Wallis and Willard 4: Realty Gone Awry

Lemieux drove down Main St., admiring the vibrant downtown of Parford. She proceeded to her home on the outskirts of town. It was a small bungalow with a crawl space underneath rather than a basement. Her face turned into a snarl as she saw a for sale sign plunged into her front rock garden. She pulled into the driveway and stepped out, clenching her fists. She heard voices coming from the backyard. She silently cursed and strode around the building. “Not again.”

“Oh, Robert. This is perfect,” a woman said. She clutched at her husband’s arm as if at any moment he’d flee to Mexico under an assumed name, live with a Mexican woman who’d feed him until he got fat, never to be seen or heard from again. Robert said nothing, but moved as if being trapped by years of marriage inertia made walking difficult. “Oh, and you wouldn’t have to mow the lawn. It’s all a rock garden.”

“Excuse me,” Lemieux said as she came up to the couple. They were older, in their late sixties. “What are you doing here?”

“We’ve come to make a bid on this home, aren’t we Robert?” Robert said nothing. “Say, you’re the realtor.”

“No, I’m the owner and this home is not for sale,” Lemieux answered.

“But we saw the ad on social medias. Everything on the social medias is true, I read that on the social medias. Anyway, the ad had your face and said you’d be willing to bend over to take a good deal,” the woman said. “Didn’t it Robert?” Robert made no movement to suggest he even heard her. “Robert remembers, too,” she continued.

“You’ve been duped, as I’m sure has happened many times before. Now leave,” Lemieux suggested, her tone becoming more stern.

“No,” the woman said and wagged a finger. “I called you and spoke with you on the phone,” the woman said. “I put you on speaker so Robert could hear you as well. You said you were ready and willing to get… What was the word Robert?” Robert said nothing, just stared vacantly at the wall. “Oh yes; pounded. Pounded for a good deal.”

“I am going to give you two minutes to waddle your knee braced legs off my property before I call the police,” Lemieux said.

“But…”

“Now!”

The couple slowly left the property, took five minutes to get into their Buick with the woman glaring at Lemieux the whole time. It was a passive aggressive onslaught of stern-lipped wonderment. “We drove here all day!”

“You can drive away all day then.” Lemieux shook her head as they pulled away. She stepped up to her front door. It was open a crack. Her shoulders slumped. Lemieux stepped inside and heard more voices.

“Darling this is perfect.”

“Sweet fuck, what the hell are you doing in my home?” Lemieux said as she accosted another couple. “How did you get into my home? You’ve broken into my home!”

“We called and your salesperson said to come, get the key in the flower pot on the right side of the porch and saunter around, try the toilet and cook a meal. All to make sure we like the home. So Harry and I did,” the woman said.

“Yeah, I like the way you can look out the window while you go to the bathroom,” Harry added. He turned sheepish. “I’m afraid I couldn’t find your plunger.”

“He likes his pickled herring,” the wife said.

“I don’t care what you like,” Lemieux yelled, suddenly aware of an odour wafting from the bathroom. “This house is not for sale. Get the hell out!”

“It’s not like we had sex on your counter,” the woman said. “Like your ad directed us to.”

“Yeah,” Harry chimed in. “I mean, we tried, but she couldn’t climb onto the counter, and even if she could there was no step ladder I could use being as I’m short.” Harry scrunched his reddening face at his poor phrasing and quickly added. “I mean not very tall. Your counter is too high. I was referring to my height… Only my height.”

“Oh darling you’re not short,” the wife said in a kind-hearted motherly way, which made Lemieux so uncomfortable she gagged. The woman whispered again, “you’re not short.” The wife playfully nudged her husband with her hips. A crack from one of her joints sounded and she laughed. “Anyway, after all that struggle we just had a nap in your bed. I like your comforter by the way. Does it come with the house?”

“Get. The. Hell. Out!” Lemieux yelled. The couple almost jumped in fright. They stared at her. “Do I have to get my shotgun filled with rock salt to prove to you that you need to leave now?” They left, but not without muttering how disappointed they were with the showing.

Enraged, Lemieux went to her computer and searched for home sales in Parford. It didn’t take her long to find her fake listing. The picture of her used was one where, classic to media, she was captured in a mid-pursing of her mouth expression. Her face almost looked green and a sheen of sweat covered her forehead. It was the least flattering picture of her possible. She looked at the background, trying to recall when that photo would have been taken. Then she remembered. It was when she exited the city hall bathroom after eating a bad tray of supposedly fresh sushi. It was before the vote to close down the county to chain stores. “Fucking Jesus wept.” She also remembered Councillor O’Shea had treated her to the meal. “Bastard tried to avoid a vote.”

Lemieux turned her attention back to the computer and read the ad. ‘Do you wish for a low maintenance home? 1 storey? No lawn to mow? I’ll take a deal, any deal, to satisfy my selling hunger. Come on in, try it out. The key is under the second flower pot on the front porch. Call 800-Get-Sold now to book an appointment. Or just show up and test any piece of furniture you want in any way.’

