Lifting a Curse Part 4

Truth be told, the whipping set me back a lot worse than I thought. It always kicks in afterwards. People love to say, “You’ll feel THAT in the morning!” But it was more like a car wreck, the stiffness set in and lasted a week.

Anyhow, my instructions were clear. Go to Confession, make amends with two of my enemies, and avoid the third. As for the Confession…ah, well, if I recall right, the Priest always ends that with “Go and sin no more.” Let’s face it, that’s problematic, for any number of reasons that aren’t hard to figure out. That box remains unchecked.

As for the first two enemies? Well, this is where it gets interesting.

The first hates me because I bought something at an estate sale that should not have been for sale, and I ended up selling it for two grand. She’s been making my life hell ever since with nuisance lawsuits. The second one I must have rubbed wrong, which is really only a problem because she’s an assistant county prosecutor with some ambitions.

The first thing I did was go out on eBay and noodle around. I pulled up some old records, and was able to track down the gentleman who had bought the item in question. For the sake of the story, we’ll just call it a moss-covered three-handled family gradunza. The buyer is apparently undergoing a change in life, and is now selling off his gradunza collection. And out there for sale is the specific gradunza that has been the point of contention with the librarian, with like three days four hours and 23 minutes left on it. And apparently interest in gradunzas is falling, because it’s out there with zero bids on a starting price of $474.99, with only 2 people watching. So I was beside myself; couldn’t believe my luck. I had long since lost the two grand and then some on legal fees, but I was going to be able to get out of this for a lot less than the next visit to civil court.

I can’t tell you the mental agony, weighing the “Buy it Now” price of $699.99. I finally decided to put in a low bid and see what happened. One thing, I try to never panic. The other thing, the pain and anxiety of watching this thing was kind of an extension of the whipping the Hex’nmeisterin administered. It ended up coming to me for the minimum bid.

It arrived in good shape, and now came the question of how to deliver it. Take it to her house? No knowing whether she would be there, answer, or call the cops. And the latter might bring me into the clutches of enemy number two. Mail it to her? No, that would be too impersonal, and possibly show cowardice. Without context, what would she think?

Arrange a meeting at her lawyer’s? Not bad, but I really wanted to put her at ease, and that wasn’t going to happen at her lawyer’s. Plus no knowing if that prick was going to charge some billable hours to me. Call her and ask to meet her in public? It just seemed dodgy. So I decided to go that night to the library, and if she was working, give it to her right before the library closed. And if she wasn’t there, keep coming back until she was. That was her home turf, and everyone knew she was a librarian. It wasn’t really stalker-like.

So I found myself in the parking lot, out of sight under a tree, watching moths and bats flitting around a light. At 8:45, people were starting to leave. I gave one last look at the gradunza in its box, carefully picked it up off the car seat, and went in. She wasn’t at the checkout desk, so I circled around. No one gave me a second look. I found her in the children’s section, tiredly shelving returned books.

I looked at her for a little while, and she just looked defeated, like she was having a terrible day. And very possibly, this was her every day. A life of regrets or longing or empty dreams. Bad pay at a county job, a minor functionary in a dying institution. I couldn’t believe I had such animosity for someone who looked like life had kicked the sh1t out of them and sent them a dry-cleaning bill for the blood stains.

“Excuse me, Ms. XXXX?”

She looked up, smiling expectantly, and then frowned and stepped back when she saw me. “You!”, she spat.

I held up the box to show her, then set it on top of the low kids’ book shelf and took a step back, “This belongs to you.”

She looked back and forth between me and the box, uncomprehending.

“The box,” I said slowly, “Look in the box. It’s your gradunza.”

With a look of a woman in a dream, she stepped towards it and looked in. She started, obviously stunned, then gently lifted the gradunza out. She held it up, and slowly turned it around, inspecting it. Then she turned to me, and stammered, “Thank you!”

I smiled back, and said, “You’re welcome.” I took a deep breath, wanting to just walk away, but needing to say more. “I also want to apologize. I knew how much that meant to you, yet sold it anyway. It wasn’t the right thing to have done, and it’s put you through a lot. Now that I’ve tried to make amends, I was hoping we could just bury the hatchet. We don’t have to be friends, but at least let’s not be enemies any more.”

A tear slipped out, and she brushed it away, “Mr. Daley, I’d like nothing more than stop fighting!” She took another look at the gradunza and smiled, “This means more to me than you know. It’s…it’s…never mind. It’s just something that means a lot to me.”

She straightened up, “Now how much do I owe you?”

“Nothing! It’s yours!”

“No, no, I have to pay you back. It must have cost a fortune!”

“Not really. Prices have gone down, and I still made money on it.”

This went back and forth for a bit, and she finally insisted on paying me what I had bought it for years ago at the estate sale. There did seem to be some rough justice there, and she didn’t want charity, so I agreed. She went to get her purse, and somebody announced over the loudspeaker that the library was now closed. I made my way out front, and she came out, leaving someone else to lock up.

