Home
Business-Wise
Kate's Collage
"Vinny Da Vendor"
"Benny Da Buyer"
Kizer & Bender
Memory, Paper & Stamps
Category Reports
Designing Perspectives
Scene & Heard


Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com


 


 

Insights on business -- and life.

Printer Version

Death by Killer Mop Doll: Chapter One

by Lois Wnston (January 16, 2012)

(Note: Death by Killer Mop Doll © 2012 by Lois Winston. Used by permission. Midnight Ink Books www.midnightinkbooks.com.)

Upstairs, the front door slammed with enough force to register a five on the Richter scale. Dust dislodged from the exposed basement rafters and drifted down like polluted snow, settling over the basket of clean laundry I’d been folding. The ensuing shouting, barking, and yowling drowned out my muttered curse of choice and yanked my attention away from the now Dalmatian-spotted white wash.

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends," squawked Ralph, the Shakespeare-spouting African Grey parrot I’d inherited when Great-Aunt Penelope Periwinkle died two years ago. "Henry the Fifth. Act Three, Scene One." He spread his wings and took flight up the basement stairs to check out the action. I raced after him, eager to prevent World War III from erupting in my living room.

"Muzzle that abominable creature, or I’ll have the pound haul him away," shrieked Mama. "He's traumatizing Catherine the Great."

"So shove some Prozac down her throat," said my mother-in-law, Lucille. "What the hell are you doing back here? And don’t you ever bother to knock? Just barge right in like you own the place."

"I have more right to be here than you. This is my daughter’s house, you … you pinko squatter."

As I hurried through the kitchen, I glanced at the calendar tacked next to the telephone. Mama wasn't due back from her Caribbean cruise for another three days. Damn it. I needed those three days to steel myself for the inevitable explosive reaction that occurred whenever Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe, my mother and the former social secretary of the Daughters of the American Revolution, locked horns with Lucille Pollack, my mother-in-law and current president of the Daughters of the October Revolution. I'd been swindled out of seventy-two hours.

By the time I entered the living room, Mama and Lucille’s voices had reached glass-shattering decibel range.

"Crazy communist!" yelled Mama. She stood in the middle of the room, cradling Catherine the Great, her corpulent white Persian with an attitude befitting her namesake.

Manifesto, my mother-in-law's runt of a French bulldog, stood inches from Mama's Ferragamos, his bark having switched to growl mode as he glared up at his nemesis. With a hiss and a yowl, Catherine the Great leaped from Mama's arms. Showing his true cowardly colors, Mephisto, as we always called him behind his back and often to his snout, scampered to safety behind my mother-in-law's ample girth.

Lucille barreled across the room, waving her cane at Mama. "Reactionary fascist!"

"How dare you threaten me!" Mama defended herself with a French-manicured backhand that would have done Chris Everett proud. The cane flew from Lucille’s grasp and landed inches from Mephisto's nose. Demon dog yelped and dove between Lucille's orange polyester-clad legs.

My mother-in-law's rage multiplied into Vesuvian proportions. Her wrinkled face deepened from a spotted scarlet to an apoplectic heliotrope. "You did that on purpose!"

Mama jutted her chin at Lucille as she rubbed the palm of her hand. "You started it."

"And I’m stopping it." I stepped between them, spreading my arms to prevent them from ripping each other’s lips off. "Knock it off. Both of you."

"It's her fault," said Mama. She jabbed a finger at Lucille. Her hand shook with rage, her gold charm bracelet tinkling a dainty minuet totally incompatible with the situation. "And that vicious mongrel of hers. She sic'd him on us the moment we walked through the door."

Highly unlikely. "Mephisto's all bark and bluster, Mama. You should know that by now."

"“Manifesto!" shrieked Lucille. "How many times do I have to tell you his name is Manifesto?"

"Whatever," Mama and I said in unison. It was an old refrain. Mephisto better suited demon dog anyway. Besides, who names a dog after a Communist treatise?