She wondered what she should do? Lemieux stood up and paced back and forth. She realized she needed to find out who made the ad. It was someone local, had to be, for they would have had to be to know where the spare key to her front door was hidden. “But,” she paused. “Who?” Councillor O’Shea? Jamison? Wallis? That angry farmer who’s turkey farm the county shut down last year?

The shut down was called for after a farm visitor was attacked by a mentally deranged turkey and, as a result, started suffering from PTSD. Through investigation by the county sherif it was later discovered that the farmer was breeding a particularly aggressive type of turkey, creating attack turkeys for farm security. They had larger claws and more neck skin than normal turkeys. He called them Velociturkeys.

Lemieux shook her head. “No one in town really knows anything about placing social media ads. We’re a backward little armpit full of mindless bacteria. Just the way I like it.” She snapped her fingers and a devious smile spread across her face. “Hello Willard?” she said into her phone.

“Hey,” Willard said. “You have some time?”

“Yes, but first I need a favour, though,” Lemieux said.

“Is this a Squid Hoe Dough thing?” Willard asked. His breathing getting deeper and heavier.

“You do something for me and I do something for you,” Lemieux said. “I need you to make a phone call for me when you get here.”

“That’s a cinch,” Willard said and hung up before she could finish explaining her need. In no time at all Willard crashed through the front door like some kind of sex starved bull. “I’m here woman.”

“Jesus Christ, Willard,” Lemieux said. “That’s the second door this month.” She felt herself being swept off her feet by Willard’s powerful arms. “You have to call a number for me.”

“Right now?”

“Yes.” She screamed as Willard flung her to the bed. She pointed to the phone number on the screen. “Dial that number.” He did.

“Hello,” Willard said into his cell. He covered his phone and whispered to Lemieux. “Sounds like you. Ah, yes I am interested in the home. When can I visit it?” Willard nodded and then a smile broadened his lips. “Really? With pleasure.”

“Well?” Lemieux asked in an insistent whisper.

Willard covered his phone and whispered back, “You said, well, the woman on the phone said that I should bring my partner here and test out the bed as it would be part of the sale,” Willard said with a lurid look in his eyes.

“Ask her if she’ll be here?”

Willard’s eyes almost popped out of his skull and his mouth dropped. His stunned face stared at Lemieux for a moment. He looked like he’d just received the best news ever. “Ah,” he said into the phone, his voice thick. “Will you be here to show us the… bedroom?” A pause. “Really? You’re that desperate to sell this house.”

“Where is her office?” Lemieux said, pressing her finger into his chest.

“Where’s your office located?” Suddenly, Willard’s whole body deflated and he sat down on the bed. “Ok. Thanks.” He hung up and looked at Lemieux. “She said her office is here. In your home.”

“You know what that means?” Lemieux said.

“That we’re not going to have a threesome tonight,” Willard flopped back onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling.

“That someone is very good at covering their tracks,” Lemieux advised.

“Why are you smiling?” Willard asked.

“Because, we just eliminated a suspect. It can’t be Councillor Jamison. He’s too stupid to be able to come up with a plan like this. He’s far more direct, in a blundering, imbecilic way.” She looked at Willard and a seductive smile spread across her face.

One thing Willard was keen about, picking up signals of sex. “Can we play hot-dog man?” He asked. Lemieux nodded. Willard gleefully started to disrobe. “You burning incense?” Willard asked, sniffing the air. Within moments the mood was as dead as the pickled herrings Harry had eaten.

The Previous Chapter of Wallis and Willard.

Photo by Aaron Murphy from FreeImages

Wallis and Willard 3: A Town of Intrigue

“You’re creating a monogamy,” Willard yelled at Mayor Lemieux.

“Willard, you charming imbecile,” Christine Lemieux said. “It’s monopoly and no I am not.” She looked at Willard and shook her head. “Your brother is out to get both of us.”

“Us?”

“Come now Willard…”

“I’m not your sexual puppet,” Willard cried. “I can’t do that on command.”

“Wallis wants you bankrupt,” Lemieux said, ignoring Willard’s crude outburst. “And wants me out of the Mayor’s seat.”

“I don’t understand where his stupid idiot hatred comes from. Mother always said he was the calmest angry boy in the world,” Willard said. “I remember in elementary school Wallis, with a straight face, slowly walked over to the biggest kid in the school and punched him square in the throat.”

“Why’d he do that?” Lemieux asked.

“Said he learned it watching a prison movie. No other kid would mess with him after that,” Willard said. “He thinks he’s untouchable.” A crooked smile broke out on his face as if he experienced a nirvana of thought.

“We’re not going to punch your brother in the throat.” Lemieux looked at Willard’s suddenly downcast face. His brow, slightly protruding, reminded her of the Cro-Magnon man display at the museum in the city. She glanced down at his strong, meaty hands and bit her lip. “Listen Willard,” she said, averting her eyes to look outside her office window. “We need to have a game plan here. Pick our position.”

“Reverse cowgirl?” Willard asked with a smile.

“Focus, my dear sexually repressed constituent. How can we defend ourselves from a position of strength?”

“Well,” Willard said as he flexed. “I am stronger than him.”

