Bitsy squeezed out the last of the baby oil and spread it on her sixth leg. She rummaged in her bag for the new bottle she had bought that morning with several other necessities. Just as she found it buried under the latest issue of Nursery Crimes, a shadow fell over her.
“It rained last night,” said a smoke-rasped voice behind her.
“The sun’s out now.” She popped open the bottle and dribbled oil onto her seventh leg.
Harry plopped down beside her, grunting a little as his fat body hit the ground. “You should have come over. I was worried.”
She snorted. “I didn’t want to interrupt your little party.”
“Hey, if the fly’s in my parlor, the old lady can’t swallow her.”
“And if she doesn’t swallow the fly, she doesn’t swallow the spider. I’ve heard that before, Harry.”
Harry puffed on his cigar and blew out a smoke ring. “That parlor could use a woman’s touch. You could redo it, redo the whole damn house. I’d give you carte blanche. Anything you want, price be damned.” Harry inched one of his feet over and slid his toes over hers.
She jerked her foot away. “Only if I could lock you out of it.”
Harry glowered at her with all six of his good eyes. “This bohemian lifestyle you’re so set on is no way to live. I promised your grandmother I would look out for you. She always wanted us to be married one day. That’s why she made me trustee of the estate.”
“Oh, go sit on a tuffet.” Bitsy closed her eyes, leaned back and angled the reflector under her chin.
“You can’t live in a waterspout forever. And you can’t afford the rent anywhere else or even this hovel for very much longer. You need to grow up, Bitsy. Remember which side of the bread is buttered, and who has the knife.”
Bitsy ignored him, humming a popular little ditty under her breath.
“You will marry me, Bitsy. I’ll even let you pick the date, as long as you make it soon.”
Bitsy hummed a little louder.
Harry loomed over her, blocking her sun for a minute or two, before she heard him stomp off.
“Soon, Bitsy. My patience won’t last forever.” His words floated back to her on the wind.
“Prick,” she muttered.
When she was sure he was gone, she opened her eyes and her magazine.
Nursery Crimes was a secret indulgence of hers. The lurid illustrations and gruff prose that filled the magazine’s pages filled her with cheap titillation and a sense of superiority when she compared her carefree existence to the sordid and often brutally short lives depicted within its pages.
She certainly needed the distraction today. Any day she saw Harry she needed major distraction, and a margarita or maybe six.
Today, however, she got something else from the stories; inspiration.
A quick trip to the corner store with a few shillings got her paper, envelopes and stamps. She worked out the wording of the notes carefully and wrote them out in her best penmanship. She addressed the first to the fly in question and the second to a voracious old lady on the next street over but one. Bitsy slipped them into the post and settled back to let nature take its course.
She worked just as carefully on the third. It was addressed to the classified department at the newspaper but she tucked it aside for later.
Things worked out a bit slower than she anticipated, but eventually she had an occasion to wear her black hat with the heavy lace veil in public.
She mailed that third letter the day before the funeral. The classifieds were tucked into her beaded black clutch at the event, folded open to a copy of the advertisement.
For Sale or Rent: House on Sycamore St., 4 bdrms/2.5 baths, gourmet kitchen, large comfortable parlor.
Even with Harry gone, she wasn’t the least interested in living in that mausoleum.
Laura J. Henson lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter and one and a half cats. She is the author of Ten Little Elvi, and her award winning manuscript Quest for a Queen is currently seeking representation.