Behind me, Ralph squawked. I looked over my shoulder and found him perched on the lampshade beside one of the overstuffed easy chairs flanking the bay window. A chair occupied by a cowering stranger, his knees drawn up to his chest, his arms hugging his head. I glanced at Mama. Glanced back at the man. "Who’s he?"

"Oh dear!" Mama raced across the room, flapping her Chanelsuited arms. "Shoo, dirty bird!"

Ralph ignored her. He doesn’t intimidate easily. Mama was hardly a challenge for a parrot who had spent years successfully defending himself against Aunt Penelope’s mischievous students. "Anastasia, I told you that bird's a reincarnation of Ivan the Terrible. Do something. He's attacking my poor Lou."

Her Poor Lou? Okay, at least the man had a name and someone in the room knew him. I stretched out my arm and whistled. Ralph took wing, landing in the crook of my elbow. Poor Lou peered through his fingers. Convinced the coast was clear, he lowered his hands and knees and raised his head.

"Are you all right, dear?" asked Mama, patting his salt and pepper comb-over. "I'm terribly sorry about all this. My daughter never did have the heart to turn away a stray." She punctuated her statement with a pointed stare, first in Lucille’s direction and then at Ralph.

Lucille harrumphed.

Ralph squawked.

Mephisto bared his teeth and rumbled a growl from the depths of his belly.

Catherine the Great had lost interest in the family melodrama and dozed, stretched out on the back of the sofa.

Before Mama could explain Poor Lou's presence, the front door burst open. Fourteen-year-old Nick and sixteen-year-old Alex bounded into the living room. "Grandma!" they both exclaimed in unison. They dropped their baseball gear and backpacks on the floor and encircled Mama in a group hug.

"Aren’t you supposed to be on a cruise?" asked Nick.

"Who’s this?" asked Alex, nodding toward Poor Lou.

Poor Lou rose. He wiped his palms on his pinstriped pants legs, cleared his throat, and straightened his skewed paisley tie. "Maybe I should be going, Flora. The driver is waiting."

I glanced out the front window. A black limo idled at the curb.

"Yes, of course." She walked him to the door without bothering to make introductions. Very odd behavior for my socially correct mother.

"I'll call you tomorrow," Poor Lou told Mama.

She raised her head, batted her eyelashes, and sighed. Poor Lou wrapped his arms around my mother and bent her backwards in a clinch that rivaled the steamiest of Harlequin romance book covers. His eyes smoldered as he met her slightly parted lips. Mama melted into his body.

I stared at my etiquette-obsessed mother, my jaw flapping down around my knees, and wondered if she had eaten any funny mushrooms on her cruise. Out of the corner of one eye, I saw my two sons gaping with equally bug-eyed expressions. Behind me, Lucille muttered her disgust. Even Ralph registered his amazement with a loud squawk.

Over Mama's shoulder, Poor Lou stole an anxious glance toward Ralph, broke the kiss, and darted out the door.

Mama fluffed her strawberry blonde waves back into place, smoothed the wrinkles from her suit jacket, and offered us the most innocent of expressions as we continued to ogle her. "Is something wrong?"

"Wrong? Why? Just because my mother was doing the Tonsil Tango with a total stranger?"

Lucille stooped to retrieve her cane. "I suppose this means that trashy hussy is moving back into my room."

"Your room?" asked Mama.

"Hey, it's my room!" said Nick.

Poor Nick. He was none too happy about having to give up his bedroom to his curmudgeon of a grandmother. He didn't mind the occasional upheaval when Mama came to visit because he knew it was temporary. Besides, the boys and Mama had a great relationship. Lucille was another story. When she moved in with us to recuperate after a hit-and-run accident and subsequent hip surgery, none of us had expected a permanent addition to the household. Then again, I had suffered from quite a few delusions back then.

Lucille scowled at me. "You should teach those boys some respect. In my day children knew their place."

"Don’t you speak to my daughter like that."

Lucille scoffed. “Look who’s talking. A fine example you set.”

"What’s that supposed to mean?" demanded Mama.

"Strumpet." Lucille pounded her cane once for emphasis, then lumbered from the living room, Mephisto following at her heels. Lucille habitually pronounced judgment with a pounding of her cane, then departed.