“This will require cunning,” Lemieux advised.

“Cun…?”

“Thought, Willard, not vagina,” she said quickly.

“Oh, I knew that,” Willard said. He didn’t. He sat down in the chair. “I think we have to do something. Ha!” He snapped his fingers, but then trailed off, staring into the distance.

Lemieux grimaced as Willard’s black overalls shed dark dirt all over her office chair. She knew he was intelligent, just incredibly uneducated. When Willard failed to continue Lemieux shrugged her shoulders. Finally she asked. “Do you have a plan?”

“My brother has always liked playing with fire,” Willard said. “That’s why he opened a crematorium; so he could legally burn people.”

“Wallis is one weird cat. Even so, we’re not going to become arsonists, Willard,” Lemieux said, shaking her head.

“I don’t believe in that evolution garbage,” Willard said.

“That would be a Darwinist. We’re not going to start a fire,” Lemieux explained. “Where do the electrons in your brain go when you think?”

“I don’t know. Haven’t thought about that,” Willard said. “Speaking about electricity… Are we..?” Willard paused and a hungry look entered his eyes.

“Not tonight,” Lemieux said. “I have some work to do. Perhaps tomorrow.”

“I have two burials tomorrow,” Willard explained.

“Good. Then business is still booming,” Lemieux said with a smile.

“Well, they were boomers. But my cemetery can’t always rely on them you know. They’re dying out.” Willard stood up and rounded the desk, planting a kiss on Lemieux’s lips. She felt her back arc. “I’ll see you later.” She watched him lumber out of the office.

Christine Lemieux sat alone in her office for some time thinking about the little town she governed. Parford, population 3,200, had exactly nothing by way of attractions, except for the cemetery and crematorium. It did have a flourishing downtown thanks to the efforts of Lemieux. She managed to get a bylaw passed that forbid any chain stores, chain restaurants, and chain dealerships of any kind from opening within the county. It meant a thriving small business hub.

She knew all it took was a big stack of cash to bribe the two other councillors to change their minds. Which was why she had them constantly followed. She saw two older gentlemen appear in the hall and waved them into her office. They wore simple jeans and long sleeved shirts. One man was black and the other white; both retired carpenters from the local furniture factory. “Welcome gentlemen,” Lemieux said as they stood before her.

“Thank you Ms. Mayor,” said Reggie Black, the white man.

“I’m gettin’ fat,” said Jamie White, the black one. “Marvin is makin’ his burgers better and better.”

“That damn ketchup of his is to die for,” Black said, licking his lips.

“I’m glad you enjoy them. With each report you give me I’ll gladly pay for your meals.” Lemieux leaned back in her chair. “What do you have today?”

“Well, not much I’m afraid,” White said as pulled out a wad of napkins. He sighed and then put on his reading glasses. “Let’s see here.” He licked a finger and flipped through a few sheets. “Here we are.” White read silently, moving his lips. “I’ve been following Councillor O’Shea. He drives a little too fast for my liking, especially around his ex-wife’s house. He peels rubber every time he drives by and honks his horn. He’s been seeing some woman over in Normville. I guess you’d have to see a woman outside the county if you’re as big a jerk as O’Shea.” White and Black laughed heartily at the joke. White resumed reading a bit. “Oh, he almost hit a dog. Can you use that?”

“Not really,” Lemieux said with a smile. She didn’t care at all for the substance of the reports, just that the surveillance was being done.

“Councillor Jamison picks his nose an awful lot. I mean, always,” Black said. “It seems like it’s some kind of sickness he has. A finger is always up there.” Black made a scrunched up face as if he was going to be sick. “And he wipes his snot everywhere. Like he’s some kind of dog markin’ his territory.” The two men laughed. “Snot-dog. Can you use that information?”

“Hell yes,” Lemieux said. “I’ll not be shaking his hand ever again.”

The two retired carpenters continued to take turns advising Lemieux of the most trivial actions of the two councillors. She just sat there, listening. She knew her spies were idiots and bigmouths, flapping at anyone who’d listen. But that suited her just fine. The whole town knew why they were following the councillors. It was the most talked about secret surveillance mission in the county. Even the carpenter’s grandkids spoke about the latest reports during show and tell at school.

Lemieux also knew the two men rarely actually followed their assignments. It had got to the point that people would report the two councillor’s movements to the carpenters and they in turn would just hang out at Marvin’s Diner and Spa, writing it all down on McDonald’s napkins. “Thank you Gentlemen. The CIA missed out on your skillful work.” Lemieux bid the two men good night and they left. Before long, the two councillors in question showed up at her office. They’d been waiting for the spies to leave. She waved them inside.

“Listen Ms. Mayor,” Councillor Patrick O’Shea said as he stormed into the office and sat down in a presumptive manner. His pristine light blue suit looked expensive and he adjusted it to suit his comfort. He pointed out the door, referring to the carpenters. “Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee are a nuisance.”

