"Dear Prudence" by Amanda Grieme

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Preface...

“Dear Prudence”
By Amanda Grieme
All Rights Reserved©

Preface – “Dear Prudence”
“Hey! Hey! Over here … help!” Nathaniel ran barefoot toward a ranger’s truck on the edge of the beach, with Ana draped over his shoulder. His drawstring t-length trousers were stuck fast to one leg from her wet hair that smacked against his thigh.
“Flowers! Who in God’s name is th ...?”
“Don't ask questions! Call the EMT, the hospital or somebody! She almost drowned, but she is breathing.” He fell to his knees, and gingerly lay Ana down on the sand like a sleeping infant.
“Who in the hell is she?” Ranger Dale turned and spoke into his emergency response phone, dropped it, and ran over to where she was. “Nathaniel, you have no idea who this young woman is?”
“No … I saw her go for a swim, and then she didn’t come back up, so I ...”
Nathaniel was interrupted by a distant siren, followed by an ambulance. A swarm of EMT’s filed out of the van followed by two police cars and another ranger vehicle. The ambulance driver looked down at her body.
“I know her. She came into my store yesterday.” He shook his head. “C’mon, lets get her in there.”
Bert, the Highway One Liquors storeowner led the EMT in the methodical preparation of her ashen, limp body. They ripped off her clothing, immediately strapped oxygen to her face, and injected her arm with some intravenous solution, all while she was being rolled into the back of the emergency vehicle. The doors slammed, and the ambulance sped off in a cloud of sandy dust washed by the blue and red light, followed by Ranger Dale. The police immediately circled Nathaniel Flowers while he held his chest and watched her disappear.
“What happened Flowers?”
“Where are they taking her?” Nathaniel stared into the distance, speaking indirectly.
“Flowers! Who is the girl?” The policeman smacked his face to get his attention. Nathaniel finally looked at him.
“What … I mean I don’t know! I don’t know, man! I just found her!” He fell to the ground and started to cry. “Is she going to be okay …is she?”
“Alright Flowers, get a hold of yourself.”
“I did what I could. She was breathing, you know?”
“We know buddy,” he smirked. Now, how did you know the girl?” One policeman motioned for the other to turn on a recording device while he took notes.
“First, please don’t patronize me. Second, I didn’t know her. I mean, I never saw her before today! I was led to her by a crazy bird dropping cigarettes . . . I think.” He cringed. The policemen looked at each other and snickered. “Flowers, have you relapsed, or maybe you've been drinking salt water again?” They both laughed childishly.
Nathaniel got up, wiped his face, and brushed the sand from his brown skin. “Laugh all you want assholes, but that’s what really happened!”
“Okay, okay, for the record, what happened next?” The policeman hit record again, having conveniently switched it off for their wisecrack.
“I followed the trail of smokes to a driftwood log where I found a pack of Camels. So I kneeled down to get them, then looked up and saw her.”
“Saw who, Flowers?”
“I saw her,” he pointed in the direction of the road out of Bahiahonda. The girl in the green dress!”
“Where did you see her?” The policeman became impatient.
“She was on the beach, heading toward the water ... singing, swaying ... talking to herself.”
“What do you mean by ‘talking to herself?’” The policemen looked at one another suspiciously.
“You know, talking. Carrying on a conversation with herself.” The policeman with the recorder choked back a laugh like an uncomfortable school kid.
“What else Flowers ... anything else unusual about the girl? Was she alone?”
“Yes, except for a bottle of whiskey and a cigarette. I thought she was just having some fun. You know, getting drunk and going for a dip by herself.”
The policeman clicked off the recorder and started to laugh again. “Sounds like you and mystery girl would make a great pair: no sense, and even less sense.” They laughed and basked in what they, and only they felt was comic genius.
Nathaniel got up and pointed in their faces. “What kind of dicks are you, huh?”
Another ranger who had just pulled up, adjusted his hat and stepped into the ring. “Okay, okay what seems to be the problem gentlemen?”
“Tell these oinkers to do their job properly!” Flowers paced and spit on the ground.
“You want to go to jail you waste-of-life?” The policeman flexed his chest muscles, and wiped a bead of sweat that slid down a swollen blue forehead vein, then dripped from his furled brow.
The other policeman chimed in, “It would be a waste of our time. Either his uncle would pay his bail, or he would plead insanity and get sent to a loony bin for a week.”
Nathaniel shook his head and stared at the ground. “Grandfather, not uncle.”
