Molly and Sour Milk

April 6, 2009

Concrete Evidence

I pull the sealed tab on the bottle of skimmed milk and pour a slug of soured milk over my beautiful peach. A key turns in the side door in the dining room. Molly Flannigan lets herself into my house with her usual, intimidating flourish. With grace and skill I jerk back the hand with the soured milk and tip my coffee cup into my lap. Hot liquid and an ugly brown stain spread across my new linen slacks. I scramble to me feet, managing to knock the chair over backwards.
“Good morning, Miss Nightwing,” the housekeeper smiles unctuously.
“Could you get me a towel from the kitchen?” Molly is going to make a big deal out of cleaning the carpet. Just as well Mark was off early. Didn’t he mention something about a job at a plant last night? My mind drifts back to the subject of the missing bra. How long before the good Miss Flannigan purses her lips in disapproval at my wanton behavior?
My housekeeper is provided, over my ineffectual objections, by my good friend, Noel Webster. Molly is Noel’s answer to saving me from my slovenly ways. She is in her sixties and seems vaguely British but speaks with an Irish Channel accent that is pure New Orleans. I describe her to my friends as a matronly woman who dyes her hair red and claims one failed marriage with great pride. The woman buys good clothes that don’t quite fit, and she reacts strongly to water spots on glasses and dust on lamp tables. There isn’t an article of clothing in my closet that doesn’t cause her to sniff with wounded sensibilities. Maybe she has an allergy. No man my age ever survives contact with Molly. I wonder how Mark will handle her.
After supplying me with the dish towel, the housekeeper smoothes her dress and marches past me back to the kitchen where I know she will retrieve her starched white apron from the inside of the pull-down ironing board cabinet. She squints suspiciously at me as if I were hiding a lover or serial killer in the broom closet.
My new 1977 wireless telephone with lighted buttons, instant redial, and a selection of rings plays the opening bars to the Sound of Music on my round oak breakfast table. I shove the odiferous bit of breakfast away from me and glower at Miss Flannigan’s retreating back.
“Yes?” I growl into the receiver.
“Morgan Nightwing?”
I don’t crave talking with anybody at the moment. The dampness has now reached into lower regions and I need to pee. However, the man on the phone identifies himself as the new branch manager at my local bank. I decide to be politic and admit to being me. After all, it’s before banking hours.
“If you remember, Ms. Nightwing, the transfer we discussed last week? You’re a great customer, but I’m wondering how long I will have to cover these new expenses before you move the necessary funds from your capital account?”
Holy Shit! I’d forgotten that I was going to have to replenish a project expense fund because a few of my customers were going bearish on my receivables.
“Yes, of course! I’ve been so busy that it completely slipped my mind.” I waffle around a few minutes more, wondering if my banker believes my bullshit. “I’ll be there to sign the papers first thing this morning.” Maybe my banker goes away happy, but I’m in a funk.
Why do I do this to myself! Every time someone approaches my company with a novel project, I find myself running out on a limb justifying new business. Am I bored? The bread and butter of my laboratory deals with testing sewage effluent, water quality, and all things where humans come in contact with the environment—like carbon monoxide in exhaust gases and arsenic in ground water. Metals like mercury hide in fish sticks and lead from car exhausts contaminate the dirt where children play. The list is endless and the business can be profitable. I like the idea of earning a living while I’m “doing good.”
I look around and find a cracker left over from last week’s soup. I take it with me to the bedroom, intending to change clothes and eat breakfast simultaneously.
My mind keeps on churning. I am testing for materials destined to go into a nuclear power plant. I can’t have placed myself more firmly in a precarious position. I have been lured into playing the part of the fulcrum in a power game between government regulators and the Sabine Rive Power Consortium. Things are getting “electric” between me and a construction firm called Abreact. The electrical utilities giant known as SRPC is also involved, and I’d like to ease out from the middle of this mess.
Fat chance. My steak is getting sliced thin and burned on both sides. The phone rings in my bedroom before I have a chance to strip off the stained slacks. Another call before I can get to the office! I lay the half eaten cracker on the corner of my dresser next to a library book I’d intended to read. As I dig under yesterday’s newspaper for the phone, I see that the book is a week overdue.

About charles frenzel

I've been writing all my life. I've also painted, composed, sculpted, contributed to molecular research, advanced some mathematical concepts, lived on a sailboat, and worked for a Nobel Prize winner. Nothing in my life has pleased me more than to share my life with my wife and friend of over forty years.

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