Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – V

For two ladies of a certain level of life experience with preceptively little to do, they couldn’t make arrangements for their first foray into the world of advanced weaponry training for about a week after their initial conversation.

Between doctor visits, a solid bout of rain and the regular schedule of a routine life, the opportunities for them to slip away somewhere to shoot the gun were few and far between. Still, neither of them let the time go to waste. Taffeta read the manual cover to cover three times to make sure she was familiar with the gun and how it worked. She made sure it was properly oiled. She loaded the four magazines with 30 rounds each. She watched the YouTube to learn more about the basics of how to shoot.

Leary of being seen walking around with such a thing, and the questions it might raise, she found an old duffle bag in the attic that Abel had for years, but never used. It had a comfortable, adjustable shoulder strap and plenty of room for Cora, the magazines, and extra rounds…just in case. She shook her head at the thought. In case what?? For extra protection, she covered everything with an old beach towel featuring a fading sun and a small group of palm trees sitting on a beach that dipped down into the ocean.

Myrna focused on other things like securing protective eye-wear, securing protective ear-wear and looking over bulletproof vests. She started putting together a bag of her own, but where Taffeta’s served the sole purpose of safely transporting the gun, Myrna’s leaned toward preparation for the apocalypse. She had bandages, gauze, bandage scissors and enough medical tape to field dress anything from a paper cut to an amputation, not that she knew how to do any of that. She added the tie to an old robe and a ruler in case she needed a tourniquet. She had the protective ear-ware and eye-ware. She had two Phillies ball caps, a small canteen, a flashlight, a large utility knife that featured things like pliers, tweezers, a saw and a fork. She didn’t know what to expect, so she packed for anything…everything.

The following Thursday had a good feel to it. Both of their calendars were clear and they figured avoiding the weekend improved their chances of doing their work in relative privacy.

Taffeta drove. After packing Cora’s bag, a small picnic lunch – along with her medication of course – and some bottles water, she took off for Myrna’s. Arriving early as planned, Taffeta ended up loading what now became Myrna’s several survival bags into the trunk and they moved out onto the highway.

Taffeta figured she’d head to the Taylor Mills area down in the Braxton Hills. Abel used to say there was good fishing there, but he never seemed to catch much beyond the good-sized sandwich he picked up at the counter deli in Chastings and a decent nap under a tree in the warm sun. The thought made her smile.

They drove for a good hour and a half, only stopping once for the restroom and to get some fresh coffee. Once they got into the hills, they started looking for one of the logging trails used by the mill workers back in the day when the area was mostly forest and ready for progress to share in its bounty.

Taffeta turned the car into a dirt and stone pull off marked by a tired old sign that simply read, Plank Road. The ladies looked at each other, shrugging in unison, Taffeta stepped on the gas and turned in.

Ten minutes later, after a few healthy bumps and lumps courtesy of the old road, they found a small clearing off to the side where a patch of grass lead up to a small hill next to a rolling stream. Perfect.

“This,” Myrna said, getting out of the car, stretching her back and breathing deep. “Is lovely!”

“Isn’t it?” Taffeta said.

“Just listen to that,” Myrna said. “Nothing but the cool breeze and the tripping water of the gentle stream. Hello nature!” she called into the air. “We’ve brought you some shock and awe, a genuine thunder stick to ripple your placid beauty!”

“Oh, hush,” said Taffeta, getting out of the car and moving to the back. “You’re really not making this very easy…or very fun.”

“I’m sorry, Taffy. Really, I think you’ve chosen a lovely place for us to begin our lives of crime. I mean, how many laws could we be breaking by firing an antique, unlicensed sub-machine gun while trespassing on God knows who’s property?” She paused. “Pretty, though it is.”

Taffeta opened the trunk and stopped. “You’re right you know,” she said.

“You mean about the shooting the unlicensed gun or trespassing?” said Myrna.

“About it being pretty. It’s really a lovely day!”

Myrna, deflated, slunk back to the car to help with the bags.

Taffeta moved around to the front of the car and set the duffle on top. Zipping it open she pulled out the beach towel and set it across the hood. She pulled out the gun and turned to Myrna as she stepped up behind. “Here,” she said. “Hold Cora a moment will you?”

Taffeta’s outstretched hand with the gun nearly hit Myrna in the chest causing her friend to recoil and drop her bag as if she was facing down a poisonous snake. “Yah,” she said, impulsively grabbing the cold metal weapon as if she had no choice. She grimaced, pushing the thing out in front of her to full arm’s length.

“You did not tell me that you named it.”

“Huh,” Taffeta said quickly before turning back to her duffle to remove the magazines and place them gently on the towel. “Oh…that. Yeah. I’m not sure I did that.”

“Are you telling me your brother named it and sealed up a card in the case with it?”

“No, I guess I named it, but I didn’t ‘name’ it. It just seemed to…have a name.”

Myrna swallowed. “Crazier and crazier,” she said. “Tell me honestly. You’re not planning on killing me all the way out here in the middle of nowhere right.”

Taffeta stopped her prep work and turned to her friend. “That…is ridiculous.” She reached over and took the gun from Myrna and proceeded to check it out. “We are here for one thing and one thing only. To learn how to shoot this thing.”

“Or die trying,” Myrna said in a whisper.

“I heard that.”

“Please, Lord, bless my friend Taffy here, for she is going through…something and as you are my witness, I am here to help and support.”

“Nice,” Taffeta said shaking her head at her friend. Shifting the gun in her hand she grabbed one of the magazines and stepped into the grass.

“So, please…,” Myrna said even softer. “Anything you can do to prevent us from blowing our faces off would be greatly appreciated.”

“I hear you!”

“Amen!”

Myrna moved to catch up with Taffeta who seemed to find a spot she felt good about.

“This is all going to be fine. Trust me.”

“Keep an eye on us down here Lord.”

