Herb’s blog, Herbdate 22096-667:
Originally written and/or posted previously elsewhere on Herbdate: 17903 aka 02/10/2009:
I was over at Beej’s Blisteringly Brilliant Blog (Possibly the most alliteratively named blog on the Internet.) http://brilliancewithbeej.blogspot.com/ yesterday and she was talking about how she and an old friend got together for a gossip, er, catching-up session http://brilliancewithbeej.blogspot.com/2009/02/that-ticks-her-off.html. Apparently a common acquaintance of theirs had gotten a major hair job done and became a longhaired blonde. It was what they call a “weave” and was a twelve-hour job costing six hundred dollars. And in the words of Beej’s friend, “She suddenly looks like Rapunzel.”
Beej asked the question, “What could I do with $600 and 12 hours?” Now, this kind of sounded to me like the beginnings of a writing prompt but it’s kind of open-ended. I mean, what could you do with $600 and 12 hours? So Herb’s writing prompt, inspired by Beej’s question and my own imagination (since I don’t know any of the people involved) is: “A woman’s husband is out of town on a business trip and while he’s away an envelope comes in the mail stamped ‘return to sender.’”
Strange, thought Suzanne, why would The Mailbox Store be sending her husband a package? It was a rather largish, padded envelope. She tossed in her mind whether to open it or not, but maybe this had something to do with his business and he would need it. What else could it be? She opened it and found another envelope inside.
She stood there staring at the inner envelope in her hand the way you would look if someone handed you a dead fish. It was definitely her husband’s crimped, precise handwriting and it smelled of his cologne, but it had been addressed to a Mathilda MacIntyre at an address in Denver. His current business trip would take him to Denver after three days in Houston. The envelope was marked, “Return to Sender – Insufficient Postage” and contained a greeting card of some sort as well as some other things inside. The return address was from a P. O. Box apparently held at the mail place. It was his name all right, Marvin Thompson. A note attached said they apologized for any inconvenience but since he had recently closed the box they thought it was courteous to forward it to his real address.
She kept her anger in check as she tried to reason away what she knew to be true. Maybe this Mathilda was a long-lost maiden aunt or distant cousin or something. Her anger didn’t remain in check for long, however, as she opened the envelope and ten crispy new one-hundred-dollar bills fell out with a letter. Amidst the slobbery love drivel was a credit card number along with expiration and PIN and that little number on the back you need for some online purchases. She read about his plan for “Mistress Mattie” to use the cash to get a room at the world-famous, five-star hotel in Colorado Springs. Oooh, they were supposed to go there for a second honeymoon but Magnanimous Marvin changed his mind at the last minute because it was too expensive. Apparently, he found some way to afford a two-night stay. Her blood boiled and as she read further, she realized that she was going to commit a murder. If he was telling the truth about Houston (She wondered what he might have going on down there) then she would have a three day head start to Denver.
She contacted the airline to make sure she knew the proper way to take the pistol he had given her for Christmas. He had made sure she knew how to shoot it and that she kept the gun in her purse because he was gone away so much and “Who knows what kind of jerks there are all around you?” Who knows indeed, she thought.
She went on his computer profile and checked all his e-mail accounts and history files. Not much there except a link to a girl’s Myspace page which told the names of local taverns where she sang karaoke at and the library branch where she did her homework. Really the girl might just be a naïve victim of her soon-to-be-former husband. The way the letter was written and the way she looked on her profile page, she seemed young and innocent. The girl was a college freshman, blonde with long straight hair.
Except for hair color and style (and age, she thought bitterly), she and Mattie could be twins by her description. She could have had hair like that if he would have let her get that dye job/weave she always wanted but he had told her it was too expensive and time-consuming. But what was stopping her from getting it now? It was going to cost over six hundred dollars and take twelve hours, but she had the money and the credit card number. She could leave an unforgettable tip, too. She looked up the credit card, and apparently, it was a new one and it had a high limit. Well, she would just break it in for him now, wouldn’t she? She booked a flight for Denver that would leave in about twelve hours and after finding where Mattie’s address was, booked a room and rental car.
After she returned from the beauty shop she went home and admired herself in the mirror one last time before she began dismantling the gun to pack it. “I look like Rapunzel,” she thought, “Well, Mr. Thompson, You are about to climb the golden stairs. Hahahahaha.”
It wasn’t hard to find and meet Mattie and just as easy to get her to talk about her “Marvie.” Suzanne wanted to puke the first time she heard Mattie say it, but as she talked with her more, she realized that the girl didn’t know anything about him. Mattie was a small-town girl and felt kind of out of place and lonely going to school here and told her whole life story to the sympathetic Suzanne. She was really excited about meeting Marvie.
“Mattie, you know, we could pass for twin sisters. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if you told Marvie that you had a sister who wanted to meet him? You guys weren’t gonna go down to the Springs until tomorrow night anyway. So you tell him all about your sister, Suzi. You’ll be over at the restaurant and I will stand at the bar. You walk up with Marvie and say something to me and I will turn around and say something all corny like, ‘I hope you can take good care of my dear little Mattie.’
“That sounds like fun. Besides, I’ve told you so much that we might as well be twins. Actually, it would be even funnier if we dressed alike but I can’t afford it. He was going to send me some money but it never came.”
“Let’s go shopping.”
At the restaurant’s bar Suzanne stood looking down at her glass while watching the couple behind her in the mirror. She had checked the gun before she came and made sure it was clean and the mechanism wouldn’t stick. Her original plan had been to just walk up and shoot them both, but she liked Mattie. It was going to be a shame for her to see this but, oh, well.
They were getting up and walking towards her. Her heart beat fast and she slipped her hand into the little handbag and switched off the safety. She was so thankful to be left-handed so she could offer her right hand for Marvie to kiss. She could barely breathe and her heart was racing as they drew nearer.
“You are just going to love Suzi! There she is now. Oh Suzi! I have someone I want you to meet.”
She turned around slowly and looked Marvin in the eye. She proffered her hand as she watched his face turn completely white. “Marvie, this is Suzi. Suzi, this is Marvie.”
“Take my hand and kiss it Marvie while I get a present out of my bag for you.” She smiled at him.
Marvin, face ashen, started to speak and reached for the bag. Suzanne screamed. She hadn’t anticipated his trying to grab the gun, but at the same moment, she saw it wasn’t going to matter. Mattie screamed as Marvin clutched his chest and fell to the floor. The shock had been too much for him. Marvin was dead.
The paramedics came and then the coroner. The police only did a cursory investigation since it was apparent that here was another middle-aged geezer out having more fun than he should. In the months that followed, Mattie exchanged many e-mails and even phone calls with Suzanne and Suzanne acted shocked to learn that not only was Marvin a scumbag, he was from Suzi’s hometown, too. And did she know that this nasty man even had a wife?
“Poor woman,” said Mattie, “I hope that she never finds out. I would feel awful. I didn’t know.”
“You never know, Mattie. You just never know.”