RUMORS a free read short short story and part of a novel in progress. by Kathleen Shepherd-Segura

The Strawberry moon appears above, casting a pink shadow down upon a small Cambridge brownstone. The trees are rather still this night, except for an occasional breeze sweeping over the rooftops. Mrs. Shepherd sits on her living room couch this late July night watching ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson’ on a Zenith black and white, a bag of curlers sits on her lap. Sometimes a breeze blows through the open windows of the porch rustling the curtains that hang in the dimly lit room. She sits waiting for her daughter Kat to come in. There is a knock at the door.  Mrs. Shepherd quickly brushes the curlers from her lap, stands up and makes her way to the kitchen.  She peers around the refrigerator, then hears the knock again.  The knock grows louder.

“Who’s there?” she calls

A muffled voice rings out from behind the door. “Midge, it’s me Midge, is Kat home?”

“No. I thought she was with you,” Mrs. Shepherd replies, reluctant to open the door and let anyone see her in her nightgown.

“I haven’t seen her, but when she gets home could you tell her I was looking for her,” Midge says.

“Come in and wait for her I’ll put some coffee on,” Mrs. Shepherd opens the door and Midge sits at the kitchen table, while Mrs. Shepherd lite’s a fire under a tea kettle, puts two mugs and a sugar bowl on the table then stands by the gas stove waiting for a whistle. Midge taps her long painted fingernails on the table nervously wanting to quaff the coffee.

“She might be in Maine,” Mrs. Shepherd says as she puts a heaping teaspoon of Maxwell House into each mug.

“I need a driver,” Midge says as the whistle blows.

Mrs. Shepherd’s eye brow’s lift and her mouth twist’s as she pours the water into the mugs and says, “At this time of night”? “I thought you were taking care of a quadriplegic?” Mrs. Shepherd looks wide-eyed at Midge. “Are you bartending?”

Midge gulps her coffee, taps her fingernails on the mug and says, “I’ll tell you but I’ll have to make you sign a non-disclosure,” and smiles.

“Come on, don’t be pulling my leg, you’re as funny as Johnny Carson tonight,” Mrs. Shepherd laughs spits out some of her coffee.

Midge looks down into the coffee and says, “If only you could read coffee grounds like tea leaves, I need a new refrigerator, a new washing machine, and about three cords of wood for the winter and I don’t mean that wet willow fuel assistance delivers,”” That wet wood nearly caused a chimney fire last winter, so I have a night job and I need a driver”.

“Seriously, what’s your new job?” Mrs. Shepherd looks at Midge’s blond hair and thinks Midge is wearing a little too much makeup tonight and then down at her painted fingernails.

Midge says, “I need a ride to a bachelor party.”

“Oh a shower,” Mrs. Shepherd says.

“No, I’m moonlighting as a private dancer a dancer for money,” Midge whispers.

Just then Kat walks through the door and Mrs. Shepherd stands up a little too quickly and the sugar bowl tips all over the table.

Midge says, “Finally,” “Can you drive me tonight”?

Kat looks at the sugar on the table, at her mother nervously trying to scoop it up, then back at Midge. She summons Midge with her hand and Says, “Hi mom, bye mom!”

Midge Says, “Thanks for the coffee Mrs. Shepherd!” and they both rush out the door.

Mrs. Shepherd rushes to the window and watches them drive away. The phone rings and Mrs. Shepherd slowly walks to the phone hanging on the wall in the kitchen, picks up the receiver and in a breathless voice says, “Hello”.

“It’s Peggy, I just saw Kat driving like a bat out of hell down the street”. “Is everything alright”?

Mrs. Shepherd pauses, glances at the cat clock on the wall intently watching the cat’s eyes dart back and forth and the tail wag with every passing second.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Mrs. Shepherd sighs.

“Oh,” Peggy whispers into the receiver.

“Is Midge’s father a minister,” Mrs. Shepherd asked?

“Hold on, I’ll ask Bernard because she’s on his trash route,” “Bernard is Midge’s father a minister”?

“What” Bernard replies annoyed because he’s interrupted while watching WWE?

“Is Midge’s father a minister”?

“I don’t know.” “I Just pick up her trash” Peggy’s husband Bernard replies as he turns up the volume.

Little Burney takes his eyes off wrestling and says to his dad, “That Midge, Oh my God”.

