Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Precariously balancing wobbling coffee and a blueberry muffin in one pale hand, Scarlett reached for the sliding glass door handle.  She yanked hard, too impatient to deal with the normally-stubborn obstacle it presented to breakfast outside.  But ever the contrarian, her glass door popped free easily, slamming into the frame and knocking Scarlett forward. 

            She looked down at her now-dripping, coffee-soaked shirt and griped aloud.  “Are you freaking kidding me? My favorite one? Jesus. And I was hoping to wear this to the meeting with the editor today, too. Damn.” Scarlett stripped off her “thick thighs x thin patience” t-shirt and stalked back through the now-open sliding glass door, dropping the ruined shirt in her laundry basket while glaring at the inanimate object that’d caused her early-morning grief.

            As she stepped back out to observe the unusually colorful city today – amazingly, there are flowers growing and the Rainbow River is noxiously living up to its name – she trod on an envelope that’d been wedged underneath her devilish door.  “Scarlett” was the only address on the unassuming white paper, now dusty with her footprint. What is this? And how did somebody get it up here? Ooh, a mystery! But despite her best detective efforts – which were admittedly rather dismal – she could see no sign of how the envelope came to be underneath her seventh-floor balcony door.  Momentarily thwarted, Scarlett opened the envelope to find just two sentences inside, cut out from blocky newspaper letters:

            “Meet me at the Eerie St. abandoned observatory at 11:02. Don’t be late or else.”

“Huh. Creepy.” Scarlett pondered aloud to herself.  But her curiosity had been awakened, and it had always been one of her cardinal sins.  (Or at least her mother said so.) “Let’s go!” She charged out the door and got halfway down the hallway, greeting a passing Jenn Sonyac cheerily before Jenn’s raised eyebrow and hesitant hello told her something was wrong. “Wha-?” Scarlett looked down at herself, realizing quickly that she’d forgotten to put another shirt back on. With her blindingly neon yellow sports bra, it was rather hard to miss. “Whoops,” Scarlett grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, Jenn!”

            Now properly attired, Scarlett strode down 45th Street towards Eerie Street.  Spotting an interesting-looking speck in the distance and hearing some shouting, she broke into a light jog.        “Oh! Pope Michael! Good morning, sir!” She interrupted his argument with the angry pedestrian he was trying to force into his rickety portable confessional – so that’s what the shouting was.  The old man spun around, surprised, and lost his balance, sitting down hard on the curb. The pedestrian quickly escaped, encouraged by Scarlett’s less-than-subtle hand motions, as Scarlett checked on the Pope.  She crouched down just as he began to stand up and they smacked heads, sending them both stumbling and groaning off in different directions. 

            “Shit! Fu – um, fudge!” Scarlett couldn’t hold it in. That’s the third incident today. The way everything’s going, I’ll probably leave this creepy meeting in a body bag. Darn; I really wanted to finish that book about those Timbuktu smugglers.

            “Young lady,” Pope Michael scolded when he’d regained his equilibrium, “even your tongue has a red-headed temper. Now into the confessional with you.” He held the wooden door open expectantly, staring at Scarlett. Rolling her eyes, Scarlett decided to humor him. She fit her lanky body into the tight space, breathing in the stale air and trying not to cough. 

            “What sins do you wish to confess to our Lord God Almighty?” Came an otherworldly voice from the other side. Wow. He’s actually pretty good at this theatrical stuff, Scarlett mused.

            “I’ve been told I curse too much.  Oh, and I took the Lord’s name in vain earlier today.  And…I’m a pretty judgmental person. Quick to anger, no patience.  It’s partially the redhead in me, partially just my personality. So, yeah. Any forgiveness?” There was a whole laundry list of more sins that she could recount, but Scarlett didn’t really want sweet Pope Michael knowing all of that.

            “Your sins have been washed clean by the Lord.”

Scarlett popped out of the confessional and beamed. “Great! Now I’ve really gotta go, thanks!” She pressed a twenty – her Catholic “indulgences,” to help with Pope Michael’s groceries – into his hand and jogged away, humming.

            Scarlett got to the abandoned observatory early and poked around a bit, peering through the broken-down telescope at the top.  When she swung it around, a hugely magnified eye stared at her through the other end. “Ahh!” Scarlett jumped back.  Wait- she recognized that woman... “Anica Mathews? Southern Living editor? I thought we were meeting at Connie’s Coffee to discuss my letter! What in the world are you doing here?”

Anica waved her hand airily. “Change of plans, darling. This is just such the perfect place to shoot. I’ve already got my minions setting everything up!” Sure enough, dozens of Southern Living employees were scurrying around, preparing the dilapidated building for a photoshoot.

“Now let’s just get you to hair and makeup, Scarlett.”

“What? No! My letter was about NOT wanting to be featured in the magazine, not suggesting it happen more! Ugh!” Scarlett stormed off, throwing her hands up and tossing an emphatic, “I’m LEAVING!” over her shoulder.

Anica Mathews leaned in to her head photographer. “Capture that. It’ll be our next feature.”

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