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.

The Luck of the Kat, Short Story by Kathleen Shepherd-Segura

Kat left that afternoon to find her brother Paul, she hadn’t seen him for more than twenty-four hours, he owed her money, and she thought maybe he was at her aunt Milly’s new house on Washington Street in Haverhill helping her with the house. The drive to Haverhill from Merrimac was uneventful in her 1982 white Subaru Wagon, except for the occasional pothole and the faint sound of the flapping of the silver duct tape, which held the rusted door panels down and away from catching on Kat’s clothes every time she got in the car. Now Kat was a very simple-minded person, and good things happened for her at unexpected moments. Finding a treasure was an enjoyable experience that didn’t often happen to just anyone; it did occur to Kat now and then. She had a knack for finding valuable trinkets, usually when she wasn’t even looking. Trinkets like a gold rose stick pin she discovered in the crack of a New York City sidewalk after getting off at the wrong train station, or like the twenty-five-cent piece someone once gave her for change, a coin dating back to the year 1915. And that day, the day she drove to Aunt Milly’s looking for her brother Paul was one of those days for Kat.

While driving along Kat thought about a better way to draw the jacket sketch, she was working on for a class at The Art Institute of Boston. She thought about drawing at the Army Navy store while she worked on Sunday, but it was too busy there, so maybe she could borrow one of the mannequins.  It was late afternoon, and she wasn’t sure exactly which house was Aunt Milly’s, so she drove up and down Washington Street looking for Aunt Milly’s car, or Paul’s old truck. Aunt Milly’s car was an old maroon rambler that smelt of stale cigarettes and pine air freshener, and Paul’s was a beat-up Chevy truck he had put together from parts found at the junkyard down on Brandy Brow Road. He managed to get it running, and it had a blue flatbed and red cab. If he were there, that truck would stand out. She could hardly see because the sun was in her eyes. She had to drive to the end of the street to read the sign. And that’s when she spotted a mannequin on the side of the road.

“Wow!” she whispered to herself, her eyes widening as she felt her heartbeat pulsating in her ear. Her foot released the gas pedal and moved to the brake.

“What was that on the side of the road? It must be a hallucination, or maybe I ate too many wild mushrooms with Eric. I knew those mushrooms behind his mother’s house were too orange, but maybe it was a real mannequin, maybe someone died, and the house was being cleaned out, and none of the family wanted it.” she thought to herself and shook her head.

She turned her car around and pulled over to the curb. She jumped out, opened the hatchback and stuffed the mannequin inside. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw an old woman in an apron watching her from behind a rose bush across the street.

“Oh, hello,” Kat said to the old woman.

The old woman stopped pruning the roses smiled and said, “Good afternoon, I see you’re taking the mannequin, and I would not do that if I were you.”

Looking puzzled Kat said, “Yes it’s just what I need, and it’s in such great shape, who would throw away such a lovely mannequin?”

“Who indeed.” said the old woman, “If only it could talk it would have a lifetime of stories to tell.” And the old woman began pruning the roses again.

“Really, like what?” Kat asked. “It seems like an entirely innocent mannequin to me and just what I need to dress up and sketch different outfits.”

Kat walked across the street to get closer to the old woman, and a man waved his fist in the air as his car’s tires screech to a stop, and nearly miss hitting Kat.

“Watch it! Kat yelled at the driver.

“The sun was in my eyes lady!” The driver yelled back and drove off.

“See, it’s started already.” Said the old woman.

“What?” Kat replied.

“You’ll see. What’s your name anyway?” the old woman asked.

“Kat. What’s yours?”

“Abby Rose.” The old woman said and wiped her hands on her apron then extended her hand to Kat.

“Nice to meet you, Abby Rose,” Kat said as they shook hands. “Have you lived here long?” Kat asked.

“Forty-seven years and I’ve seen a lot, and that mannequin could be dangerous, I would put it back on the curb where you found it if I were you.”

“Really? It looks so innocent, and I need one, so it’s in my car now.” Kat replied, as she waved and walked back to her car.

