Vengeance by Richard Hartwell
August 9, 2012 Comments Off on Vengeance by Richard Hartwell
Her mother had everything well in hand. She knew just how to get payback. The house was prepared, set up for vengeance.
Sheila, her father’s secretary, had been invited to hold her fete in her superior’s home. It had been good enough for Eisenhower last year on his campaign swing through California; it was good enough for her. She was in the guest bedroom, knowledgeable of what Penny’s mother had planned, as she had played and was to play an integral part. She was quite a bit older than Penny, a little bit prettier, and considerably more worldly-wise. Sheila was preparing for the inevitable end to her day.
Penny, meanwhile, was trying to track down her father. She had tried the pool house, the mother-in-law house, the tool shed, the woodshop, the gardens at the bottom of the property, but all to no avail. The cook, Tee — old school as it sounds — had everything well in hand in the kitchen. She had not seen the head-of-house either. No one had seen him, although Sheila knew exactly where he was.
The midnight screaming had been like two gulls contesting a seal corpse and Antarctica had nothing over the cold breakfast silences during the past month. She had asked both parents, together and separately, what was the matter. “Nothing, dear.” “Everything’s fine sweetie.” “Don’t trouble you little head.” These responses continued from both, individually and communally.
Her father seemed to be the quieter of the two, but Penny couldn’t get any feeling from him as to the nature of the ongoing conflict. It was basically the same with her mother as well, but occasionally Penny would catch her mother humming to herself, almost pleasantly, and this morning Penny saw her mother smiling, actually smiling! She wanted to ask her father about this, but so far she had been unable to locate him.
Her mother continued to fuss around the house: straightening this, stacking that, removing thus and so. Penny tracked her diligently but could learn nothing by her mother’s movements.
Still fatherless, Penny grappled with the task of finding him before the culmination of whatever plan her mother envisioned. Penny made the loop of the pool and house and yard again. Nothing. She checked the tool shed and woodshop. Nothing. She checked the garage. Her father’s car was still there. It was fast getting on to four.
She heard her mother yelling for her from the kitchen telling her to get ready. She heard her yell twice and knew there wouldn’t be a third time without consequence. Penny scrambled back to the house to ready herself.
Five o’clock arrived and all was ready. The wedding march started. Penny made a glum, sullen flower girl, dashing petals left and right. Two bridesmaids followed Penny, also employees of her father’s firm. Sheila, escorted by Penny’s father from the guest room, slowly stepped down the hall and into the living room. Cheeks were flushed. Hers as well as his. A bride was given away that day — to Nathan, an up-and-coming junior executive her mother had introduced Sheila to at the country club. Penny found her father; her father lost his secretary, and Sheila gained a husband.
The plan had worked to perfection, and Penny’s mother was radiant through it all, slowly twisting her wedding ring back and forth on her finger.
© 2012 Rick Hartwell
Rick Hartwell is a retired middle school (remember, the hormonially-challenged?) English teacher living in Moreno Valley, California, with his wife of thirty-six years (poor soul, her, not him), their disabled daughter, one of their sons and his ex-wife and their two children, and twelve cats. Yes, twelve! He believes in the succinct, that the small becomes large; and, like the Transcendentalists and William Blake, that the instant contains eternity. Given his “druthers,” if he’s not writing poetry, Rick would rather still be tailing plywood in a mill in Oregon.