“Hush,” Taffeta said. “Now, this part goes in here like this.” She snapped the magazine into the gun and popped it on the bottom like she saw them do on the videos to make sure it clicked in. “There. Easy as pie.”

“So, it’s loaded?”

“It’s loaded.”

“Greeeeeaaat,” Myrna said. “Let the fun begin.”

“As long as this cover is down the safety is on and you can’t shoot it,” Taffeta said, pulling on the trigger. “See?”

“Yeah, great,” said Myrna, “Can you take it easy there? Just in case it remembers it’s an antique and forgets what the safety is supposed to do?”

“I’ve done my research lady,” Taffeta said. “Cora here is really in exceptional condition.”

“We should have sold it.”

“Where would we sell it?” Taffeta asked. “How could we sell it without raising all sorts of questions and creating all sorts of problems?”

“You’re right, you’re right,” Myrna said. “This current plan of yours is so much more…low risk.”

Taffeta ignored her and began to move into a shooter’s stance, at least the way she imagined it.

“OK,” she said. “I’m going to aim for that cluster of weeds.”

“Greeeeeaaat,” Myrna said.

Taffeta reached up slowly to release the safety.

“WAIT!” Myrna said, turning quickly to head back to the car.

Taffeta’s heart jumped and her arms limply held the gun at her side.

Myrna came back dragging one of her bags behind her. “I must be losing my mind too!” she yelled. She stopped, pried open her bag and started pulling things out. “Here,” she said. “Put these on. No questions or I’m making my phone call.”

A moment later, they each stood in the clearing staring at each other. The large yellow tinted goggles and black earmuffs made them look made them look like bees ear things wearing baseball caps.

“We look ridiculous,” Taffeta said.

“Whaaat?” Myrna said pulling at her headgear.

“We look ridiculous!”

“Better to look ridiculous than to spend time in an emergency room.”

“What?” Taffeta said.

“Better to look…,” Myrna started, then waved it off. “Nothing.”

Taffeta turned back in to her stance than back toward Myrna. “Why the Phillies?”

“Whaaat?” Myrna said pulling again at her headgear.

“Why the Phillies?” Taffeta said even louder. “The hats!”

“They were on the clearance table at Chance. It was that or one that said ‘Eat My Dust,'” Myrna said. “I thought that was just terrible. Eat my dust. Who says that?”

Taffeta looked at Myrna through a field of amber, shrugged and moved back into her shooting stance. She reached over and opened the latch to release the safety. She set her grip on the weapon and slid her finger up over the trigger.

“So, it’s loaded then?” Myrna said peering over Taffeta’s shoulder and loud to make sure Taffeta heard her through her earmuffs. The break in Taffeta’s concentration caused her to jump nearly pulling the trigger and shooting nowhere near the direction she intended.

She pointed the gun barrel down. “Are you serious?!”

“What?” Myrna said again pulling at her headgear.

“You’re going to get us killed!”

“I just wanted to make sure!”

“Yes,” Taffeta said. “It’s loaded. The safety is off. It’s ready to go.”

“Touchy, touchy,” Myrna said. “By all means Bonnie Parker. Shoot your gun!”

Taffeta smirked hard and then turned back into her stance, taking an extra deep breath to calm herself and set her resolve. She leveled the gun at the target clump of weeds and inched he finger to the trigger.

“C’mon, Cora. Baby needs a new pair of shoes,” she whispered or said in her head, which seemed like an off thing to say, and squeezed.

The fact that the gun didn’t explode in her face was as much of a surprise to her as the actual kick of the recoil which forced her to bear down on her grip.

Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

The gun fired over and over again in steady succession.

Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

Her eyes squinted through the yellow tinted lens as the targeted clump of weeds danced at the attack of lead slugs that bit into it one after the other.

Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

It all unfolded before her as she was a part of it and yet outside of it as an observer.

Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

Cora grew warm in her hands as each bullet burst through the muzzle. Each shell ejected out through the top and rained down to the ground at her feet.

Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

She grit her teeth and squeezed on the trigger even harder.

Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.

Then…silence.

She stood firm in her stance with her hands gripping the metal tight and and the trigger pulled. The subtle smell of warm oil and smoke floated up to brush her nose. Her breath was strong and steady. Her heart beat strong and steady in her chest. She stood firm, staring at the once clump of weeds.

“Taffy?” Myrna said, softly. She reached out slowly and placed her hand on Taffeta’s shoulder. Her friend flinched ever so slightly under her touch. “Taffy? You all right?”

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – IV

“Myrna.”

Nothing.

“Myrna, honey,” Taffeta said, softly dabbing her friend’s forehead with a moistened towel.

Nothing.

“Myrrrrnaaa,” Taffeta said in a low soft voice, quietly singing out the name and hoping her friend would come to.

From the time the clattering sound crawled through the line and reached her ear, it took about fifteen minutes for Taffeta to hang up the phone and get over to Myrna’s house. As the noise registered in her head, the burn of genuine fear and concern filled her chest, for even if Myrna dropped to the ground simply and directly, any fall at their age could be dangerous. It could mean heart attacks, and broken bones, and long convalescences, and pain, and… She shook the thoughts away.

Once she pulled into Myrna’s driveway, she immediately went around to the back of the house. Even though she could get a glimpse of her friend lying there in the middle of her kitchen floor, she knocked quickly, to be polite. When Myrna didn’t move, Taffeta tipped up the edge of a small potted geranium, slid out the extra house key made her way in.

Dropping her purse and the key as she entered, she ran over to the body as fast as she could without tripping, falling or having a heart attack of her own. She wouldn’t mind, but Myrna would mind a great deal if someone came in and found two ladies of a certain age lying next to each other, or however they ended up dead, on her kitchen floor. Most undignified. Scandalous even.

The handset of the phone lay on the floor next to Myrna’s head screeching the high-pitched buzzing tone you get when you leave the line open too long after the person on the other side hangs up.

