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Wednesday Writing Prompt
What No One Knew

by

Marian Brooks
Pike were uncomfortable with voids. Henrietta moved into the old Carter house on a Monday several months back and rarely left the
premises. She kept the curtains drawn most of the time. Her food purchases were called in and delivered to her back door. There were
no visitors as far as anyone could tell.

Honeysuckle vines peeked into the windows and the yellow roses were left to shed their petals across the poorly paved walkway to the
rickety two-story house. The lop-sided front porch looked most definitely like an afterthought.
Betty Towson heard that Henrietta’s son, Carl, was an exterminator “with a team of bed bug sniffing beagles. Can you imagine?”

Sara Lou Bell speculated that Henrietta was once a pole dancer across town at Ted’s Top Hat. Penelope Allen agreed.
Frank Burgis, the delivery guy from Ben’s Green Grocer, knew that Henrietta was a vegetarian and preferred broccoli to spinach. She
drank tons of Mountain Dew and bottled water. She paid cash and tipped well.

Henrietta used about $50 worth of gas per month according to Jeremy Huggins, the station attendant. “She doesn’t go very far in that little
red Volvo. There’s a big ole dent in the passenger side door too. Could be she hit someone and ran away.”

Postman, Bob Peterson, confirmed that Henrietta received little in the way of mail and packages. “Just a few mystery magazines, a
monthly check from the government and some utility bills.”

The town’s pharmacist, Jud Stevens, simply shook his head maintaining professional boundaries with a knowing smile. Except for his
wife, he never mentioned the condoms Henrietta picked up about two weeks earlier.

Henrietta didn’t care what anyone thought. Here in this small town, she felt safe from the crowds and mania of New York City. To top it off,
Gregory Woods lived in her very own basement. He came with the house. In the months that the property remained vacant, Greg had
slipped in through the sliding glass doors in the dining room and settled in. There he was chewing on a carrot stick when Henrietta
inspected the house prior to settlement. For some reason she didn’t feel threatened and simply asked what he was doing there.

“Hiding from the police,” he responded. “I’m wanted for child support, a shitload of unpaid traffic tickets and credit card fraud. Don’t worry
- no crimes of violence.” Greg lied for sport.

Henrietta was a sparrow of a woman with a tiny neck, thick glasses, and, strangely, very large feet. She always felt that she was way too
young and way too classy for her name. Quiet and unassuming, she’d never had a real boyfriend, much less twirled around a pole in
crotchless panties.

Greg had baggage for sure but Henrietta was captivated by his bright blue eyes and impressed by his blatant candor. She thought she’d
try him out as a non-paying tenant and friend rather than turn him in to the authorities just yet.
She had bigger plans for Greg. Perhaps she could transform him from a liability into an asset. Although she should have known better,
Henrietta was stepping into a sink hole of stupid.

All of Greg’s worldly goods were jammed into a large, plastic garbage bag. They amounted to several pairs of jeans, t-shirts, boxer
shorts, power bars, and an assortment of vitamin supplements and toiletries. No chain saw.There were more than a few credit cards. For
a guy on the move he was well provisioned. A cobra, ready to strike, was tattooed on his right forearm while a blue python wrapped itself
around his left. Greg unpacked the rest of his gear and made himself at home.

Charitable and optimistic by nature, Henrietta purchased two lamps, a desk, a smart TV, an imitation oriental rug and a mattress from
Costco to furnish the basement for Greg’s comfort. But the paneled walls and concrete floors made the place look and smell like a cellar
anyway. The mattress proved unnecessary as Greg shared Henrietta’s bed most nights.
The two worked on crossword puzzles, watched reality TV shows or talked about global warming, the Yankees or the latest Missing
Persons episode. According to Greg, Earth is getting cooler by the second. When Henrietta interrupted presenting data to the contrary,
he became very angry. More than anything, Greg disliked being confused by facts. What he did enjoy was drawing landscapes of
imaginary planets in his spare time. Greg had a lot of spare time.
More and more, Henrietta regretted her lunatic decision. They were bickering most of the time now. Love sometimes grows from conflict.
Not in this case. The end game came quickly. Greg disliked Henrietta’perfume right away. It made him sneeze uncontrollably.  She
resented picking up his shorts. He hated her cooking. She was appalled by his grammar. He said, “dis” and “dat” and “yous.”

”Yo, Hen, grab me a cold one. Them swamp people are on.”

It was a nightmare for the former English major. Although she’d resigned from religion long ago, Henrietta rolled her eyes upward and
prayed, “Oh, Lord, please send me a man with a bank account and a decent vocabulary.”
She wanted to cut Greg’s tongue out.

He wanted to take a hatchet to her glass stove top and spray Henrietta with insect repellent.  Sometimes Henrietta talked so much for so
long, he thought he might just pass out.

The friction between thm grew like an ugly abscess about to burst. Greg was not proving to be an asset. He was more like deadly fungi
taking root in her home.

Henrietta announced that her son, Carl The Exterminator, would be visiting for a few days with his wife and two beagles. Both Greg and
Henrietta agreed that it would be best to split before they exterminated each other. They declared themselves incompatible over a glass
of Chablis.

Greg packed his garbage bag, a hatchet and a check in the amount of $5,000 generously written to himself, by himself from Henrietta’s
Wells Fargo account. He’d been practicing her signature while she was running her errands.  He slipped out through the sliding glass
doors in the dining room without so much as a kiss “Good Bye.”


©  Marian Brooks


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