"At least I’m getting some," Mama called after her. "Unlike a certain jealous Bolshevik who hasn't experienced an orgasm since Khrushchev ruled the Kremlin."

"Mama!"

Nick and Alex grabbed their middles and doubled over in hysterics.

Mama brushed my indignation aside with a wave of her hand. "For heaven's sake, Anastasia, I'm a grown woman."

“Then act like one. Especially in front of your grandsons.”

She winked at the boys. "I thought I did. Besides, if they don't know the facts of life by now, they’ve got a lot of catching up to do."

I glanced at my sons, not sure how to interpret the sheepish expression on Alex's face or the feigned innocence on Nick's. After the initial shock of seeing their grandmother in the throes of passion, both seemed quite amused by the drama playing out in our living room. "They know all about the facts of life. What they don’t need is a graphic demonstration from their grandmother."

The corners of Mama’s mouth dipped down. "Honestly, Anastasia, just because I'm over sixty doesn’t mean I’m ready for a hearse. When did you become such a stick-in-the-mud, dear?"

I suppose right around the time she morphed from Ms. Manners into Auntie Mame. Other sixty-five-year-old women might behave this way in front of their daughter and grandsons, but up until today, Mama wasn;t one of them. Was Poor Lou's last name Svengali?

Alex spared me from defending myself. "So who's the stranger dude, Grandma?"

"Lou isn't a stranger. He's my fiance."

"Your what?" Surely I hadn't heard her correctly. Had some of that rafter dust settled in my ears? "What about Seamus, Mama?"

"Seamus?"

"Yes, Seamus. Remember him?"

Mama heaved one of those sighs reserved for children who need repeated instruction and explanation. "Seamus died, Anastasia. You know that."

Of course I knew Seamus had died. He'd suffered a cerebral aneurysm while kissing the Blarney Stone. "But he just died. Three  months ago."Within days of losing my own husband, Mama had lost hers.

"Well, it's not like we were married very long. He died on our six-month anniversary. Besides, I'm not Merlin. I don't grow younger with each passing year."

Ample justification for getting herself engaged to a total stranger, no doubt. "Where did you meet this man?"

"On the cruise, of course."

"So you're engaged to a man you've known for all of one week?"

Mama shrugged. "Time is meaningless when soul mates connect."

Soul mates? The now-departed Seamus had been soul mate number five for Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe. When Mama finally met her maker, she'd have a line of soul mates waiting for her at the Pearly Gates. She'd better hope St. Peter allowed polygamy up in Heaven.

"Besides," continued Mama, "at my age, I have to grab happiness when it presents itself. Advice you"d do well to heed." She glanced down the hallway toward the bedrooms. "Unless you want to wind up like her."

"No, not that!" Nick grabbed his throat and made gagging noises. "Not my mom!"

Alex fell to his knees in front of Mama, his hands clasped in supplication. "Please, Grandma, save our mom!"

Comedians. I tossed them a mom-scowl. "If the two of you have so much time on your hands, you can vacuum and do a load of wash before dinner." Nearly seven and I still had to prepare a meal, finish a project for a photo shoot tomorrow, and figure out a way to rob Peter to pay Paul before the bill collectors came knocking. Again.

Alex grabbed his backpack. "Sorry, Mom. Got an economics paper due tomorrow."

"Bio test," said Nick, retrieving his backpack from the floor.

"Dibs on the computer," called Alex as he sped down the hall to the bedroom they now shared. The boys used to have their own computers, but Nick"s died last month. A replacement would have to wait until I won Mega Millions or Powerball.

Nick raced after Alex. Neither bothered with the baseball gear they'd dumped on the carpet. Apparently, it had become invisible to all but me.

I stooped to pick up the discarded duffels of sports paraphernalia.