“Alright, alright. Guys, could I please have a moment with Mr. Flowers ... alone?” Ranger Tom was a kind, portly gentleman who checked the young lady the prior evening.
“Gladly.” One tipped his hat to Ranger Tom, then turned toward the car, but that wasn’t enough for the other policeman. He turned his doughy smirk to Nathaniel, pointed a finger in his face like a drill sergeant and spewed, “you haven’t seen the last of me Flowers. This is a National Park, and by law you are not permitted to reside here.
I don’t care how much money your uncle hands over. He’s just ashamed of you, loser.”
“It’s grandfather you degenerate … not uncle!”
“Whatever.” He turned toward the car, looked back at the ranger and Nathaniel to make sure they weren’t looking, adjusted himself and yanked his industrial-strength polyester pants away from an elastic testicle pinch in his swampy cotton briefs.
Ranger Tom sort of waddled over to Nathaniel who was sitting in the dusty sand on the edge of the beach, rubbing his weary eyes. He kneeled down on one knee like he was proposing, and his belly rested on his leg. He lay his hand on Nathaniel’s shoulder.
“Look Flowers, I know that you had nothing to do with the woman drowning. Just wipe that worry from your mind. I checked her in yesterday, and was curious when she said she would be checking-out the next day.”
Flowers rested his tan face on his folded arm, and his scowl slowly faded.
Ranger Tom groaned and sat down next to Nathaniel. “I’m gettin’ too old for this crap.” He chuckled. “I’m not as limber as I used to be Flowers.” Flower’s mouth broke into a grin.
“What are you, like ... 40 now?”
Tom corrected him. “Forty-two pal ... and I ain’t getting any younger, I’ll tell you what!” He let out a sigh, and passed some gas. Flowers indiscriminately buried his face into his arm.
Tom shook his head. “I thought it strange that a young, pretty woman would be all alone with just a backpack. And to stay for just one night in a great, big cabin all by her lonesome? Now that’s just plain strange, you know?” He turned to Flowers. “Weird, right? She reeked of booze to boot. I mean ... stunk!” Nathaniel raised his head from his arm and stared out at the sandy road surrounded by green Bahiahonda brush and splashes of fuschia bougainvillea.
“And Flowers, you know what the craziest thing was?” No response. “Do you want to know what the craziest ....”
“What was it Tom?” Nathaniel asked abruptly, trying to shake away the image of her blue face.
“She handed me a rolled up $100 dollar bill as a tip for being so helpful! I mean, what in sam hell was that all about, right?”
“Where are you going with this, Tom?” Nathaniel seemed to expect some half-wit story about how he thinks she’s an alien, or an escape convict ... or both. Nathaniel thought that perhaps Ranger Tom had a habit of creating drama, just for the sake of something to talk about. But he always listened. After all, Tom was one of the only people who acknowledged Nathaniel’s existence, didn’t judge his past, or question his present. He had a soft spot in his jaded heart for Tom; the guy was sweet.
“Are you ready for this one?” He perked up. This morning around 11 AM when the campers were doing their checkout, 11:30 rolled by . . . then noon . . . then 12:30, and no Ana Guida!”
“That’s her name?” Nathaniel’s face softened, and he pictured her seaweed-like body dancing toward the water. “Ana.”
Tom’s round face flushed with excitement. “Yeah! But this happens, you know? Some folks just forget sometimes, or sleep in past checkout, or just don’t feel like leavin’!” Tom chuckled at himself. “But I started to get anxious ‘cause there was an impatient French-Canadian couple waiting for their cabin and they were not happy, you know?”
Nathaniel interjected in an attempt at progressing the story. “So . . . what next?”
“Well, I drove up to her cabin. No car. I figured she’d gone and simply forgotten to check out, you know? But I found it real strange-like that I didn’t see that bright yellow Suzuki Samurai pass by my gate . . . the one she drove in yesterday.” Ranger Tom adjusted himself, “Anyhow, I went up to the cabin. Locked. I used the master key, went in. It looked like there hadn’t been a soul there, and then I found it.”
“Found what?”
“Next to doctor scrubs and a denim jacket, there was this creepy note written to a Nanny character; a suicide note, or something. About the same time, I heard the call over the CB from Ranger Dale.”
“And there she was.” Nathaniel replayed the scene in his mind. It flickered behind green-blue eyes.
Tom pulled the crinkled letter from his sweaty shirt pocket, looked left and right, and held the letter out to Nate. “See?” Nate took the letter gently and opened it.

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