LYNDA SIMMONS - HARVEY'S BOOTS
Harvey Kendall collected superstitions the way other men collect comic books or action figures – compulsively, reverently and above all, defensively.
“You don’t understand,” he’d say when questioned about a new charm in his collection or another ritual in his daily routine. “This is guaranteed to bring success, prosperity and happiness. Which of those don’t you want?”
“But we’re not Jewish,” his wife, Pam, had pointed out on the morning Harvey set a box of Mezuzahs on the kitchen table; the same morning they were celebrating their three-month wedding anniversary, some twenty-five years ago now.
“So what?” he’d asked. “You think God’s a bigot? Only likes some people? Some religions? Don’t be ridiculous.” He grabbed the scissors from the drawer and pointed them heavenward. “As far as God’s concerned, a blessing’s a blessing, the rest is just human bullshit.”
Back home in Fullerton, Pam’s mother and Pastor Chatto would have disagreed not only with Harvey’s view of God’s largesse, but with the idea that He did not pick favourites. Such thinking was not only ludicrous but blasphemous, punishable by an eternity in hell at the very least.
Before meeting Harvey, Pam would have agreed, shaking her spiritual pompoms and cheering for their side because what was the point in picking a team if there was no heavenly advantage? With Harvey, however, Pam found herself thinking twice, and even a third time, more and more often.
“I still can’t believe the deal I got on these,” he said, slitting the tape on top of box. “Ordered them a month ago and the guy called last night when you were at work to say they were ready. I went over right away but didn’t want to open it without you.” He glanced over at her. “Can you crank that window some more, Pammy? Gonna’ be a scorcher today.”
She looked at the window then back at Harvey. It was nearly 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. They had been up for almost fifteen minutes, yet he was still naked; standing at the kitchen table, digging newspaper stuffing out of the box and tossing it over his shoulder. Oblivious to the flimsy curtains at the window and the hot July breeze flirting with the edges of those curtains, threatening to reveal all to the widow on the other side of the alley.
“Pam?” He smiled. “The window?”
She reached over and turned the crank. Kept going until the window wouldn’t open any farther then stepped back. The breeze found its way into the room, gently at first then growing stronger, bolder. Lifting the curtains higher and higher and holding them there, flapping in her face while Harvey sighed and closed his eyes. “Perfect,” he said, tipping his head back as warm, muggy air moved across his body. On the other side of the alley, the widow put on her glasses.
It was this boldness, this daring that had attracted Pam from the moment she first saw him, a tall dark stranger coming through the door of Watson’s Old Tyme Bakery. But instead of approaching the display cases, he stood still, looking around as though surprised, as though he’d come to the wrong place. Then his eyes fell on Pam and she felt her breath catch, her face warm. When he smiled, the noise, the smells, the people in line at the counter, even her mother telling her to fetch more scones, all faded away. The feeling was unlike anything she had ever known, and this stranger unlike anyone she’d ever met.
He approached the counter and Pam was vaguely aware of more people coming in behind him. A woman with a little boy. Another young man, this one fair-haired with the kind of chiselled features that made him more than merely handsome. He walked over to speak to the woman and child and when the three of them laughed and high-fived Judy muttered, “That’s trouble in the making right there.”
Pam was about to ask what she meant but then Harvey said, “Hi,” and she couldn’t have said for sure what anyone else said or did next. She saw only Harvey.
“What’s a grown man want with a sixteen-year-old girl?” her mother asked when he came to collect Pam for their third date. “Nothing good, that’s what.”
True, Harvey was twenty-one and worldly, the kind of man Pam had been warned about for years. But all of her mother’s objections to his age, his background, his strange ways as she called them, meant nothing to Pam. So what if he carried a rabbit’s foot in his pocket, and carved four leaf clovers into the soles of every pair of shoes? Harvey was exciting and passionate, and Pam loved him, and he loved her right back. What more could a girl like her ask for?
“Marry him if you like,” her mother said when they announced their engagement six months later. “But I won’t be there to watch you throw your life away.”
Her mother was honest if nothing else and Pam refused to cry when the spot they’d saved for her at City Hall stood empty; instead taking solace in Judy’s presence and the generous gift she tucked into Pam’s hand in the ladies room, “For a rainy day.”
But as much as Pam loved Harvey and admired his carefree approach to life and the human body, she knew from the start that she would never reach his level of abandon.
It was six weeks after the wedding before she found the nerve to leave her nightgown on the floor and sleep the whole night naked beside him. She could never imagine walking around starkers despite the sting of his laughter every time she pulled on one of his shirts before leaving the bedroom.
Funny that twenty-five years later, she remembered exactly which shirt she was wearing on the Morning of the Mezuzahs. Salmon, not pink, over-washed and fraying at the cuffs. Chosen because the colour gave her skin a lift, her eyes some sparkle.
She’d made a point of leaving one extra button open at the top that morning, and it took all of her willpower not to fasten that extra button and more when the widow on the other side of the alley smiled and gave her a thumbs up. Instead, she straightened her spine and yanked open the fridge, hoping she had enough eggs and milk for pancakes – Harvey’s Sunday favourite.
On the fourth Sunday of their newly married life, Pam had tried to change the menu, to serve him French toast as a surprise. His open horror taught her quickly enough that Sunday meant pancakes, just as Friday meant fish and chips.
Standing now at a different stove, flipping pancakes in a different kitchen, Pam could still see herself on that morning long ago, setting eggs and milk on the counter and checking the clock on the stove. The pancakes had to be eaten before noon, that was the rule. Something about his mother and a wish when he was a kid. The reason was fuzzy, but the time limit quite real. Just another of Harvey’s rituals, one more little quirk that made her smile and whisk faster when necessary.
On the Morning of the Mezuzahs, however, with less than fifty minutes to go, he told Pam to leave the pancakes and come stand beside him. “You’re gonna’ love this,” he whispered, lifting a small tissue-wrapped bundle out of the box.
The breeze died, the curtains dropped and Pam stood beside him, grateful for the privacy while he slowly peeled back the layers of tissue. It wasn’t until she felt him relax and release his breath that she finally exhaled and raised her head, marvelling at the joy on his face as he laid a narrow glass tube in her palm – powder blue, six inches long, one and a half inches wide.
He looked into her eyes at last, his smile wide, contagious. “See how beautiful.”
She nodded with the kind of enthusiasm he liked because the tube was indeed pretty, and their flat could use some colour. Maybe some more furniture too. Not that she was complaining. Three months was nothing in the life of a marriage, after all.
“I tell you, Pam, these babies are going to pay off big time. I got six in all, each one hand-painted in Israel. Cost a little extra to get the different colours but I figured you’d like that.”
She smiled harder, wondering how much this good deal had cost. But who was she to question, to make his happiness fade? On they day they stood before the Justice of The Peace, Pam had vowed she would never be that kind of wife. The kind whose lip starts to curl the moment her husband opens his mouth. Who doubts every movement, questions every motive, and cannot wait to open fire with remarks meant to not merely wound, but to destroy. The kind who prides herself on winning every argument, every petty disagreement and ends up alone and bitter, like her mother.
“But as pretty as this is,” Harvey continued, “like anything else worth having, it’s what’s inside that counts.” He held the tube to the light. “There’s a little scroll with writing on it in there. I’m not sure what the words are, some kind of prayer is all I know. But it’s powerful stuff, Pammy. And all that power will be on our side.”
