by Gary Blankenship © 2000

The rain started around two a.m. By the time I left for work at 5:30, an inch had fallen and the storm drains were beginning to plug. By noon, two inches of rain had came down. The Seattle radio announcers were calling this the heaviest rain in over a hundred years. The streets had quit draining mid-morning and every low spot in the city was rapidly moving from pond to lake. I decided to leave the Agency early. The weather forecast implied no let up and I lived in an area that could quickly be cut off due to the rising water.

To get home required crossing Dogfish Creek and traveling a short distance along Quarry Lake. On the way to the creek, I had to take several detours, including a fairly long traverse around the industrial area along the Green River. The longer I was on the road, the harder it rained until there was easily twice the rain falling as earlier. Dogfish Creek was rapidly becoming a river, however I knew the lay of the land well enough to see the water was not yet so deep that I could not cross.

A serious mistake. I got all the way across when the cold water collapsed my radiator. For all practical purposes, I was stranded, but I was not just going to sit in my car and watch the water rise. Home was only a mile away and the water covering the roadway was not that deep.

Leaving my car, I hiked the mile, which seemed like three. Ordinarily, I could walk the distance in about 20 minutes. I stopped and took off my damp socks and pumps after about ten minutes, walking barefoot the rest of the way for another forty.

Home never looked so good. I lived alone on a flat home site far enough above the lake that only the Biblical floods could have risen enough to concern me. I stripped to the buff on the porch, daring the neighbors to gawk. Once inside, I started a hot jasmine bubble bath with vanilla body salts, made a pot of hazelnut coffee, rummaged until I found the double stuff Oreo’s, and settled down for an evening of bad TV, a worse book and the continued pounding of rain on the roof.

Of course after all the walking, water and a long bath, my feet were pruny to say nothing of the rest of my body and George, my special private masseuse, was away on a business trip and not due back for several days.

The rain continued at that dreadful pace for two days. Quarry Lake rose at least ten feet, cutting me off from the world with scantier provisions than I would have thought: several cans of soup, Spam and tuna, Doritos, some pocket pizzas and several Costco size bags of rice and angel hair spaghetti. The cable was out and the phone lines were acting up. Without the satellite dish George bought for Christmas (so he could watch the games when he was over) and my cell phone, I would have been very alone and miserable.

Weather damage around Puget Sound was severe. There were countless landslides involving homes and businesses and over 130 deaths before the waters finally receded. My car washed away and was completely totaled (leading to a long fight with the insurance company over whether flood damage was part of the coverage.)

George had left his jeep at my place, so once the lake finally went down, I could get around, but that took six days. On day five of the Great Flood, I received a call from a very old friend, a Ballard High classmate, I had not seen since the summer we graduated. She went to college in Virginia while I stayed home to go to the U. We both had a huge crush on the captain of the baseball team and pouted for weeks when he did not ask us to the Prom.

She was now a lawyer consulting for software firms and would be in Seattle in a few weeks to do battle with Microsoft. In the mood I was in, I couldn’t have asked for better news. I asked her what firm she was working for. She told me her client was Screensoft, a small company programming software to assist writing in screenplays. The company’s offices were only three miles from my house, so I insisted she stay with me and I would stock up on ice cream, chocolate syrup, bananas and strawberries so we could eat banana splits all night just like in high school.

Best of all, she accepted.

George came home early, which really screwed up my life. I was already missing a dozen deadlines due to the Great Flood, when lover-boy comes waltzing back, ready for a couple of days of grab and tickle as if that’s all I had to do. Being out of town through this crisis, George, who does most of his business online, had no idea how screwed up the last few days had left the lives of those who lived through the Flood. I set him straight, then packing until I could catch up. Well, not before a few hours of mussing up the sheets, followed by biscuits and gravy - for reasons I’ve never understood his favorite food.

I caught up quicker than I had planned, giving me a gigantic advantage over my competition, and George was fairly understanding that I was out of his life for a few days. No, not quite completely. He called a couple of times, emailed constantly and even tried to chat online. Of course, his daily messages of what we would be doing when this was over may have helped push me to work harder.

Finally the Agency was in good enough shape to let him back in my life, so I called him to get his sorry butt over to my place posthaste. I even emailed him for good measure. George must have broken the land speed getting there, because he was in the house before I had the biscuit mix prepared. Of course, George wanted to tussle right away, but I put my foot down. Biscuits and gravy first, then bedroom games.

After we spent about six hours in bed (No. That’s not right, we started in the kitchen. I still needed clean up the biscuits and gravy on the floor.), George was begging to go to sleep, not like him at all. Having him right where I wanted him, by the little head, I begged and cajoled him for one more go-round. We had just started when George clutched his chest and collapsed.

As odd as it sounds, George had a heart attack right in the middle of the deed and died on top of me.

Just like the movies.

