Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saving Mom From Uncle Guido

"Saving Mom From Uncle Guido" is a fiction story from "Mystery and Mirth, excerpted for yon enjoyment.

For the Micky Mouse head helped her overhear the murder plot and the door disguise helped her stop it in its tracks.

It's short and a smile.

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scary  red eyeballs

Saving Mom from Uncle Guido

Detective Barlow says I shouldn't quit my day job. His humor isn't lost on me though I must fume a bit. I did, after all, discover a murder was about to happen; this while disguised as Micky Mouse. Then I chanced into the actual murder-for-hire transaction; this while disguised as a door. Neither of which was easy, I might add, and definitely not intentional.

Then while encumbered with such strange disguises, add to the argument that I'm not even any sort of trained detective. Who I am is the daughter of Mom, Rosa Bianco, and niece of Uncle Guido Barrani, the man who plotted to murder Mom.

Technically, Uncle Guido is not my uncle. He is my mother's cousin, which makes him a cousin removed from me. Since he is the same age as Mom, I always, out of respect and on penalty of maternal slap, called him Uncle Guido. Though my Mom had another cousin, Bennett, also the same age as Mom, who my brother and I simply referred to as "Ben".

In fact, it was this dearth of living relatives that caused Mom to almost be killed by her own cousin's hand. It's rare for Italian families to have so few offspring but this was indeed the case with the Barranis. Grandmother Barrani was expected to expire within a month when Uncle Guido and Ben came back into my life after a long post-childhood absence.

"I still don't like Uncle Guido," I told Mom the night we were all scheduled to meet at the hospital to visit Grandmother Barrani. "He's got bad teeth, grunts his answers and wears high-waters."

"High Waters? These are some kinda of boots?"

Mom, she had this sorta, kinda Italian accent that she likes to put on now and again.

"Pants that can be worn into high water, Ma," I began in explanation. At Mom's blank look, I gave it up. How could I explain a geek to Mom? And a creepy geek at that?

It'd been rumored since I was a tyke that Grandmother Barrani had over half a million dollars she'd be passing down to the remaining three cousins. Thus when Grandmother Barrani fell ill, I found myself having to deal with creepy Uncle Guido and cousin Ben, another odd one.

"It's supposed to be evenly divided amongst the three cousins," Maria, a genuine first cousin of mine, told me.

"I'll bet Uncle Guido will do everything he can to legally, then illegally, get his hands on the money," I blurted. Maria's response surprised me.

"That guy, he's creepy, you gotta?" Maria said, shaking her hand in a "get loose" manner and resorting to the Italian-English of our mothers. I was surprised because until then I thought it was only me that got the creeps around Uncle Guido.

In fact, Grandmother Barrani passed away five days after her admission to the hospital. Before she died, Uncle Guido worked furiously arranging to have Mom join her.

It had been established early on that the cousins and other assorted relatives and friends of Grandmother Barrani would meet in the hospital snack room after appropriate death vigils.

"You see these things," Ben said one night, pointing to a package in the snack machine.

"Which number?"

"14. You see it?"

I peered into the window. Number 14 contained a small packet of "hot fries", those cheese curls type of food shaped like french fries and allegedly hotly seasoned for further distinguishment.


"Amazing, huh? They make french fries that they can sell as snacks?"

I took a long glance at Mom's cousin Ben to ascertain if he was pulling my leg or did such a thing really fascinate the man.

"I saw tortilla chips in the grocery shaped like little spoons," he said, still amazed. "You actually can use the things to scoop up the dip."

It was a jolt, but I realized Ben was serious, not that it should have been especially surprising. Ben easily weighed an excess of 300 pounds and did seem to be always eating.

"He's an oddball," Uncle Guido whispered into my ear, causing me to jump almost a foot. A hospital janitor had been mopping the floor and the sounds of Uncle Guido's garrulous voice startled him to dump his bucket. Of course Ben then slipped on an errant soap bubble and next thing we were all in the emergency room.

Which becomes part of the reason I overheard Uncle Guido plotting to kill Mom and also explains the Micky Mouse costume. For Mom was determined to stay with Ben while I had to leave and pick up the Micky Mouse costume. I was supposed to wear the costume to Maria's daughter's birthday party. Only Mom wouldn't leave when we had planned because of Ben's accident so I arranged to go get the costume, come back and pick up Mom, then head on over to Maria's. Only Maria and her daughter show up at the hospital because of cousin Ben, at the same time I saunter in as Micky Mouse. Except for carrying his head under my arm. At the sight of little Becky I quickly put the Micky Mouse head on because I didn't want her to know it was me under the costume. I know it wasn't like Santa Claus or anything but I figured it would ruin the mystique. So I wandered around the hospital dressed as Micky Mouse which delighted Becky, who I figured would be even more surprised when the same Micky Mouse showed up at her party.

