Shelly Reuben’s new novel is about … well, we’ll let you find out for yourself as we weekly serialize the chapters. If you miss one, get back up to speed with our article archive. Now, welcome to:
Chapter 40 - Aftermath: Part 1
By four o’clock on that Saturday afternoon, the words “Chestnut Avenue” had been crossed off Mayor Bamberger’s TO DO list, because…
• Cadogan McClure was out of the picture. Both literally and figuratively.
• Followers of The Great Filmmaker were drinking, smoking, sniffing, injecting, or otherwise engaged in non-political indoor sports.
• The vehicle owners whose cars were towed either had already retrieved them or were in the process of retrieving them from the parking lot adjacent to the Department of Public Works.
• By the end of the day, all of the spaces on both sides of the street were occupied.
• None of those spaces were surrounded by an invisible barrier.
It was time, the mayor concluded, to wrap up the operation and send everyone home.
Miracle Elsie Abbot, despite initial attempts to intimidate Burgess “Mouse” Meekly and Daisy Dalrymple, had uncharacteristically backed off. Probably because they were efficient on the phones and so endearingly friendly and funny, they captured her heart. Burgess (by now everyone was calling him “Mouse”) entertained the two women with a reenactment – he did all the voices – of how he had lured Cadogan McClure and Tallahassee Dan off Chestnut Avenue in search of a mythical parking space and an equally mythical gorilla.
Daisy told a few Cadogan stories, too, and finished by admitting that she had quit her job without giving him two weeks’ notice, to which Mrs. Abbot immediately responded, “Well, young lady. You can come to work for me.”
Which was not Daisy’s idea of a dream job, but might be a practical stopgap until the right one came along.
All three of them – Miracle Abbot, Mouse Meekly, and Daisy Dalrymple – left City Hall at 4:00 p.m. Daisy and Mouse invited the octogenarian to join them for coffee and a quick bite to eat, but Miracle said, “No thank you. I have to meet my great niece for dinner.”
“Oh,” Daisy asked. “Does she live with you?”
“No. Jane is in college. She’s studying to be a dress designer. I am her favorite aunt. I am also her only aunt. She came to town for a visit.”
“Oh, no!” Daisy exclaimed. “And you missed spending the day with her because of us!”
But Miracle Elsie Abbot primly shook her head.
“It was neither an inconvenience nor a disappointment as Jane went shopping, and that is not an activity I enjoy. I far preferred being here and working with you.”
“How about tomorrow?” Daisy inquired.
Mrs. Abbot’s brow furrowed as she tucked a curl under her felt hat.
“In Primrose Park at 2:00 p.m. Mayor Chiquita declared it Frosty the Snowman Day.”
The department head looked bewildered, so Daisy went on. “She’s holding a best snowman competition. We’ll all be there. It’s going to be great fun, and you absolutely must bring Jane.”
Daisy turned to the voice actor, “You’re coming, aren’t you, Mister Mouse?”
Burgess Meekly nodded. “We all are. The mayor insists.”
Miracle Elsie Abbot carefully removed her coat from a hanger, and as Burgess stepped closer to help her put it on, she said, “I’ll think about it.”
All three stepped into the hall.
Mrs. Abbot locked the door to her office behind her, and the 311 Resource Hotline was closed for the day.
After Mayor Bamberger and her nephew departed, she also locked her office door.
Amos Goode asked, “Do you want a ride home, Aunt Chickie?”
“Yes, darling. Thank you. But can we drive past Chestnut Avenue on the way? I want to see what it looks like after all of that sturm and drang.”
Amos nodded. “I’m curious, too.”
So they drove uptown on Chestnut Avenue, and slowed down for the block between 83rd and 84th Streets. But it now looked so much like every other block in The Big City that they almost missed it on their way home.
At a little after 3:00 p.m., Maid Marion and Jimmy Christmas were wrapping up the first half of that day’s adventures, too. She dropped him off at his television studio, returned to Chestnut Avenue, and pulled into a parking space directly in front of her store just as another car was pulling out.
She spent the rest day at the Elegant Eccentricities Gift Shop. She sold two Royal Doulton figurines (a balloon lady and a balloon man), one brass candle snuffer, and ten Revolutionary War lead soldiers. She also sold four vintage wicker rug beaters and an antique cradle, which up until then had been filled with pretty needlepoint pillows.
After his news broadcast, Jimmy Christmas called Maid Marion and invited her to join him for dinner.
When she hesitated, he pleaded, “Please. I want to celebrate.”
Maid Marion sighed.
“Okay,” she said.
“Deal. I’ll pick you up at 8:30.”
“Jimmy,” there was a laugh in Maid Marion’s voice. “You don’t have a car.”
“Oh. Right. Then you can pick me up at 8:30.”
She laughed outright.
“Dear boy,” she murmured.
Which left only Noah Pitt and Lilly Snow.
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2021. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com