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Molly and the Geezer
Molly and the Geezer
and the Death of Grandma Claire
A joyful look at the highest of human values: greed, double-crossing, poor parenting, love, spite, and come-uppance!!
Copyright 2012 Michael Spooner
All rights reserved. Feel free to share a link to these pages,
but do not copy the text, print, or re-post it on any other
site, personal or public.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters herein
to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.
Rhinehart never kidded himself. He saw quite clearly that, even as a toddler, Molly was a fearsome opponent—perhaps the only worthy opponent he had ever faced—for the love of Grandma Claire. All her previous suitors, he had dispatched with a combination of charm and mischief. Bill Brewer, Jan Stewart. Butch Arneson. Others. Claire was the most eligible widow in western Minnesota, and she had lots of gentleman callers. Each fell to different ingenuities.
Jan Stewart was a real contender for awhile, but he toppled from grace when he bailed out of a date with Claire at the symphony. He chose instead to compete in the January Gandy Dancer snowmobile races. He might not have done so, but Rhinehart assured him that Claire would understand. After all, her own brother had been an amateur snowmobile racer, too. The whole truth, had Stewart only known it, was that Claire’s brother had been nearly killed on a snowmobile. So Claire was not at all understanding. Fortunately for her, Rhinehart found himself free on symphony night, and he offered to escort Claire in Stewart’s place.
As it happened, poor Stewart flipped his snowmobile at the five-mile marker, and spent the next six weeks at Twin Lakes Memorial Hospital, with his body in a cast and little tubes in uncomfortable places. Grandma Claire sent a card, but did not visit.
Bill Brewer made an unforgivable fashion mistake involving a tattoo across his scrawny chest. For his design, Bill had chosen a pyramid of flaming skulls, framed by two of those girlie silhouettes that are often seen on mud flaps. In the background, a sunrise framed this gentle tableau, and beneath it all, a scroll declared: “Claire—the Sunshine of My Life.”
Bill would have chosen a less poetic inscription—something simple, like “Hawg Riders for Jesus” or “Mankato Truck Tires and Equipment.” But Rhinehart reminded him that Claire was very fond of old Stevie Wonder songs, and “Sunshine of My Life” was her favorite. He suggested that this tattoo could just seal Bill’s relationship with her. It certainly achieved that.
Later, Rhinehart consoled him. “I’ll tell you everything I know about women, my friend,” he said. “Absolutely nothing.”
To Claire, he said, “I sure wondered what he was thinking, but you know Brewer. Can’t tell him anything.”
Butch Arneson was in some ways the most difficult. Even Rhinehart thought Butch was an extremely likeable person. Claire was obviously fond of him, although she always said it was hard to take a man seriously who had no sense of smell. For Butch, however, his olfactory disability was the key to his success as a businessman. And it must be noted that “Arneson’s Pit Stop Porta-Potty Pick Up and Delivery” was a very successful business.
Rhinehart may or may not have known just when the Twin Lakes Summerfest parade was going to come down Second Street. But it was Rhinehart who suggested the shortcut through the alley by Big Ray’s Surplus. Butch thought the turn into that alley was a little tight, but with the mayor’s float coming, he did need to get his trailer full of porta-potties off the parade route. He couldn’t have known that Rhinehart, earlier in the day, had disguised the pothole at the mouth of the alley with a flattened cardboard box. In fact, Butch had forgotten all about that pothole until it swallowed the right rear wheel of his trailer, and six porta-potties came free of their tie-down straps.
As it happened, the wind section of the Twin Lakes High School marching band was just then blowing into the middle bars of “Twenty-Five or Six to Four.” At the quarter rest, they took a huge collective breath, and then broke ranks. The trumpets, oblivious, marched into the woodwinds, and the rest of the band piled up behind. The mayor’s float was next, pulled by two giant Belgian draft horses. The horses, unfazed by strong smells, splashed amiably into the muck now oozing from the upended potties, and came to a stop only when the drum line did a quick about-face and fled percussively to the rear. The mayor stood stranded on the float, gagging into his collar, unable to step down and get away, his driver unable to turn the lumbering and now-frightened Belgians.
Butch remained grateful for many years that Rhinehart happened to be there at the time, with his boots on, ready to direct traffic. Still, he always wondered how word reached Claire, as well as the newspaper and church bulletins of Henderson Falls, fifty miles away.
Molly was a far different challenge for Rhinehart. First of all, Molly was a child, and it would have been unseemly for Rhinehart to go head to head with a child in a battle of wits. Secondly, Molly was smarter than Rhinehart. The only thing worse than trouncing a child in a battle of wits would be not trouncing her. Rhinehart didn’t take chances.
As a toddler, Molly was all innocence and intuition. She merely sensed when Grandma Claire and Rhinehart were getting too close, and she used what resources were at hand to separate them. Molly could accidentally spill anything within yards of her, and she specialized in wine spills. When she was sick, she could throw up at will, usually on the coffee table or Rhinehart’s knee. When she was not sick, she could become sick in a heartbeat.
More diabolically, she would create asymmetrical buildings from her Legos, forcing Rhinehart to interfere and rebuild them right. She would clamber onto his lap with a book and deliberately read it upside down. She would move checkers to the wrong squares. Grandma Claire found all of this endearing, but Rhinehart knew what it was about. Rhinehart knew she was trying to drive him away.
He resolved to bide his time. In time, the little girl would make a mistake, he knew. In time, he knew, she would cease being a darling cherub dropped from heaven into Grandma Claire’s life. When this happened, Claire would see the truth that Rhinehart had seen from the beginning—which was, roughly, that young children are sent by the devil to torture actual human beings—and things would change. He smiled at this, sometimes.
And if all else failed, Rhinehart knew, the child would at the very least become that most dreadful of creatures, a teenage girl. Disaster. When this happened, it would be Rhinehart to the Rescue, as always. Reliable Rhinehart would be ready to clear things up, to put things right again. Rhinehart would wait. He had outlasted any number of wanna-be suitors, and he would outlast the girl.