I was at the point of throttling Maria, who prolonged her stay the whole time knowing I was trapped in that horrid, hot costume. Micky Mouse or no, I needed a Coke.

While I was feeding quarters into the machine, I heard Uncle Guido growling into his cell phone.

"I got everything arranged. I hate for anything to happen to her either but that's a lot of money. Yeah, yeah, I've got the guy. It'll be painless. She's my cousin after all."

Of course, Uncle Guido's only female cousin would be my mother. And his reference to her in the phone conversation seemed ominous. There I was dressed as Micky Mouse getting a Coke but evidently he didn't know who I was. And why should he have what with my big black ears and everything? Then again his voice tended to carry and while most folks might not derive any meaning from his conversation, I, of course, understood it all.

Uncle Guido

Running into the police station dressed as Micky Mouse was a bit stupid not to mention I completely forgot I still had on the head.

Initially the desk sergeant's eyes twinkled which only infuriated me. Here Mom was about to murdered by Uncle Guido and this guy thought it a hoot.

"What's your Mom's name-Minnie?" the sergeant asked. Dawn broke over my mouse ears and I reached up and pulled them off of my head. Guy was lucky I didn't pull off his.

I was huffing and puffing by the time I blurted out my story and it's a given that the tale might have been a bit muddled. The sergeant shook his head after one last go through with the bit about the cellular phone, Micky Mouse and the Coke. He introduced me to Detective Barlow and by this time I was sweating, breathing heavily, and still dressed like Micky Mouse but with his head under my arm. Not to mention I was frantic with worry about Mom, still back at the hospital with the murderous Uncle Guido

Detective Barlow seemed nonplused about it all

"Listen, why don't you let me check into all of this?" he said, slamming his little notebook shut without what appeared to be any worry. "You get back to the hospital and act like nothing happened. Meanwhile, I'm going to try to and catch somebody in the act. It's very important that you trust me. We won't let either you or your mother out of our sight. You may not think we're around, but we will be. Nothing will happen to your mother, I promise."

It wasn't easy acting so nonchalant over the next few days. Uncle Guido seemed to be constantly on the cell phone to someone. Anytime I caught wind of suspicious conversation I would immediately call Detective Barlow. Always he was unfazed, assuring me he already knew about it. "We're on top of it," he'd say calmly, snapping his gum to my complete irritation.

It was three days after I overheard Uncle Guido's plot to murder my mother that I became an eyewitness to the actual meeting of Uncle Guido and the hit man who was hired to kill Mom. This time I was disguised as a door. Again, this was quite unintentional.

I'd stopped by Grandmother Barrani's to pick up her dentures at Mom's behest. It was no use arguing with Mom that most likely Grandmother Barrani would never need the false teeth again.

"I make her pretty when she wakes," Mom said, still hoping her mother would emerge from the coma. Poor Mom, dealing with the death of her mother and poor Mom's daughter dealing with the possible death of her mother if Uncle Guido got his way.

While admiring one of Grandmother Barrani's lovely ceramic teapots I accidentally dropped it. I rushed through the swinging doors into Grandfather's old workshop, searching for something, anything, to fix what might have been a valuable antique, I didn't know.

Sure enough there was a tube of crazy glue but the tube was old and badly crinkled. While pushing open the swinging doors with my shoulder I was squeezing on the tube, hoping the dried glue would burst its seal by the time I got to the teapot. The tube did burst open but well before I removed my shoulder and hip from the swinging door. In an astounding combination of timing and logistics, I'd somehow managed to glue my body to the swinging door.

I cursed and screamed a bit but this didn't seem to help. Pulling away hurt like the dickens and I feared I'd seriously injure an epidermis or something. Problem was, I was far from a telephone, or a window to summon help and any source of water for, I didn't know, sustenance. So far as I knew no one was expected to stop by Grandmother Barrani's house in the near future. Though I considered perhaps Mom might eventually come looking for me. Since I had no idea how long this would be and since I already had to go to the bathroom, I realized I would have to use my wits to escape.

It took some contortions but with a severe twist of my left torso I was able to reach the hinges of the door to which I was adhered. The rusty bolts of the door pulled up easily. At least I was free, albeit still stuck to a door.

I was delicately maneuvering myself around the kitchen, hoping to avoid more teapot breakage, a task made more difficult by my door encumbrance, when I heard the unmistakable growl of Uncle Guido.

"You sure this will go okay. You've made all the arrangements?" I heard Uncle Guido say to somebody as he entered Grandmother Barrani's front door.

"Everything's fine, I tell you. Get the money handed over and that'll be the end of it all. You've arranged for the money, right?"

How I managed to avoid breaking a teakettle in the middle of this dilemma I'll never know. Uncle Guido and somebody would be entering the kitchen soon and my options were limited. Either these guys catch me direct in the act of overhearing their death plotting or I find some way to hide.