Taffeta reached over and pushed the button marked by the small red phone icon filling the room with silence. Then she moved closer to Myrna, her movements torn between eagerness and trepidation. She inched her ear close to her friend’s face in the hopes of hearing a breath. Myrna obliged by exhaling a soft, thin, raspy whistle of a breath. Taffeta sighed, swallowed hard and allowed herself to draw a deep calming breath for herself. Myrna was alive.

And just as Taffeta was about to look for a potential head injury, Myrna countered the exhale with a robust and snarling deep snore that seemed to rattle the floor. Myrna was asleep.

Taffeta got herself up, got over to the kitchen sink, moisten a good corner of the towel that sat on the counter and returned to her friend’s side all before the next snore cycle completed itself.

“Myrna?” she said again, nudging her shoulder a bit. “If you sleep on this floor anymore your back will punish you for weeks.”

Nothing. Setting the towel down on the table, Taffeta reached over and lightly tapped at her friend’s cheek.

“Myr…”

“FIRE!”

Taffeta jerked back uncontrollably at the speed at which Myrna’s eyes opened, wide with confusion. A lucky move, for at the same time, Myrna’s arms and legs shot straight out from their resting places and grew rigid, knocking Taffeta back further still. If she were close enough to take the full, direct blow Myrna might have knocked her across the kitchen and into the cabinets. She was not a large woman per se, but Myrna was sturdy and still had a lot of strength left for someone whose primary form of exercise seemed to be walking, worry and hefting the occasional bowl of chips to the couch when she watched her stories on TV.

Myrna’s eyes quickly darted back and forth as she tried to steady herself, tried to calm down, tried to recall where she was and tried to recall what the heck she might have been dreaming all at the same time.

“Oh my word,” she said. Catching sight of Taffeta rolling backwards, Myrna struggled around to her knees and reached out to catch her friend. Getting a hand on her jacket, she only succeeded in pulling at Taffeta in such a way that she spun away on the smooth linoleum causing her to now fall forward.

“Stop!” Taffeta yelled out at as kitchen whirled around her. “Stop! Stop moving!”

They both stilled themselves until the motion stopped and the two of them lay breathing heavily in a pile on the kitchen floor.

“Jesus, Taffy,” Myrna said now facing down. “You scared me to death!”

“Ha!,” Taffeta said in a puff while staring at the ceiling. “I thought you were dead already!”

“I guess I fainted.”

“I guess.”

They stayed prone on the floor taking the time to get their breathing and the heartbeats under control, taking personal inventories on whether either of them might have actually hurt themselves.

“Whew,” Myrna said. “We must look a sight!”

“We do,” Taffeta said in a small laugh. “Who knew you could move so fast? You almost knocked me into the next room.”

“I’m so sorry Taffy. I should have been more careful.”

“How could you? You didn’t even know where you were.”

“Well, I’m sorry.”

“Oh, it’s fine. I’m fine. How are you?”

Myrna brought her hands up to the floor and raised her head. “I’m fine. I guess once I fainted, I must have just drifted into sleep.”

The two helped each other up and plopped down into chairs at the kitchen table.

“I didn’t sleep very well last night,” Myrna said. “The business of the gun and all seems to have settled into my head. It must be even worse for you. I don’t even have that horrible thing in my house.”

“Actually,” Taffeta said, rearranging the salt and pepper shakers on the table back up against the small napkin holder. “I slept great, like a log really. And you know, it’s not a horrible thing.”

“The gun?” Myrna asked. “The gun, your ‘sub-machine gun’ is not a horrible thing?”

“It’s a thing Myrna. It can be used in horrible ways, but all in all, the thing itself is just what it is. Like a car, or a kitchen knife or a hair dryer, it’s a thing that only does what we do with them.”

“A hair dryer?” Myrna asked. “How do you lump a hair dryer and a sub-machine gun in the same class?”

“People have done horrible things with hair dryers. What about that incident in Cardington where that woman killed her husband by throwing the hair dryer into the tub with him?”

“Oh my Lord, why would you think of that?”

“I’m just making the point,” Taffeta said.

“And I don’t think it was a hair dryer.”

“It wasn’t?”

“No,” Myrna said. “I think I remember it being a toaster.”

“A toaster?”

“Yup.”

“Hm,” Taffeta said. “How did he not see that coming?”

“What?”

“Who keeps a toaster in their bathroom?” Taffeta asked. “I think if I saw a toaster in the bathroom, I’d have to ask some questions.”

“Young people,” Myrna said shaking her head. “Who knows what they are into these days?”

“I guess,” Taffeta said. “Look, about the gun.” She decided the pepper looked better on the other side. “Now that you’re sitting, I meant it. I want to learn how to shoot it.”

“Ugh,” Myrna said, rolling her head back. “Why on earth do you want to do that? It can’t be safe. I mean, it looked like an antique!”

“I think it is.”

“Well, there you go! Another reason not to shoot the thing! Guns, especially old guns are not something people should mess around with.”

“Guns,” Taffeta said, “Especially guns of ‘a certain level of experience,’ can still have a lot of good use in them.”

Myrna trained her eyes on her friend. “What ‘good use’ can you possibly see for an antique sub-machine gun?”

Taffeta met her gaze for a moment, but turned back to her work with the condiments. “I don’t know. Nothing I guess. I just think, I mean…it’s a feeling.”

“A feeling.”

“Yeah, I mean, why do you think I got it?”

“It might be that your brother, God rest his soul, might have been… a little insane. No offense,” Myrna said. “I’m thinking that if you want to go around shooting that relic, and please don’t take this personally, because you know I love you and my only wish for you is health and happiness, but frankly, that seems a little insane to me. Sorry, but there, I said it.”

“I love you too,” Taffeta said reaching for Myrna’s hands across the table. “You know I do. I appreciate your honesty, really, I do, but I’m not insane. It’s just a feeling I have. I look at it and I know that it’s OK. And while I think it’s been through some stuff, I don’t think it was ever used to kill anyone.”

