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Wednesday Writing Prompt
What No One Knew

by

Marian Brooks
No one really knew Henrietta Edelsohn.  What they didn’t know they made up. Like most folks in small towns, the
residents of Barton’s 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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