Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 27 - We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Reeve Stockwell and Miles Longworth crept from their hiding places in the electrical aisle. JJ Patricks stood over them. Stockwell screamed when he saw her, hood up, cadaver still.

“Aargh!” Stockwell screamed.

“Sissy,” Longworth whispered.

“Mr. Stockwell. I believe the situation is under control .” JJ murmured so softly a dog couldn't have heard her.

“Could you speak in a tone meant for human ears?” Longworth suggested, and JJ stared at him. She turned on her heel and shuffled away. “She is weird as shit,” Miles Longworth mumbled and Stockwell turned toward him.

“We generally grade on a curve here. Kitty. Case and point,” Stockwell commented.

“Speaking of Kitty,” Miles Longworth said, and both he and Stockwell stood. “She's just had a meltdown. Should we call someone?”

Stockwell ignored him, and strolled with purpose to where Kitty sat at a discount patio set. Before he could say a word, Ada and Helen burst through the exit doors. “Sweet Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the saints, please let them be a result of some brain aneurysm,” Kitty prayed, with her hands folded. “Please don't let them be real.”

“Stella! Why didn't you answer your phone?” Ada screamed. It was obvious she'd misplaced her hearing aid again.

“Grandma, I was too busy being held at gunpoint,” Kitty groaned, and Ada covered her hands with her mouth.

“Seriously?” Ada said, when she'd recovered. Helen shook her head but remained quiet.

“Yes,” Kitty whispered.

“Where's the gunman?” Ada asked.

“Gone,” Stockwell said, joining the conversation.

“Are you sure it wasn't this high-strung fella holding the gun?” Ada asked, pointing at Stockwell.

“That's rude,” Stockwell griped.

“Not so much. You're always saying you want to kill people,” Kitty said softly.

“I suppose you've got me there,” Stockwell commented.

“Ooohhhh, is this the gun here?” Ada asked, strolling to the checkout where the gun lay.

“Do NOT touch that,” Stockwell yelled.

“I'll just put it in my evidence bag,” Ada said, and suddenly everyone was watching Ada, JJ Patricks included.

“You have an evidence bag?” Miles Longworth asked.

“Never go anywhere without it,” Ada said. “She popped the gun in the clear evidence bag, walked it over to Customer Service, and laid it on the phone operator's desk. Quincy Warner had resigned from her position the week before to pursue a career in the circus, and the desk was presently vacant. “No one touch that,” Ada suggested, and everyone nodded in unison, so much so it was like the Hallelujah Chorus of head movement. “Now I'll dust for prints,” Ada said, and Helen was on the move.

“Oh no you don't, you old bat. You collected evidence, I will dust for prints,” Helen yelled.

“I have the face powder, and the brush,” Ada said.

Helen reached for Ada's purse, and Ada swung it wide. It connected with the side of Helen's head. Hard.

“Jesus, Grandma,” Kitty shrieked, rising so quickly she knocked two chairs and one Alejandro to the ground.

“I want to live with them,” Alejandro said. “Looks like a riot.”

Helen grabbed the purse, and Ada fell to her knees. Her teeth came loose, skittered across the floor, and came to rest in front of Alejandro's knees. The young man regarded them for only a moment, scooped them up, and rose to his feet. He offered a hand to Ada, who took it appreciatively.

“You're a sweet boy for coming to an old lady's rescue,” Ada said, with a significant toothless lisp. She brushed off the bottom of her flowered overalls and leered at Helen.

“I should have eaten you after you were born,” Ada growled and Helen sneered at her.

“And people wonder why I want to shoot myself,” Kitty whispered.

“I believe these are yours, Ma'am,” Alejandro said in a deep southern drawl. He tipped a hat he wasn't wearing. Ada took the teeth and popped them into her mouth. “I'd very much like to dust for prints, if you'd let me be of assistance.”

“I suppose we could,” Helen said, rubbing her cheek. It was beet red, and had a slight impression of a designer knock-off emblem in it, that in twenty-four hours would become a blue bruise surrounding the letters PRADO.

“I guess someone needs to dust and someone needs to lift the prints. Could we use packing tape?” Alejandro asked, and Helen's eyes lit up.

