An Afternoon in Morley
I. Morley, New Mexico
Median Income: higher than the state but lower than the national average
Population: 29,173 and rising (arrivistes are arriving and the birthrate is increasing)
Elevation: 5,324 feet and sinking (depletion of the aquifer is causing the terra to be less firma)
Location: Northeast Quadrant of the State
I was sitting on my favorite park bench in the town square having been dispossessed of my home by my housekeeper. Delia Herrera is president-for-life of the Morley, New Mexico chapter of The Women’s League of Bowlers and she was hosting their annual tea party in my backyard. They call it a tea but it’s really a wild keg party with wanton entertainment. Ms. Herrera had imported go-go boys from Pussy Cat’s Palace in Santa Rosa. And of course, yours truly was footing the bill for the willie-shakers as well as the bacchanalian feast that would follow the skimpily clad lads’ performance.
What can I say? When it comes to my domestic dictator, I’m whipped. Most – no make that all of the women in my life have the bluff in on me and I am too wary a player to call them. Ted Morley has lost too many hands in the card game of life to enter into high stakes bidding with a female.
I looked down at my grandfather’s Rolex: four more hours before I could return to my domicile. At last, I had time to sit down and ponder the recent disappearance of several heirlooms from my home. It wasn’t long before the stifling heat got to me and I no longer had the energy to ruminate. Morley was deadly quiet, nothing was stirring, not even the prairie dust. I longed for something to rouse me from my lethargy. Grandfather always warned me “be careful what you wish for…”
“Mr. Ted, I have a problem. I need your help.”
I opened my eyes, the cretin disturbing my catnap had the sun to his back, I couldn’t see his face but that didn’t matter. Everyone in Morley knows Wormboy’s whiny timbre.
“I wish I could help you but I am afraid I lack the expertise to do so, I have no psychiatric training.” I closed my eyes and willed away Officer Walter Gomez, one of my life’s thorns – the idiot had publicly accused me of murdering my ex-wife’s sister’s ex-husband. He and his insane detective-wannabe mother had erroneously concluded that Calvin Cobb and I were lovers and that I killed him in a jealous rage. This had been some time back but Morleys hold grudges, it’s a family trait. We aren’t Sicilian but we’ve had more than our share of blood feuds, mostly within the family. The Latin motto on our coat of arms translates: “the family that slays together stays together.”
Apparently, my psychic powers were waning because when I reopened my eyes, Walter was still there. “I’m serious, I need help.”
“I know, everyone in town knows, has known for some time, but I am glad you finally realized it. The state mental health facilities in Las Vegas are quite good. As a city employee, you would qualify for the friends and family discount. You and your mom could share a room.”
“Mr. Ted, I know you’re joshing but I’m too upset for jokes. Ma is my problem.”
I squinted and looked into Walter’s tepid grey eyes, he was in pain and while we were in no way, nor would we ever be, pals – I felt a short-lived twinge of pity for him. What can I say, I was bored and Gomez’s plight offered some semblance of entertainment.
“What’s wrong, now?”
“WHOA, stop right there! Walter, I’m not your uncle in any sense of that relationship!”
“Hank Baca, Gigi Wheeler and Jaime Herrera call you ‘Uncle Ted.’ Why can’t I?”
“Hank is a little child, Gigi’s my goddaughter and Jaime is my right hand in business and he’s only twenty-three. Sergeant, you’re almost forty and I’m nowhere near fifty. Chronologically it doesn’t work, even if I had no other objections, which I do – dozens of them!”
“Not that far from the big 5-0…” Walter uttered this insult under his breath but rather than pissing me off, it impressed me. Somewhere inside the mass of gelatinous goo quivering before me, there lurked a spine.
“Tell me your problem.” The obvious lack of enthusiasm in my voice did not deter Officer Gomez.
“Ma went to AlienFest in Roswell and met a man, they’re getting married and she’s moving there. Mr. Bozo doesn’t want me living with them while they’re newlyweds, but once they’ve settled into married life, they expect me to join them. Problem is that I can’t transfer down there; besides I’m cruising the employment fast lane here – I’m due a big promotion soon.”
I was awestruck, twice over. The former Police Chief’s addle-brained nephew was plodding along a dirt road to a dead end job and Melita Gomez was Morley’s homegrown Lady Macbeth. That some clown had proposed marriage to Walter’s psychopath mom blew my mind. It was a sure bet that once Bozo got to know his stepson he would never send for little Walt. The sergeant’s problem was moot.
“I’ll miss ma; it’s going to hurt when she leaves Unc... er Mr. Ted.”
