We finished watching Anne with an E today; while I’ve noticed a lot of griping about the show, I think the most disappointing thing about it is that I can’t have it all now and keep the same actors.
I recommend it.
Henry parked the truck in a cloud of dust right in front of the house. “Come on,” he beckoned with a jerk of his head toward the bed of the truck and handed Frannie a single bag containing a loaf of Wonder Bread.He gathered up the rest of the bags in his own arms and headed for the porch.
He dropped his load of groceries on the porch swing in order to struggle with the front door. “I don’t hardly bother locking it up anymore, what with as bad as it sticks nowadays.” He turned his head to tell Frannie.
She nodded solemnly, and her stomach rumbled again, more insistently this time. Henry laughed and finally got the door open.
“Got to get the plane out and fix this, but then I wonder why bother. I only go to town a couple times a week, and my little girl doesn’t visit near often enough.” He expertly threaded his arm through the mishmash of bags on the swing and carried them inside, leading Frannie to the right, through the dining room and into the kitchen. “Here’s good, girl.”
She reached up nearly as far as she could to put her lone bag on the counter and looked up at Henry. He told her to go have a seat at the table, so she did.
“Milk or juice? I got orange,” he offered.
“Orange juice is my favorite!” Frannie had already brightened up immensely.
Henry grinned as he opened the fridge and pulled the jug out. “Now, all I got’s real glass, are you up for the challenge?”
Frannie put her hands on her hips in mock indignation. “I’ll have you know, sir, that I can drink out of a real glass just as good as any grownup I’ve ever met, thank-you-very-much.” She reached out for the glass that he handed her and greedily gulped down three-quarters of the juice in one slug.
Henry had brought the juice into the dining room, so he topped off her cup. “Go a little slower on this one, or you won’t have room for a pb&j.”
Frannie nodded. “Yes, sir.” She sipped more politely.
Henry laughed and returned to the kitchen to put the groceries away. “Grape or strawberry jam?” He asked her, raising his eyebrows. “Or I can do both. Don’t tell anybody, but that’s how I like ’em.”
“My last mother only ever bought grape jelly, so I don’t even know if I like strawberry. Why not both?” Frannie remained as blunt as ever.
Her words were like a funny bone strike to Henry’s heart, and he shook his head as he turned to make two sandwiches. “I got to figure out how I can do right by this girl,” he muttered to himself. He cut each sandwich into four triangles, and brought the plates to the table. “Dig in!” he said, with a much brighter tone than he felt.
Read more of Frannie’s Misadventures here and find out how on earth she got where she is today.
“Just toss that bag in the back, there, girl, and climb on in,” he said.
Frannie did as he bid her, and settled herself deeply onto the passenger side of the baja-patterned bench seat with two dips, the one behind the steering wheel much deeper than the other. She peered around, especially eying a trio of pink fluffy googly-eyed creatures stuck to the dashboard, each wearing a sprinkling of beads on top.
The man entered the driver’s door and slammed it behind him, startling Frannie out of her reverie. “Oh, my little girl gave them to me once upon a time,” he chuckled to himself when he saw what she was staring at.
Frannie thought quickly. If he already has a little girl, I might be out of luck–but he’s awfully old to have a little girl my age, isn’t he? Well, nothing but to go ahead and ask. “You have a little girl?” She couldn’t quite keep the wistfulness from her voice, and he immediately reassured her.
“I did once upon a time, but she’s all grown up and has two little girls of her own now.” He nodded ahead of them, down the long straight highway to everywhere else. “I see her once in a while, but they live all the way to California now, so it’s not near as often as I’d like. Say, my name’s Henry, I’m sorry for not introducing myself sooner.”
“Frannie. It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” She stuck out her hand, and when it caught his eye, bobbing wildly over the gulf between them, he grinned from ear to ear and reached out to clasp her tiny paw with his own. She gave two firm pumps, up and down and up and down, and released.
“Pretty fair handshake you got there, Frannie,” Henry complimented her, still smiling.
She smiled broadly herself, showing Henry the single spaced gap where she’d lost her first tooth just three days earlier. “Thank you. Do you have a wife?”
Henry’s smile faltered, and he shook his head. “She passed away two years ago.”
Frannie was young, and not quite sure what to say to that, but still, she felt the emptiness of something needing to be said. “I’ll bet she was pretty.”
This was exactly the right response. Henry brightened immediately. “She sure was. Prettiest girl I ever laid eyes on. Well, here we are.” He broke off as he turned onto a gravel road.
Frannie wondered where the house was, but just as she opened her mouth to ask, Henry rounded a curve and there it was before them: a lovely old farmhouse. Her eyes widened with excitement.
“Help me carry these groceries in and I’ll get you fixed up with some supper, how’s that sound?” he asked.
“That sounds wonderful!” Frannie’s words came out with more enthusiasm than anything she’d said in hours. She couldn’t wait to get inside a house again. One whole day on the road was more than enough for her.
Read more of Frannie’s Misadventures here and find out how on earth she got where she is today.
Dogsbody returned to the great brick building and reentered the revolving glass doors. The same receptionist sat at the same front desk, and she greeted him with the same warmth.
“Mr. Walker, right? Seventeen, sir.”
He nodded sheepishly in her general direction and tugged the collar of his coat up the tiniest bit. The smudge on the up button from his previous visit had been carefully wiped away, and Dogsbody stared at the button for a moment before touching it, wondering at how quickly even an entire person could also be wiped away, as if that person had never existed.
Again as before, Dogsbody was the only person in the elevator, but this time he appreciated the matte finish of the interior, dropping his coat collar for a brief moment of normalcy. He watched the numbers light up sequentially.
