A Revisionist Christmas Carol
Margo watched her husband Chuck leave for work in the usual hurry. She waited inside another ten minutes to make it look good and then herded their toddler, Jonah, into the car. Minutes later, she dropped him off kicking and screaming at her gym, which also provided daycare to weary mamas at a reasonable fee.
“Another Town Hall meeting, Margo?” the sitter taking Jonah’s hand.
“Oh – no, not today,” flashing a wide smile complete with blinding white teeth, “Hair appointment. Would you look at these roots?”
Margo lowered her head for inspection as she tugged on her long artificially blonde hair. It wasn’t a lie. Not exactly. She did have a hair appointment today, just not right this second. An avid mystery reader, Margo knew that the best cover stories are based on fact.
Kid out of the picture, Margo drove to another small college town, nearly identical to her own, a short distance away.
Over the past month or so, she’d found herself more-than-a-little haunted by a line in a book she’d been reading, Bleeding Edge. The line was: A joint project, Gabriel Ice and somebody whose career depends on widespread public bereavement.
Last night, watching the latest Johnny Depp film, Transcendence, on their living room sofa, she’d had an epiphany.
“Ohhhh . . . I think I get it,” exclaimed Margo.
“Get what?” asked Chuck.
“Nothing . . . I mean just the plot . . . the whole digital to water consciousness thingy.”
Today, carefully dressed for both mischief and domestic errands, in jeans and ballet flats, she’d brought along the two notes that she’d spent a sleepless night planning.
Arriving at her destination, Margo parked in front of the local family-run hardware store. She’d been to this store before, awhile back, to pick up some screws because the massive Home Depot near her home felt arctic.
To the right of this smaller hardware store was a several stories high brick monstrosity. A decrepit mansion. Might have been Queen Anne architecture, now complete with rotting boarded up windows and a black vintage hearse in its driveway. Behind it was a water tower. Either a pulsing cold emanated from the water tower, or Margo was crazy. She preferred to think that the water tower was the one with a problem.
Walking slowly down the sidewalk, paced so as not to run into the mailman out making his rounds, Margo came upon the grey steps leading up to the house. She faked a yawn, stretched one arm out to the side and casually dropped the crumbled up paper on one of the steps. Inside, the note read: Notice – Closing Dead Water.
Quickly, but not so fast enough that she’d draw attention to herself, Margo spun around and walked off in the opposite direction.
Passing back through the hardware store’s parking lot, she noticed a van. Inside sat a woman and her two yapping dogs. By the looks of it, she wasn’t taking off anytime soon.
“Another spy?” whispered Margo, “Is she a threat?”
Deciding to chance it, she kept walking.
To the left of the hardware store stood the Ice building. The sign indicated that this establishment sold propane and was simultaneously a recycling center, but Margo wasn’t buying it.
“An obvious front,” she laughed to herself.
Pretending to inspect the hours of operation, for the benefit of the woman in the car and any other lurking watchers, she discretely dropped another crumbled note. This one read: The jig is up! Ice is gonna get iced . . .
Heart palpitating, hands shaking from the thrill of it, Margo thought: Okay, that felt good. So really . . . why should I stop there?
Ducking into a side alley off Main Street, she rummaged through her purse looking for more paper. A few scribbling strokes later and she was off on a rampage.
Trystero horns, hastily sketched, were left inside the post office and McDonald’s restroom. Vague threats were made out to the coffee shop, the artillery hold turned shady pizza shop, the university’s music department and law school, as well as the alumni association. Finishing up, she placed a nasty note at the feet of the statue of the school’s founder, declaring his reign to have come to an end.
Adventure over for the day, Margo drove back and parked outside the Virtuoso Salon, Cancer Center looming large a few streets away. Always, always around these schools, a trend she’s noticed. That and the gazebos.
Margo quickly tousled her hair, smudged her eyeliner, and put on her best flustered look, then rushed into the salon and found Wanda her colorist waiting.
“Wanda, oh my God, you would not believe the line at Whole Foods today! I thought I’d miss our appointment.”
“Eh. No worries, everyone’s running late today.”
“Thanks, you’re the best!”
Wanda nodded, “Holidays, man. I hate them. I always get Dave to go shopping and all that stuff. Can’t stand the crowds.”
“Hmmm, that’s a good idea. I mean if I could actually get Chuck to do anything but watch sports when he isn’t at work,” sighed Margo. “But these raw vegan kale chips they have, I’m just absolutely addicted to them . . . even though they sorta taste like scratchy cardboard?”
“Think we’ll ever get a Whole Foods here?”
“You’d think with the University . . .”
“You’d think lots of things,” shrugged Margo, vaguely aware of another client being led behind them towards the cash register.
Leaning down to whisper into her ear, Wanda said, “Did you see what that woman was wearing?”
“Uh uh. I missed that one.”
Wanda droned on and Margo listened to her talk about clothes as if it were serious business.