“How can you possibly know that?” Myrna said squeezing Taffeta’s hands hard enough to urge her message through them. “Because we are here, and because this is between us, I can tell you that the things you’re saying right now sound a little more crazy with every pass.”

“It’s a feeling, that’s all I can say.”

“A feeling.”

“Right,” Taffeta said. “I’m going to teach myself how to shoot that gun. I feel like I have to.”

“You have to?” Myrna asked.

“Yes, I feel like a have to.”

They sat in silence as the small table in Myrna’s kitchen with their arms stretched out toward each other and their hands clasped tight.

“Well then,” Myrna said, after a deep and dramatic breath while squeezing her friend’s hands with each word as if to underline her intent. “I cannot in all good conscience allow to do such a fool thing on your own. If you are going to go through this ridiculous exercise, you must must promise me that you will include me every step of the way. If you don’t, I will call the police, no…, the FBI and tell them that my friend has gone off her nut and is planning on shooting up the civic hall bingo center.”

Taffeta smiled. “You hate bingo.”

“I do,” Myrna said. “And frankly, I wouldn’t mind if you ran every one of the…how many bullets did you say you have?

“Two thousand.”

“And frankly, I wouldn’t mind if you ran every one of those 2,o0o bullets through the place – provided nobody gets hurt of course, but the FBI doesn’t need to know that. They just need to know about the crazy lady with the antique sub-machine gun who is out looking for trouble.”

Taffeta squeezed her friend’s hands and smiled. “That is just about the nicest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

“I can just imagine,” Myrna said. “You’re out there, God knows where, shooting your gun and something happens to to you. You’ll need me nearby just to call the ambulance.”

“Thank you.”

“I mean, God forbid you shoot yourself,” Myrna said. “Or worse, somebody else!”

“I agree,” Taffeta said. “It will be better to have you along.”

“You could end up igniting some international incident. People will think you’ve gone and joined a gang!”

“Who would think that?”

“I don’t know,” Myrna said. “I didn’t think any of all this so far could have happened  and now instead of calling the FBI or trying to talk you out of this foolishness right now, I’m talking myself into going crazy with you!”

“You’re a good friend.”

“I’m an idiot.”

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – III

Lester J. Munce was Taffeta’s only sibling and four years her senior. A standard issue American quality male, he found moderate success in all he did by capitalizing on a certain innate cleverness, the ability to both see and seize an opportunity and an infectious, affable personality. He played basketball in high school. He served his country in Viet Nam. He never went to college, but seemed adequately served by the education his life experiences gave him. He never married, but seemed adequately completed as a person through a series of long-term relationships that carried him through the bulk of his life.

He might have been what some would call wealthy due mostly, to his keen ability to sniff out a good business deal.

He might have been what some might call eccentric, for while he wasn’t one to flaunt his affluence, he did enjoy his hobbies. He fancied himself an explorer, a discoverer, a collector.

Once Taffeta settled into her life with Abel, the time she was able to spend with Lester became rare and fleeting. There never was an ounce of bad blood between them, they just focused on being who and where they were at that point in their lives. On those occasions when they could get together, the stories, laughter and hugs flowed like wine.

While she knew nothing of its existence, it was no surprise to Taffeta that he would have a “facility” filled with crates holding the many treasures he collected over the course of his travels. It was no surprise that in the event of his death, those treasures would be distributed to his family, friends and acquaintances according to his very specific directions.

What did surprise her was the fact that she received anything at all, for she recalled a conversation where his ultimate goal was to have his life complete a cycle in which there was nothing left to give. He came into this life with nothing. He planned to leave the same way. Still, in the absence of full control, a decent will was the next best thing.

The other thing that tossed her a bit was the items bestowed upon her.

The circus of events that surrounded the arrival of the crates seemed distant and unreal. What a morning.

Myrna, whether completely emotionally overwhelmed by the sight of what they found in the crates, or deciding to embrace the drama in the concept of being completely emotionally overwhelmed, excused herself from the obligation of lunch that day and decided that what she really needed at that point in her life was a good ‘lie down.” A Billingham version of catching a touch of the vapors.

All the better for Taffeta who spent the time getting back to getting regular by catching up on her pill schedule, getting something to eat and then taking the afternoon to further explore the “gift” that seemed to be consuming her sitting room.

She started with the gun.

Pulling it out of the crate, she noticed that while it had a bit of heft, it wasn’t heavy. Depending on the calibration of her bathroom scale, it came in at about nine pounds. Under the packing material she located the service manual and what the service manual then defined as four empty “magazines.”

According to the manual, what she had here was a .45-caliber M3A1 submachine gun. The Google told her it was commonly referred to as a “greaser,” not so much for what it did to whatever was in front of it, but rather, because apparently, it looked a bit like a mechanic’s grease gun. All the better for she found the concept of “greasing” somebody unsettling.

She learned that each bullet was called a “round” and that each magazine could hold thirty rounds. She learned that it could probably shoot about a hundred rounds a minute, a stupid statistic to her considering the thing only held thirty bullets at a time. And, depending on where you did your research, the gun could shoot effectively anywhere between 50 and 100 yards.

It seemed obvious enough where one’s hands were supposed to go and while she shifted it around to get a feel for it, she put extra effort into avoiding the trigger…just in case. It also came with what she saw as a lightly frayed, yet functional strap.

She moved all the gun pieces and parts from the crate until it was empty and placed them on a towel across her dining room table as if on display. She convinced herself it helped her better understand what she was dealing with to see it all before her.

Doing the same with the second crate, she moved boxes of bullets, noted as 230 grain .45 ACP rounds, from the sitting room to the dining room table. With the last box in place, she looked over the pyramid of ammo, some 2000 rounds in all by her calculation, that proved to be an effective visual backdrop for the gun. She resisted the strong urge to take a picture.