“Kitty can get us tape,” Helen said. “I'll be in charge of lifting.”

“And I'll do the dusting,” Ada said.

“And I'll just stand here and be the Ada and Helen whisperer,” Alejandro said very softly, and Kitty smiled weakly at him .

Suddenly there was a squawking from a radio on Quincy's desk. It was a storm radio that Sonny Brooks was required to leave at Customer Service.

“This is the Emergency Broadcasting System. The apocalypse is upon us. Grab your Rolling Rocks and head for high ground,” Alejandro mused, and Stockwell glared at him.

“Pipe down. This could be serious,” Stockwell reprimanded.

“The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for the following areas....”

Everyone fell silent as several counties were listed, including the county in which Tommy's Tool Town was located.

“I'll be,” Ada said, as all fingerprint lifting activities were forgotten. "And I was planning to do some shopping. Need a replacement bunny for that nice Stella.”

Kitty went pale.

“Gran, I'm Stella. What did you do to my bunny?” Kitty said, looking shaken.

“Oh, shit,” Ada whispered.

“What happened, Gran?” Kitty demanded.

“Well, I was putting those dogs out, and one of them had your bunny. I figured the poor raggedy thing needed a bath so I plopped it in the washer with Helen's unmentionables.”

“And?” Kitty whispered.

“It disintegrated,” Ada mumbled.

“Oh, my God! You killed Ella Bunny?” Kitty shrieked.

“I wouldn't say it was murder. It was more bunny laundering,” Ada said defensively.

Slick Mitchell entered the store with the gunman in tow. Mags followed closely behind, with a Johnny Depp lookalike by her side.

“Mother of God,” Kitty said, crossing herself. He was THAT good looking.

The gunman was all but forgotten until he spoke. “So, you decided not to shoot yourself, eh? You crazy fruitcake.”

“Is this the guy who held you at gunpoint?” Ada asked in a stern voice.

“Yes, Gran,” Kitty mumbled.

Ada hauled off and kicked the gunman's shin with all her might. The gunman howled, and grabbed his leg. “Asshole,” Ada mumbled, and even Helen cracked a smile.

“All right, people,” Slick Mitchell said. “This is serious. We are in the path of the tornado. We need everyone to assemble in the break room. It is the safest place in the store. Stockwell, please lead the way. Longworth, gather all the emergency flashlights. If anyone, customer's included, needs to use a restroom, we'll be passing them on our way to the break room. Please be brief. Don't take a magazine or a newspaper. We don't have that kind of time.”

No one laughed. The mood was somber.

Even Johnny Depp was forgotten.

Two minutes later everyone was assembled in the break room. Ada and Helen stood one on each side of Kitty. “I hope my babies will be all right,” Kitty whispered, and Ada slipped her hand in her granddaughter's.

“God will take care of them. There is a special God for children, drunks, and rescue pets. I think he looks after the rescuers, too.” Ada winked, and Kitty smiled weakly, then wrinkled her nose.

“I was afraid of that,” Ada said, as someone coughed.

“Gran, did you do that?” Kitty whispered.

“My sincere apologies. The catholic church had holupki today, and I've got the bowels of a very old woman. I'm rethinking the second helping.”

“Dear Lord, mother,” Helen groaned.

“Can't even blame it on the dogs,” Ada said, and Alejandro laughed.

Thunder interrupted with a massive voice, and its power shook Tommy's on its foundation. The endless rumble was followed by the sound of a freight train. Ada whispered, “the Lord is my Shepherd....” as everything went black.

Friday, July 13, 2012

We Now Pause For a Moment

Please join us in congratulating the real-life Kitty Richardson on the recent release of her full-length comedy novel, Becoming Mona Lisa.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 26 - The Wicked Kitty of the East

"Stockwell?" Miles Longworth said.

"Longworth?" Stockwell whispered.

"Busted," Kitty mumbled.

"What the hell are you doing?" Stockwell asked, hugging the box of guns to his chest.