“Yeah,” Councillor Leslie Jamison said. He paced back and forth behind O’Shea, he wiped his nose repeatedly with the back of his hand. “They’ve been spying on me as I step out of my sauna.” Jamison was particularly fond of his sauna. He purchased it the instant he got his ancestry results. He felt it connected him to his Scandinavian heritage. What he didn’t know, and what no one at the ancestry company bothered to correct for liability reasons, was that his results got mixed up with another man’s. He received a Norwegian man’s results, while Jamison’s pure English past was sent to someone in Norway.

“Were they on your property?” Lemieux asked.

“No.”

“Were you doing anything illicit?” Lemieux asked.

“No, damnit. Just sweating. Is it suddenly illegal to sweat? Huh?” Jamison started pacing again. His face perspired as he worked himself up to a froth. “Can’t a politician sweat in peace, huh? Without being called Nixon, or Tricky Dick, or Sweaty Dick, or Sticky Dick. Huh?”

“You prefer just plain dick?” Lemieux asked, tongue in cheek.

“No!” Jamison yelled. “I just want to be able to walk from my sauna to my house without it being reported to you and every reader of the Parford Press.”

“I get it. You were indisposed,” Lemieux said with a nod.

“No!” Jamison yelled again.

“It is an invasion of our privacy,” O’Shea said, realizing the sleeves of his suit were covered in dirt. “Do you realize there’s dirt on your chair?”

“Ever since you sat in it,” Lemieux replied.

“No, there’s literally dirt.” O’Shea stood up and took off his jacket. The back was covered in dark dirt stains. “You’ll pay for the dry cleaning for this,” O’Shea said as a wagged a menacing finger at Lemieux.

“I didn’t offer you a chair. You sat down on your own volition and you can, anytime you choose, fuck off on your own volition, too,” Lemieux said. She looked at O’Shea’s hands; bony with popping veins. They were quite likely the least sexy part of the drab faced councillor’s body. And that was taking into account his face. No matter the colour of clothing he wore, everyone agreed his grey skin clashed.

“I want the spying stopped,” Jamison demanded. Lemieux noted his hands had scratches and scabs. As if he picked fights with barbed wire. She imagined they were covered in snot.

“It’s not spying. It’s observation,” Lemieux corrected, thinking that the most likely thing Johnson would ever amount to is to be described as Patient Zero for some kind of outbreak. A goddam walking contagion. A microbiologists wet dream. A disease would be named after him. Jamison it is, where a person’s nose would swell and leak fluids excessively in a post nasal deluge. Limieux frowned. She had missed something. “I’m sorry what?”

“Huh?” Jamison said impatiently. “It’s harassment,” he repeated.

“It’s a community watch program.”

“That’s not what a community watch program is supposed to do,” O’Shea said, still swatting his jacket in a futile effort to remove dirt. “Gawdamit! This is my favourite suit.” Perspiration gathered on his forehead. “We’re not criminals.”

“I didn’t say you were, but the community is watching. Besides, all you both have to do is sign the papers,” Lemieux said with a sweet smile.

“I am not signing any affidavit stating that I won’t vote for a reversal of your Parford Purity By-law,” O’Shea said. “Sooner or later larger organizations will be needed.

“And you would take a bribe,” Lemieux suggested.

“Gawdamit, that’s slander. Never would I take a bribe. But why would a councillor tie his objectivity up to a power mad bitch like you,” O’Shea retorted.

“Your choice.” Lemieux shrugged. “You should know, you paragons of integrity, that my two carpenters are building quite a report about you both. As long as they are on public property they will watch your every move. And everyone in town, too for that matter.” She almost laughed at the curled snarls on O’Shea and Jamison’s faces. They walked out of her office and she leaned back in her chair. “I have to disinfect my office.”

Lemieux stood up and stretched. She picked up her cell phone and tapped a couple of icons. She put the phone to her ear and waited.

“Hello?” A woman’s voice answered.

“Is this Jasmine Garcia?” Lemieux asked.

“Yes.”

“You might want to stakeout Councillor Leslie Jamison’s home. He has a nasty habit that you might find intriguing,” Lemieux advised.

“Has he been running naked from his sauna again?” Garcia asked with a verbal shrug. “Usually he does that when there’s snow on the ground and he can rut in it like some snow-pig. He claimed it was in his genetics.”

“Ok,” Lemieux replied slowly.

“It’s been a slow week, maybe I can get photos to force him to give me a quote on the record,” Garcia said. Lemieux could hear the hopefulness in her voice.

“Officially, that’s extortion,” Lemieux advised.

“No, it’s just old fashioned, good natured, friendly leverage,” Garcia said. “Good night.” And she hung up the phone. Lemieux thought for a moment and then shook her head. “This town is so screwed.”

The Next Chapter of Wallis and Willard

The Previous Chapter of Wallis and Willard

Photo by paul kempin from FreeImages.

Wallis and Willard 2: To City Hall and Beyond

Wallis Moore enjoyed the finer things in life and, more importantly, associating with others who enjoyed the finer things in life. Their enjoyment rubbed off on his enjoyment and together he and they rubbed each other’s enjoyment to create a heightened enjoyment feed back loop. Being rich meant you got to hang out with other rich people. Which, according to Wallis, was where a person wanted to be. He sat on a veal leather chair in his office, which was behind a ludicrously large glass desk. His office overlooked his sprawling crematorium grounds from the road to the back 100 acres, and had a window directed toward his brother’s piss-poor excuse for a business.

