July 7, 2006

"You know the authorities are after you," I announced with what I hope was a grim expression. Now that Karl appeared to be unharmed, I wanted to give him hell.

Karl's eyebrows rose, slowly and steadily, toward the top of his head like little hairy elevators. "The police?"

"Why were you prowling the neighborhood?" I asked, but as soon as the question was out of my mouth, I realized that I was assuming. And you know what happens when you assume, don't you? You're more likely to be incorrect.

"Oh no," murmured Karl, with a fetching air of surprise. "I was not prowling." He sent Scooter away, although she still gazed at him worshipfully. He put his lemonade and magazine down on an overturned bucket. He asked me to sit beside him on the other lawn chair. He was ready to make his admission.

But I wasn't ready to be a fount of mercy and understanding. "You had all of us at Hancock Fabrics worried. We searched the whole town for you."

"I did play hooky today," replied Karl, lowering his eyes. "And I apologize for any stress I might have caused you ladies. I really do admire and like you all." After a deep breath, Karl launched into the story of what had happened the previous night.

"I had never been in a social situation quite like it," he said. "I go to parties, sure, but they are completely different affairs. You dress up, you eat canapes, you chat about the spring line or a controversial movie. That's it. Your party was full of life, messy life, chaos, and it made me wonder what I was missing."

I rather resented being told my party was messy and chaotic, but I understood the sentiment. My ragtag bunch of friends were emotional and sincere, and that was all for the good. I preferred it that way, even if that meant we played Pictionary on occasion.

"So, I had to leave your lovely party. I felt so out of place, but I wanted to be... in place. And then, of course, I felt such guilt about my rude conduct, rushing out like that. I came back later to apologize, but only saw your husband. He invited me to relax here, which I thought was very gentlemanly of him. I took him up on it. I needed some time to think."

My husband, the gentleman. Heartfelt swoon.

"You're okay, then?" I asked. "The police aren't going to slap you in a paddy wagon, my dear?"
"Not unless they've made reading a Seymour Hirsch article illegal," replied Karl, gesturing to the year-old New Yorker he was holding. Mes amis, the mystery of the neighborhood prowler was still unsolved, but with a hot rush of panic, I realized I had an altogether different fire to put out.

"Please come back with me to the store," I pleaded. "Everyone is very upset."

Karl bowed his fair head and said in a low tone, "I know I made everyone worry. I'll make it up to you all. I should've at least left a message."

I waved away his guilt. "Oh, pooh. That's not what I mean. I mean, that steaming pit of ordure Jo-Ann Fabrics is giving us grief. We got to work this morning and just about went into conniptions when we saw their storefront. Quite simply, we need your help."

Karl stood up, a new light of resolution in his eye. He looked ready to fight, my little honeybuns, and when I saw that, I was ready to fight, too.

This Week, Mrs. Filthy's Reading:

Good Omens:The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett