Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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 Chapter 12


    After hearing from Tim, Sharon immediately told Doris about Julie. Doris suggested,

“You could call her and ask her here for tea and snacks one evening. I’ll play waitress, but leave you alone with her. Then, if you feel uncomfortable, I’ll be within call.”

It was like Doris, the adventuress, to suggest such a thing, and Sharon agreed.

     When Julie arrived and was greeted by Doris and Sharon, Julie said, “This is really weird, but it seems to make a sort of sense.”

Everyone laughed, and Doris, having already set out cheese and crackers, brought tea and disappeared. Sharon said, “I’ve made Tim tell me exactly what you said about our father.”

“Including the brutalization part?”

“Particularly that. I also wondered why his parents couldn’t have done something to prevent or minimize it.”

“I did have that it in mind when I met them. But Ron was a middle child among six or seven, and I think he was simply ignored. It seemed to me that it would take a major fire in the house to make his father leave his chair and his TV programs. His mother was fussy around the house, but more interested in the mostly pasteboard furniture than the people in it.”

“Our mother was more involved than that, but Father’s concerns lay completely outside the house.”

“I’m afraid that includes me. Do you think I took him away from you?”

“That hadn’t occurred to me. I think he was mostly away from us because he wanted to be, not because of competing attractions.”

“Probably so.”

“Do you know why things got so much worse in the last year or two?”

“You mean with him, or in his relation to his family?”

“I think both.”

“There are a number of things. One is that he was losing sexual potency. That’s common with men his age. Some laugh about it, but most don’t.”

“I don’t think he would have laughed.”

“No. Ladies like myself are used to that. We meet together and focus group things to say to men who can’t get it up.”

Sharon smiled and replied, “I see what Tim meant.”

“How so?”

“He said you practically claim to be a prostitute, but really aren’t anything like that.”

“He’s a sweet boy. I wondered at first if he’d want to go where his father had been, but that didn’t seem to be on his mind at all.”

“No, he’s pretty shy and cautious in that area. Probably more than me.”

“I see. Be careful, young lady.”

“Oh, I am. Really.”

“Okay. What else was de-railing Ron? He was more worried about his family relations than he might have seemed.”

“Did he blame us for that?”

“Not you. Tim to some extent. Of course, it was more complex with your mother. Strong mixed feelings. But it was about a year ago that it really turned sour. That was when he found out about her affair with the bookstore man.”


When Doris came rushing in, Sharon said,

“Father knew about Harold!”

“Damn! I thought I was the only one who knew.”

Julie explained,

“Ron had his wife followed by a private detective. But I don’t think he ever confronted her on it.”

“That’s so like Ron! To have her spied on, and then hold it all inside.”

“I did tell him that, since they were both having affairs, they might have found some way of living together without all the suppressed hatred. But I don’t think he attempted any sort of understanding or reconciliation.”

Sharon answered, “No. He killed her instead.”

“Are you sure?”

“I saw them start out on their last drive. Really fast and crazy. Combining that with the police report, it does seem that it was a murder-suicide.”

“I should have been able to do something, even just a little.”

“People always say that. I’ve just been to a survivor-of-suicide counselor.”

“I didn’t know there was such a thing.”

“He has an office in a building that has acne counselors and bulimia counselors.”

“Oh Sharon, Julie doesn’t know you well enough to know when to believe you.”

“I really have been to the suicide guy. He’s not bad.”

Julie asked, “Does he do, not only family members, but mistresses?”

“I bet he would.”

“You know, I may go around to see him. I have a bit more turmoil than I probably let show.”

Sharon copied down the address and phone number, and gave it to Julie, adding, “You can tell him I sent you.”

That occasioned another laugh, and Julie responded, “Speaking of professionals, have you seen the lawyer yet?”

“Just yesterday.”

“Did you talk with Mr. Lloyd Henderson?”

“The same. Tim didn’t want to go, so I went alone on the assumption that I could soften him up.”

“Did you?”

“He grumbled about Tim not being there, but I told him that Tim was otherwise engaged, a phrase that I heard somewhere.”

“He exploded at me for less than that.”