"I might ask you the same," Longworth said, as a breeze lifted a wrinkled hundred-dollar bill from his hand, and the money took flight.  "Drop the gun, Kitty," Miles suggested, and Kitty arched a brow at him and looked at Reeve Stockwell.

"You're still maintaining the position," Stockwell whispered.

"Oh," Kitty said, looking down at her hands.  Sure enough, they were still folded to appear as if she were armed.  She relaxed her fingers and shrugged.  "I suppose this is what we call an impasse," Kitty added, looking at Stockwell, at Longworth, and then back at Stockwell.  "Who's gonna speak first?"

"You," Stockwell said, holding Longworth's gaze.

"What the hell.  I never could keep a darn secret, and this one's giving me more grey hair.  All right, I'll spill it.  I was out here one day, hiding from Mitchell and sneaking a cigar.  I was bored, my mind miles away, and I was kicking at this here debris pile.  Underneath the mess was an envelope of money.  This money," Longworth said, and this time a fifty took off in the wind. 

"And you kept it?" Kitty asked softly.

"Initially, I honestly thought I would, but this kind of thing picks at you, wakes you up in the middle of the night, and stops you dead in your tracks as you're lifting a piece of Mike's Mama's Pizza with extra cheese to your gaping mouth.  This kind of a thing nags at you until your gut's in a knot, and you're carrying around Pepto like it was a lifeline.  I've been trying to put this money back for days."  Longworth hung his head and cleared his throat.

Stockwell just stared.

"Where did the money come from?" Kitty asked.

"I have absolutely no idea," Longworth replied.  "Been wondering the same thing.  I was out here poking around about a week back, after the store had closed, and this big black car shows up.  I figured my number was up, I was about to buy the farm, kick the bucket, take a one-way ride to the pearly gates-"

"We get it," Kitty interrupted.

"Anyhow, the car did a one-eighty and sped away.  I just about fainted," Miles Longworth said, being not quite truthful.

"Maybe it has something to do with this," Stockwell said, setting his box at Longworth's feet.

"What is it?" Longworth asked.

"Guns," Stockwell replied.  Longworth went pale and shot Kitty a perplexed look.  Kitty nodded.

"It's guns," Kitty whispered.

"Well hell's bells, where the heck did they come from?" Longworth asked.

"Receiving," Stockwell replied.

"We sell guns now?" Miles Longworth asked, regretting his words almost instantly.

Stockwell laughed.  Kitty smiled.

"No," Kitty said.  "We don't sell guns."

"I'd say something stinks around here, big time," Miles Longworth said.

"I'd say you're right," Stockwell said, feeling a surge of James Bond-ness surge through his veins.

"What do we do?" Kitty asked.

"I say we hide this stuff, and the three of us band together to see if we can figure this out.  Maybe Mitchell's up to something hokey," Miles Longworth said.

Stockwell opened the box of guns, and Longworth looked inside.  He whistled loudly.  "Some good looking pieces," he said.

"You know guns?" Stockwell asked.

"No.  I know remotes, and I channel surf.  A lot.  I get a little bit educated on just about everything, guns included," Longworth said, placing the money on top of the guns, and closing the box.

"Now what?" Kitty asked.

"We hide it," Stockwell said.

"Where?" Longworth asked.

"We could bury it," Kitty said.

"With what?" Longworth said.

"Well, if we went to the Garden Center, we'd have our choice of about one-hundred different shovels," Stockwell said, and Kitty giggled.

"And until we do this burying?" Stockwell asked.

"We can put the stuff in the back of my truck," Kitty said.

"What if someone sees it?" Stockwell asked.

"Who would see it?  I go to work, I go home.  I walk dogs, and shovel up perfectly round balls of kitty litter, and watch television.  The last person in my Chevy was a mechanic.  Who's gonna see the stuff?"

"She has a point," Longworth said.

"Well?" Kitty said, looking at Stockwell.

"Here," Stockwell said, handing Kitty the box.  "Do not take your eyes off it."

"Do you expect me to sleep in my truck with it?" Kitty asked, and Longworth laughed.

"No.  I expect we'll meet back here after the store closes, and bury it," Stockwell said.

