Saturday, November 26, 2016

Kiki Lowenstein and the Missing Gift, Part II

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Author's Note: I decided to challenge myself by writing an ongoing short story. I'm doing this live--and I sure hope it works! I plan to end it around Christmas. In the last installment, we learned that something is wrong with Margit. 

(You can read that here-- 

Margit parked her car at a crooked angle in the parking lot of Time in a Bottle, Kiki’s store, and that’s not like at her at all. The older woman is a stickler for having everything just right. So what gives?

Picking my way across the slick surface, I walked to the back stoop of the store where Margit’s car sat at a strange, lopsided angle. The right side was higher than the left. The front bumper of the old Volvo station wagon pointed northwest and the back bumper pointed southeast. Knowing the precision that governed Margit’s life, I shook my head in wonder at the mess she’d made of finding a parking spot.

Three steps led from the asphalt lot to the door threshold. The first was more of a generous platform. Second and third were regular sized steps.

Bending low until my face was even with the back tire well, I tried to figure out what was causing Margit’s Volvo to sit at such an angle. I squinted, trying to make out the shape caught under her right rear wheel. Margit had reversed her car in such a way that she’d run over our trash can and run up onto the concrete stoop. Simultaneously.

I doubt that anyone could have managed such a trick without hitting the back wall of our building. But she had. Since the rear of the old Volvo wagon was nearly perpendicular to the ground, she hadn’t torn off a part of the car. However, she’d mashed the trash can flat.

No prob. I’d planned to buy a new one of heavy duty plastic. The old metal cylinder was rusted and noisy. Even so, geez. What a mess!

I scratched my forehead, puzzling out how she could have done such a bizarre deed. Had she noticed the crunch? The strange levitation of one side of her car? Usually she called me if she was in a pickle. Or had she been…pickled? More and more, Margit seemed to act strangely. Clancy and I had chalked it up to stress. As the holidays approached and our friend’s mother became more disoriented, Margit had become more agitated. Clancy, my full-time helper, and Lauren, our part-timer, had both seen signs of Margit’s waning powers.

“She’s losing her hearing,” Clancy had whispered to me. “The other day, I practically had to shout to get her to come and answer a question for a customer.”

“She’s also going blind.” Laurel had leaned in close to us, in order to add her own warning. “Did you noticed she has two lamps and a magnifying glass to help her with her needlepoint?”

“What is she working on?” I said to them in the lowest tone I could manage. “She’s bent over a project since Halloween. Covers it when I get near. Has she mentioned what she’s doing? Do either of you know?”

“No.” Clancy sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. When posed that way, she looked like an irritated Jacqueline Kennedy. As Clancy aged, she seemed to be turning into the fashion icon that she so admired. Something about the way she dressed or her sleek auburn pageboy added to her classic features and transformed Clancy Whitehead into a duplicate of the widow of JFK. “I’ve asked her what she’s been doing. Margit will only say that it’s a secret, and she’s making it for you.”

Laurel tossed her long blonde hair. While Clancy looked like a sleek society thoroughbred, Laurel could have been the cover model for a men’s magazine. Her stunning good looks and fabulous figure turned heads. If she hadn’t been the sweetest person in the world, she would have been the most hated, because she was such a gorgeous woman. 

Laurel's sigh was lighter than Clancy’s, but equally profound. “I know Margit has had several phone calls from the facility where her mother is staying. They upset her. It’s clear that her mother isn’t doing well. I get the impression that Margit is using her needlework as a way to take her mind off her troubles. She’s terribly private. Especially when it involves an aspect of her life that would make her seem vulnerable. Yesterday she rang up two orders wrong. In a row, no less. The customers were nice about the problem, but it was a real mess.”

We’d cut short our observations because a wave of customers walked through the door. Now as I stood staring at the mess made by Margit’s car, I decided I needed another confab with my friends.
Margit’s stress level was a problem, but we could cope with that. We could cover for her. We could give her more time off, and we could fix her mistakes.

But if she was driving erratically, well, we couldn’t fix that.

In fact, I wasn’t sure what we could do.


I'll post Part III next week, here. Please stick around to see what happens--it'll be a surprise to me, too!


Billie Jackson said...

Thank you for this extra time with my friends from Time-in-a-Bottle. Naturally I am trying to guess what the problem is. Right now I am for her needing glasses and not being able to afford them, but I will have 50 other guess before Christmas. Thanks for the fun!

Tricia Conner said...

I'm hoping it isn't a tumor.

ceblain said...

This is wonderful. I love to try to figure out mysteries. Glad that you participated.


Nancy said...

I'm enjoying this story. It sure has me puzzled.

Shannon Treadway said...

Love these thank-you for taking the time to create for us!

Joanna Slan said...

I am so sorry it has taken me so long to respond to all of you. We had to make an emergency visit to the hospital last week, and things have been a little disconnected. Thank you for your interest in this story. Stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

Is the part-time employee Lauren or Laurel? You used both names.

Sorry for the hospital visit. That sucks, big time.

Looking forward to more delightful reading.

ReneeK said...

In Part I, Margit's car is a white Buick. In Part II, it's Volvo station wagon. Oops :) But I'm thrilled have a Kiki story!