On the wall hung a large plan for his fire powered empire. He stood up and adjusted the frame of the plan so minutely as to be meaningless. And then, promptly adjusted it minutely back to its original position. On the plan he had an Urn field, already being filled with the ashes of the deceased. Unlike his dim witted brother he could pack two or three burials with urns in the same space one casket was buried.

His gaze fell to his pride and joy; the Organic Orchard. Here people could be buried all natural and a tree would be planted on top of them. They could choose from all manner of trees; apple, pear, plum, and peach. When those trees were mature the fruit would be made into jams and preserves. Wallis laughed. “Unpreserved people making preserved jam.” He would make the dead work for him.

His cell phone rang, it was the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. “Hello,” Wallis said.

“Hello,” a female voice greeted him.

“Can I help you?” Wallis asked.

“I’m Jasmine Garcia, a reporter with the Parford Press,” Garcia said.

“Oh yes, our illustrious town weekly,” Wallis said with a smile. “You wrote that expose on Marvin’s Diner and Spa last month. Is he still mixing expired tomato paste with sugar and calling it gourmet ketchup?”

“Of course,” Garcia said. “But, that’s not why I called today.”

“Oh?” Wallis said with a greater smile. He knew why she called.

“Your Caring Country Crematorium is making a name for itself in the city,” Garcia said. “Some in the town are concerned with this new cemetery tourism.”

“How so?”

“Some fear it’s creating a bad name for Parford. One person said it was like we’re the region’s graveyard, filled with roaming goth dead-wannabe cultists.”

“Who said that?”

“They didn’t want to be quoted.”

“Sounds like my brother,” Wallis said with a chuckle.

“Others said that Parford is turning into the world’s graveyard voyeurism capital.”

“Who said that?”

“They didn’t want to be quoted.” Regret sounded clear in Garcia’s voice.

“Certainly wasn’t my brother, he doesn’t know what capital means.” Wallis laughed at his own joke. “Listen, more people visiting our town means more people spending money at Gary’s Gas and Garage, Harriet’s Hotel and Taxidermy, Lydia’s Lice Removal and Lamination. Heck even Abigail’s Alibi Service & Accounting has gotten a boost in revenue.” Wallis strode over to the rear facing window. “What I do is good for everyone. Including you, Ms. Garcia. More people means more readers, means more ad revenue for the weekly. I really should be mayor.”

“Can I quote you on that?” Garcia asked.

“No. Certainly not. I don’t want to be mayor,” Wallis retorted.

“Anything else?”

“Just a comment, on the record, regarding your brother’s new special deal he’s advertising in the Press,” Garcia asked.

“Sure. I always like to go on the record,” Wallis said. “What’s the new deal?”

“Marriage Eternity,” Garcia read from the ad. “Two cemetery plots for the price of 1 and four-fifths. A plot for you and your significant other. Gays welcome. And if you divorce before death, then your plots can be divorced too. Pristine Paradise Cemetery. Gay Friendly Cemetery.”

“That’s the stupidest thing he’s done this week,” Wallis said with a laugh.

“Can I quote you on that?” Garcia asked excitedly. She always wanted to be able to quote people.

“No. Certainly not,” Wallis replied, tersely. “Is that everything?

“Yes,” Garcia said with some dejection. “Thank you Mr. Moore.”

Wallis hung up the phone then walked over to the front of the building and looked out across the road to his brother’s cemetery. He could see Willard in his rocking chair on the veranda of their parent’s old home. Willard’s hand was up and his middle finger extended. Wallis laughed with the full throated gusto of genuine mirth. He loved this town. Loved the countryside. Loved his new business. But, most of all, Wallis loved screwing over his younger brother. “What are you planning, brother dearest?” At that moment a knock sounded at his office door. “Enter.”

“Mr. Moore,” his assistant said. “I’ve got four new plots sold and need you to review and sign off.

“Ah, thank you Ms. Piatowski,” Wallis said as he sat down behind his desk. “You’ll get a nice commission cheque for these.”

“Thank you.” Phoebe Piatowski walked across the room with heightened hip movement, accentuated by her high heeled shoes. She glanced at Wallis’ face to see if he noticed, but he only stared at the manila folders in her hands. She placed them on the desk, leaning forward to open them, thus exposing her bra under her white blouse.

“I think you’ve popped a button. Better get that fixed. Winter is coming and I can’t afford to have you sick.” Wallis said while gleefully signing each of the four sales. “Is that all?” Wallis asked, closing the folders.

“One more thing,” Phoebe said as she stood up and buttoned the top button of her blouse. “Your zoning permits have been approved. You just need to go to city hall and pick them up in person.”

“Excellent work Ms. Piatowski. Excellent work, indeed,” Wallis said with a smile. “That will be all for the day, you may leave early.”

“Thank you Mr. Moore,” Phoebe said. She turned and sauntered out, swaying her hips in as seductively a fashion as possible.

