Welcome to the second episode of ‘Flip-A-Story’. For those who are scratching your heads right about now, please let me explain. Back in September, I let my fingers do the walking by taking a cook book and, drumroll . . . flipping to a random page and concocting a story from whatever my index finger landed on. You can check it out here if you’d like: Flip A Story, Episode One .
Well, this time I chose remedies over risotto. Here’s the cover and the page:
Sawyer wiped the sweat from his eyes and kept focus on the whirling sewing machine, as he fed the fiftieth shoelace through the plunging needle. This was a special day and he had to finish before sunrise, or the surprise would be ruined.
The bare incandescent bulb began to flicker above, threatening to throw the dingy cellar into darkness. Sawyer raced to the ancient work bench and tugged at the stubborn bottom drawer. It always took a great deal of force to get that sucker open, being that it was almost as old as the farmhouse itself. He loved the place, in spite of the century plumbing that rattled like skeletons, and the groans of the old girl, as she settled further into degradation. He’d bought the place six years ago. The listing had promised a ‘handyman’s dream,’ and that it was! Sawyer giggled as he plucked a fresh light bulb from the drawer.
Scratching came from behind the heavy slab that opened to the cold storage room. It increased in strength, making the latch clank.
“That’s quite enough, Lovely! You’ll just have to wait!”
The scratching stopped and he could hear the soft pacing as she circled the room. Sawyer snatched his green work gloves and frowned at the red that covered their palms. “You’re getting sloppy, Sawyer.” He might as well burn these and get a new pair. The third ones in a month. Folks might get to talking about what he was up to. Nosey bunch, nothing to do but wag their tongues down at the corner store. As long as they kept their distance, he’d just have to put up with them.
He slipped on the gloves and changed the light, pleased that his work wouldn’t be interrupted by blown bulbs, at least. Sawyer glanced at the clock on the wall, five-thirty! He ripped off the gloves, tossed them on the stone floor, and went to work on the sixtieth shoelace. Thank the Lord for Amazon, otherwise the townies would really have something to gab about. Who orders two hundred shoelaces?
He worked furiously for a while, reaching one hundred laces, when the scratching resumed. At first Sawyer tried to ignore it, because sunrise was coming soon. However, his jaw began to ache from being clenched, and he lost it. Marching to the door, he gave it a hard kick and shouted for her to be quiet. What did she want from him? Didn’t she know he was doing this for her? He looked over at the bag sitting on the workbench and considered grabbing it. But she’d grown quiet again, so why waste a good thing?
He returned to his work and managed to stitch up another twenty laces before a knock at the front door caught his attention. His heart pounded as he raced to the top of the basement stairs and listened. Maybe the intruder would just leave. The knocking continued, this time it was followed by the raspy voice of Mrs. Thompson, his only neighbor. “Sawyer, I know you’re home! Your truck is in the driveway! I just want to let you know that they dropped your mail off at my house again.”
Mail? Really? Old bat! You had to come this early for such a trivial thing? Sawyer’s fists clenched and he eyed the old scythe that hung on the wall next to the stairs. No time for that, not today. He’d better go answer the door and get rid of her ASAP.
Five minutes later, he thumped down the basement stairs, having tossed the Bed, Bath, & Beyond flyer into the trash. That old hooked nosed hen had wasted his time for junk mail! Just another excuse to not mind her business. Well, he’d deal with her another time.
For the next half hour, he worked the machine and managed to reach one hundred and eighty-six laces. “Sawyer, you’re magnificent! She’ll love you for it!” But his elation spoiled like roadkill, as he noticed the ray of sunshine penetrating the only spot on the window where the black paint had chipped. “I’m too late!”
The scratching started again. Sawyer covered his ears, raced upstairs and slammed the basement door shut. A rumbling sound came from the driveway, and he pulled the curtain back for a peek. A UPS truck crunched across the gravel as it circled the cul-de-sac and parked by the front door. The driver hopped out.
Sawyer’s breath came in gasps, for he was both exhilarated and nervous. He reached for the doorknob, but he stopped himself from bursting onto the porch. Mustn’t seem too eager, that could arouse suspicion. No doubt that Thompson woman was spying from the bushes. Sawyer waited until the driver knocked, before counting to five and opening the door. He signed for the package and waited for the truck to leave before tearing it open.
“She’s going to love it! This will look lovely on her!” He held up the black T shirt with the golden prancing unicorn. The light from the stove was reflected by the sequined unicorn’s mane. Better hide this for now.
Sawyer neatly folded the shirt and placed it in the box. He slid the box under his couch and returned to the basement.
He was pleased that Lovely was no longer scratching and went to work again. “Sorry, honey, I didn’t finish in time, but I’m still going to get it done. I have another surprise for you. Just fourteen more laces and some tying up to do.”
A strange peace filled Sawyer, something he hadn’t felt in a long time. The pressure was off, and he knew his gift would hold her weight. He began to sing a nursery rhyme that his Momma used to sung, before she died in that fire. It was Lovely’s favorite.
“Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it;
Not a penny was there in it,
Only ribbon round it.”
The final lace was stitched, and Sawyer had just begun to string the laces together, when there was a pounding at the front door. He dropped his work and mounted the steps on shaky legs. Who was it, now? He was halfway up when Lovely began scratching. “Shush! Lovely! Do you want someone to find you? They’ll take you away from me! Now shut up! That’s it, good girl, keep quiet.”