Standing there, staring at it all, she found it didn’t make any more sense why she had these things once they were out of the crates than it did when she first opened them. As she stood tracing her eyes back and forth across her new inheritance, she found herself side-stepping to the window. Without looking, she reached up and pulled the cord to draw the drapes. Not that she cared much, but what would the neighbors think?

Despite having what she equated to a small armory in her home, at least compared to what she was used to, she slept surprisingly well. Her eyes popped open refreshed and ready at 7:26 am just like always and everything felt so incredibly normal and routine that began to imagine that the whole adventure might have been just a dream.

She made her bed, kissed Abel’s pillow, washed, got dressed and moved to the kitchen for breakfast, totally unaware that the urge to confirm if the dream was real or not had quickened her process quite a bit. Walking toward the dining room, she paused. She drew in a slight breath flavored with a mild taste of apprehension she had not expected, then held it and peaked ever so slightly past the door jamb.

Still there.

Forgetting breakfast, she exhaled in a gush of relief and stepped quickly into the room and up to the table like a child on Christmas morning.

“Cora!”

She caught herself. She stopped quickly just short of the table. The tiny step backwards was for, “Balance,” she said, her soft words crushing the silence. Her eyes traced the form of the weapon and the small mountain of bullets. “Oh…you did not just go and name that gun Cora.”

But she did.

She reworked the back pedal into forward momentum and pressed up against the edge of the table.

“Or, did I?” she said. “Cora seems like a perfectly normal name for a submachine gun, much better than being a ‘greaser.'”

Her mind churned. “What else could you be? Rocko? Doniella? Crystal? Monique?” She poured through names like she was reading the phonebook. Nothing fit. Nothing needed to fit. She reached down and placed her hand on the cool steel.

“Cora,” she said.

The four empty ammunition magazines sat straight and still next to the gun as she brushed her fingers over them. It’s real, she thought. But…

Riiing!

Much like the doorbell, the phone rarely rang anymore. Taffeta was so singularly focused on the daydream that the intrusion nearly caused her to fall. Regularity and balance were key to an old…an “experienced person’s” survival as food and water.

Riiing!

She pulled away from the table and stepped into the kitchen to grab the receiver.

“Hello?”

“Taffy? It’s Myrna”

“Hi, yeah, I gathered.”

“First, let me apologize for leaving you in such a spot yesterday.”

“It’s OK. I…”

“It is not OK. I knew you were going to say that, but I won’t accept that. It was rude of me to leave you yesterday in such a spot and I can not even believe I didn’t call to chuck on you before now!”

“Myrna…”

“Now, I just will not accept forgiveness so easily.”

“It’s really all right.”

“It’s not and I apologize from the very bottom of my heart.”

Taffeta paused, partly to let the apology sink in, partly to help Myrna feel good and absolved and partly to take a moment to peek back into the dining room.

“Myrna?”

“Yes, dear?”

“Feel better?”

“Twelve percent,” Myrna said, “But that’s better than nothing.”

“All right then…”

“Do you still have that…thing?” Myrna asked, the tilt in her voice added a dollop of disgust to the word thing.

“Yes,” Taffeta said. “Yes, it’s still here. It’s all right here. I have one submachine gun and about 2000 bullets.”

“Two thousand bullets?!”

‘”Yup,” Taffeta said.

“A SUB-machine gun?”

“Yup.”

“Well…,” Myrna worked to process the words as fast as she could. “What do you plan to do with it? How do you plan to get rid of it?”

Taffeta thought. She really hadn’t gotten that far. She unpacked it, weighed it, set up a small shrine to it surrounded by boxes of bullets on her dining room table and was for some reason, very glad that it was all still right where she left it.

“I guess I have to keep it.”

“WHAT?”

Taffeta pulled the phone from her ear as the shrill screech of Myrna’s voice bore into her head.

“You cannot mean that!”

“Well, what can I do?” she said. “It’s from Lester. It’s the last thing he will ever give me. He chose this specifically for me.”

“To what end, Taffy? What kind of person, family or not, gives another person, family or not, a sub-machine gun and 2,000 bullets? I mean really!”

“He was my brother.”

Each sat on one end of a silent connection for what seemed like a long time.

“Again,” Myrna said finally. “I’m sorry. He was your brother and it is a gift. It’s not right for me to judge the quality of a gift shared between two people. You deserve so much more in a friend.”

“It’s fine, Myrna,” Taffeta said. “You’re a good friend. And you’re right. It’s a weird thing to give to someone, but…I don’t know…it seems like a good gift.”

“How could it be a good gift?”

“I don’t know. When I came down this morning, it all felt like a dream and when I saw Cora there, surrounded by the boxes of ammo, I just…”

Another helping of silence wedged itself between them.

“Wait,” Myrna broke in again. “Did you say Cora?”

“Did  I?” Taffeta said, not certain whether she said it out loud or just thought it.

“You named that thing?”

Chlunk!

Taffeta jumped at the noise.

“Myrna?”

Silence.

“Myrna?”

The sounds of struggle reached through the receiver.

“Myrna!” Taffeta said pushing back on a wave of panic.

“Sorry… Sorry…,” Myrna said finally. “I’m all right. I dropped the phone!”

“Are you OK?”

“I’m fine. I just…when you said you named your gun, what…Cora is it? I just lost my balance a little. I’m sorry. I’m fine.”

“Take it easy over there.”

“I got it. I’m sitting down now. I’m fine.’

“You scared me,” Taffeta said.

“I scared you? Ha!,” Myrna said still settling the phone into place.”You name your sub-machine gun Cora, and I scare you. That’s funny.”

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

“Fine. Yes. Right as rain.”

More silence rose up between the audible spurts of Myrna’s breath.

“Myrna?”

“Whew…, yes dear?”

“I’m going to teach myself how to shoot it.”

CHLUNK!

“Myrna?”

Nothing.

“Myrna?!”

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding – II

“Holy Shit! It’s a gun!” Myrna shouted, dropping the page from Deffert, Smith and Deffert.

