An Ordinary Lunch

The craziness is spreading around town. And for all I know, to other towns and maybe out of state.  I’ve heard rumors and tales of magic from quite a few normally sensible.. dependable people.  I’ve kept quiet and observed with my ears open.  This stuff has been going around for about eight months. I hear the stories at work, at my hairdresser’s, around my neighborhood, the grocery store.  Tales of parties on the moon.. goddesses offering people jobs.. elevators, mirrors and trees that take people back in time… People disappearing from closets and behind bookshelves.  Tigers swimming in local pools. Magic food at delis. The list goes on. Thing is, the people everyone is talking about have truly disappeared. I don’t believe all the folderol about spells and witchcraft, though I have to admit that my new favorite TV show is Salem, on Showtime. But that’s fantasy television.  But these humans are going somewhere. Where?  They can’t all just be deciding to up and quit their jobs and taking off for parts unknown. They vanish without a trace. No texts.. no phone calls.. no ATM activity or card purchases. No bodies turn up. Where’s Nero Wolfe when we need him?  He could figure this all out without leaving his brownstone. But of course, he’s fiction.  We need someone like him though. I read in the paper day before yesterday that fifteen missing persons reports have been filed. People want to know what happened to their husbands, wives, children and friends. So, i’ve appointed myself to play detective. This will be done strictly on an amateur basis.  It’s perfect. I have five weeks of vacation coming to me. I’ve been saving it up over time. My boss usually has to persuade me to use my vacation time, but she didn’t have to this year.. because there’s this disappearance stuff going on. So I asked for the time off. She seemed relieved. She’s had a lot on her mind. Her cousin Lisa is one of the people who has disappeared. I didn’t tell her I’ll be nosing around.  I won’t tell anyone. Well, my Old English Sheepdog, Errol knows, but he’ll never tell.  I’m considering telling my best friend, Lois, but we’ll see. She likes to talk. Then again, she really could help me out.

This is my second day of vacation. It’s October 5th, and it’s fifty four degrees with overcast and a light drizzle. I’ve taken Errol for his morning walk and done the things around the house I wanted to do. Next order of business is to go out and get some lunch. I’ve heard about a deli heading out of town where some funky stuff has supposedly been going down. Plus, they have great food. Never have been there, so it’s good all around. I can poke around a bit.  I’ll take a book with me. Altered States by Anita Brookner. And if I get absorbed in it, it’ll look like I’m just eating lunch and reading, not like I’m checking things out. This might be my most fun vacation yet. Who needs a fancy trip abroad?  I have a few mysteries to solve. Off I go.  I give Errol a big hug and kiss on his shaggy head and tell him I’ll be back in a couple of hours. This place is only five miles from my house.

I get there and park in one of the five spaces out front. It’s 12:30 and I seem to be the only customer. I go to the counter and order a caprese panini with a bowl of cream of mushroom soup and take one of the four tiny tables. I pull out my book and pretend to read. First, I make sure the book isn’t upside down. Snort. That could give me away after all.  I see nothing unusual so far. But I’ve only been here five minutes. I might have to order a refill on my soda. Then I’ll have the excuse that I need to use the restroom. At fifty one, my bladder isn’t quite as young as it used to be. Oh well, I find I really enjoy being over fifty.. I wait just three more minutes and Franz K. brings my lunch. That’s what his nametag says.. Franz K.  Interesting. I just smile and say thank you. While I eat, I notice the antiques out back. Yes, a trip out there when I’m done is definitely in order.

While i eat, Franz K. doesn’t try to make conversation, but the lunch is delicious. I try to linger to look around, but it appears to be a normal deli to me. When I feel I can’t stall anymore I ask to use the restroom. Franz says.. sure. Two doors way in the back. The one on the left is the ladies’ room. On the way, I look over a few of the antiques. I see a beautiful wing backed chair that I would love to have for reading. It’s made of maple, I think, and it’s upholstered in ice blue velvet. It looks old, but brand new at the same time. I use the restroom, which turns out to be an actual restroom.. unlike all the tales I’ve heard.. then I ask about the chair.  Franz says it’s one hundred years old, it’s been sitting out back here for five years, and he wants to get rid of it. So it’s only three hundred dollars. It’s a steal, so I take it. It’ll have to be delivered, and Franz says sure. How about tomorrow?  Where do you live?  … I say, i’m Robyn Halvorsen, and I live at 756 Holcomb Street SW. .. Great. Tomorrow it is. On my way out, I see a gorgeous African Gray Parrot. I hadn’t noticed him, and he startles me. He says.. Pandora’s Chair! Pandora’s Chair!  Pandora’s Chair!  And I think, well we’ll see. But so far, no magic. I came here for lunch and now I’m headed home safely. I haven’t disappeared…

By M. Raynes


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