She liked that Harvey was a dreamer, a man of boundless optimism and more imagination than most people could ever appreciate. He didn’t belong behind a desk, or on the floor of a factory or outside on some noisy piece of machinery. He belonged someplace better and he had plans to get there. Plans and inventions and so many ideas it made her giddy just listening to him.
Schemes, her mother had called them. Nothing but shady get-rich-quick schemes.
Pam knew her mother was wrong. Harvey just needed a break, a chance to prove himself and someone to believe it was all possible. Someone like Pam.
He ran a fingertip over the glass tube. “The guy guaranteed they were handwritten on genuine Kosher parchment by a real Sofer.”
“The fella’ who writes these things, but that’s not the important part.” He pressed the tube into her palm again and closed her fingers around it. “What matters is that we are talking maximum holiness here, baby. Maximum holiness.”
“And that’s good because. . .”
He laughed. “Because maximum holiness means maximum blessings, of course.”
Of course. Maximum blessings from a God who wasn’t a bigot. She opened her hand and stared at the Mezuzah. It was all starting to make sense.
He took two more bundles from the box, unwrapping them quickly this time, revealing one green and one pink tube. “We nail one of these babies inside every doorway, except the bathroom. Something about bathrooms is bad.”
Pam glanced inside the box. “But we only have three doors. Why did you get six?”
“Because once the blessings start rolling in, we’ll move some place with a lot more doors.”
She nodded and checked the clock. “Shall I start the pancakes now?” she asked while he rummaged around in a drawer for a hammer and nails.
“Sure. Just don’t mess around. Not much time left.”
She set to work, measuring flour, baking powder and salt while he chose a spot in the kitchen doorway for the blue Mezuzah.
“These need to go up right away,” he said while she whisked in eggs, milk and melted butter. “Because if there’s one thing I know about luck, it’s that once you have something this powerful, time is always of the essence.”
He held the tube against the frame and hammered it into place at a slight angle for reasons he didn’t explain then stood back. “From now on, every time we enter or leave the room, we kiss our fingertips, touch the Mezuzah on the way by, and bam, we’re instantly blessed. Good luck is coming our way, guaranteed.”
To demonstrate, he touched his fingertips to his lips then brushed the tube as he stepped through the doorway into the living room. He did the same on his way back into the kitchen.
“See? Easy peasy.”
She poured batter into the pan, three perfectly round circles, while he fastened the green Mezuzah into place on the front door. The first batch was in the oven keeping warm when he returned to install the pink one on the bedroom door. The second batch was ready to go with fifteen minutes to spare when he put the hammer back in the drawer.
“You’re a wonder,” he said, then took his place at the table while Pam set down two plates.
All they had to do was eat three pancakes each in the next twelve minutes and the day would be a good one. “Hurry,” she said, sliding the syrup over to him.
They ate in silence, heads down, forks moving, up down, up down. Pausing only long enough to gulp lukewarm coffee to wash it down, both keeping one eye on the clock the whole time.
“Done,” Harvey said, pushing his plate aside. “Better hurry, sweetie. Clock’s ticking.”
She shovelled the last of the pancakes into her mouth, hoping she kept them down, thinking there should be a bell to ring or a gong to hit. A loud obnoxious reward to mark the end of another ritual.
“Gonna’ to be a great day,” Harvey said and gestured her to follow him to the bedroom. He paused in the doorway and nodded at the Mezuzah. “Make us lucky, Pam.”
She pressed a kiss to her fingertips, touched the tube lightly and looked up at him. He pressed a kiss himself and picked her up. “I love you so much,” he said and Pam buried her face in his neck, no longer thinking about gongs or God or anything other than how she had come to be here, with the one, the only Harvey Kendall.
He lowered her down to the mattress on the floor. Kissed her lips, her cheek, the tender lobe of her ear. She sighed and watched the tabs inside the clock beside her flip.
She still remembered that flip because that was the precise moment when they heard a knock on the door.
Harvey pushed himself up. “Are you expecting anyone?”
She told him no and tried to pull him down again, but he shook her off and got to his feet. Another knock and he ran for the door, still naked, pressing a kiss to the Mezuzah as he leapt past.
Pam followed as far as the kitchen and peeked around the corner; breathing a sigh of relief when she saw that he’d had the presence of mind to grab a baseball hat from the rack, positioning it strategically before opening the door.
“You Harvey Kendall?” a voice asked.
“Yes. Who are you?”
“Just a messenger. For George.”
She had no idea who George was, but saw Harvey shift from one foot to the other, heard him clear his throat.
“What’s he want?” he asked and she realized Harvey was afraid of this George.
“To give you what’s coming to you,” the man said.
Pam’s stomach dropped. She’d forgotten the Mezuzah.
She tiptoed back across the kitchen. Whispered, “Sorry,” and pressed two kisses to the tube. Surely Harvey’s God, the one without bias or preferences, who doled out blessings to everyone equally, made allowances for first timers.
Fingers crossed, she crept back across the kitchen and peeked around the corner again. The door was open enough now that she could see the man in the hall. Fair-haired and more than merely good-looking. Familiar for some reason although she couldn’t think why.
The messenger grinned and opened his jacket. “Pick a pocket, any pocket.” Harvey backed up a step and the man laughed. “It’s okay, I’m just playing with you.” He reached into his righthand pocket and pulled out an envelope. “This is for you.”
Harvey waited a heartbeat then took the envelope, holding it away from his body. “What is it?”
“That, my friend, is what twenty to one looks like.” He slapped Harvey on the shoulder. “Enjoy. And buy a bigger hat.”
Harvey closed the door as the man walked away. “Pam,” he called and tossed the hat side. “Pam, come here.” She rounded the corner and he held up the envelope. “Twenty to one, baby. Twenty to goddamn one!”
His fingers trembled slightly as he tore open the flap and peeked inside. “A good day indeed,” he whispered, then squeezed his eyes shut and pressed the envelope to his chest. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Pam lay a hand on his arm, unsure what to do next. She had never seen a man weep so openly, so. . .
“Harvey,” she said quietly. “What’s in the envelope?”
“Ten thousand dollars,” he said, his voice low, rough. “The race was at noon. I didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to hope, but here it is. The proof in the pudding!” He pulled a wad of bills from the envelope and held them out to her. “This is just the start, Baby, I swear.”
Pam stared at the money. “You bet on a horse?”
“Quiet Andrew, twenty to one. It’s always the quiet ones, right.”
“Where did you get the money?”
He tried to put the winnings into her hands. “What’s it matter?”
She clasped her hands behind her back. “Tell me you didn’t bet the rent money.”
“Come on, Pam.”
“The truth, Harvey.”
He dropped his arm. “Okay, I bet the rent money and I won big. Luck is with me.”
“But what if you’d lost? What then?”
He set the stack of bills on a chair and reached for her again. Grabbed her arm when she started to back away. “Pam, listen. I don’t take stupid chances, okay. I had a tip on this race and like I said, luck is on our side.”
She studied his face, looked into his eyes and finally held out a hand. “Give me half, right now.”
He wavered a moment then picked up the stack of bills. Divided it in two and placed one half in her palm. She carried the wad to her purse and stuffed it inside. “From now on, you give me half of everything you win. And you don’t ask for it back, ever. Agreed?”
“Whatever you need to be happy.” His hands were warm on her skin as he ran them up her arms to cup her face. “I love you so much, Pammy.” He kissed her lips softly once, twice. She felt herself move into him, unable to resist the warmth, the smell, the taste of him, knowing she now had a little more than five thousand dollars for a rainy day.
What was it about Harvey Kendall, she wondered idly as he pressed her back against the wall. She wrapped her arms and legs around him, no longer thinking about rent or horses or men bearing envelopes full of cash. Giving herself over to the thrill of his hand on her breast and the growing heaviness low in her belly.
“I swear, Pam, you’re the luckiest thing that ever happened to me,” he said as he pushed himself inside her
She didn’t believe him for a minute. It was fate that brought him to the bakery that morning, she was sure of it, but they were both wrong.
Luck had other plans for Harvey that morning and the Fates had lined up a nice young man for Pam. One she’d noticed at choir practice and thought about more than a few times since. That boy was on his way to the bakery when Harvey suddenly changed course and crossed the road for no reason he could name. Just a whim that had him opening the door of Watson’s Bakery, seeing Pam for the first time and abandoning all plans for the rest of the day.
The only thing that will do that to a man and a girl who are wrong for each other in every way that matters is the twisted humour of Love. She and her sidekick were in the bakery that morning too, and there wasn’t a damn thing either Luck or the Fates could do about it.
“Trust me, Pam,” Harvey said when they both lay sweating and panting for breath. “Life is about to change for the Kendalls.”
He said the same thing on their first anniversary when he nailed the Chinese characters for double happiness next to the Celtic cross on the wall above the television to mark the birth of their daughter, Felixa, Spanish for lucky, Flick for short. And again, two years later when he squeezed a Sri Yantra talisman in between the lucky Hello Kitty poster and the collection of horseshoes he had fastened above their bed after their son Madoc, Welsh for fortunate one, was born.
When Pam had asked if they could put the talisman somewhere else, he said, “There’s forty-three triangles in that thing. Do you know how powerful that is? And no, we can’t put it somewhere else. It has to be in sight of the rising sun.” He lifted the baby up to see the talisman. “I promise you son, life is about to change for the Kendalls.”
But Pam was starting to have doubts.
Yes, he’d had a few wins over the past two years. Three Daily Doubles at the track, two Instant Wins at the lottery counter and a nice run at the craps table in his favourite casino, but nothing that came close to that envelope full of cash or matched the tips Pam brought home from the restaurant every week. While he always gave her half, no mater how hard she tried, how tightly she pinched, the money she’d put aside had withered to nothing, all of it gone to rent, groceries, heat. Which is why she wasn’t surprised when the first eviction notice arrived a few weeks after the talisman went up.
Harvey doubled his efforts over the next few years, bringing in more charms and medallions. Buying an Ankh pendant for Pam, an Eye of Ra tattoo for himself yet luck still eluded him and the family rarely stayed in one place for long. Six months, a year and another stock tip would go wrong, another horse would let him down, another favoured team would lose. Soon the boxes would be packed and hauled out to the car in the middle of the night.
“Greener pastures,” he’d tell the kids as he hurried them out of bed and into the backseat; tucking the St. Christopher medallions into their hands and kissing them three times on the forehead. Once behind the wheel, he’d flash them that marvellous smile and start to sing. “Grab your coat and get your hat.”
“Leave your worries on the doorstep,” Pam answered.
Before long she and the kids were laughing and singing along as he drove them to God only knew where next. All of them willing to believe, to follow, to go one more round with Harvey. And why not? He was a wonderful father, the kind that got down on the floor to play, took them camping and fishing and read stories of Gods from all cultures; refusing to call them myths and encouraging the children to repeat the stories back to him.
Flick and Madoc loved him with the same devotion Pam had taught by example and adopted every ritual without question. How could they do otherwise? With their father constantly throwing salt over his shoulder or knocking on wood, superstition and fear were part of daily life in the Kendall house. As natural as saying grace before dinner in other homes.
The year Flick turned eight, Pam hoped the pyjamas Harvey bought after the teacher called about their daughter’s drawings were a turning point, a sign that life for the Kendall’s was indeed changing, but she was wrong. Luck remained a step ahead, always out of reach. And the year Harvey discovered Feng Shui was the worst yet.
It was shortly after their fifteenth wedding anniversary, three months to the day since they had moved into a yet another new flat in another new town when Pam came home from the day shift at Le Bistro to find Harvey packing boxes because their current address contained the number four.
“I tell you, Pam, four is the worst number of all. It’s like death or something.” He looked around, frowning as though seeing the place for the first time. “It’s this flat that’s been bringing us bad luck lately. Things’ll be different once we’re out of here.”
The problem was, Pam liked their flat. The neighbourhood was good and the house sturdy. So far there had been neither rats nor roaches, and best of all, there was a porch. A shady spot where she and the kids sat and talked or did homework. For the first time, Pam wasn’t ready to move.
“Hang on a minute,” she said and both kids looked up from the newspaper they had spread out on the coffee table.
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and led her to the door; pressing a kiss to the pink Mezuzah on his way through, making sure she did the same before they stepped into the hall.
As always, he held his breath on the way down the stairs, only releasing it when they were outside on the porch. New people were there. A young man, tall and fair and more than merely good looking, oddly familiar for some reason. With him were three equally attractive young women, a blond, a brunette and a redhead, like the setup for a bad joke, all three seated at the table while the young man leaned against a railing, smoking a cigarette.
The table was covered with stacks of lottery tickets and the women were busy scratching the cards with pennies then tossing them into a box at their feet. When the front door closed behind Pam with a thud, the women raised their heads as one, but only the blond smiled.
“Harvey,” she purred. “I took down the mirror across from my bed the way you told me to. You’ll have to come feel the new energy in there sometime.”
“Stop it,” the redhead muttered.
The blond blew out an exasperated breath. “I’m just having a little fun.”
The brunette laid a hand on her arm. “You’re drawing too much attention.”
“She always does,” the redhead said.
The blond rolled her eyes. “You are such party poopers.”
“Ok ladies, focus,” the young man said. “We don’t have all day.”
The three bent to their task again, scratching and tossing, scratching and tossing while the young man pushed himself away from the railing. “Harvey, my friend, I apologize. We’re being insufferably rude. This must be Pam, the wife you talk so much about.”
“She is indeed.” Harvey urged her forward. “Pam, this is Chance. We met yesterday, here on the porch.”
Chance held out a hand. “It’s wonderful to finally meet you, Pam.”
His grip was firm, his smile wide but he held on a second too long before finally releasing her. “These lovely ladies are my colleagues, the Moray sisters, Chloe, Lacy and Attie.”
The women glanced up at Pam.
A chill moved through her when Chloe, the blond, smiled again. “Harvey has told us so much about you.”
“Although he needn’t have bothered,” the redhead, Attie, muttered and picked up another card.
“Have you all moved in recently?” Pam asked.
“We’re just visiting,” Chance said. “And today, we’re conducting a bit of an experiment. Trying to determine if lottery ticket wins are a matter of fate –”
“Or just dumb luck,” Attie cut in.
He put a hand on his chest. “Attie sweetheart, you wound me. We’ve always worked so well together.”