Kat slowly drove up the street and continued her search for Paul. Abby Rose made the sign of the cross and muttered three Hail Mary’s as she continued pruning her roses. The sun was behind the hill now, and she spotted Paul’s red and blue truck. She pulled up alongside the curb behind Paul’s truck and watched Paul mowing the lawn for a moment, and then got out of the car and lifted the hatchback to look at the mannequin. I can’t believe it’s real she thought. Then just as Paul came around close to the curb on the rider lawn mower, Kat closed the hatchback and began to walk toward the front door. At the same time, the paperboy delivering the evening news on his bike started to toss a paper at Aunt Milly’s driveway, and a rock flew from under the lawn mower and hit his elbow knocking him off his bike. Aunt Milly was watching out the window and opened the door for Kat. “Is he, all right?” Aunt Milly said as she rushed past Kat toward the paperboy.

“Is who all right?” Kat replied unaware of the paperboy behind her.

Kat turned around to find Aunt Milly helping the paperboy up off the ground. “Oh, no. What happened?!” Kat shouted.

Aunt Milly helped him up, and he continued his paper route on foot and pushed his bike with his good arm. “While we’re out here look at the mannequin I found on the side of the road up the street,” Kat said to Aunt Milly.

Kat lifted the hatchback, and Aunt Milly peered inside at the mannequin.

“Oh, look at that 1930 is printed on the chest. That’s the year I was born.” Aunt Milly said.

“What are you talking about it says 1965. The year I was born.” Kat said.

“Whatever you say, but it looks like 1930 to me.” Aunt Milly said.

Kat closed the hatchback, and they walk toward the front door.

“Come in, and take a load off.” Aunt Milly said.

Okay but, I’m here because Paul owes me $50 and he promised he would pay me yesterday. Kat and Aunt Milly disappear behind the front door into the parlor. Just then Paul begins to holler, but no one can hear him over the sound of the mower. The lawnmower loses control, and he has hurled down a hill over a wall and is catapulted his headfirst into the Merrimac River below.

Kat and Aunt Milly are sipping Tea in the kitchen at the table and a half hour passes. “Well I have to get back home soon, and where is Paul,” Kat said.

“I don’t know, and now that you mention it I don’t hear the mower.” Aunt Milly said, and she got up and looked out the window toward the river. Then Paul hobbled up the hill and into the back door off the kitchen. Kat and Aunt Milly were startled, and Paul had weeds in his hair and was dripping water all over the kitchen floor.

“You better tie down that mannequin.” Paul sputtered.

“What, happened to you?” Kat said, and Aunt Milly ran into the hall closet and came back with a towel. “You better tie down that mannequin.” Paul sputtered again. “Why? It’s in the back of my wagon.” Kat said with a worried look on her face. “No, the goddam thing just appeared in front of the mower and caused me to lose control of the mower down the hill and the mower crashed into the wall and hurled me into the river,” Paul said as Aunt Milly handed him a towel.

“What do you mean, do you see things? Oh, my God, Aunt Milly told me it had 1930 written on its chest, but when I looked I saw 1965, so something is up with that mannequin. The old Woman warned me about it, and I thought she was joking.” Kat said, and she ran to the car and opened the hatchback to find the mannequin innocently lying in the back. Kat grabbed the Mannequin and walked it a block up the street to a big white church, and there she left the mannequin on the curb and ran back to Aunt Milly’s, hopped in the Subaru, and laid her head on the steering wheel. Oh, my god, she thought then waved to Paul and Aunt Milly who was watching from the driveway. She drove away back to Merrimac without the mannequin, or the $50. I’m just going to have to draw curtains again she thought with a deep sigh.

THE END

 

GRADUATION COMENCEMENT LESLEY UNIVERSITY

The President, Trustees
and Graduating Class
of

Lesley University
announce that
Kat Of All Arts
is a candidate for the degree of
Bachelor of Arts
with a Concentration in Writing
at the 106th Commencement Exercises
on
Saturday, May nineteenth
Two thousand and eighteen
Blue Hills Pavilion

Schedule

Saturday, May 19, 2018
Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, 290 Northern Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts

The ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Art and Design:

12:30 pm | Gates open for graduates
12:45 pm | Gates open for guests
1:30 pm | Ceremony begins
3:30 pm | Ceremony concludes
Tickets

For your convenience, we do not require attendance tickets and there is no limitation on the number of guests per graduate.