The elevator dinged, and Dogsbody exited to the hallway with the lone door and the sign calmly and quietly declaring Mr Walker. When Dogsbody stepped up to the door, it fell open before him before he had a chance to knock his raised knuckles against it, and there sat Mr. Walker himself, in the same position at the same desk, in the same suit of clothes.
Fora moment Dogsbody wondered if Mr. Walker were human at all, or instead a robot or maybe even a cleverly designed hologram.
“Sit down, my good man, sit down. You have satisfactorily completed the assignment that I have given you, and that’s good. That’s very good. It would have been quite the disappointment had you not done so, and when I’m disappointed, well, sometimes bad things happen.” Mr. Walker made the same gesture at the empty chair before his desk, and Dogsbody slid to it as thought magnetized.
“Yes sir.” The only words Dogsbody could manage to scrounge up from his blankly frenzied mind dropped from his scarred lips like rocks.
“No need to talk. You have one step left before we can reinstate you into the human race. But as I told you before, it isn’t a quick sort of thing; it’ll take you several months of surgery and rehabilitation. Once again, are you up to the task? You can nod.”
“Very good. I have three more letters that must be mailed for a very important client. A very important client. As before, they must all be mailed from different zip codes, but that shouldn’t be a problem for you, should it? It’s not like you have anything better to do with your time.” Mr. Walker laughed, and the harsh sound echoed against the plain walls of the warehouse-sized office.
Dogsbody didn’t move a muscle.
“Well then.” Mr. Walked opened the top right-hand drawer of his desk and removed three innocuous enough letters. “Here is your precious cargo.” He slid the envelopes across the desk toward Dogsbody. “Go ahead. Get up and take them and be on your way. I’ll be in touch.”
Dogsbody blinked twice, slowly, and rose from the chair, pressing down on the arms with such force that his fingers turned white. He took the three steps forward to Mr. Walker’s desk and tentatively reached out a hand to pick up the letters. He looked as though he was afraid that Mr. Walker would suddenly snap at him and take a hand off, leaving him to bleed out on the floor.
In fact, this was exactly what Dogsbody was afraid of, in the visceral depths of his mind, those places that he wasn’t fond of going but was somehow forced to visit far too often.
Mr. Walker regarded him expressionlessly. Dogsbody slid his fingers across the paper and picked them up, reflexively reaching to his breast pocket to tuck them safely away. Mr. Walker nodded his approval and looked down at the papers he shuffled across his desk, dismissing Dogsbody without another word.
Dogsbody didn’t realize that he had been holding his breath until the elevator doors slid closed behind him and he staggered, nearly falling. He took great, heaving breaths of the air untainted by Mr. Walker’s aura, and thought he felt a tear slip from his eye. He reached up to wipe his face, but felt nothing.
When the elevator reached the ground floor, Dogsbody exited, nodding a goodbye to the receptionist, whose smile remained bright as ever. Fifteen blocks away, he came to the nearest post office. He pulled out the first letter his questing fingers came to, and glanced at it before dropping it into the box. It was addressed to Shepard Strom. The name didn’t ring a bell.
Links to parts 1-6 can be found here.
“Oh, no!” Betty exclaimed, startling Oscar from his snooze on her lap. “Ben, would you pass me my purse, please? I’ve forgotten to text Shepard.”
Ben leaned forward to pick up Betty’s deceptively heavy handbag from the coffee table and handed it to her. “I’d better wait a while before texting him myself, then, so he won’t suspect that we have something going on.”
Betty stared at him, her jaw practically on her chest. “Ben, is that joke? Yes sir, you are definitely coming out of your shell. I like it. I really do, Ben.” she said, her voice softening toward the end as she realized that she might sound a little too harsh on him.
Oscar had enough of the ruckus and hopped to the floor from Betty’s lap with a soft chuffing sound. He sauntered off down the hall, giving one glance back over his shoulder to make sure Betty was feeling appropriately guilty for disturbing his slumber. Unfortunately for him, she wasn’t.
Betty hadn’t even looked up from her phone where she was still typing a text to Shepard and struggling to save his number in her contacts. Ben squirmed awkwardly on the couch, trying to be quiet, but Betty heard his movement. She looked up.
“I’m sorry, Ben, did I forget to tell you where the bathroom is? Come on, I’ll point it out to you while I grab some blankets for that couch.”
Ben followed Betty down the hall and closed the bathroom door behind him after she pointed him in the right direction. Betty was rummaging through her linen closet when she heard her phone vibrating insistently on the coffee table, back in the living room. She grabbed the top two blankets and rushed to grab her phone.
It was Shepard. Thought I’d never hear from you! These kids are a handful! Get some rest and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.
Betty quickly typed a reply. Sounds great!
Ben came back from the bathroom as Betty was shaking out the two blankets she’d retrieved for him. “I really appreciate everything you’re doing for me, Betty. I mean it,” he said.
“Don’t you worry about it,” Betty replied. “And don’t you forget that I said you could stay as long as you like. this world would be a much better place if people would just take a little care of each other.”
Ben couldn’t argue that. He rifled through his backpack for his toothbrush.
“You probably don’t watch a lot of TV anymore, do you?” Betty asked.
Ben shook his head. “Not a lot of cable in the places I stay most nights.”
Betty picked up the remote and turned on the tube, changing the channel to the programming guide. “Go ahead and pick something for us to watch, then. It’s been a long day for both of us, and you probably want to just veg out as much as I do, am I right?”
Ben grinned at her, and began scanning the channels for a title that he recognized. “How about a movie? Splash has always been one of my favorites.”
“Sounds great!” Betty quickly agreed. She flipped to the correct channel, and the pair settled back to watch the movie in companionable silence.
…to be continued.