“In your dreams,” she said. “All we do is clean up after you. And this?” She waved the card at him. “Is a complete waste of time. I don’t know why those two agreed to it.”
Chloe raised her head. “Because everyone likes a bit of fun now and then. Except you.”
Attie waved her off, tossed the card in the box and picked up another. Scratching in what seemed to Pam like slow motion, the penny catching the light as it moved across the card while she and the man bickered about fate and luck, and black and white and who controlled the stretches of grey in between.
Pam didn’t care about any of that, her attention was on the tickets. They weren’t the usual Bingos or Crosswords. These cards shimmered silver and gold and the boxes moved as the women scratched. More importantly, Pam swore each card bore a name.
James something or other on one. Shawna or Shayna, on another. She couldn’t make out all of them, but they were names, Pam was sure of it. Names that appeared the moment one of them picked up a card and faded away as it fluttered into the box.
“Would you like to try?” Chance asked.
Pam jerked her head up. He wasn’t simply looking at her, he was studying her, his expression one of mild curiosity, or was that amusement? She couldn’t say for sure, but she was certain she had heard that voice before, seen that face.
He picked up a handful of lottery tickets, fanned them between his fingers and held them out to her. “Pick a card, any card.”
That’s when everything came to her in a rush. The man at the door, the envelope of cash. The same man in the bakery on the day she met Harvey.
“I’ve seen you before,” she said. “You were at our house. You delivered an envelope for George.”
Chance drew his head back. “You have me confused with someone else.”
“Definitely not. You’re the same man, I know it.”
“Pam, you’re wrong,” Harvey whispered. “He isn’t the same guy.”
“Yes, he is, and he knows it.” She raised her chin, looked Chance in the eye. “What’s going on here? What do you want?”
“I told you this was a bad idea,” Attie said in a sing-song voice, and Pam would have sworn the name on the card that fluttered from her fingers was her own. She stepped back from the table. “Who are you people?”
“Tourists,” Chance told her. “Travellers like yourself. Always on the road, never staying long in one place.” He tipped his head to the side, watching her with that same curiosity or amusement. “In fact, I hear you’ll be moving on again soon.”
“We’re not going anywhere.” She turned to Harvey. “I’m not leaving because of a number or a mirror. Not this time.”
“Excuse us a minute,” he said and led Pam down the porch stairs and around to the narrow walkway at the side of the house. He leaned her back against the wall and put his lips to her ear. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but you’re embarrassing me in front of my new friend.”
She shoved him away. “What is wrong with you? We’ve both seen that man before. He delivered the envelope for George. He said, this is what twenty to one looks like. Remember?”
Harvey put his hands on her shoulders. “Pammy, I said that. And the guy at the door was old and fat, wearing a bowler hat of all things. I can see him like it was yesterday. Chance is not nearly as old. Maybe fifty.”
“What are you talking about? He’s twenty-five at most.”
Harvey shrugged. “The grey hair makes it hard to say for sure, but I promise I‘ve never seen him before in my life.”
Pam brushed him off and took a few steps, needing air and space, a moment to breathe, to think. “One of us is losing it Harvey, and it’s not me. There is something is off with those people. And I don’t care what you say, that man is the same one who came into the bakery the day we met. I remember because Judy pointed him out. Said he and some woman were trouble in the making. But you know what’s even stranger? He hasn’t changed in fifteen years. He looks exactly the same as he did in the bakery, and the day he came to our door.”
“I believe you,” Harvey said, trying to put an arm around her, draw her back. “And don’t worry. Once we’re out of here, whoever he is, he’ll be far behind us.”
Pam held up her hands. “Have you heard anything I’ve said? I like it here.”
“I hear you, Baby, but the four in the address is a deal breaker. I’ll find us another place, a great place, one you’ll like even better, I promise.”
“But the kids –”
“They already know and they’re fine with it. They’re upstairs going through the Classifieds, looking for a place. They don’t want to live here any more than I do. They understand the power of alignment in a home. And this place?” He gestured at the house. “This place is an energy disaster.”
“But I’m so tired of moving. I want a home. A place where I can put seeds in a planter box and still be there when the flowers bloom.”
“Me too.” He pulled her close. Pressed her head to his chest, stroked her hair and the curve of her cheek. “It’s what I’ve always wanted for us, but we won’t find peace here. I know it as sure as I know I love you more than life itself.”
“Promise me this will be the last move.”
Harvey had always been a man of his word, so Pam let her spine soften and her arms move around him. “I’ll call the landlord.”
“Success, prosperity and happiness, baby,” he whispered. “Once we’re in a different place, everything will change for the Kendalls, I promise.”
“If you need help packing, just give me a call,” Chance said.
Pam started and turned. He stood not two feet away, cigarette smouldering at his side. “The ladies and I would love to be of service.”
Harvey stepped away from Pam. “That’s really nice. We can always use an extra –”
“We’ll be fine,” Pam said.
“Mom?” It was Madoc’s voice, coming from the second-floor window above them, followed by Flick calling, “Mom? Dad? You down there?”
Harvey grinned at Chance. “I’d like you to meet my kids. Wait here a minute.”
“Harvey, no,” Pam said but he was already on his way back to the porch, eager to fetch their children for this stranger.
When Harvey was out of sight, Chance smiled at her. “He’s a nice boy that Madoc. And Flick is getting to be quite the beauty isn’t she.”
Pam rounded on him. Shoved a finger in his chest. “Keep away from my family, understand? I don’t know who you are or what you’re playing at, but you keep away from me and mine.”
“But Harvey and I are already such good friends,” Chance said and took hold of her hand, holding it between his own when she tried to pull away. “I really don’t think he’d like it if I stayed away.”
She jerked her hand free. “Who are you? What do you want?”
“What everyone wants. Love, devotion, a little fun now and then.” He waved his cigarette at the window above them. “And Harvey? He gives me all three.”
“What are you on about?”
He laughed. “Poor Pam, so brave yet so dense.” He took a step closer and lowered his voice. “Let me make this easy for you. Harvey and I go way back, all the way to that day with his mom and the pancakes. It’s a long story, I can tell it to you one day if you like, but for now, all you need to know is that Harvey gave himself to me that day.”
Pam shook her head. “You’re delusional, possibly dangerous –”
“Oh, come on Pam, think about it. Why does Harvey carry a rabbit’s foot in his pocket, hang horseshoes on the wall, and kiss the Mezuzahs a thousand times a day.”
“For blessings, for luck –”
She laughed. “You’re saying you’re Luck?”
He held out his hands. “In the flesh. Never the same flesh twice of course, but you’re the one in a million who isn’t fooled. One of the point zero one percent of humans who can see me and my kind as we are, and bear witness to what we do.”
“You can’t expect me to believe any of this.”
“Let me finish. You were right when you said it was me at your door with the envelope full of cash, and in the bakery. Harvey doesn’t know that because he doesn’t see me as you do. He sees what I want him to see. A fat guy in a bowler, a greying hippie, something new every time because it makes things easier. Imagine how awkward it would be if he ever saw me twice.”
“Because you own him.”
“Not own, really. Free will comes into play all the time. Harvey’s more like a top follower, a true believer, a disciple if you will.”
“So, if you’re Luck, and he’s a disciple, why does he lose so often? Why don’t you help him?”
