Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fast Fingered Wiley

The Writing Circle keeps cranking out episodes for the days of Mindy's life. Ellen Cahill won the lottery for segment 3. Her piece is pasted below. The circle's next meeting is June 13 at 6:30. (Yes, that's Friday the 13th.) We will once again attempt a potluck. Ellen was so excited about winning the lottery that she volunteered to bring a pasta entree. Miss Prothero's Books will provide cups, plates, eating utensils and a non-alcoholic drink. Call the store if you need to know what food to bring (303-572-2260). You should also bring your segment 4. Start where Ellen left off. You may write as many pages as you please, include a note on weather, include an end to the story, and include a new character or a character who has been forgotten. You should plan to have someone come out of the bookstore.

"Hey, Mindy, whassup!" Annie the receptionist said without looking up from the Internet site she was trolling. She was a cheerful sort, but given over to quick boredom and a lack of interest in her job responsibilities, even though they were minimal for the salary she earned. Her dad was Mindy’s boss, Sam. It was a case of nepotism, like so many city jobs. Friends and family made up eighty percent of the personnel in any division of Denver’s Public Works -- one big familia, from receptionist to sanitary worker.

"You watch too much TV," Mindy snapped, referring to Annie’s penchant for adopting the most recent vernacular. In this case it was that stupid beer commercial the won super Bowl fame. It you worked in city codes, you had to enter the Super Bowl pool by betting on a game spread and then generally talking about the event as if was the Second Coming. Mindy lacked the skill and interest for the social bonding required of football fanatics.

It was obvious that Mindy was out of sorts when she returned to the office. She was feeling foolish and scammed by Wiley P. downing. She hadn’t felt that way when she offered to get burgers after their meeting at 823. Now her naiveté brought up old wounds. It was exactly how she felt her first and only year of teaching at Cole Middle School. In reminded her of the cunning and sometimes ruthless ways the kids would flatter and the set her up as the butt of a new prank. She tried to laugh off the tricks like the time
Albie pretended to drop a pencil on the ground only to announce to the class the color of her underwear when he came up for air.

When she was that age herself, her mother would tell her "You’re too sensitive." because she complained that the boys called her "Skinny Minny" or "Giraffe Girl". She wanted motherly support. She wanted to know how to cope with cruelt jokes, but her mother lacked empathy. She was imperious and cowed others. She never understood how Mindy could be a victim.

When she left Wiley at the 823 Santa Fe earlier that day she drove to the local Burger King drive-in. She reached for her wallet to purchase the three lunch combos only to find it was missing. She managed to scrape enough change to purchase the meals from her glove compartment stash. The clerk rolled her eyes in annoyance making Mindy feel like a first year teacher all over again. Yes, teaching was not for the self-conscious.

When she returned with the lunches Wiley One and Wiley Two were not there. She looked around and yoo-hooed, but there was no answer. In fact, even his sleeping bag and few personal items were gone. "I must have scared him," she thought. She ate her burger as she walked around the property looking for her wallet. Then she looked inside again, but she didn’t find it. That is when the paranoia set in. Could he have taken it? She tried to remember if she left her purse unguarded during the short conversation. She did place her purse on the floor when she was inspecting and making notes on her clipboard. Did she remember the dog sniffing around it? Did it fall out when she grabbed it to get her can of mace? All she knew for sure was that it was missing and she would need to contact the credit union and the credit company pronto.

"Annie, can you look up the 800 number for Capital One? I have to call them and report my card is missing. I lost my wallet when I was inspecting the building." She decided to omit the part where she met the vagrant and offered to buy him lunch. She was feeling too foolish to admit how wrong she was again with her trusting nature.

Just then Chester poked his head into her cubicle. Chester Slade was a fellow worker. He came with a past and a strong sense of street smarts but Mindy liked him. He had an air of confidence and ambition. She admired that too. He would never offer a bum a burger either, not that he was unfeeling; he just knew not to mix business with burgers.

"Whassup!" he said with a crooked smile. He made it sound like an inside joke between them. Somehow it wasn’t the same with Annie.

"I lost my wallet at the inspection site," she explained. "I also found evidence that someone was crashing there. On top of that, Sarajane Kowalski, the complainant, was a no show."

"I know why," Chester said, "She’s in Denver General with a vicious dog bite." She called and said some vagrant and his dog were coming out the back door when she went to meet you. He ran off at quite a clip. As you can guess Sarajane has a lot to say about it. She is even talking lawsuit. Lucky for you that you didn’t meet up with the guy when you were there."

Mindy took the news with her mouth agape. It reinforced her sense of poor judgment. She gathered her stuff and left work early. As she rode home she looked around at every street corner for Wiley P. again. Sympathy and compassion were no longer her feelings; wariness and suspicion had replaced them.

That night she made a list of all the items she needed to replace, including her driver’s license. Since gas prices rose to $4.00 a gallon she wasn’t driving much, but she still needed to have an ID. The phone rang. She answered distractedly because she was thinking about taking a half-day off to get control of the chaos that comes with the threat of identity theft.

"Hello, Mindy Halstead. Sorry I couldn’t wait for the tasty burger. Wiley Two and I appreciated your offer, but we needed to get out of Dodge." The voice was male, but coy and mildly dangerous.

Mindy was confused. Then it hit her. Wiley P. Downing was calling her. How did he get her phone number? Then it hit her like a bucket of cold water. He had her wallet.

Thinking on the spot was not her strong point, but she knew she couldn’t let him get the upper hand. She shook her hand to dissipate her growing anxiety.

"Well, I didn’t expect to hear from you, Wiley. Do you, by chance, have something that belongs to me?"

" I can be coy too," she thought.

"Well , as a matter of fact. I found your wallet. I thought you would come back for it, but since you didn’t , I thought I would just catch up with you later. Can I bring it up to you? I’m in the neighborhood. By the way, I needed to borrow fifty cents to make this call. I hope you don’t mind."

Now she panicked. Not only did he have her phone number, he had her address too. No one knew she had met him. If she let him in her apartment and he was a rapist or murderer, nothing would tie him to the crime.

"I am not comfortable with that," she said. "Why don’t we meet at the house tomorrow morning? Since you have my wallet, you can buy a McDonald’s breakfast each of us. What do you say to that?"

"Well, darlin’, one problem with that. Good ole Wiley Two took a chunk out of a snoopy gal when we were there. I don’t think we can meet you there. The city don’t take too kindly to dogs doin’ their protection thing. I know, we can meet at that bookstore. You know …the one across from Crown Liquors There’s a bus bench. We’ll hang out there until you come by. We’re in no hurry tomorrow…nothing on our schedule."

Mindy weighed her options and decided to chance it. After all, this might be better because it was a public area. She couldn’t see how he could sucker her into something else.

"Okay, I’ll meet you there around 7:00 am. I have a pretty busy schedule tomorrow. I am employed, you know."

She meant that to be a joke , but the long silence on the other end told her it had backfired. Had Wiley heard sarcasm? Yes. Was he thinking revenge? Probably. Was she regretting her impulse again.? Definitely.

"All right, I’ll see you there," he finally said in a voice devoid of any friendly banter.

Mindy double checked the locks. Pulled down the blinds, and went to bed with her cell phone next to her. It was al little blue beacon reflecting her fear and uneasiness. She wondered if she would get any sleep.

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