“Did you hurt yourself?” Wallis asked.

“What?” Phoebe said, turning to face her boss and pulling her glasses down to look over the rim with an alluring pose.

“You’re walking with a limp.”

“No,” Phoebe said and a sigh. “Good night, sir.”

Wallis himself left the office early. As boss it was his prerogative. Besides he needed to get to town hall before it promptly closed at 5pm. He got into his bright green electric Prius. Each door had a his Triple C logo, Caring County Crematorium. Everywhere he drove he advertised his business. He parked on the street and entered city hall. A grand marble staircase led him to the second level, where the Mayor’s office was located. He approached the mayor’s door, adjusted his sport jacket, the one with 100% hemp elbow patches he bought in the city, and knocked on the door.

“Come on in Wallis I know it’s you,” the Mayor said.

“Madam Mayor,” Wallis said as he entered.

“Wallis, you castoff from jackoff, you know to address me as Ms. Mayor,” Mayor Christine Lemieux said with anger.

“My mistake,” Wallis said, inwardly humoured at her response. “I take it your sensitivity classes are working?” He sat down in front of her desk.

“You can eat shit, Wallis,” Lemieux said.

“…And die?”

“No, you can eat shit and live, knowing you’ve eaten shit.” She shook her head and pursed her lips. “Why might you be here, I wonder? Is it because of zoning permits?” Lemieux asked, getting to the point. She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms.

“I just want to thank you for the zoning permits,” Wallis said.

“Don’t thank me,” Lemieux said. “The two other councillors in your fucking pocket voted for you.”

“Now, now Ms. Mayor…”

“Don’t now, now me. I know that in your irrational desire to destroy your brother you’ll do just about anything,” Lemieux said. “Or anyone. Here, take your permits and get the hell outta my office.” She watched him take the permits and regarded his effeminate hands. They looked weak and brittle, prone to easy bruising much like their owner.

“Well, thank you all the same,” Wallis said. He stood up and took the permits. He reached the door when Lemieux called out to him. “Yes?” He asked.

“You’ll never be mayor while I draw breath into these pink American lungs,” Lemieux said.

“I don’t want to be mayor.”

“Fuck off.” That was her favoured way of dismissing people from her office, regardless of who it was. She told the governor to fuck off when he delivered a cheque to help with infrastructure. Once the cheque was in her hands she felt no further need to have him in her presence. Kicked him and the press out of her office. The notoriety got her re-elected several times. Her election slogan; “I’ll tell off anyone, anytime, anywhere.”

Of course those signs were vandalized, changed to “I’ll suck off anyone, anytime, anywhere.” Mayor Lemieux’s response was equally candid and direct. “Seems my signs got some attention,” she said, standing beside a defaced sign in front of the local media. “Who ever did this can come on down here and I’ll suck em off. I’ll be here for four hours.” When no one came, figuratively speaking, she declared herself the winner of the Sign Showdown. “The smaller the… ‘Ego.’ The larger the cowardice.” She got re-elected.

Wallis liked her attitude, hated her though. She never voted for what he felt was important. “As mayor I’d change things,” Wallis said as he pounded his right fist into the palm of his left hand. He quickly added in a loud voice, “But I don’t want to be Mayor.” Sudden panic set in and, with a frantic spasm of energy, he looked all around to ensure no one heard his first remark.

“You havin’ a stroke, mister?” A kid asked.

“No,” Wallis said and shook his head.

“Just seems you bent your neck around like an elephant trunk. You mighta done damage to your neck.” the kid said.

“No.”

“Did you have an accident in your pants?”

“NO!” Wallis yelled.

“When I pooped my pants I looked around like you did, makin’ sure no one can smell it. You look guilty,” the kid continued, standing on the sidewalk with a finger knuckle deep up his nose.

“I am not guilty,” Wallis said, wondering why he was arguing with the town idiot’s only offspring. He regarded the boy, whose vigorous nose picking, bulging his nostril outwards, reminded Wallis of an alien about ready to burst forth from someone’s stomach.

“Whatever millennial,” the kid said and walked away.

Wallis clenched his jaw, looked around again, and drove off. He took a longer route home, back to the crematorium. Deep breathing helped calm his nerves. He had read somewhere that the navy seals practiced calming breathing. “I am the navy seal of funeral directors.” He felt calm already. Wallis wanted to savour his next move in the never ending war he was waging against his brother. Wallis laughed. “He’s using checkers pieces in a chess game.”

“I don’t fucking play either,” Willard said, when Wallis repeated the chess/checkers analogy. “You can shove all the pieces up your ass for all I care. Now get off my property,” Willard said from the veranda.

“Oh, dear Willard, I’m not on your property,” Wallis said as he stood on the road. “But this,” he waved a piece of paper in the air. “This is a piece of my victory in our time.” Wallis waved the paper, triumphantly, like the Neville Chamberlain of cemetery owners.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Willard asked.

“I got the permit for pet burials and cremation. They will not be giving you one. City Hall is on my side, dear Willard. I’ll be blooming Dog Roses from rover’s remains and selling the flowers for plenty of profit,” Wallis said, laughing the whole time he spoke.