Chance sighed. “Because he pisses me off most of the time.” He moved closer, his voice low, conspiratorial. “He’s a bit like a dog that let’s you kick it around. No matter what you do as long as you throw it a bone now and then, it keeps coming back. Eventually you lose respect for that dog, wish it would challenge you, try to bite your leg off, yet for all that you sort of hate it, you can’t help but enjoy that kind of devotion.”
“You torture him on purpose?”
“Little bit, yeah.” He tipped his head to the side, looking at her with that same expression she’d seen earlier. “Ready to hear about the names on the lottery tickets and how the three women at the table are the Fates?”
She laughed. “Your colleagues are the Fates.”
“Yes. They spin the threads of human life and I tie a few knots in them. We have a kind of love, hate relationship, just like I do with Love and that little shit Cupid, but once you get to know them –”
“Enough.” Pam held up her hands as she backed away. “You keep away from my family, understand?”
He looked over her shoulder. “Let’s ask Harvey how he feels about that shall we?”
Pam jerked around. Saw Harvey coming toward them with the children.
“Madoc, Flick,” Harvey said. “I’d like you to meet my new buddy, Chance.”
Chance bowed to Flick. “A pleasure my lady.”
“Likewise, good Sir,” she said with a laugh.
He turned to Madoc. “Delighted to make your acquaintance my fine gentleman.”
He offered the boy a hand.
“Madoc, don’t,” Pam whispered.
Madoc glanced at her, then Harvey and finally took Chance’s hand, shaking it firmly, the way Harvey had taught them. “Nice to meet you too.”
“Your friends gave us lottery tickets,” Flick said. She held hers up. “Lucky ones, I hope.”
The cards shimmered gold and silver with the words Fortunate One across the top of Madoc’s and Miss Lucky across Flick’s.
“Give me those,” Pam said, snatching the tickets away. The words at the top changed to Crossword Bonanza, and the colours became fixed and dull. She tore them in half and dropped them on the ground. “Flick, Madoc, we’re going inside.” She turned to Harvey. “You coming?”
“Soon, I promise.”
Pam shot a look of warning to Chance then hurried the children back toward the porch.
“I’ll see you again, kids,” Chance called after them.
Pam heard Harvey say, “Sorry, man. I don’t know what’s gotten into her.”
“No harm done,” Chance replied. “Now, what were we talking about earlier?”
“The Ring of Fire. What was the name of that stock again?”
True to his word, Harvey found another flat in another neighbourhood, this one boasting a number two in the address. Yet despite the proper placement of mirrors and a screen to cover the view of the sink from the front door, the Ring of Fire burned through Harvey’s investment within weeks.
“It’s because we moved on Tuesday the thirteenth,” Harvey said. Always unlucky in Spanish culture.
Flick agreed as she pored over the tarot cards, certain she must have missed something while Madoc tried to take the blame, admitting he’d kept a broken mirror a secret.
Pam intervened, reassuring the kids that nothing was their fault, but they would not be swayed. “Something’s keeping luck away,” Flick insisted.
“If not the mirror, then what?” Madoc asked.
Pam saw her children’s agony in the slump of their shoulders, the tears they tried to hide. She tried not to think about Chance, his claim to be Luck, his disdain for Harvey’s devotion, but for the first time in all their years together, Pam felt her lip start to curl.
When are you going to wake up and come home? Admit you’ve married an idiot.
Never. Who else could protect her husband, her children from the whims of Chance?
To that end, Pam redoubled her efforts. Dusted the horseshoes daily, made sure the Ankh pendant was always at her throat and joined Harvey for the morning chants before leaving for work.
At the restaurant, in the privacy of a bathroom stall, she pulled a crucifix from the pocket of her uniform and prayed for forgiveness for herself and her family; on the lookout for signs of Chance and the Moray sisters every waking hour of every day.
She went on like this for another seven long years, keeping up appearances with Harvey and her lip tightly controlled even after Flick went off to college, leaving behind the tarot cards, the talismans, everything her father had given her. Calling herself Felicity and declaring herself free of his obsessions. In the stall at work, Pam offered up a prayer of thanks for Flick’s turnaround and dared to beg for the same change in Madoc who was so much like his father it made Pam’s heart ache. Finding hope when Harvey took a part time job at a donut shop and joy in never catching so much as a glimpse of Chance or the Fates.
The only dark spot was Flick, who returned home only once after college because Pam had begged and left again the next morning when Harvey refused to wear pyjamas at the breakfast table for the first time in years. His way of letting Flick know she had ceased to exist for him and a clear warning to Madoc.
Still, Pam held on, knowing Madoc needed her there. Even though he missed his sister and they exchanged secret emails and texts every day, Pam understood that he would never follow Flick’s lead, never leave abandon his father’s beliefs. She blamed herself for Madoc’s devotion and tried to offset the damage by keeping her son’s connection with Flick a secret, calling her daughter from work and welcoming the white cats that started following Harvey home.
“They’re lucky,” he insisted when a fifth cat turned up on their doorstep.
But when the letter arrived for her the next day, Pam knew life was finally, truly going to be good for the Kendalls. And Luck had nothing to do with it.
The letter came from Judy who was still working at Watson’s Bakery. She didn’t outline how she had discovered Pam’s whereabouts, only stating that Pam’s mother had died suddenly, hit by a car in a freak accident outside the bakery, and Pam should contact the lawyer handling the estate as soon as possible.
According to police reports, the driver of the car had a heart attack. At the moment of death, his foot pressed down on the gas, the car jumped the curb and slammed into Pam’s mom. Strange indeed, but stranger still was the news that Pam had inherited everything.
Turned out that the only signed copy of a will the lawyer could find was an old one, written back before Pam and her mother’s final faceoff. The new one, leaving everything to the local animal shelter so Harvey wouldn’t get his hands on her money, was nowhere to be found. It was as though God himself had bitten her mother on the ass, taking care of Pam just to spite her.
On the day the Kendalls and the five white cats moved into the apartment above the bakery in Fullerton, Harvey took over the office that had been her mother’s private lair. Lugging computers and monitors up the stairs, assembling everything he needed to establish himself as the Day Trader he was meant to be.
“It’s good to have you back,” Judy said when she showed up for work the next morning.
Judy had been at the bakery as long as Pam could remember and even as a kid, she thought Judy was exotic. Like a Rita Hayworth gypsy with dark wavy hair, skin like silk and tales of love and adventure that kept Pam in the kitchen longer than any of her mother’s threats ever could.
“It’s wonderful to be back,” Pam said, giving her a hug. “And you look fabulous. I swear, you haven’t aged a bit.”
Judy laughed. “You were seventeen when you left. Kids always think anyone over twenty is ancient. But I do recommend yoga. Now, if you’re interested, I have some ideas on how to keep the Bakery going.”
Pam was definitely interested. Her mother had neglected the bakery for years, content to throw a few loaves on the shelf, a handful of tarts in the display case and call it a day. But Judy hung on, taking over the baking and the front counter. Keeping the place alive while Pam’s mother watched soap operas upstairs.
“Why did you do it?” Pam asked.
“For you and the children,” Judy said. “To ensure everything was still here when you were ready.”
Pam looked around at the chipped counters, the ancient display cases, the worn flooring. “I always thought my mom would sell.”