The next few weeks got really weird. First, there were the paramedics and cops. I had to put up with the snickers, grins and sly remarks from ambulance drives, detectives and other establishment types. The worse was a nasty little morgue attendant who asked if I wanted George buried in the exact condition he was found.

All that was followed by the funeral, a really surreal event. In attendance were not only George’s three wives - and including me two girl friends. Yes, I found out that when I was busy or otherwise unavailable, George was catting around with some blond slut he had meet on the internet. She was nice enough that I didn’t claw her eyes out, but the wives were a piece of cake. Wife 1 and Wife 2 hated each other so much that Wife 2 left before the service was over just so she didn’t have to stay in the same room as Wife 1. She did show up at the graveside service, where she "accidentally" bumped Wife 1 and knocked her into the hole dug for George’s interment.

Wife 3 positively hated me. Although George had left her before she met me, she blamed me for the break up of her marriage. George used to say the real reason he divorced her was because she used too much black pepper in her gravy. Oddly enough, Wife 3 and Blondie took to each other like pigs to shit, setting up a date to play tennis (or more likely share the club pro.)

All that was followed by a downturn in business. I may have recovered quickly but my business associates and suppliers had not. In addition to dealing with the problems of George’s death, mostly in the guise of an assistant county DA who was convinced I murdered George and should be prosecuted, and the will (George had named me executor. The son-of-bitch is still probably laughing about that.), I had to put in long exhausting hours saving the Agency.

Complicating business were the vultures circling a not quite dead Seattle corpse. California, Texas and Massachusetts’ competition were picking off weaker companies right and left, generally without much regard for the personal problems the Great Flood created. The sick joke around town was the deluge of leveraged buyouts and takeovers occurring in the last forty days had the potential to be one hell of a second great flood. For the many that lost everything they owned, it was more a Force 5 hurricane.

And to top it off, Sally Ann, my old school chum, was still expecting to stay at my place. I almost wish I hadn’t invited her, but I went whole hog in stocking up for her visit, getting not only a full line of banana split ingredients, but several kinds of wine ranging from a very good zinfandel to Annie Green Springs; junk food galore (chips, bean dip, pork rinds) and gourmet (beluga and sushi). Whatever else we did, we were going to eat well and nary a biscuit with over-peppered gravy in sight.

Sally Ann was due to arrive late Wednesday. Monday all hell broke loose: I received an order to appear before the grand jury in the matter of George’s death. A request for an injunction because I was not handling my duties as executor correctly (this despite not having done zip yet) filed by Wife 3 and Blondie, who shared the same lawyer. A suit for back alimony from Wife 1. An offer to buy out my business for so much money I could live forever without lifting a finger ever working again. And several calls from customers reacting to a rumor that I was dumping the business for practically nothing and that they should find another dealer. You can guess who was spreading that one.

That night I dreamt I was an old Romanian woman herding pigs to markets. The damn pigs kept going every which direction and the boars kept bothering the sows. The sow in the most trouble looked like Blondie. The dumbest hog looked like a certain assistant prosecutor.

I handled my problems well. The day Sally Ann flew in I stayed home, turned off the cell phone and computer, took the phone off the hook, put on an apron, and baked Christmas cookies all day.

Just so you think I’m a total slacker, before I started baking, I called my lawyer to ask him to find a good criminal defense attorney and someone who was familiar with estates. I also told him to call the lawyers for the prospective buyers and tell them that if they continued with the rumors, they would be going to court for defamation and I would own them.

Sally Ann arrived at my place about six p.m. Wednesday evening. We hugged and giggled and jumped up and down like schoolgirls. That evening, we talked and laughed and cried about high school crushes, George, Sally Ann’s ex-husbands, careers, and damn near everything else two women could prattle about. We gossiped about old school mates, especially buck-toothed, big-nosed Jane, our very best friend since grade school and the time Jane fell in the mud hole when we were snooping around the tavern construction site. We stood and laughed about Jane being an ugly eleven-year-old sacrificed to the beer gods until she pulled us in with her.

We cried about how Jane came to her final demise, victim of a botched nose job.

We ate strawberries, sugar cookies, pork rinds and Beluga while watching our favorite "secret" movies: Valley of the Dolls, the Jessica Lang King Kong, Joe’s Volcano, Hawaii, and the Road to Bali. And, mercy Lord, we drank. We drank beer, wine, Ripple, Bloody Mary’s, shooters, champagne and Duck Farts. We drank and peed, which probably saved us from alcohol poisoning, until we passed out.

I woke with the worse headache I’ve ever had. I likely would have slept for several more hours, but Sally Ann’s hand was fondling my breast and she was mumbling something about being in love with me since seeing me in the shower in high school.

"Wha…?" Barely able to think, let alone talk, I shook off a heavy torpor. ‘What do you think you’re doing?" I said as I rolled away.

"Only what you said you wanted."

"What I said I wanted? Where did you get such a crazy idea?" I pulled up on my knees and buttoned my blouse. At least I was still almost dressed, unlike Sally Ann who was stripped to her designer underwear.

