood, Carolyn was not to be trifled with. She smelled dirt, and with Carolyn, that’s like waving a fat haddock in front of a seal that hasn’t eaten in a month – you will hand it over or suffer a bitten ankle for an appetizer.

In any case, her threat was enough. The thought of being denied the sight of her streamlined thighs for the remainder of this endless drive – the only possible source of pure, guiltless, adolescent joy one could hope to be exposed to (as it were) on this senseless trip up the Amazon in a leaky boat with the nearest crocodile repellent three countries over – was enough to send my reticence into Sleeping Beauty mode for the duration.

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“Yes, that.”

“Not much to tell, really,” she said, closely examining her scimitar-like fingernails for smears of the Braithwaite blood. “It was sort of a bet. I lost.”

“Your bet somebody on something and if you lost you had to marry me?” I regarded her with the objective scientific curiosity for which I am so well known and inquired politely, “Are you insane, Carolyn? Is that your problem? There is a certain trembling around the lower thorax–”

That's a lower thorax?“Never mind my lower thorax,” she snapped. “My lower thorax is none of your business. We will leave my lower thorax out of this, if you don’t mind.”

“Very well, if you insist. You may consider your lower thorax officially extinguished.”

“Thank you.”

“I won’t mention it again.”

“Please don’t.”

“The subject of your lower thorax is closed forever.”

“I’d appreciate that.”

“It’s a very nice lower thorax, though–”

“Ponsie….”

“I’m just saying. I have a right to say you have a nice lower thorax, don’t I, what with our impending nuptials and all? I mean, if I’m going to be your husband, it seems to me that your lower thorax is the very least I may expect to be presented with. As it were.”

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my future with carolynThe long ride up in the Turd Fergus was one of the oddest experiences I have ever had. With death staring me in the face like a bill collector with a nail-studded baseball bat due to an unknown quantity of quality explosive nestled not so safely in the back seat of a lurching vehicle which seemed to practice testing the limits of the law of gravity every time a tire looked at a pothole crosswise, I was in no mood to coddle reality. I felt most of the time as if I was floating on a sea of freeze-dried coffee crystals on their way to a pot of boiling water. It was surreal, not to mention distasteful. That Carolyn spent most of the drive in the seat across from me humming a merry Elizabethan raga only added to an atmosphere of Dali-esque disjointedness. “Would you stop that, please?”

“What?”

“Humming that funeral dirge.”

“It’s not a funeral dirge.”

“It sounds like a funeral dirge.”

“Well, it’s not. It’s a lively Patamanian Peasant Dance. I learned it from one of my clients.”

“There’s no such thing as a Patamanian Peasant Dance. You made that up.”

“O, ye of little faith.”

“Alright, you had a Patamanian client and he taught you one of his Peasant Dances. What was he on trial for, wearing those balloon pants in public?”

“Patamanians do not prance their Peasant Dances in balloon pants. They parade around in plaid pants pleated and treated with partially-hydrogenated peanut oil. It’s very colorful.”

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As the pit of my stomach hit the floor on its second bounce, I noticed a suitcase sitting in the middle of it. The floor, not my stomach. “What’s that?”

“A suitcase.”

For the sake of The Mission, I suppressed the growl that rose from my toes even though doing so nearly choked me. “I can see that,” I said patiently. “What’s it doing on the floor?”

“Nothing. Just resting. Luggage doesn’t do much. It tends to be rather passive. Like some men I know.”

“Carolyn,” I said, sighing, “at any other moment I’d probably be among the first to applaud your vibrant wit and subtle insults, but right now is not that time. All I want to know is that you’re not bringing it with you.”

“Oh, but I am.” She raised an eyebrow one-sixteenth of a centimeter too high on the left for true innocence. “It’s my trousseau.”

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I’ll say this for it, it was a bright, warm day for a long, long ride. I picked Carolyn up at 3 sharp. Her house was on the sunny side of $half a mil, and with a Jag peeking its cheeky nose out of her garage, I had to wonder why we were taking Aunt Harriet’s Turd Fergus.

“Because mine would be too conspicuous for a get-away, silly,” she answered as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Is this how we end up?“Getaway?” I inquired shakily. The morning’s bathrobe-inspired bravery was wearing off fast in the face of Carolyn’s breezy glee. “Are we going to need to make a getaway?”

“Don’t you think so?” she asked, bemused by my rank innocence. “We’re stealing something, aren’t we?”

“You think they’ll chase us for stealing a knitting trophy?”

Dahling,” she said, “you clearly don’t know much about needle-knockers. They’re vicious.”

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