“She was about to, but she died before she could sign the listing.” She paused. “Would you like to know where she’s buried?”
“What’s the point? She’s probably rolling over in her grave as we speak.”
Judy covered Pam’s hand with her own. “I’m so glad you’re here, and that you want to stay.”
They sat together for days, planning the new space and new menus. Adding tables and chairs, focusing on breakfast and lunch. Agreeing on fresh baked brioche and English muffins, homemade soups and salad dressings; slowly breathing life into Watson’s Old Tyme Bakery.
“That Judy’s got a lot of energy for someone her age,” Madoc said when she hoisted a sledgehammer on the first day of the renovation.
Pam laughed and handed him a crowbar. “You’re seventeen. Everyone looks old to you.”
As the renovation progressed, Pam felt a peace she had never known move through her. Her lip relaxed and the line between her eyebrows responded to a shot of Botox. Madoc enrolled in business at the local college, Harvey seemed content with day trading and thoughts of Chance came less and less.
With the extra money from the estate, she gave Harvey an investment allowance and secretly helped Flick with her college debt. She bought new furniture, planted vegetables in the backyard and looked forward to the harvest. If Harvey never made a cent on his trades it wouldn’t matter. No one would ever again knock on the door and tell them they had to leave. Life had truly changed for the Kendalls. If only Flick would come back, everything would be perfect.
It wasn’t until she saw boots instead of stock quotes on all of Harvey’s monitors, that Pam realized she had been fooling herself. Nothing had changed. A little over a year into their new life and he was at it again.
“Just look at these beauties,” he said, patting the cat in his lap as he tapped the screen. “Warm as toast. Perfect for the Arctic.”
She shooed another cat off a chair and sat down. “Arctic?”
“Yukon,” he said matter-of-factly. “For the gold.”
“Gold?” she managed, feeling the tremor in her lip and smiling extra wide to hold it at bay.
“It’s a genuine modern-day gold rush, Pam.”
He clicked the mouse and the cat in his lap purred loudly as pictures of men in parkas and fur-lined hoods popped up on every monitor, their beards and mustaches caked in ice.
“People are staking claims and making millions when they sell,” Harvey explained. “With the money from the sale of this place, we can move up there, stake our own claim and in a year, maybe three tops –”
“I’m not moving,” she said, the swiftness of her response surprising them both.
He glanced over at her then clicked the mouse again. “I understand. We’ll get a mortgage instead. I’ll get things rolling up north then travel back and forth. You and Madoc can join me when he’s finished school.” He clicked back to the boots. “And these babies are perfect for the job. Lightweight, breathable, not clunky like regular Arctic boots –”
“No mortgage,” Pam said, louder than she’d intended.
His hand stilled. The cat in his lap stopped purring. More cats came into the office.
“What did you say?”
“I said no mortgage. Not on this house.”
He spun his chair to face her. “But Pam, this is exactly what I’ve been searching for all these years. Life will change for the Kendalls—“
“Harvey, no.” She moistened her lips, still fighting that curl as she took his hands in hers. “Don’t you see? Life has already changed for the Kendalls. Everything is perfect now, just like you always promised. My mother’s death was the luckiest thing that ever happened to us.”
“You don’t understand.” He pulled away and pointed at the wall. “Look over there. What do you see?”
Pam squinted at a spot on the wall. “I think it’s a spider.”
“Not just any spider, Pam. That’s a money spider. Do you know how rare those things are in this country? Yet there it is, right here in my office.” He rose and stood behind her chair. “That spider is a sign, Pam, I know it. I was looking at the Modern Gold Rush pages out of curiosity, and those boots came up when I felt a tickling on my arm. That’s what money spiders do. If they land on you, it means money is coming your way.” He gestured to the monitor. “Those boots are a sign. I need to go north, in those boots, and stake a claim. Once we visit the bank –”
“No, no, no.” Without thinking, she rose and bashed the spider with her fist. Watched it fall to the floor then stomped on it.
Harvey had already yanked a strand of hair from the top of his head and was spinning in a clockwise circle. Once, twice. . . She stopped him before the third rotation. “No mortgage. No boots. No lucky spider, got it?”
He didn’t say a word. Simply brushed her hands from his arms, completed his third rotation then sat down at the computer and closed every webpage.
He didn’t speak of the boots or the gold rush again, but six weeks later, a noise woke her in the night. Harvey wasn’t in bed and she switched on a lamp, spotted the note taped to the alarm clock on the night table.
You may not be on my side any longer, but I know luck is. Screw you and your mother’s house. Going where I’m meant to be. Life is about to change for Harvey Kendall. Tell Madoc I’ll send for him. Harvey.
She crumpled the note and hurried into the hall. Followed the beam of light spilling out under the living room door and turned the handle slowly. Through the crack, she saw him behind her desk, rifling through the drawers. His sweatshirt was new as were the suitcases on the floor by the door. Through the window behind him, she saw headlights flash three times in the driveway. He turned to wave and she closed the door softly, went to the window at the end of the hall for a better view.
A jeep was parked in the driveway, engine running, a woman at the wheel, blond and young. Pam’s chest tightened. It was Chloe, looking exactly the same as she had all those years ago.
This can’t be happening, Pam thought as she crept back along the hall and opened the living room door. Harvey was picking up the suitcases. He was leaving, she understood that, but it was those damn boots on his feet that made her mouth go dry. Dark brown, hand welted, she would recognize them anywhere. He was going to the Arctic.
All five cats had gathered behind her, watching her. She ignored them and pushed the door open wider.
“Pam,” he said.
“Be quiet or you’ll wake Madoc.” She stepped into the room and closed the door, shutting out the cats. “Just tell me what you’re doing. And be honest. You owe me that.”
He sighed and walked toward her with the suitcases. “I’m following my destiny, like we always have. I wish you were going with me, I really do, but you’ve made your choice.”
“And the woman in the car outside?”
“That’s Chloe. You probably don’t remember her—”
“Of course I do. It’s been fifteen years but she looks exactly the same as she did fifteen years ago.”
He sighed. “Not this again. Trust me, Pam, Chloe looks her age, just like you and I do. And there’s nothing between us. She’s just giving me a lift to the airport. Chance and I have tickets to Yellowknife.”
Pam spine stiffened. Poor Pam, so brave, so dense. “You never stopped seeing him, did you.”
“He’s a good friend, Pam.”
“He’s trouble made flesh.”
Harvey shook his head. “This is exactly why I have to leave. And why I took a mortgage on the house.”
“You didn’t leave me much choice, but I only went for two hundred thousand. Not much considering what this house is worth.”
“As you’ve made abundantly clear. You owe me this Pam, after all the years I’ve devoted to this family.”
She stared at him because no words would come, but he mistook her silence for agreement and opened the door. “I’m sorry, Pam. I do love you, I always will, but destiny calls, and I must answer.”
He walked past her, carrying the suitcases into the hall. The white cats parted like an honour guard lining his path to freedom.
She ran after him. “You can’t do this. I won’t let you leave me holding the bag again.”
“You’re not holding anything. I’ll pay the mortgage out once I hit it big. This is a sure thing, I promise.”
Just like every horse, every lottery, every penny stock and football game.
She grabbed his arm to stop him. “This is mortgage fraud; you’ll go to jail.”