"Oh, come on, Mary, you didn’t have that much to drink. I remember everything you said and I drunk nearly as much as you did."

I felt like I had swallowed barrels, and I wasn’t in any mood to take shit off of anyone, best friend or not. "Humor me. What did I say?"

"You cried about George and how he died and told me about the law being on your ass. You bitched about the wives and some back-stabbing bitch named Blondie suing you for stealing their money. I suggested that after you sold that minor design outfit you own, you could move to New York and live pretty high off the proceeds." Sally Ann smiled a smile looking a little too much like Blondie’s. "I could introduce you to my crowd and if we moved in together, we could…"

"STOP!" (Damn, that hurt.) "Back up to before we were roommates? I told you about selling the business? Worse, I told you how much? And what do you mean minor design outfit?"

Sally Ann quit smiling. "Not exactly."

"Then exactly what did I say because it’s sure appearing like Blondie is not the only back-stabbing bitch? I know no matter how drunk I was I wouldn’t have let that slip."

Sally Ann growled back, "Hey, get off your high horse. You drunk so much you shouldn’t even be alive let alone be able to remember what you said. Jane was right when she talked me out of inviting you to one of our little parties. Prudish little twit, you would let George go down…"

"Say another word about George, and I’ll throw you off the front porch. WHAT DID I SAY?" (Oh, don’t do that, again! The pain.)

"Shouting hurts, doesn’t it. Calm down. You’re beginning to sound like a perp in the kind of bad mystery I would write. I know because part of the reason I’m in town is to negotiate the sell. Based on what you said last night, I think we can get the agency fairly cheap."

I sat down – hard – and put my head in my hands. Sally Ann’s words nearly sobered me. I looked up. She was still standing in her cerise underwear, which were rather sedate for all her talk. "Get dressed. I have no desire to look at your Victorian secrets."

Once Sally had pulled on her Oscar’s and began to button her blouse, I said, "There are some things you need to know before you leave. First, I have no desire to sell the Agency. None. I enjoy the work and being my own person.

"You probably already know this, at least you should if you’ve been in touch with your office. My lawyers have filed an injunction to put a stop to the rumors you have been floating about the sale, but you already know that. I’ll bet you have been in town for some time and are their real source." (I thought the filing a little white lie, but my lawyer had filed.)

"When you leave, I will call my lawyer and have him file charges against you with the Washington and New York Bar Associations for tampering. I suspect in the end that we will also find out that a certain twit of a prosecutor was bribed.

"I have no desire to move to New York and do anything with you and your crowd. Seattle is good enough for me. If I want your scene, Broadway is exciting and a lot less pretentious.

"I am sorry for how Jane died. In the end, she probably couldn’t take any more of your crap."

Sally Ann sputtered, "You don’t understand. Jane…"

"Shut your f-----g mouth. I don’t want to hear anymore. I’m no longer sorry that my little brother put sugar in the gas tank for your little black Nova. I feel sorry for the car, but you can go to hell.

"Don’t spit out another lie, just get out of my house."

Sally Ann picked up her luggage and left the house mumbling something about how sorry I would be for embarrassing her like I had. Thelma left Louise on the porch smiling with a whopper of a headache. End of friendship.

Despite a head the size of a Macys’s parade balloon, I spent the rest of the day and most of the next on the phone with a barrage of lawyers. The injunction had been served before Sally Ann arrived. The company trying to buy me out was found to be contempt of court. They dropped the offer to buy quickly and we settled out of court with them paying both the court and me (enough to finally buy a cherry red 57 Chevy I coveted) and my lawyer backing off the tampering charge before the Bar.

The wives’ suits are slowly winding their way through the courts. The insurance company is still dickering. The murder charge is taking precedent so I’m spending a fair amount of time with my criminal lawyer, John Irving (single and easy on the eyes).

Blondie seems to have disappeared.

I wonder if John likes biscuits and gravy with lots of black pepper?

A NOTE ABOUT ORIGINS: This story was written from a list of words originally posted in a word association game on the General Fiction page. Contributing were Sally, best known for her blueberry pie, JohnU, which he claims is for John Updike but is definitely not that Updike, Lee of whom I know nothing except he was there and should be thanked, and yours truly. Unedited paragraphs using the 30 plus words were later posted in the new Suggestion and Game pages in another game suggested by John.
When It Rains, It Pours Black Pepper © 2000 Gary Blankenship. All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce or distribute without the expressed written consent of the author. Story used here was reprinted by permission of the author, Gary Blankenship.

Summer Breeze by Steven Darbishire is available at Art.Com

*Slightly altered from the original to add a plate of biscuits and gravy

Gary Blankenship is a frequent contributor to The Hood, leaving his grimy fingerprints all over those pages. He is the author of Alpha and Omega and when not playing hood games, he crits and writes fantasy, horror and too much poetry. He will enter almost any game.
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