Kitty sulked.  There was a good Lifetime movie on at nine.  She'd miss it playing James Bond with her boss.  "Oh.  Okay, boss." 

Kitty disappeared around the side of the building, box in hand.  Stockwell and Longworth stared at one another.  Suddenly, Stockwell's phone rang, and both men jumped.

"Stockwell," Stockwell practically roared into the phone.

"Mr. Stockwell?" a small voice said, elongating each word until it sounded like "Meeesterrr Staaaackwelllll."

"Who is this?" Stockwell asked.

"JJ," the voice said.

"Holy crap," Stockwell whispered.  Until that moment, JJ Patricks had never spoken to him.  "You sound really far away, what's wrong?" Stockwell asked, feeling ridiculous.  He didn't know how JJ normally sounded, so how did he know she sounded far away?

"I'm hiding," JJ said.

"Where and why?" Stockwell asked.

"I'm in the cabinet under my register," JJ mumbled.

"How the heck did you get in there?" Stockwell asked.

"I'm really small," JJ said.

She has a point.

"Why are you in there?  Are you stuck?" Stockwell asked, and Miles Longworth arched a brow at him. 

"We're being robbed," JJ whispered, and Stockwell stood suddenly straighter.

"Jeez, JJ.  Why didn't you say so?" Stockwell nearly roared.

"I just did," JJ said defensively.

"What is going on?" Longworth asked, sounding anxious.

"We're being robbed," Stockwell said.  "JJ, stay on the line.  We're coming."

"We should get those guns," Miles said.

"Shit.  Kitty's got 'em," Stockwell said.

"Life is all about timing, isn't it?" Miles asked, reaching for his phone.  "I'll call 911."

Both men moved at a brisk jog, through Receiving, and into the bowels of Tommy's.  When they got within ear shot of the front-end registers, both men stopped.

"Now what?" Stockwell asked.

"What?" a small voice whispered, and Stockwell jumped.  He forgot JJ was still on the phone.  "JJ, what can  you see?" Stockwell asked, as years of watching FBI shows began to pay off.

"Darkness," JJ whispered.

"Terrific," Stockwell said.  "What can you hear?"

"A man's heavy breathing," JJ said.

"Um, that's probably me," Stockwell said, rolling his eyes.

"Wait.  Someone's yelling," JJ whispered.

"What did she say?" Longworth asked, getting fidgety.

"She said someone's yelling," Stockwell said.

"I hear it, too," Longworth replied.

Both men could hear a woman yelling.  It sounded like Kitty. 

Reeve Stockwell and Miles Longworth slunk down the Electrical aisle.  They could see the hold-up in process.  A young man stood at register thirteen, holding a gun.  Penelope was the unlucky cashier, and she was obviously not enjoying herself.  Kitty was standing beside her, yelling up a storm.

Stockwell and Longworth both crept toward the registers, on hands and knees.  Finally, they could make out what Kitty was saying.

"Put that gun down, you are scaring my Penelope," Kitty raged.

The gunman did as asked, and then pointed the gun at Kitty.

"Shoot me," Kitty yelled, and Stockwell and Longworth both gasped.  "Do it, you effing coward.  Don't ask me what will happen if you do, because Helen and Ada will starve to death, arguing over who should get the last package of Ramen Noodles.  Yup, just shoot me.  I say it all the time, but today I absolutely mean it.  I live with my mother and my grandmother, so you don't scare me.  You know what scares me?  When the smoke alarm goes off at four o'clock in the morning, and there's my ninety-nine year old grandmother in a sheer nightgown, no teeth, hair like she's been through a hurricane, asleep in the Barcalounger with a Malboro Red in her fingers.  That's the shit that scares me, not a hair-brained scheming dumb ass like you with a friggin' squirt gun."

The gunman laughed, but Kitty was not to be thwarted.

"Now you're laughing at me, you little shit?  Are ya?  Is this how things are gonna go, you're gonna be a punk who won't shoot me, and then starts laughing at me?  I like to laugh," Kitty said, shrieking like the Wicked Witch of the East.  "How's about a little fire, scarecrow," Kitty shrieked, and the gunman looked like he might be losing composure.  "Oh yeah, I love a good laugh, which is good, because in ten years every time I laugh I am gonna piss myself.  I'll be getting new knees, and need new hips, and my boobs will start swinging like a couple of wrecking balls, so why not save me the Helen, and the Ada, the busted bones, and the sagging, and JUST FRIGGIN' SHOOT ME!"