“Au contraire! You should be singing hosannas!”
It took half an hour to make Wormboy understand that once his meddling mother left Morley, his life would take a turn for the better. He would have the run of their trailerhouse and could see anyone he pleased without his mom’s disapproving interference, assuming he could find another member of his species to date. Walter left with a smile on his face and a skip in his step, well, what passes for a skip with a nematode.
My watch advised me I still had three hours left in my exile. I returned to the land of nod until the sun became too fierce for my Northern European skin; if I did not move to the shade, I would be soon be red as a lobster. My new bench was directly across from Digger’s Old West Emporium. The sexagenarian Digger twins had recently reopened their grandfather’s mercantile as an antique mall stocked with junk liberated from area barns and basements. Tilly and Milly had bragged to my septuagenarian neighbor Marie Marshal that they were raking in the shekels. Miss Marie told me she suspects the "girls" are none too picky about the provenance of their merchandise which explains their extraordinary profits.
Something was wrong. It was mid-afternoon and Milly flipped the sign in the window from “Open” to “Closed.” At noon, two tour buses had parked on the square and disgorged a gaggle of camera-wielding tourists. The twins rarely close early and never, ever close as long as potential sales stroll the sidewalks of our picture postcard town. This mystery deserved investigation; I moseyed over to the shop and peered through the window.
A thin man was pointing a gun at Tilly who stood behind the cash register. A very large man brandished his pistol toward Milly motioning for her to sit down on an old trunk that looked suspiciously like my Great-Grandmother Coe’s steamer trunk. The portmanteau that had taken Grandmamma around the world on her extended honeymoon journeys, Lila Coe loved ‘em and left ‘em in boothill. The frequently widowed romanticist was, however, greatly comforted by the wealth she inherited from her ill-fated husbands. Unfortunately, “Granny L” had a penchant for vintage champagne, horseracing, and well-hung jockeys; the poor dear was hunting for another rich husband when she bet her last race.
I looked around but saw no one to press into service as a knight in shining armor. Teddy was not charging to the rescue – this was not my San Juan Hill. I had finally learned to avoid tangling with men toting guns. Sometimes I’m a slow learner, but after several near-death experiences with armed felons, I learned this very elementary lesson: When Ted sees a gun, it is time for Ted to run.
Since it was Saturday, the sole officer on duty at the police station was – of course – Sergeant Gomez. This was not good because Walter cannot be trusted with a gun; he’s missing two toes and has a huge scar across his backside due to self-inflicted wounds. The sergeant gets so excited when responding to a call that he prematurely discharges his pistol. The missing toes were not difficult to effect but shooting himself in the ass was some shot because the officer’s tush is flatter than a tortilla. One of my greatest regrets in life is missing that asinine blunder!
With trepidation, I explained the situation, insisted Walter radio for help and remain at his desk to relay the information to his fellow officers should any of them return to the station.
“Mr. Ted, I can handle this situation. I’ll shout ‘Police, we’ve got you covered, put your hands up,’ and then I’ll rush the store with my weapon in hand. I’ll put the fear of God in them bandits.”
Officer Gomez insists on carrying a starter’s pistol to complete the misimpression that he is a full-fledged police person. “Walter, pulling your cap gun could get you killed. Those men have real weapons and you’ll put the twins in even more danger if you try that hare-brained scheme. I think you had better phone Captain Maestas at home and apprise him of the situation. I’ll go back across to the shop and wait outside. I’m not putting myself or the ladies in further jeopardy.”
I didn’t trust the look in Gomez’s watery eyes so I dialed Maestas myself. The captain was at Dilly’s Donuts indulging in one of her platter-sized fritters; he was not pleased to get my call but promised to rush to the scene as soon as he finished the double-glazed treat. As I left the police station, I grabbed a steel-tipped cane from the umbrella stand next to the door. The sturdy support would serve as a weapon should I need one. I prayed I would not; but of course, that prayer went unanswered.
Things had gone to hell in an old maid’s knitting basket. Tilly was shouting at the man in front of her and Milly was cursing her captor with a tongue tart as green rhubarb. The big man lifted his weapon to pistol whip his tormenter, I leaped to the rescue!
The loud crash of the glass oval adorning the front door coincided with the explosion from the counter. Tilly had emptied both barrels of their papa's elephant gun mounted under the register into the man pointing his pistola at her. What was left of Tilly’s assailant’s body splattered the room, a goodly portion of his remains landed on the steamer trunk. Granmere’s portmanteau had taken a trip from my attic unbeknownst to me! After gingerly slipping through the shard-frilled door, I raced to cosh the big man threatening Milly but he was already lying on the floor clutching his groin, his profusely bleeding groin.