“Myrna Billingham!” Taffeta said, mostly joking, but sill a little shocked. “Such language!”

“Are you shitting me? Is that not a gun?” Myra said pointing down at the open crate.

“Looks like,” Taffeta said with a small grunt as she shifted from her knees to her butt.

“And you’re OK with that?”

“Well,” Taffeta said, leaning her nose closer to the inside of the crate, not brave enough yet to touch the thing. “I’m not really sure what we have here, or why we have it. So I’m not sure how OK I can be with it.”

Myrna quickly turned and stepped toward the door. “Maybe it’s not too late! We can catch the delivery man and have him take the dreadful thing away.”

As she grabbed that handle and swung the door wide to wave the Daily Parcel man down, she was met with an unexpected sight.

“JESUS!”

Myrna’s shriek sent a charge through Taffeta which inspired her to get to her feet as fast as she could manage. Her friend rolled away from the door, but did so along the wall so that she wouldn’t drop to the floor. Her eyes grew wide as plates, as Taffeta’s grandmother used to say. As one hand splayed out against the wall for support, the other clutched at her chest hoping against hope that her heart would not come bursting out through her ribs. Her heavy breath came and went so hard, her lower lip moved ever so slightly in and out with its raspy rhythm.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am!” said the voice from the other side of the door. The Daily Parcel man, who had not been gone five minutes leaned in a bit to make sure the woman was all right – his own heart beat heavy with the shock of the door swinging open just as he was about to push the door bell. “I didn’t mean to startled you.”

Taffeta reached the door with her hands up and waving. “Don’t worry about it young man,” she said. Again, hating hearing her mouth say those words. They made her sound like Katherine Hepburn. “She gets startled on a regular basis. It’s a thing with her…like exercise.”

Myrna stood fast against, that wall, but turned her head fast and squinted in protest at Taffeta’s words.

“How can I help you?” Taffeta said.

“I’m sorry Ma’am, but as I pulled away, my eye caught the list here and there is another crate. The one I brought a bit ago was one of two. And this here,” he said patting the large crate on the dolly next to him. “Is two of two. Can I bring it in.”

“Oh mercy, wait!” Myrna yelled out, rolling her eyes and her head in exaggerated exasperation. “We’re not decent!”

It was Taffeta’s turn to look back at her friend with wide eyes and a gaping mouth that whispered, “What?!”

Myrna pushed away from the wall and lunged, if one could call it an official lunge, toward the crate on the floor. She snapped up the foam and threw it across the open crate to hide the gun underneath. Then she righted herself smoothed her shirt by tugging at the bottom hem and set her glasses right on the front of her chest. She took a deep breath, plastered a smile on her face and as she took her a step toward the door, she let her finger pull the strands of hair that fell down in front of her face back over her ear as if she were making a stage entrance.

“Yes, pleeease,” she said with a cartoon like, exaggerated kindness that clearly implied there was nothing to see here, certainly not a gun of sorts. “Taffeta, step aside so the man can do his work.”

Taffeta cocked her head a bit as her eyes followed her friend. What’s with the southern accent Daisy Mae?

Daily Parcel grabbed the handles of the dolly, gave it a spin and a healthy tug up and over the threshold into the small front room. He set two of two next to one of two, grabbed the clipboard off the top of the crate and handed it to Taffeta to sign.

“That was a heavy one,” he said, noticing the first crate was open. “What did you get if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Jelly of the month club!” Myrna said stepping in front of the open crate. “Yes, premium jams and jellies from around the world.” She moved in a rather quick and fluid motion to first block his view of the open crate, then reach up to gently guide him toward the door with a soft and flowing touch to his shoulder. “Ladies of our… experience, have earned the right to enjoy some of the finer things and these jellies are just to die for.”

Taffeta caught her eyes at about mid roll.

Myrna continued to guide the man toward the door, taking the clipboard from Taffeta, handing it to him and shuffling him outside. “Goodbye now,” she said, nearly singing it as she started to wave. “Safe journey! Long life!” She continued to spew various well wishes and valedictions after the man as he moved down the walkway and she pulled back into the house to where she could shut the door. The second the door clicked, the flowery and sunny disposition melted into a rush of panic and fear as she pushed against the door, bolting locks and setting chains as if something were fighting to get in from the other side.

She spun around, leaned hard against the door with her arms outstretched and breathed a huge and dramatic sigh, “Whew! That was close.”

Taffeta stood motionless for a moment looking at her friend who was effectively holding the imaginary evil at bay.

“Are you all right?”

“Yes,” Myrna said, still breathing heavy from the excitement.

“You’re sure.”

“Yes.”

Taffeta looked close a moment longer. “We’re not decent? What was that?”

“I panicked.”

“I’ll say. Who knows what story mister Daily Parcel is going to share when he gets home about the indecent, crazy old ladies who just got two giant crates of exotic jellies and jams from around the world.” She turned back to the crates.

Myrna pulled her self from the door, “It’ll be better than a story about two crazy old, er, two ladies with profound life experience who happen to be in the gun trade!”

“Gun trade?” Taffeta said, not fully committing to the argument. “I hardly believe one gun, which we didn’t even know existed 20 minutes ago, qualifies us as gun runners or criminals.”

“Maybe not,” Myrna said, “Unless create number two here is also full of guns!”

“True,” Taffeta said. “But I thought you wanted to catch that man to have him take the gun away. We could have been done with it by now.”

Myrna fiddled and adjusted the glasses on her chest that hung from a chain around her neck. “I panicked.”

Taffeta reached over and patted her friend’s shoulder, “I know sweetie. It’s ok.”

After a moment she stepped away, reached down for the crowbar and moved toward the second crate. Giving it the once over, she saw that it was a bit bigger than the first and she could tell heavier by the way Daily Parcel moved it. She sought a spot to stick the crowbar and pried up along the edges until she could pull the lid off.