“You speak like an exploding septic tank, bubbling and squirting nothing but shit,” Willard yelled, his face reddening.

“Even more business for me.” Wallis turned and got in his car. He knew Willard was giving him the middle finger. He looked in the rear view mirror as he drove to his crematorium. Sure enough Willard stood, rigid, with his finger extended. It was a good day.

The Next Chapter of Wallis and Willard

The Previous Chapter of Wallis and Willard

Photo by Łukasz Ślązak from FreeImages

Wallis and Willard 1: A Grave Time for A Cemetery

Willard Moore always stood at the side of the cemetery during a funeral. That way he could watch those who came to pay tribute to someone he didn’t know and not have to actually interact with them. Today was no different. Another group of grieving people slowly departed the recently departed. To Willard grief was always the same; tears, crying, and the occasional dramatic outburst of loss that propelled one to leap onto the casket. Willard snorted. Casket was such a politically correct term. He preferred the word coffin. It seemed more manly to him. Coffin carried with it a Wild West impression.

Willard clutched his shovel, giving it the occasional spin. As the resident gravedigger and proprietor of the oldest cemetery in the county it was his job to make the hole neat and tidy. He took great pains to ensure the dimensions of the grave were perfect. Not that anyone else would care. He didn’t care if others didn’t care. He felt there was a certain reciprocal logic in the mutual un-caringness. Willard watched the last of the group leave and trudged over to the grave. He threw off the tarp covering the dirt and sunk his shovel into the earth. He liked the physical activity of shovelling. He could lose himself in the motions of it. It became meditation to him.

In no time the grave was filled. The monument would come later. Monument was another whitewashing term in the funeral business. Willard preferred tombstone, again for Wild West continuity. He walked along the rows of graves, noting the more ostentatious tombstones. He chuckled every time he walked by one in particular. It contained a large engraved picture of the grave’s occupant. He paused in front of it. The picture was perhaps the least flattering portrait of one Thomas Tabberd; it showed him wiping his nose. Perhaps Thomas’ wife hated him, mused Willard. Thomas’ drooping, half lidded eyes made him appear as if he was going to sneeze. Either that or he was high on cocaine and was covering a nosebleed.

Willard carried on, making his way to his house. He knew he’d have a hard time selling his home, being as it was in the middle of a cemetery. But, the cemetery was his business. When he converted half his father’s farmland to the Pristine Paradise Cemetery people thought him crazy. He laughed as he stepped onto the veranda and sat down on the rocking chair. He charged a decent rate, banking half and paying himself half. He needed lawyers and accountants to set up the company and endowment; necessary evils. The endowment would continue to pay him to maintain the property even when he’d put the no vacancy sign on the cemetery gates. He had it all planned out.

Willard took in a deep breath of autumn air and leaned back in the rocking chair. His gaze fell onto the newly completed building across the road. He clenched his jaw and spat onto the veranda. He watched a family get out of a car, which had parked in the parking lot beside the building. They disappeared into the front entrance.

“Damned new wave bastards,” Willard snapped. He had fought the zoning law change that allowed the crematorium to be built. The county councillors in their wisdom thought having a crematorium by the cemetery made perfect sense as anywhere else they encountered a lot of NIMBYism. After a few minutes the family exited the crematorium and Willard saw the owner come out and see them off. The owner turned toward the cemetery, saw Willard and waved. Willard promptly raised his hand as if to wave, then stuck up his middle finger. He held it up long after the owner disappeared into the building. Willard hated his brother for turning the other half of the family farm into a crematorium that directly competed with Pristine Paradise.

“I’m not competing with you, Willard,” his brother Wallis said one morning the previous year. He picked lint off his white cardigan sweater. “I’m offering a product to people who are concerned about our planet.” Wallis’ smirk was enough to make Willard want to punch him in the mouth. Whenever his brother talked the large, bulbous Adam’s apple bobbed up and down, like some kind of skin covered yo-yo. How Willard wanted to karate chop it. His brother, unaware of the hatred his neck caused, continued. “People can choose to be cremated or have a green burial. Have a tree grow from their body, so wholesome.”

“When did you give a shit about wholesome?” Willard whined. He looked his brother over with brown eyes slightly too small and slightly too close together. Wallis’ white sweater and khaki pants and loafers made Willard want to throw dirt at him. It was as stark a contrast to Willard’s black overalls as you could find. “You used to stuff people’s mailboxes with cow shit. When they went to open the mailbox it triggered a firecracker to explode, covering them in crap. If you could set it on fire you’d be in heaven.”

“I’m using my love of fire to help others. Besides, a man can grow up,” Wallis said. He looked at Willard through brown eyes slightly too large and slightly too far apart. Then after a frown and a shake of his head. “Well, most men grow up.”

“Nice,” Willard snorted.

“Anyway, I don’t see why you’re complaining. You don’t offer either of my options.”

“Goddamn right I don’t. Offering the option of having worms wriggling through skulls,” Willard said. “Disgusting.” Willard wagged a finger, inches from Wallis’ face. “You have viewing parties for the cremation, too. That’s unholy.”