He passed the scythe, too big and noticeable, better off to get close for better success. The pounding increased in volume. Pissed-off, he flung the basement door open and yelled for the intruder to keep their pants on. What he saw made his blood freeze. The local sheriff stood out there, arms crossed.
Sawyer gulped and took a deep breath. Had the old bat called the cops? Should have taken care of her earlier. Sawyer decided to keep his pocketknife in his pocket. It was no match for a gun. He opened the door and tried to smile, but he knew how fake it must look. A stupid, lopsided grin, that everyone made fun of.
Sherriff Michael Hainsworth gave him a stern look.
“Something I can do for you, Sheriff?”
Hainsworth’s eyes narrowed, and he held out the photograph of Jessica Steinbecher. Such a lovely young woman. Sawyer felt a stirring that he knew was inappropriate.
“Jessica’s been missing since yesterday morning. Never showed up for work and her family is worried. Thought she might have gone on one of her hikes, but she never goes for more than a couple of hours. You see her at all?” He tried to look over Sawyer’s shoulders, into the house.
Sawyer shook his head and added quickly. “Sorry, can’t say I have. I hope she’s okay. She’s such a lovely person. If I see her, you’ll be the first to know.” He wondered if it was possible for the sheriff to be deafened by his pounding heart.
“Umhmmm . . . you do that.” Hainsworth eyed him suspiciously but turned around and walked back to his cruiser.
Sawyer offered a pathetic wave as the cop pulled away and as soon as the taillights disappeared, he ducked into the house, shut the door, and locked it. He leaned against the wall and waited to catch his breath while slapping his forehead. “Focus, you’ve got a job to finish.”
He returned to the basement and finished the surprise. Lovely did a wonderful job of keeping quiet, despite the excitement she must have felt about his gifts. He took the gift and walked towards her door, gently knocking. “It’s me, Lovely. I know you’ll like this, I made it just for you. It’ll fit snugly and you can swing all you want.”
He put an ear to the door and heard her rapid breathing. How excited she must be! This was a demonstration of his love for her, and he knew that she would show him so much affection! He hid the gift behind his back with his left arm and opened the door with his right. The fragrant earthy smell hit his nostrils and he savored it. Where was she? The room had no light, so he frantically removed his flashlight from its holster and switched it on. He swept the beam across the cobwebby corners until it caught a pair of eyes that glared back from the farthest wall.
“Oh Lovely, don’t be mad. I’m sorry I put you in here, but, well, gosh darn, I just didn’t want to ruin the surprise! Please forgive me! Oh wait, you will, here it is! Do you love it? How about some kisses? Come on now! It’s better than that old mattress and you can swing on it! Lovely! Come here now! Do you have any idea how long it took to make this hammock? Argh! Let me get the bag, that’ll do the trick.” He closed the door, snatched the bag from the work bench and went back into the room. Reaching into the bag, he took scooped a treat and held it out.
“Yes, that’s a good girl! Come and get it! Here, climb into the hammock.”
There was a knock at the door and Sawyer’s heart sputtered. The sheriff? “Stay here and enjoy your gift. I’ll be back to get you soon, promise.”
He shut the door and crept upstairs. This time he slipped out the pocketknife for he’d had quite enough of these interruptions. At the top of the stairs, he cracked the basement door and peeked towards the large window in the front door. The blood rushed to his cheeks, he tossed the knife, bolted to the door, disengaged the lock, and yanked it open.
“Uncle Sawyer!” The ten-year-old hollered and gave him a big hug. Tanya looked up at him with her big blue eyes. “Did you get it?”
Sawyer feigned ignorance. “Get what?”
“Oh, would you stop it already. It’s all she’s been talking about since we left home. I love the new paint job on the porch, you always were a fan of red.”
“Good to see you, Sis.” He winked at his niece. “It just arrived, so I didn’t have time to wrap it. Go look under the couch.”
She hugged him again. “You’re the best uncle ever!”
“I know,” Sawyer laughed. “Happy birthday, Sweetie!”
Tanya was about to rush inside, but stopped to ask, “Did you finish it?”
“Yup. She’s trying it out now. I had to coax her with some treats, but I think she’ll get used to it.”
“Awesome! I’ll go downstairs and say ‘hi’ to Lovely as soon as I get my shirt.”
“She’s right you know.”
“About what, Jen?”
“You being the best uncle. You’re also the sweetest man I know. Who else would have saved that poor kitten from a busy highway after it was struck by a car? Especially one that can’t meow, anymore? Who else spends hours making a hammock so that his kitty can sleep comfortably with her bad hip?”
“Oh, I’m sure there’s another bitter, lonely bachelor with OCD, who’s got a few spare hours. Besides, I had to lock her in the old storage room because she kept trying to steal the laces. Made it as comfortable as possible though.”
“Hey, do you know a young woman by the name of Jessica Steinbecher?”
Sawyer’s face fell. “Yes, why, did they find her?”
“Yes, thankfully. She’d been hiking the Pine Bluff Trail when she slipped from an outcrop and broke her leg. Stuck out there all night. Just heard it on the radio on the way here.”
“Thank goodness! The sheriff came around early this morning asking about her. I thought maybe she was dead. Nice kid, used to buy Girl Guide cookies from her.”
“So, are the locals still as bored and gossipy as they used to be?”
“Worse. Come on, let’s get ready to party.”