Updated: Jun 13, 2021
By Melodie Corrigall -
If she had kept to her old ways—as annoying as they were to family and friends—she could have saved the day. Instead she had looked the other way and had lost her chance to finally say, “Now who knows best.”
Fortunately, just when she was about to boast of her triumph, to point out that she had changed her habits and no longer was Chicken Little warning that the sky was falling in, she discovered the sky had fallen in and she had kept her beak shut.
Three weeks earlier she had been determined to prove her husband wrong when he insisted that, “Leopards can’t change their stripes.”
“They are spots,” she corrected.
“Case taken,” he said, “You’re always finding something to take umbrage with.”
“Umbrage,” she cried. “Where did you dig that one up from?”
“I’m forever creative as you are forever critical,” he said, diving back into the comics.”
“I’ll continue to do be so when there are dangers lurking or when you say inane things,” she had admitted, “ but I will modify the behavior that our daughter Betty says ‘Drives her mad.’”
“I doubt it. Once an alarmist, always one.”
“I’ll still show concern, but now the kids are adults I need to be more ‘hands off’.”
“Miss Fussy Old Fusspot was the phrase used on Twitter.”
“The fact my niece would put a story about me on Twitter is appalling but in any event that was the old me. Starting now if it isn’t life threatening, I’ll ignore it. The next time a crises comes up, unless someone is drowning…”
“Very unlikely in a prairie town like ours.”
“Or is in peril, I will just sail by.”
So far so good.
And then the situation at her daughter’s came up. Betty was out of town on a two-week holiday with her live-in beau. She hadn’t asked her mother to drop by her house, but Laura thought she ought to, even though she’d been reminded that the housekeeper Tanya would come by one of the two Sundays to clean the house and water the plants.
“Mother, Tanya’s a single mom who can use the money. You’ve done enough. Don’t fuss.”
And so, when Laura drove by her daughter’s house she decided to peek in. It wouldn’t hurt to give a quick inspection. Tanya would probably forget to water the plants or, worse still, overwater them and leave a puddle on the floor.
Laura turned the key, the door swung open; there was a small pip then silence. The alarm wasn’t on. How could that be? Since the break-in across the street, Betty had insisted the alarm be set at all times.
When she turned on the hall light, Laura was accosted by a hallway strewn with dirty clothes. Reaching the kitchen, she discovered the fridge door open and a bowl of half eaten lasagna congealing on the counter. Feeling like mama bear catching Goldie Locks at it, she crept up the stairs. From every suspense movie she’d ever seen, she knew she should leave the building, but curiosity propelled her forward. The bedroom was in disarray: drawers gaped open and the dressing table was strewn with the bureau’s contents.
“Oh my God,” she gasped. “Betty has been robbed.” She’d call the police right away. Double-checking had paid off. She’d be the heroine of the day.
But wait. What if it wasn’t a burglar? What if her daughter, not the neatest person, had left in a rush, assuming Tanya would clean up? Or maybe it was Tanya herself, half way through the job and out of washing solution, who had popped out to the supermarket. Whew. That was a close call. Everyone would have ridiculed her for years if she had phoned the police.
Everything could be explained. Maybe the fridge was being defrosted; the clothes in the hall on the way to be cleaned; the bedroom counter to be polished; and the drawers to be reorganized. Betty had asked Tanya once before to go through all the cupboards and sort things out. Not what she would have asked someone to do, but that was her daughter’s prerogative.
Laura smugly decided to leave as quietly as she had come in. Not even hang up one shirt. She could have crowed she felt so proud of herself; old leopard with new spots. She would dine out on this one. Husband and daughter would admit she was a changed person.
She slipped out the front door—leaving the off alarm, as she’d found it—and went home.
Four days later when her daughter was back from her holidays, Laura had been bursting to blurt out her story about how she had restrained herself. For once, her usually easy-going daughter cut her off, her voice crackling as she wailed her woes.
“When we were away, Tanya was sick and didn’t come to clean,” Betty’s voice rose to a crescendo. “Someone moved in—literally moved in.
“He slept in our bed, ate our food, rustled through our clothes, it was an invasion. We heard him run out the back door as we came in the front. Where were you? I trusted you to check. You always do?
Laura staggered unto a chair, lips sealed. This was a story on which she would not dine out.
Melodie Corrigall is an eclectic Canadian writer whose work has appeared in Halfway Down the Stairs, Blue Lake Review, Corner Bar Magazine, Continue the Voice, Sybil, and Awakening Voices Literary Magazine.
Check out melodiecorrigall.com for more of her poetry and prose.