“Come now Willard,” Wallis said. “You’ve never gone to church a day in your life.”

“You are a bastard,” Willard retorted. It was an attempt to goad his older brother who was born when their parents had not yet married.

“Oh, little brother,” Wallis said with a light chuckle and a shake of his head. “Don’t worry if no one wants to get buried with their body filled with formaldehyde anymore. If you’re concerned about employment I’ll always have a position for you.”

“I’ve got a position for you,” Willard yelled and promptly, forcefully gestured to his groin with both hands. In his frantic urge to demean his brother he accidentally sacked himself in the groin. The pain from his brother’s laugh almost superseded the pain snaking it’s way into his stomach.

Willard stood up from the chair on the veranda, a fresh wave of heat emanated from his core at the embarrassment the memory brought. Wallis had sent him a greeting card, hoping a speedy recovery from his injury. “That bastard.”

Ever since the crematorium opened Willard had seen some cancellations of plots, which required the worst thing he could possibly think of as a business owner; refunds. He had seen those same people who cancelled their plots visit the crematorium. They covered their faces and raced in, trying to hide, entering after dark. It was no use. He had purchased a high-res security camera system and pointed at the enemy building 24 hours a day. He even splurged and got the enhanced night camera capture system. He reviewed the feed early every morning. Nothing was going to get by him.

All this to say that Willard Moore was not a happy man. Even digging in the dirt did little to assuage the growing anger in his head. The final straw came when he saw ads for the crematorium in the local newspaper. The ad read in full “When you die do you want to be a part of the earth or do you want to be a formaldehyde zombie? Go green and preserve our pristine, pristine environment. Wallis’s Crematorium. ‘You Pick the Tree You Want to Be!’”

“This means war,” Willard said in a rage scream over his eggs at his kitchen table. After three minutes of screaming, Willard resumed eating. He chewed thoughtfully, not really thinking about anything other than ensuring he didn’t bite his tongue. He always bit his tongue when he ate with an anger that bubbled up through his soul. Which, lately, was often.

Willard stood up from the table, carefully washed his dishes and then drove into town in his beat-up 1979 Ford pickup. As he drove past the crematorium he stuck his hand out and flipped the finger. It was his salute every time he drove by, even in the coldest of winter nights when his hand froze. When Willard committed to something it was with the vigour of a drunken 20 year old exuberantly deciding to get a tattoo. Accompanied, of course, with all the careful deliberations such an act entailed. And, just like that 20 year old he always came to regret his actions later in the light of sobriety. That’s tomorrow’s problem, he thought to himself.

In town he entered Marvin’s Diner and Spa, a unique weed induced thought experiment that somehow came to exist. Marvin’s diner was losing money, so in order to save his business Marvin thought that people would eat while getting their nails done at the same time. Naturally, he could charge them double. He had signs made and presto; he was now failing at twice the pace he was before. This meant that Marvin was on edge, trying to cut costs on everything. From watering down the mustard to using dollar store glue to affix fake nails, Marvin constantly tried to reduce his expenses. “What you need to do is advertise, Willard,” Marvin said while cleaning straws in the sink.

“Something you’d never do,” Willard retorted as he declined a straw for his coke.

“I have word of mouth,” Marvin said haughtily, putting the straws on a drying rack out of sight from customers. “A smart marketing campaign, with a neato tag line will do the trick.” If something was ‘neato’ it meant Marvin thought it was a sure fire success. Much like his diner and spa combination.

“Like what kind of tag line,” Willard asked, noticing for the first time the residue of lipstick on the outside of his coke glass. He shrugged and took a sip.

“I don’t know,” Marvin said as he took out a wad of McDonald’s napkins and restocked his napkin holders. He frowned, causing his huge blond, bushy eyebrows to merge into one giant brow over deep blue eyes. “Do a twofer.” Marvin nodded.

“Yeah,” Willard said, growing eager. “A husband-wife kinda thing.”

“Woah now,” Marvin said, waving both hands. “Don’t be so sexist. Gay couples die too ya know.”

“Ok,” Willard said. “Double Spouse Deal.” Willard smiled, knowing he’d just created a crematorium crushing plan. His smile disappeared. “What if they divorce?”

“50% of marriages do end in divorce,” Marvin said with a knowing nod. 100% of his four marriages had ended in divorce. Finally, something he was better at than the rest of the general population. “Just put in a no refunds clause.”

“You are a genius,” Willard said.

“I think you mean genus.” Marvin corrected, not really caring.

Willard left the Diner and Spa with a new spring in his step. A completely unfounded, undeserved feeling of euphoria crept through his bowels like a fresh surge of diarrhea. Willard knew he was on to something. He got into the ‘79 ford and raced back to his home, thrusting his hand out as he passed the crematorium. “You’ll get yours, Wallis.”

To celebrate Willard drank of few shots of his favourite whiskey. Then curled up on his couch and fell asleep with a warm feeling in his chest. He completely forgot about his plans. At least for that evening all was right with the world.

The Next Chapter of Wallis and Willard

Photo by Robert Montgomery from FreeImages