“You’ll have a hard time convincing anyone of that since you signed the papers yourself.” She blinked and he chuckled. “Remember the permit for the patio outside? The reams of papers you signed? I just slipped in a couple extra pages. You didn’t even notice.”
She shook her head. “That wouldn’t work. The bank wouldn’t accept it. I’d have to sign in person –”
“Usually yes, but luck was already on my side. The guy at the bank was really understanding. He appreciated how busy you were after your mother’s tragic death and was more than happy to help. It was almost too easy.” He put the suitcases down and took her hand. “Pammy, this will work. I’d never do anything to hurt you.”
“You lying bastard,” she muttered and shoved him, hard.
He backed up a few steps. “I know you’re angry but soon –”
“Soon nothing.” She shoved him again. He was bigger than her, could have stood his ground, but he backed up voluntarily, giving her room.
The white cats lined up between them, protecting him, shielding him.
She kicked one of them out of the way and shoved him again. One cat leapt at her, the others milled around his feet. He kept moving backward, steeping around them. One step, two.
“Harvey stop,” she said, but it was too late.
He teetered at the top of the stairs, one hand reaching for the railing, the other reaching out to her. She grabbed that hand, meaning to pull him back, to rescue him one more time when suddenly the future was right there in front of her.
A mortgage that would take most of her nest egg leaving her scrambling again, afraid to answer the phone, the door. Life without Harvey would be exactly the same as life with him.
She gripped his hand tighter, shoved him just a little and let go.
He went down. Bang, bang, bang all the way to the bottom and lay perfectly still, limbs at wrong angles, head definitely off kilter. The cats followed him down. Sniffed around the body then climbed onto his chest and sent up a howl the likes of which Pam had never heard. She shoved the suitcases down after them. Let him take them all to the Arctic.
Madoc came into the hall, blinking and bleary-eyed. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
“Your dad was going down the stairs. The cats were all around his feet like always, only this time he was carrying suitcases. He lost his balance.” She turned tear-filled eyes to her son. “I’m so sorry, Son.”
“For God’s sake, call 911,” he shouted and raced down the stairs. Pushed the cats off the body, felt for a pulse then started CPR. Pam went for her cell phone, feigning faith in the possibility that he was still alive. “There’s been an accident,” she told the operator. “We need an ambulance.”
Harvey was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital and buried two days later. Pam did her best to explain the suitcases to Madoc. An adventure for a few months. Going alone because Madoc needed to finish his year and Pam needed to work at the bakery. She didn’t show him the note, saying only that his father looked forward to having everyone join him later.
Madoc didn’t ask any more questions, simply handed her the rabbit’s foot keychain to put into the casket. Pam tucked it into Harvey’s pocket and made sure he was wearing those damn boots when they put him in the ground.
Flick came home for the service but had no last words for Harvey. Pam understood. Just like her mom, Harvey would probably roll over in his grave if his wayward daughter went anywhere near him.
At the service, Pam held the kids’ hands and bowed her head while Pastor Chatto read the speech she had prepared; all the while keeping an eye out, wondering if Chance or Chloe would make a dramatic last-minute appearance. But the affair went off smoothly, respectfully.
“Such a nice service,” Judy said to her in the car later. Pam hoped Madoc agreed. He hadn’t spoken much since his father’s death.
In the following weeks, Flick delivered all the Mezuzahs to a local Temple with an apology. Then she listed anything Madoc didn’t want from Harvey’s collection on Kijiji. The items sold surprisingly well, and she donated every cent to a homeless shelter in her father’s name. “At last, he’s doing someone some good,” she whispered to Pam and Judy while Madoc fed the cats in the kitchen.
Flick stayed on to help with the renovation and was still there when they officially opened the café and patio a month later on a sunny, Sunday morning in July.
The previews of Judy’s eggs benedict and Pam’s pancakes had people lining up for a table before Flick unlocked the front door at 6:00 a.m.
“Welcome,” she said. “Seating inside or out? Coffee to start?” She signalled to Madoc. “One latte and one Americano for table three.”
Pam smiled as she whisked pancake batter. He was learning so fast. Perhaps it was better that he had dropped out of school. Maybe he and Flick would take over the bakery one day, carry on the tradition for another generation.
By 11 a.m. the tables were full, the line still long and everything was going smoothly in the kitchen. Pam was at the oven, taking out another quiche when Flick came through the swinging door.
“Tell the customers no more pancakes after 11:15.” Pam said.
“Seriously?” Flick said.
Pam shrugged. “Some habits die hard.”
“Whatever.” Flick handed her a business card. “Some guy said to give you this. Said you were both in the church choir years ago.”
Pam smiled as she read his name. “Johnny Crawford. I had a crush on him in high school.”
“He said to call him. Maybe you can have coffee one —”
“Pam,” Judy called as she burst through the door, eyes wide, face flushed. “You need to come outside. Now.”
“Go,” Flick said. “I’ll take care of the kitchen.”
Pam followed Judy through the swinging door. “What is it?” she asked when they were on the patio. “People seem happy enough–”
“Up there.” Judy pointed to the wire above the street. “Look up there.”
Pam tipped her head back, shielded her eyes from the sun. Something was dangling from the telephone wire above the street. A pair of shoes probably. She walked to the curb, checked again and felt her stomach twist.
Not shoes. Boots. Harvey’s boots with four-leaf clovers carved into the souls. The ones she had buried him in.
“Bad omen,” a customer said and pointed at them with his fork. “Gangs staking territory. Shoes on a wire like that is the sign.”
“I heard it meant a drug dealer lives nearby,” someone else added.
“Not drugs,” Pam muttered. “And not shoes.”
Why couldn’t they see that?
“Madoc,” she shouted and ran for the front door. “Madoc,” she screamed again.
The clink of silver, the rattle of plates, the rise and fall of conversation came to stop. All eyes were on her when she said, “Madoc, outside now.”
He handed off two cups of frothed coffee, apologized to the customers for the interruption then came around the counter and followed her out the door. “What’s wrong? What is it?”
She pointed to the boots. “What do you see?”
Madoc squinted into the sun. “Looks like shoes.”
“I don’t know. It’s hard to see from here –”
She spun him around. “Madoc, those are your father’s boots.”
“Mom, calm down. You buried him in the boots. How can they be up there?’
“I don’t know.” She released him and looked up again, heart pounding, palms sweating. The boots turned round and round in the breeze, but everyone else only saw shoes. Dear God, it was happening again.
“Chance,” she whispered and went as far as the curb, looking closely at passing cars, pedestrians in the crosswalk. Checking every face that went by, well aware of the white cats gathering at her feet.
“Get away from me,” she muttered and kicked at them, earning a few frowns and tsk-tsk noises from passersby. “They aren’t normal cats,” she said to one woman and wished she hadn’t.
How could she explain what the cats were when she didn’t fully understand herself. Good luck conduits or agents of Chance for all she knew. But their days in her house were numbered. Every one of them would be out on its fluffy tail by sunset. And those boots could go to hell.
She headed back to the door, intending to restore calm, ensure people had only good things to say about Watson’s when they left. It wasn’t until she reached the threshold that she spotted him, seated at a table in the corner. Fair hair, more than good looking, a cigarette smoldering in one hand while he stroked a cat in his lap with the other. He hadn’t aged a bit in all these years.