Stockwell and Longworth were frozen to the floor.  Neither was sure if he was more afraid of a gunman or of Kitty.  Kitty was THAT frightening.

The gunman jerked, but Kitty never blinked.

"Here," the punk said, handing Kitty his gun.  "Shoot yourself," he said, storming through the front doors. 

Kitty picked up the gun and held it, as JJ emerged from the cabinet beneath her register, and customers began getting to their feet, or emerging from their hiding places.

Everyone applauded and Kitty bowed, still holding the gun.

"Drop the gun, Kitty," Reeve Stockwell said, as he approached the woman of the hour.

"Now, where have I heard that before?" Longworth whispered.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 25 - Kitty Get Your Gun

Kitty Richardson paced nervously, as Reeve Stockwell sat twitching from his Oreo-inspired sugar coma.

"I still think I should call someone," Kitty said.

"I'm all right," Stockwell moaned.

"What else have you eaten today?" Kitty asked.

"Two fritters," Stockwell said sheepishly.  "And a Mountain Dew," he added in a whisper.

"I'm calling 911," Kitty shrieked.

"If you do, I will fire you," Stockwell said, his voice sounding stronger.

"And this is supposed to be a deterrant?" Kitty asked.

"Touche," Stockwell mumbled.

"Wait.  I have something," Kitty said, digging in her pocket, and producing a bar in a red wrapper.  "Eat this," she demanded, handing the bar to her boss.

"It says it's a protein bar for women.  I'm not eating this.  I'll end up bitchy with hot flashes," Stockwell complained, mopping at his sweat-covered brow.

"You're already bitchy, and sweating like a pig, and you're probably dying of a sugar coma.  Eat it!" Kitty demanded, and Stockwell laughed.

"Way to take initiative, Kitty," Stockwell said, slurring a bit.  He popped a large piece of the bar into his mouth, chewed a half-dozen times and grimaced.  "What the hell is in this?" he asked, his voice muffled.

"Granola, berries, and something I can't pronounce," Kitty explained.

"It tastes like caulking," Stockwell said, spitting the bar into his hand.  "I'd rather die than eat this," Stockwell complained.

"Your choice," Kitty said.   She resumed her pacing, while Stockwell stared at the floor.

Finally, Kitty spoke again.   "Why?" she whispered, and Reeve looked at her.

"Why what?" he asked.

"Why did you eat them all?  No one in their right mind would eat all those cookies in one sitting.  What happened?" Kitty asked, sitting beside Stockwell, on the floor.

"Did you ever think you'd have a different life, Kitty?" Stockwell asked.

"You've met Helen and Ada, right?"

"Right.  In my mind, I am not living this life.  Does that sound nuts?" Stockwell asked.

"It might be the sugar."

"It's not the sugar, Kitty.  It happens when I'm not eating the sugar," Stockwell clarified.

"Oh.  Maybe it's a wormhole.  Maybe you're like Henry," Kitty mumbled wistfully.

"Who is Henry?"

"The husband in the Time Traveler's Wife."

"What's that?" Stockwell asked.

"A book, and a movie.  Maybe you really are living a different life.  I think I have a different life.  Somewhere, I am living a great life, writing books, with reckless freedom and abandonment.  There is no Helen, no Ada, and forgive me for saying this, but no Reeve Stockwell," Kitty said softly.

"You're not in my alternate reality either," Stockwell said.

"That's okay.  I'm sure I'm off somewhere, accepting a Pulitzer."

"I'm apprehending bad guys," Stockwell explained.  "I carry a gun," Stockwell whispered.

Kitty shot to her feet.  "You do?  Don't let Ada see it!  She'll steal it and shoot our neighbor.  His cats piss on the Buick's tires.  Oh, my hell.  That bakes in the sun for a few hours, and let me tell ya, Reeve, it is like driving Miss Daisy around in a badly neglected litter box with wheels."