(Note: Death by Killer Mop Doll is the second in Lois' Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. U.S. $14.95 CAN $16.95 | Trade Paperback Original | ISBN: 978-0-7387-2585-7. the first in the series – and there will be more -- is Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun (978-0-7387-2347-1).

xxx

 

horizontal rule

horizontal rule



   
   


Kate's Recent Columns...
HOW A RETAILER CAN HELP A VENDOR CREATE A PRODUCT; Product testing with store customer.

MY VISIT TO SOUTH KOREA; Crafts in a war zone?

A PERSONAL VIEW OF SCHOOL TRAGEDIES; The Newtown Massacre brought back memories.

MEMORIES OF 9/11; A proud but humbling experience.

THE AMERICAN DREAM, UPDATED; Something achieved, something lost: the end of a hard, but wonderful era.

DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL: CHAPTER ONE.

WHAT HALLOWEEN CHARACTERS DO YOU HAVE AT WORK? They're everywhere! They're everywhere!

BOB AND DARWIN; Reprinted from the May 15, 1986 edition of Profitable Craft Merchandising.

EXCERPT: YOU DID WHAT IN THE DITCH? FOLKLORE OF THE AMERICAN QUILTER; An edited version of the author's preface.

ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN; Chapter One from a hot new comedy/mystery novel.

WHERE AND HOW DO WE PERCEIVE BEAUTY? Are we open to unexpected wonder?

THE DUNCAN FAMILY; Winner of CHA's Special Recognition award.

SEWING FOR DUMMIES(R), 3RD EDITION REVEALS TEN BEGINNER MISTAKES; Basic sewing tips for Novices.

MODERN TECHNOLOGY AND THE POST-50 GENERATION; These are modern...conveniences?

CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE THAT WILL COME SOON; In fact, they're already happening.

WAKING UP IN THE LAND OF GLITTER; Reprinted by permission by Grand Central Publishing. Copyright, 2010.

PANDEMIC PREPAREDNESS; Are you ready for the worst?

CRAFT THERAPY COULD INJECT A HEALTHIER BOTTOM LINE; A website that shows how crafts are good for consumers' health, and good for business.

WORKING IN A HOME OFFICE; Benefits, problems, and tips learned the hard way.

INDUSTRY VETERANS KEEP WRITING; Short stories, romance and mystery novels, and reference books.

MOTHER'S DAY SPENDING; Less than last year, but...

WILL RETAILERS FOLLOW THE SAME DISASTROUS PATH AS NEWSPAPERS; They might, unless....

LESS SPENDING, MORE CRAFTING; The recession offers a wonderful opportunity for our industry.

A TRIBUTE TO DAVID CUNNINGHAM; Wise words for a remarkable man.

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CRAFTING; Research could open the door to better health for consumers, better sales for the industry.

EMPLOYEE STOCK OWNERSHIP PLANS; Another example of unintended consequences.

SO, WHAT IS EBITDA? A hypothetical example of how it's determined and what it does - and doesn't - mean.

USING YARN TO IMPROVE THE WORLD; Knitting scarves for the Special Olympics and raising funds for the Rwanda Knits project.

WALNUT HOLLOW: AN INDUSTRY AND CONSERVATION LEADER; The company went "green" long before it was popular.

THE FUTURE OF MAKIN'S USA; Changes and improvements are in the works.

FELIX BASS

CHINA'S DEVELOPMENT AND THE FUTURE OF CHINA-US RELATIONSHIP; The Chinese ambassador's address to the Peoria (IL) Rotary Club.

REMEMBERING DAVE CUNNINGHAM; The end of an era...

MEMORIES OF BILL MANGELSEN; With lessons for all importers, businesses, and people.

RWANDA KITS UPDATE; Making a difference, changing lives.

LAST MINUTE CHA SHOW PRODUCT INFO; So many products, so little time.

WHY I SCRAPBOOK; So much more than photos and stickers.

ARE SCRAPBOOKERS CRAZY? Contests, validating lives, and more.

LETTERS FROM THE FIRE ZONE; Safe, relieved, and thankful.

A GLIMPSE INTO THE 2015 RETAILING ENVIRONMENT; Shifting demographics, household downsizing, and new marketing present industry challenges.