Just as Uncle Guido's foot climbed the first step of the three that led to Grandmother Barrani's kitchen, I managed to hide myself in the most unlikely of places: directly in plain sight.

Of course I was glued to a door so it was a bit easier to hide my body. It was the door that was the problem here. What I did was to situate myself and attached door in a corner, diagonal to a window. Only the door faced the room; my glued body was wedged into the corner. The idea was that I would be perceived to be some sort of Japanese screen standing proudly in plain view and ostensibly to hide clutter behind. These sorts of room divider screens are generally colorful and decorative, hardly the ugly battered brown I was. I prayed Uncle Guido or his unidentified friend were no connoisseurs of home decor.

"What time you expecting him to get here?" Mr. Unknown asked Uncle Guido.

"I wonder how this got broke," I heard Uncle Guido say. I cringed in fear that he would figure out someone was still in the room.

"Soon," Uncle Guido replied. "You think we can get this over with tonight?"

Maybe it was those words. Maybe it was enduring a tense three days, praying that Detective Barlow was on the case as he professed, Maybe it was the fact that there I was, glued to a door as these two creeps discussed killing Mom. Maybe it was because I was about to sneeze anyway.

Whatever the reason, I chose to reveal myself dramatically. I figured no way Detective Barlow knew I was here stuck to a door in the company of two dangerous men. If I was to save Mom, not to mention myself, I had to act.

I spun around, the door stuck to my hip dislodging several teapots and a few potted plants. Me and the door bent down to retrieve a shard of broken teapot for defense.

"Don't either of you move," I warned through clenched teeth, eyes narrowed to effect a menacing look. I held my teapot shard high that my lethal intentions would not be misunderstood.

"Cara, goodness," Uncle Guido exclaimed. "What are you doing here and why do you have a door on your back?"

"Don't mess with me, Uncle Guido. The cops are on to you and your little scheme to murder Mom. You're not going to get away with it."

Before Uncle Guido could respond, cousin Ben came in through the kitchen entrance.

"Ben!" I screamed. "Run and get help. This guy and Uncle Guido are planning to murder Mom."

Ben regarded the scene for a few seconds. Then he did, in fact, run. Were it not for his bulk he might have gotten beyond the threshold before Mr. Unknown tackled him.

There was nothing else for me to do but scream at the top of my lungs. Ben was my only hope and he was down.

Who should come running through the door but Detective Barlow himself with a slew of cops behind him.

Only they were handcuffing and pulling Ben to his feet while Uncle Guido and the hit man remained perfectly free. Furious, I twisted my entire body in such a way as to bring the full force of my attached door directly to the heads of Uncle Guido and his accomplice. Once I began my rampage there was no stopping me. The door to which I was attached became a deadly weapon.

"Everyone's going to be fine," Detective Barlow told me and Mom in the hospital snack shop. "Guido has a nasty bump, Hokes might have a broken nose. Ben's being booked now. And you have been safely removed from the door. Young lady, you should never be allowed to possess a door again."

I wanted to smack him. All along it was Ben plotting to kill Mom. He'd approached Uncle Guido about arranging a hit. Uncle Guido told Mom and they both decided to go to the police.

"Seems Ben had a wonderful idea for making spaghetti on a stick. Only he needed money to get his little venture going. He figured the less cousins getting an inheritance the more he would get. We also discovered he had plans to get rid of Guido just as soon as they both were done with your mother," Detective Barlow told me.

Mr. Unknown was really Detective Hokes, undercover as a hit man, intending to catch Ben directly in the act of soliciting murder, up to include handing over the money . Mom had been in on it all along. She said nothing to me because she didn't even know I thought Uncle Guido was the would-be murderer. Detective Barlow had everything under control I suppose, though he forgot to factor in that I might get glued to a door and blow the whole scheme wide open with my misunderstanding.

Grandmother Barrani passed away two days later. Uncle Guido recovered from his fight with the door enough to attend the funeral. Ben wasn't released from jail and Detective Barlow told us he'd been eating the whole time.

"Everyone always pegs me as the bad guy," Uncle Guido growled the day of the funeral. He greeted me and Mom with an affectionate peck.

A few days later both cousins and a few other relatives gathered for the reading of Grandmother Barrani's will. Turns out Grandmother Barrani had a modest bank account, nowhere near the rumored half million dollars. She had only two things of any value: her extensive collection of antique teapots and the swinging doors that separated her kitchen from Grandfather's tool room. Turns out they were from the ship that brought Grandmother and Grandfather Barrani from Italy.

Some of the teapots were salvaged and the other half of the swinging doors was not yet glued to any personage.

Still, Mom was alive and safe. Uncle Guido might recover from the constant headaches, hopefully in time to give me away in my wedding to Detective Barlow. Ben's happily eating his way through jailhouse food and Maria's daughter Becky thinks I'm the greatest, either as Micky Mouse or a door.
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