“He didn’t look happy, but he sighed and told me I had a half interest in the house. Also that the mortgage had been paid off. It seemed that he wouldn’t say that Tim had the other half since Tim wasn’t there.”

“He’s like that. If you’d said that you’d heard that it went to the Mormon Church, he would’ve lost whatever cool he had and told you.”

“I wasn’t quick enough. But it must have gone to Tim. Father was really pissed at Tim the day he died, but he wouldn’t have had a chance to change his will.”

Doris said, “I guess Tim really does have to go see this Henderson bird. It might help if you went too, Sharon.”

“Henderson isn’t a lot of fun, but okay.”

Julie replied, “The fact of Henderson’s being such a dud reminds me of what was really your father’s main problem. Lack of respect, particularly professional respect.”

Sharon really didn’t understand, and replied, “He seemed to make lots of money.”

“I work for a law firm whose partners make three or four times as much. Your father’s firm is known to be stodgy and unimaginative, and they have only smallish regional corporate clients. A lot of people sneered at his firm and its lawyers. Ron was acutely aware of that, and he actually heard some lawyers at a nearby restaurant table making fun of his firm. He stewed about it for about a week, and then told me. The trauma went on for weeks afterwards.”

“He should have challenged them to a duel!”

“He and they didn’t know one another personally. In fact, they may have had Mr. Lloyd Henderson, or some other partner, in mind. But Ron wasn’t one to assume that contempt was directed at someone else.”

“Even so, he never moved to another firm.”

“It wasn’t for want of trying. Even with a lot of self-promotion, which he probably overdid, he never got an offer to move up.”

Doris replied, “I did have some sense of that. There are CEOs and CFOs in the neighborhood, and Ron obviously didn’t rank with them. In fact, he couldn’t even afford to keep up his property properly.”

Sharon responded, “I did realize that we were regarded as the slum-dwellers in the neighborhood.”

“I didn’t hear about that side of things from Ron, but it would have driven him crazy. Didn’t it bother you, Sharon?”

“No. I thought it was funny. And, really, the good thing about Father was that he was also sort of funny without meaning to be. Did you feel that?”

Julie smiled, “Yes. Despite all his efforts, I sometimes felt as if I were with Lil’ Abner in the big city.”  

Doris replied, “Not knowing of his beginnings, I didn’t catch that. But I do remember thinking that the line he used on me to propose adultery might have been something he’d heard at closing time at a neighborhood bar. I was a bit insulted at the time, but I can now see the humorous side of it.”

Julie said, “It does come together. People who are a little bit ridiculous get laughed at, and they may then get stiff and defensive. That makes them funnier still. I play the clown and enjoy the laughter, but Ron wanted the kind of respect that doesn’t go with laughter.”

Sharon concluded, “Well, that was our Daddy. The upshot is that Tim and I are sitting pretty. We’ve got our allowances, and I’ll go to college next year. We’ll have to find something for Tim.”

Julie replied, “Tim might also want to go to the suicide man. There’s all that father-son awfulness, which is probably worse than mother-daughter awfulness.”

“Tim’s roommate suggested that he put his father’s ashes in the toilet, and then shit on them.”

“God! Ron wasn’t Genghis Khan, you know. If you give them to me, I’ll do something less flamboyant with them.”

“Okay with me. Tim has them, and you might talk with him about that.”

      After Julie left, Sharon said to Doris, “An interesting woman.”

“Yes. Exciting, too. Probably good at sex. I can see why Ron was attracted.”

“Yeah. Poor old Mother, left in the dust.”

     The next day, Sharon stopped by Mitsuko’s store at closing time, and found her ministering to an obvious Beacon Hillite. She was introduced as a ‘young friend’ and took a seat as the other woman stared suspiciously at herself in the mirror. A rather good-looking woman, she then caught the bad look she was giving herself, laughed, and exclaimed at the lateness of the hour. The three continued to talk as the woman, half-into a fitting room, changed back into her own dress. Mitsuko then did her usual ceremonial thing of bowing her client out the door.

     It was the first time Mitsuko had seen Sharon in her regular clothes, and she seemed amused, “Is this the costume you use for fending off boys?”