SOME THOUGHTS ON GLOBALIZATION; A PARADIGM REVOLUTION: The Big eating the Small is now the Fast eating the Slow.

THE CRAFT FUR DUCK; The old image of crafts needs changing.

MY 20 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY, PT. III; "We are on the edge of losing touch with our consumers."

MY 20 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY, PT. II; "We cannot...run companies for stockholders only or look for the one item that will last forever..."

MY 20 YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY; "I still believe that accurate trend prediction is the most important driver for profits for companies..."

BEADING SMILES; Helping with sick kids through crafts.

THE WORST TRADE SHOW EVER; Why CHA is no longer in Chicago in winter.

ACCOUNTING FOR GIFT CARDS...Can mess up the books.

HOLIDAY EATING ADVICE; How to stay happy, if not healthy, during the holidays.

NRF'S TOP 10 TIPS FOR SMART HOLIDAY SHOPPING; What consumers are being told on getting the best deals from retailers.

THE MICHAELS SALE AND OCTOBER RETAILS RESULTS; The CLN Newsbrief emailed to subscribers.

WHAT HAPPENED TO PROFESSIONAL CRAFTERS? SOME ANSWERS; Lack of access to supplies, inept show managers, and more.

A BEGINNING (AND END) FOR SOME ... Why do some consumers stop crafting and other become lifelong enthusiasts?

YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME? Public exposure of a private life can be misleading, dangerous, and bad for business.

CLN NEWSBRIEFS: August sales and Michaels quarterly report and conference call.

CLN NEWSBRIEF: JO-ANN'S; The quarterly report and the conference call.

CHARITABLE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL; Play golf, quilt, knit, scrap, stamp, paint - all for good causes.

IN DEFENSE OF PAPER; Technology has its place, but...

EXCERPTS FROM TALK GERTIE TO ME.

LITTLE WHITE LIES; Embellishing your resume can catch up to you.

THE DECORATIVE ARTS COLLECTION; The best our painters have to offer.

LETTERS TO CLN; Rag Shops, younger consumers, tough times for designers, and more.

BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE = LOYAL RETAILERS; 10 ways vendors can improve their relations with retailers.

WHAT HAPPENED TO PCP's; The savvy Professional Craft Producers have evolved.

PRIVATE CHARITY OR PUBLIC TAXES? Will the scalawags get rich and the poor remain poor?

HOW YOU CAN HELP KATRINA'S VICTIMS; Practical, concrete suggestions.

CHURCH BULLETINS; Typos that allegedly appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services.

SCRAPBOOKING A SENTIMENTAL EXPERIENCE; An example of why scrapbooking is so popular.

ANATOMY OF A PRODUCT PRESS RELEASE; What should be in it, how to write it, and a model.

EXCERPT: THE HEALING POWER OF CRAFTS; Using your hobbies to gain mental, physical, and spiritual benefits.

HOW TO SAY WHAT YOU MEAN; It's up to you to mean what you say.

ENCOURAGING BRIGHT IDEAS; Debunking myths about your staff's creativity.

SICK DAYS -- AND COMMON SENSE; Working when you're sick sets a bad example in more ways than you think.

THE ART OF COMPROMISE; It's an essential tool for the mid-level manager.

KNOWING YOUR LIMITATIONS; Thinking of trying a new category, such as scrapbooking? Answer these questions first.

PROGRESS? IF YOU SAY SO.; Are craft stores losing their identity.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T; Simple acts make a big difference.

FOSTERING CREATIVITY; The care and feeding of artists is a tricky business.

DIRECTIONAL SIGNALS, WHO'S TALKING, WHO'S LISTENING; How to avoid communication snafus.

WANNA JOIN A CLUB?; Not this one, please?

GRAPVINES: STOPPING OFFICE GOSSIP; Practical ways to minimize the damage.

EMAIL: THE UPS AND DOWNS; We can't live without it but we're paying a price.

LONG TERM SATISFACTION: Easy to cheapen products, but at what cost to your reputation?

EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION: WHY BOTHER?; Because it's not only fair, it's good business, too.