“What,” Bernard says not taking his eyes off wrestling.

“When we were loading the trash last Saturday a huge I mean huge like Mr. T broke through a trash bag” little Burney says.

“What,” Bernard looks at Little Burney?

“A dildo, a huge black dildo must a been twelve inches long and two inches in diameter,” Burney whispers.

They laugh hysterically while a commercial for Dove dish soap plays on the TV.

“What’s so funny,” Peggy peers around the corner at them laughing and the phone cord stretches to its limit and the phone almost comes off the wall.

“Nothing just wrestling that’s all” little Bernard replies.

Peggy adjusts the phone on the wall and says, “no I don’t think so, “why?”

“Oh just curious because that’s what I heard and she’s such a jokester,” Mrs. Shepherd says.

“Ya she’s a nice girl, I gotta go, I was making popcorn when I saw Kat’s car go by, Burney’s waiting for it,” Peggy says.

“Okay, it’s getting late, time for me to let the cat in and head to bed, Night” Mrs. Shepherd yawns and hangs up the phone.

***

“What the heck was you telling my mother,” Kat asks Midge?

“Nothing I was just waiting for you,” Mij says as she pulls the AquaNet out of her purse, bends her head between her legs and starts brushing her hair upside down then sprays aqua net as she flips her head right side up.

“Jesus, I was just about to light a cigarette, your gonna blow up my Subaru wagon, open the dam windows,” Kat mumbled.  And the unlit cigarette falls off her lips and is lost someplace under the seat. “Where we going,” Kat asks and light’s a Carlton.

“491 Broadway near Harvard Square, some fire fighter’s bachelor’s party, it started an hour ago, so step on it”.

“Hmm bet they’ll have hot food, I’m starved,” Kat reply’s as she adjusts the rear-view mirror.

Fifteen minutes later they pull into the back parking lot of a brick three-story firehouse built in nineteen thirty-nine.

“Go ahead in, I’ll find that cigarette, I’m right behind ya, Kat says.

Midge stuffs her purse under the seat, grabs her boom box with the Tina Turner custom mix tape inside. Closes the hatchback and heads for the door. Two tall men wearing Hawaiian shirts with green and purple lays greet her at the door. One takes the boom box and opens the door for Midge. The other waves to Kat. Kat waves back find’s the cigarette, grabs a beach towel from the back seat and heads towards the door.  She smiles at him and the door shuts behind her.

The boom box belts out, “Out of the ruins, Out from the wreckage.”

“Help yourself, there are drinks in the cooler,” The man says.

“Thanks,” Kat smiles and heads to the buffet table set up in the corner.

Men in Hawaiian shirts whistle and a spot light shines on Midj as she slowly takes off one red heal at a time. Kat takes a paper plate and surveys the spread of baked ziti, baked beans, potato salad, and little weaners.

The boom box belts out, “We don’t need another hero,” as Midge takes off her mini skirt and throws it onto the groom’s head. The men whistle, laugh and clap. Kat pulls up a chair and watches as she eats a little wiener.

The mixtape changes, “you must understand though the touch of your hand makes my pulse react”. Midge removes her leather vest revealing her ample breasts budge out of her red white and blue bikini top and the leather vest lands on the floor. She bends her knees and wiggles her stars and stripes bikini clad ass. She reaches behind pulls the string and her top lands beside the vest. The crowd hoots and hollers as two men hold a pole. The mixtape changes to the sound of Tina singing, “I’m your private dancer a dancer for money,” and Midge limbos under the pole. When she stands up a man places a fire helmet on Midge’s head. Midge takes a bow holding the fire helmet out and the man takes it from her hand. Kat tosses her the beach towel and Midge twirls and dances toward the back door. Kat walks over to the man wearing a best man hat and he hands her an envelope and the crowd is still whistling as the same two men in Hawaiian shirts and green and purple lay open the back door.  Midge and Kat blow kisses and exit out the back door. Midge opens the hatchback sets the boom box down and grabs a neon pink shirt with a big black Y NOT decal on the front. She shuts the hatchback and sits in the front seat. Kat hands her the envelope and she counts out two twenties and a ten and hands them to Kat.

“How much did you make,” Kat asks as they drive off.

“Enough to buy three cords of dry wood for the winter,” Midge says with a smile.

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