Stockwell laughed.

"Kitty, can you keep a secret?" Stockwell asked.

"How long have you known about Ada?" Kitty asked.

"About a week."

"Well, she's older than dirt, so how's that for keeping a secret?"

"That's impressive, Kitty."  Stockwell got to his feet, with a significant amount of effort.  His legs wobbled, and his hands shook.  Kitty held her tongue.  "I found something.  Something weird.  Something bad.  Something that could get us killed."

Kitty gasped.  "Is it Anthrax?"


"Is it Anthrax?" Kitty repeated.

"Why would you ask that?" Stockwell asked.

"Ada effed up the cable box, and I can't control my own channels.  My TV is stuck on Criminal Minds for all eternity.  Last night they aired an episode on bio terrorism.  Follow me, Reeve.  Tommy's is an empire.  Empires have corporate offices.  I have to figure that this store is the biggest thorn in their ass right about now.  They could get rid of all of us with Anthrax."

"A lot of innocent people would die," Stockwell said, sounding shaken.  The sugar was starting to wear off and he felt like he'd been hit by a train. 

"I didn't say it was a good idea."

Stockwell sat on his toolbox and put his head in his hands.  Kitty dragged a dusty box to his side, and prepared to plop down on it.  Stockwell looked up.

"DO NOT SIT ON THAT!" Stockwell roared, and Kitty jumped so hard, she kicked the box, it tipped to its side, and five guns slid out.

Stockwell flew to his feet, wavered, and fell to the ground.  He scrambled to where the guns lay.  "You should take cover," he said to Kitty.

Kitty hid behind the refrigerator, the only witness to the receiving bay shenanigans.  "Why?" Kitty whispered.  "Are you going to shoot me?" she asked.

"Of course not," Stockwell said, carefully replacing the guns in the box.  He crawled across the floor, and pulled the sixth gun from where he had hidden it earlier.  He placed it on top of the others, closed the box, and sealed it with a tape gun he found on a work table.  "We have to get rid of this."

"Where did it come from?" Kitty asked, stepping timidly from behind the behemoth stainless steel appliance.

"I don't know.  It was really dusty, and I'm pretty sure somebody forgot it was even there," Stockwell explained.

"That doesn't tell us how it got there," Kitty surmised.

"I know."

"So, this is your secret?" Kitty asked.

"Part of it," Stockwell replied in a whisper.

"What's the rest?"

"I am going to solve the mystery of how these got here.  I am not the shithead people think I am, Kitty.  In another life, I am James Bond."

"I am Janet Evanovich," Kitty whispered.

"Who?" Stockwell asked.

"Never mind."

"We need to hide these," Stockwell said, carefully picking up the box.  He seemed steadier, and Kitty wondered if it was due to the James Bond revelation.


"Out behind the dumpster there is an old shed.  Behind that is an old dumpster that nobody bothers.  Let's put it in there."

"When?" Kitty asked.

"The sooner the better," Stockwell declared.

"I'll stay here," Kitty said.

"No.  You're my lookout."

"Oh."  Kitty looked around, and smiled.

"What?" Stockwell asked.

"This is kind of exciting," Kitty whispered.

"I know.  It's cool as hell," Reeve Stockwell admitted.

They both giggled. 

"Follow me," Stockwell said.  Kitty did.  She followed him to the enormous bay doors.  "You look."

"Okay.  I feel like I should have a gun," Kitty said, peeking timidly outside the doors.

"We have six, Kitty."

"Oh.  Right.  Pretend guns are safer.  See?" Kitty said, clasping her hands, and forming an imaginary gun.

"That's swell, Kit.  How're we looking?" Stockwell asked.

Kitty poked her head outside the door again.  "The coast is clear."

Kitty stepped out of the door with her hands held in "I have a gun," position, and Stockwell followed.  The two walked soundlessly toward the old shed.

Miles Longworth stepped out from behind the in-use dumpster.  He held a huge wad of cash.  Kitty gasped.

"Longworth?" Stockwell said.

"Stockwell?" Miles replied.

"Busted," Kitty whispered.