Myrna peered over her friend’s shoulder as she pulled away the packing paper.

“Huh…,” Taffeta said.

“Mother Mary pray for us,” Myrna said behind her. “Bullets.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Glorious Sunset of Taffeta Spaulding

Despite the fact that she stopped using an alarm clock several years ago, it was a rare event when Taffeta Spaulding slept beyond 7:26 am.

This morning, her eyes fluttered open into a beam of sun that made her squint and shift her head into a thin line of shade away from the intrusion into her slumber.

Pulling the sheets from their restrictive placement near her neck she raised her head to get a better look at the clock.

9:58

“Well,” she said to the room, rolling onto her back and staring at the ceiling. “That’s a hell of a thing.” She couldn’t remember the last day the clock greeted her waking with anything but 7:26.

She pulled the covers further away, crawled out of bed and set about the rigors of her routine. It was later, of course. Quite a bit later than usual, so she had to keep moving if she was to stay on schedule. The doctor was very keen on reminding her ad nauseam about the importance of maintaining a healthy and regular schedule.

“Pfft,” she thought. The focus on regular everything seemed to be the only thing she was taking away from being older. Regular this, regular that…regular my ass.

She smiled a bit as she worked. “That too,” she said.

She walked around pulling and straightening the sheets and blankets as she made her bed, pausing for a moment to kiss the palm of her hand and place it on the pillow that lay undisturbed next to hers.

“Looks like one more day, Abel,” she said.

She approached the bathroom mirror with her usual aplomb. She gave up vanity years ago. Where the idea of slim waists and toned calves were the comparative factors in relation to where she stood among her peers, now, at seventy-four, it was who was still alive, who was still functioning independently and who still had all their marbles.

She ran her fingers through her still fairly thick mop of silver hair, pulled it back and secured the mess with a clip. She bathed, dressed and moved to the kitchen for more, more of the same.

In the kitchen, she muttered something of the time and it being so late, more out of the feeling of obligation than really being upset by it. “It’s closer to lunch than breakfast,” she said to no one, but probably Abel. If she made the adjustment to the notion that it was lunch, she would be back on schedule just like that, done and done, except of course for her pills.

Her friend Sylvia from Kettleton took no less than 30 pills during the course of a day, or so she remembers her saying. Taffeta herself was up to a modest 12. Spaced throughout the day, they averaged four per meal. On regular days, it’s never a problem. On special days like today her breakfast pills were already running into her lunch pills, not that it made any difference. No matter how many pills she took in, she felt pretty much the same day to day.

She gathered up her morning doses from the counter near the sink and put them down with a glass of water, then popped open the fridge to see what she might fix for lunch.

Bing, bong.

For as many years as she lived in the house, the doorbell ringing is more and more a rare and fleeting event. She raised her head out of the fridge like a deer that heard a twig snap in the forest. She looked slowly both ways and listened carefully.

Bing…bong.

The chime stirred the air of the quiet house with its confirmation. Taffeta closed the fridge and stepped quietly through the dining room and closer to the front door.

Doors were tricky at her age. She never liked answering them. It was either someone selling something or…actually, it always seemed to be someone selling something. Things she did not need. Unless it was a child with a parent selling cookies, she had little inspiration for front door encounters.

On the other hand, it wasn’t safe to let people on the other side of the door think nobody was home, at least, not with the recent rash of break-ins and such.

She neared the door with stealthy footsteps. Inching her face closer to the peephole, she imagined wiring her doorbell button to a recording of a very large and angry dog barking his fool head off. That would get them, she thought.

On the other side of the tiny telescope, in a fish-eyed distortion stood Myrna Billingham, weaving back and forth in her nervous way, in an effort so see, or at least sense what might be going on inside and if everything was alright. Taffeta unlocked the door, unhitched both chains, worked the latch and swung the door open.

“Thank God!” Myrna said, throwing her hands in the air as far as she dared while still being able to avoid hitting herself with her purse. “I thought you were dead!”

“Two rings, Myrna,” Taffeta said. “No answer on four rings is the key right?”

“Four rings, yes of course,” Myrna muttered as she pushed her sturdy and fairly solid five foot two inch frame past Taffeta to welcome herself inside. “But you know Taffy, if you’re going to be that slow in getting to the door, we might as well make it two…or three. A woman of my experience just can’t take that level of excitement.”

Taffeta considered Myrna, also 74, a friend for life even if she wasn’t a life long friend. They found each other socially several years ago, they helped each other through the passing of their husbands, and now, in whatever time comes to them, they work through the unspoken pledge of keeping an eye out for the other. Myrna was the only person, besides Billy Tendicore back in third grade who called her Taffy. She never spoke in terms of age. She found it more dignified to speak in terms of life experiences.

Taffeta followed Myrna back to the kitchen as she shed her coat, placed it on the hook in the hallway and set about getting to what she saw as her chair at the small table in the kitchen.

“Oh my God!” Myrna said, throwing her arms out to her side and stopping dead in her tracks. “You’re sick!”

“What?” Taffeta said nearly bumping into her from behind.

“No breakfast dishes in the rack,” she said pointing to the empty drying rack near the sink. She spun on her heal to face Taffeta. “Every Thursday when I come over you would be putting your breakfast things away before we go to lunch.” Myrna’s eyes darted over Taffeta searching for clues of illness or traces of despair.

“Is today Thursday?”

“Oh, Lord! You fell, didn’t you? You hit your head.” Myrna grabbed her friend’s head with hands on either side of her face and deepened her examination, what she lacked in a delicate touch, Taffeta was certain she made up for with bona fide caring.

“I’m not sick,” she said through scrunched cheeks. A vision shot through her memory of her mother doing something very similar when she was in school. Taffeta gently wrapped her hands around Myrna’s wrists and gave them a squeeze of reassurance. “I’m not sick. I just slept in a little today.”