“Mr. Daley, can we at least go to Starbucks or something? I’d love a cup of coffee, and frankly it will be easier to write out a check on a table in a well-lighted place.”

“Sure! But you have to call me Finnegan.”

So we went around the corner to Starbucks, and had an amiable chat over venti mochas. She had left the gradunza in the car, and her gaze kept going out the window. She was distracted by the thought of her gradunza, and before long we were running out of words. We finally parted ways with a handshake, exchange of business cards, and a friendly wave. She really looked much better than she had at 8:45.

I drove home the back way, window down and the air ruffling my hair, the screeching of the katydids in the trees louder than the road noise. There was a huge weight lifted, as if the curse were breaking down around the edges, getting ready to crack and fall away.

And soon my thoughts turned to the time I had spent out on {DATING APP FOR CASUAL HOOKUPS}, setting up a profile, scoping out a certain prosecutor. As I drove, I worked through some details of my plan to fix things with her. Tonight was a great success, and I felt the promise of better things to come.

Sincerely,

Finnegan

On the Pensinsula (sample book chapter)

Creepers,

About three weeks ago I started pimping my project again on this blog, and the votes are in.  You, my adoring public, want me to keep going on the book that was called “The Confraternity of Santo Discreto”.  Right now it has the working title of “The Voyage of the Pink Snapper”, due to the results of some market research conducted on a Tuesday night at The Winking Lizard (a bar in Cleveland).

Previous chapters posted have introduced the guys, and in particular, the protagonist, Max.  This chapter is intended to introduce you, the gentle reader, to the antagonist, Sofia.  In earlier versions, she was introduced late, and finally revealed as the puppet master behind many things.  On the sage advice of Mr. Albert Zuckerman*, author of “Writing the Blockbuster Novel”, I now introduce the antagonist early on, and then deftly…nay, masterfully, switch back and forth between protagonist and antagonist.  The reader can see the impending conflict, and the tension slowly ratchets higher and higher, so you poor fuc7ers are left reading “just one more chapter” until 3 in the morning because you can’t put it down.

So anyway, here is the intentionally short chapter that is supposed to put the hook in you, make you want to find out what this broad is up to, and how her life is going to intersect with the dissolute yet somehow likable married guys who are chasing tail across the lovely suburbs of Youngstown, Ohio.

Feel free to offer comments of any depth, any positivity or negativity, anything that would be helpful in keeping a reader engaged.

Sincerely,

Finnegan

*OK, a moment of honesty here.  This sage advice was offered in the book, which I borrowed from the county library.  I did intend to imply that Al pulled me aside at Thanksgiving to give me some personalized insights.  However, we all know that did not happen.

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Chapter 2 “One the Peninsula”

Former Special Agent Sofia Kaplan pulled the abaya tighter around her head as the car pulled up to the entrance to the Millennium Mall. “I’ll call the hotel when I’m done.” The driver nodded politely without making eye contact. A short Filipino man in a gaudy uniform opened the door, and she stepped out, carrying a bright red cloth shopping bag from Baptiste et Fils that drew the eye. Jesus Christ, he looks like the cover of the Sergeant Pepper album, she thought.

She leisurely pushed her way through the throng, dodging large Muslim families in traditional garb, Westerners, thousands of people out for the evening. It was Thursday night, and the weekend was in full swing.

She pretended to window shop for a while, yet the polished windows, marble fountains, intricate tile work, and gilt edges that advertised unspeakable wealth barely registered. She was only paying attention to people; specifically, making sure no one was following. She was on a mission. She ducked into a restroom at the food court, and entered the last stall. She took off her abaya as she pulled down her pants and sat on the toilet, stuffing it in the bag. Out came a tight hair cap and an expensive wig with long black hair. She caught her short blond hair in the cap, and pulled the wig into place. She quickly put in a pair of dark brown contact lenses and clipped special dental appliances to her upper teeth that made her cheeks fuller. She shucked her dark blue long-sleeve smock, added pads to her push-up bra, and put on a grey silk Armani t-shirt. Next she exchanged her jeans and sensible flats with black leggings and high heels. Using a hand-held mirror, she quickly put no-streak bronzer on her face and upper chest, then rubbed into onto her arms. She finished herself with bright red lipstick and gold hoop earrings. Satisfied, she turned the bright red bag inside out, revealing it’s everyday tan side, and dumped everything back in.

When she stopped to look at herself in the spotless mirror five minutes after entering, the demure and respectful mid-Western American girl was replaced by a self-confident and brash Lebanese woman. The smiled at her new self, and strode out into the mall, thinking Sometimes it’s great to be a woman in this place.

She palmed her phone to a young girl in line at Starbucks, recognizing her by her green “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirt and orange purse. Then she strode out to the parking lot, clutching her venti mocha, and got into a black Mercedes. She drove carefully into the residential neighborhood just north of the mall.