“Mill, roll that mangy ferret-eater off that rug, he’s bleeding out and we can’t afford to lose any more stock. Gopher guts! The trunk’s a total loss. The stickers are ruined and they’re what made it valuable. Teddy, don’t stand there picking your nose – help my sister! I need the little girls’ room.”
While Tilly took care of personal business, Milly and I tugged the MF off the worn but still lovely Tabriz that used to grace my laundry room. Ms. Herrera had some ‘splaining to do!
The fat man moaned as blood seeped from his crotch; sympathetic pain made it impossible for me to inspect his wound. “We should call for an ambulance.”
“That dirty polecat was going to pistol whip an old lady! Don’t worry about him. Help me drag this trunk out to the alley and hose it down – it’s turning my stomach. We had menudo for lunch.”
I did as bidden and once we removed the gore from the portmanteau, Miss Diggers pulled a pouch from her décolleté and rolled a smoke.
“Milly, what did you do to that man on the floor?” “Nutsugo.”
“Nuts-u-go. It’s an ancient Japanese martial art: you grab a guy’s testicles, shout ‘Nutsugo’ and rip those babies out of his scrotum. He won’t be a bass in the prison choir. Bull’s balls! Quick, head for cover! Walter’s got a real gun!”
Semi-officer Gomez came running across the park. The inept fool had commandeered a shotgun from a bird hunter lunching in Pete’s Diner. Midway across the square, Wormboy did it again...
The statue of my several greats-grandfather Mordecai Morley, town founder and regional tyrant, received the full blast. Walter shot away my progenitor’s genitals. It was not a good day for masculine nether regions in Morley. Groin injuries freak me out, even thinking about them makes me nauseous and I had to sit down and put my head between my legs.
The shotgun’s recoil knocked the sad excuse for a law officer on his ass and the little maggot skidded across the sidewalk. Walter stood up and mooned the gathering crowd, Gomez’s pants were tattered and his tortillas bloodied. Someone called his mommy. Melita’s arrival coincided with that of Jeff Maestas; her son’s boss informed Mrs. Gomez that her amateur assistance was not welcome. Melita gave the captain a one-finger salute and huffily took her injured offspring home to bandage his wounded pride and disinfect his abraded tush.
It took less than an hour for the efficient lawman to clear the crime scene. EMT’s transported Milly’s victim to the Marshal County Medical Center; he required heavy sedation once he learned that his testicles could not be reattached ala John Bobbitt. Milly had crushed those nuts to a fine pulp. Tilly’s target, the bits and pieces they could scrape together, was in a body bag on its way to the county morgue. Maestas took my statement and informed me that he didn’t want me interfering in his case, EITHER. Before I left their shop, the twins inquired if I were insured, I thought the ladies feared that my bilious countenance indicated I was seriously ill and should seek medical help – WRONG – the ungrateful witches wanted the name of my insurance carrier to file a claim for their door. I huffed out, slamming their precious door; the remaining shards of glass rattled and fell onto my mother’s antique Tabriz!
The sun had shifted and my personal park bench was drenched in shade, I needed a cool environment in my sickened state. Grandfather’s wristwatch informed me I had an hour to go before it would be prudent to return to my domicile. I was considering relocating to a barstool at Bella’s Bar and Grill when my cell chimed. The call was from Lucinda Lovato, my nearest neighbor and Morley’s self-appointed town crier. Lucy’s the busiest body on Morley Place, gossip wise. (Recently re-widowed Celia Nungaster is the busiest body on our street, sexually.)
“Teddy, come quick! Marie brought two lids and a hookah to the tea party and things are out of control. I came home to get my garden hose. I’m going to spray the girls to try to cool them down. The dancing boys have taken refuge in your tool shed. Oh Lord, Celia’s chasing one of the strippers with a bullwhip – she’s herding him toward her house. We’ve got to save him!”
I thanked Lucinda for the update, promised I was on my way, hauled my middle-aged body from the bench and calmly walked to Sneaky Pete’s Package Liquors. I purchased a half-pint of vodka and headed home, very slowly. There was no rush, even if I ran – which is bad for my arthritic joints – I could not rescue Celia’s quarry from his fate. I would meander and enjoy a paper-bag martini. The party’s underwriter would arrive home after the last smashed bowler had rolled down the gutter and through the gates of Morley Place. I wanted no witnesses when I interrogated Ms. Herrera about my missing family treasures now gracing the Digger twins’ emporium. If I were lucky, Lucinda’s hose would still be in my yard, a short length of it might come in handy…