“Pam,” Chance called. “Join me.”
She smiled at her customers as she wove through the tables to where he sat.
“This is a no smoking area,” she said.
He dropped the cigarette. Crushed it with the heel of his shoe then gave the chair next to him a shove. “Have a seat.”
She crossed her arms instead. “What do you want?”
“Pancakes. But I suppose I’m a bit late for that now. Is noon still the cut off?”
“I’m not doing this,” she said and backed away onto the sidewalk that marked the boundaries of the patio. A short fence would be installed next week, a barrier to keep customers in and freeloaders out. But for now, any sort of riffraff could trespass on her property. At least they could try.
“Get out,” she said.
“But Madoc is bringing me coffee. I hear he makes wonderful designs with the froth. Can’t wait to see what he’s dreamed up for me.”
“Here you are, Ma’am,” Madoc said, setting the cup on the table as though Chance were someone else completely. A woman instead of the man they had both met years ago.
Pam snatched up the cup. “No coffee,” she said and smiled at Madoc. “Can you see to table five for me please, sweetheart?” He looked confused and she smiled wider. “Madoc, table five?”
“Whatever,” he said.
Chance laughed as he walked away. “Nice going, Mom. Another couple of outbursts and he’ll be convinced you’re crazy. Just like Harvey was.” He leaned on his elbows. “Honestly, Pam, I feel sorry for you. Life is so much easier when you see us the way everyone else here does.” He put a hand to his hair. “Today I’m a glamourous woman, Lady Luck if you will, my favourite role. I think you’d love the scarf.”
Pam stepped back onto the sidewalk with the cup, giving him room to exit. “Just leave.”
“But I’m so enjoying our chat. And the design on that coffee is stunning, don’t you think?”
Pam looked down at the cup. Madoc had shaped a four-leaf clover with the froth.
“A tribute to his dad perhaps? he said. “Too bad it won’t last.”
Sure enough, the clover began to dissolve, becoming a weeping emoji instead.
“What are you doing here?” she heard Judy ask.
Pam raised her head. Judy was beside her, both hands on the table, leaning close to Chance.
“You know him?” Pam asked.
“Unfortunately. And he should not be here.”
Chance leaned back in the chair. “Judy, Judy, Judy. That’s what you call yourself down here, isn’t it?” He turned to Pam. “Her real name’s Juno, goddess of women’s affairs and very important if she does say so herself. Oh, don’t look so shocked, we’re all down here somewhere and we are stunning. But only you can see that. To everyone else, Juno’s the old lady who’s worked here forever. She’s almost as good with a disguise as I am, but otherwise, she’s a bit of a bore. Even Aurora agrees and she is pure sunshine for everyone. But I’m curious, has she told you how she murdered your mother, yet?”
Judy paled. “You need to leave.”
“Killed her right here on this spot,” he continued. “Messed with the will too as I understand.”
“Will you stop!”
Chance sat up straighter. “Go on, Pam. Ask how she managed it. How she got that car to jump the curb.”
“Pam, I can explain –”
“Was it something like this?”
Chance snapped his fingers and Pam heard a screech of tires, the crash of metal and suddenly she was flying. Feet knocked out from under her when the car jumped the curb, the coffee cup spinning away as she hit the windshield, the roof, the pavement behind the car.
“Mom!” Madoc yelled and then he was there, kneeling at her side. “Just lie still. Someone call 911!”
Poor boy, she thought and wanted to reach up, to touch his face but nothing worked right. Not her hands, her legs, her mouth. He was talking to her again ,but she could no longer hear the words, only the rushing inside her head. Then out of nowhere, Flick appeared, lovely face looming over her. Calm, collected as always, only the trembling of her hands giving her away.
She said something too. If only Pam could read lips, and then she was gone, replaced by Judy.
“Hold on,” Judy said and Pam wondered why she could hear her. “You’ll be fine,” Judy continued. “I promise.”
She laid her hands on Pam’s chest and a tingling sensation moved slowly outward to her arms and up her throat only to stop as abruptly as it had started. Cold started seeping in instead.
Flick appeared with a blanket, said something Pam couldn’t hear and ran off again.
Don’t go, Pam thought as her eyes drifted up, spotting the boots spinning slowly above her head. Those four-leaf clovers upside down, sideways, right way up. Round and round.
“She dying, Juno,” a voice said. “Nothing you can do to stop it.”
Chance, Pam thought.
He laughed. “Right you are, Pammy. I’m still here. But you won’t be for long.”
“Bugger off,” Judy said and leaned closer. “Pam listen. It’s true what he said about your mom, but I couldn’t let her sell this place. There’s so much you need to know, and I thought we’d have more time. You’re special Pam, always have been, but your kind needs protection from our kind.”
“Protection is it?” Chance shook his head. “Come on, sweetie, you’re no better than the rest of us, always mucking around in human lives.”
“I try to help,” Judy shouted. “You merely amuse yourself at their expense.”
“I am a bit of a shit,” he told Pam. “But honestly, you people make it too easy.”
Judy, please, Pam thought. I’m so cold.
She ran a hand over Pam’s hair. “Sweet girl, I can’t undo what Chance has done. But I’ll take care of the kids, I promise you.”
“Shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep,” Chance said and lifted Pam’s head enough so she could see Madoc at the edge of the patio with the blond, the brunette and the redhead. A bad joke indeed.
Leave him alone, Pam thought. Judy? Where’s Judy.
“Went to protect Flick, but I’m not interested in the girl. I suspect she’s like you, sees things for what they are, but hasn’t figured it out yet. No, Flick’s safe. It’s Madoc I want. He’s his father’s son, you know.” He lowered her head to the pavement.
Pam could feel her heart slowing, the breath leaving her.
Why are you doing this? she thought, and he smiled.
“Payback, what else? I know you murdered Harvey. The boots are my tribute to him. And just so you understand the cost of your interference, I’m going to walk across the patio now as the man your son remembers, the one his father trusted. You took my boy, Pam. So I’m taking yours.”
No, Pam thought as he walked away.
Lights flashed around her. People in uniform. A stretcher.
“We’ll get him back,” she heard Judy whisper as darkness narrowed her vision to a small circle above her head where the boots kept spinning round and round and round.
12/3/2020 11:57:57 am
Delightful, mysterious and chilling slight of hand. Loved it!
12/3/2020 03:57:44 pm
Follow Ms Simmons on a wild ride down the rabbit hole of her incredible imagination into the shadowy nether world of the inveterate gambler where you'll meet characters you'll never forget!
12/5/2020 09:37:07 am
Wow. You’re sucked in immediately by the great writing and the humour and you think you know where this story is going. And then it takes a twist, and then another, and another, and you can’t stop reading and by the time you get to the end you think “Holy shit!” Then you spend more time unpacking what the author is implying and examining your own beliefs about life. It’s kind of like a hand grenade hidden in a little box wrapped in pretty ribbon. More please.
12/5/2020 11:26:12 am
Enjoyed every word. The characters are so well drawn they pull you into the story and take you along on their trip to discover that even the best of us has a breaking point. Well done Ms. Simmons
12/6/2020 12:13:42 pm
Great story. An intriguing, compelling, and eerie read.
SANDRA N BUSELL
12/14/2020 08:39:03 pm
Great read. Twists all around. Love to read a sequel.
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