Sharon admitted as much, and the other replied, “I should have something like that, for variety, if nothing else.”

“I could take you to the Salvation Army store. It’s also a resale shop, but you’d find the contrast interesting.”

By the time Mitsuko brought out tea from her lair in the back, it was as dark as it would be at midnight. The cold snowy street and sidewalk made a rather romantic setting as long as one didn’t have to be out in it. Locking the door and turning out all but the dimmest of the lights, Mitsuko pointed out the archaic street lights as they cast gentle shadows. She said, “The nearest light casts a gentle beam diagonally across the floor here. One standing to the right is hardly visible from the outside.”

Taking position between the mannequins fronting the window, she continued, “But one can see everything in the street and examine the faces of the passers-by.”

Sharon, looking over the shoulder of one mannequin, joined Mitsuko in her inspection of the pedestrians heading for the nearby restaurants. It turned out that, right across the street, there was a particularly icy spot where people slipped and slid. Sharon said, “It’ll only be a matter of time before someone does a loop.”

“Let’s pick the person we most want to fall.”

There were some borderline possibilities, but, eventually, there came a tall elegant woman in a fur coat and high-heeled boots, hurrying along with an imperious look on her face. Mitsuko said, “It will only take the tiny touch of a single finger to her ankle to bring her down.”

As the woman reached the spot, Mitsuko, some thirty feet away, reached out and down with her extended forefinger in jest. Sharon didn’t really believe in causation at a distance, but the results were spectacular. The woman, rotating some one hundred and forty degrees backward, very nearly landed on her head with her exposed legs flailing in the air. Shocked people rushed to her aid, and it appeared that she wasn’t badly injured. Sharon said, “I’m glad she isn’t hurt. That way, we don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying the spectacle.”

“No. For that matter, the men who rushed to help her may also have had a prurient interest.”

“I bet they did. It was a sexy scene.”

After a bit, Mitsuko took the middle mannequin off to the back. It was funny to see her carrying the stick figure, no longer glamorous, as if it were a two-by-four. She returned with another, dressed just in underwear, and explained, “Some time ago, I was able to buy a fairly large lot of nineteen thirties French silk lingerie, even including the silk stockings. I occasionally sell a piece or two, very expensively, and sometimes wear some of it. This mannequin is a bit racy for my trade, but I occasionally put it out to amuse my customers.”

“It certainly isn’t like anything I’ve seen in a locker room.”

“At a time like this, where there’s just enough light, I notice that men often leer at the mannequin as if she were a real woman.”

“In these conditions, it would be hard to tell.”

“An old trick is to put a fan in the window to flutter the clothing and enhance the illusion.”

“So, then, reality and illusion come still closer together.”

“Not only that, some live clothes models have vapid personalities, and are rather like wooden or plastic mannequins.”

“But, still, there does remain some distinction. You don’t find real women in display windows.”

“Ah no. But perhaps occasionally.”

“Mitsuko, you haven’t!”

“Well, you know, I’m always interested in doing as much as possible with as little as possible, as when I upset that poor woman across the street.”

“But, I bet this is something you really did. In Parisian lingerie, no less.”

“It’s necessary to stand absolutely still. On the other hand, there’s a great deal of excitement and suspense. Will the men outside guess? So, there one is, motionless with one’s pulse racing.”

“I’ll do it if you do.”

“You’re taller and more muscular than the typical French woman of the time, but I think I have some things that will fit you. We can replace the other two mannequins with ourselves.”

     One thing led to another. About nine, Sharon called Doris, saying that she would be a bit late. As she finally left the shop, Mitsuko said, “This funeral has had special significance because it so abruptly ended one phase of your life, the one dependent on elders. From now on, you’ll fly with wings of your own, anywhere and everywhere. I hope you’ll come back to see me sometimes. If only for a cup of tea while I sell an absurd costume to an overweight patron.”

They both laughed as Sharon was bowed out by an almost naked shop owner. But she gathered that it would be only tea and cookies from this time on. Mitsuko never repeated an operation unless she thought she could improve on it.

Bill Todd -- Tim and Sharon
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