Myrna gave one last look into Taffeta’s eyes before she released her grip and turned back toward her chair. “So you say. If you ask me something is wrong. You slept late, but you don’t do that. You say you missed breakfast, but you don’t do that. Apparently, you forgot it was Thursday. You don’t…”

“I don’t do that. I know,” Taffeta said. “Look, I didn’t forget about our lunch.” Although, she had. “I just…”

“Oh my God,” Myrna said slapping her hand against the table. “Did you remember to take your pills?”

“I remembered my pills. In fact, I was just getting my midday doses together when you rang the door.”

“Good thing I did too. We’ll get you back on track.” She shuffled in her chair adjusting her comfort. “You can’t take those on an empty stomach you know. “

“I know.”

“Where should we go to lunch then? You look pale. You pick.”

“I’m fine. You’re being silly. I look the same as I did yesterday and the day before,” Taffeta said patting her on the shoulder. “How about Carsoni’s?”

“With my heartburn? I knew it! You’re trying to kill me!”

Taffeta laughed, “It will take more than a spicy pepperoni roll to take you out my dear. What about…”

Bing, bong.

Again, the chime from the front door rang out and seemed to fade into the quiet that settled between the two ladies. They both turned their heads just enough so their eyes met. One eyebrow rose slightly over Myrna’s left eye to seemingly question why someone might be ringing her friend’s door when they were scheduled for lunch.

“Quit that,” Taffeta said, softly, almost whispering. “I don’t know who it is.”

Bing, Bong.

Thump, thump, thump.

A ring and a knock. They looked at each other closer, puzzled and now more curious. Myrna stood from her chair.

“Well, we should see who it is.”

“Yeah, OK.”

Thump, thump, thump.

“They seem very eager,” Myrna said, grabbing Taffeta’s hand. “Whomever it is.”

They journeyed quickly through the dining room and to the door. Myrna took point and poked her eye up to the peephole holding Taffeta back at arm’s length.

“It’s the Daily Parcel guy,” she said.

Taffeta gently guided Myrna out of the way and again worked the chains and the lock then solely opened the door.

Figuring nobody was home, the Daily Parcel man was two steps off the stoop by the time the door opened.

“Young man!” Taffeta shouted then shuddered. She hated saying that. “I’m home.”

The deliveryman caught himself and turned back. “Ah…” he said as he took three bouncing steps back up the steps.

“Great,” he said, reorienting his clipboard. “I have a delivery, for one Ms. Taffeta Spaulding. It says here it’s a crate.”

“A crate?”

“Yes, Ma’am. If you sign here, I’m happy to go get it.” He handed her he clipboard and jumped back down the steps toward the dark blue delivery van accented with bright yellow letters.

“I’m getting a crate,” she said to Myrna as she leaned her head back into the house a bit.

“A crate…nice, “ Myrna said.

In no time at all, the deliveryman had the crate on a small dolly and wheeled it up to the door.

“I’m not supposed to do this, but I’d be happy to move it just inside the door for you.”

“That would be wonderful, thank you.”

In another moment, the excitement of the delivery was over. The three-foot by two-foot by one-foot crate stood in the middle of Taffeta’s front room with Myrna and Taffeta eyeing it from either side.

“What on earth could it be?” Myrna asked.

“It’s a crate,” Taffeta said, forcing herself not to smile. “The man said so.”

“Ha, ha. Why don’t you get something to open it?”

“Ah,” she said, “Good idea.” She left the room and went down to the basement where Abel used to keep a modest array of hand tools. Grabbing a small crowbar from a hook on the pegboard she went back to the front room a woman on a mission.

“Who’s it from?”

Taffeta slowly knelt down and searched the outside of the box. “I don’t know,” she said. “There’s this envelope, packet thingy, but that probably only has the shipping invoice in it.” She thought a moment, “But, I guess it’s worth a shot.”

Picking at the glue sealed flap of the clear plastic envelope, she raised up enough of a chunk to get a good grip and tear the top open. She reached in and pulled out the contents flipping them over in her hands and unfolding them.

“Yup,” she said, “Here’s the invoice, and this…”

She unfolded the second page and turned it so that is sat right, “This one is a letter, here.” Taffeta passed the page to her friend.

Myrna pawed at the reader glasses that hung from the chain across her chest, brought them up to her face, slid them up onto her nose and squinted, working to see more clearly.

“Dear Ms. Spaulding,” she said. “’In an effort to bring resolution to the last portions of the estate of your brother, Lester J. Munce (Deceased), We are releasing this box and its contents to your care.’ I thought your brother died four years ago.”

“He did.”

“Hm,” Myrna said turning back to the page. “’Amongst your brother’s base belongings, was a key to a small offsite storage facility. In his particular unit, we discovered no less that twenty-three wooden crates of various sizes and weights. Per his instruction, the crates were not to be opened, but to be distributed equally amongst, and as quickly as possible, to the person(s) noted in the documentation. Your brother included the following message to all. Life is too short for the bull shit…’”

“Oh, my,” Myrna said, a bit taken aback.

“Er…,” Myrna looked back to the paper to find her place. “‘Life is too short for the bullshit. Take this, may it serve you well. There is no available information at this time. Once all the crates are delivered, we will consider our association with the Munce estate to be complete. Angela Deffert. Deffert, Smith and Deffert, blah, blah.”

With her knees complaining about their place on the floor, Taffeta stuck the crowbar into what looked like a soft spot and pushed down. The nails and brads which held the crate together for such a long time creaked and groaned in defiance as the worked themselves free. Still, they held until the last, giving the lid very little movement. Pulling the crowbar out she quickly stuck it back in what looked to be a new soft place and repeated the exercise until finally, the lid was free.

Setting the crowbar down at her side, she stuck her fingers under the lid and lifted through the last bit of the nails’ commitment then tilted the lid back to the floor. Reaching in, she grabbed the large piece of foam packing and lifted it up and away allowing her to see the contents clearly.

“Well,” she said. “That’s a hell of thing.”