Wilhelmina Winters, Fifty-Two

(One full year of Wil! Click here for the very first one.)

The dame sat stiffly on the old couch, holding onto her man’s hand like a woman holds onto her man’s hand. They looked expectant, wary. Inspector Winters nodded to them, curtly. She hoped the gesture would get them talking. She needed them to talk, or she’d never get anywhere in the case of Yesterday’s Letter.
Her informants did not relax. Or talk. The clock ticked forward. Winters would have to break the ice, or they’d be frozen up like last week’s informant: permanently. She shuddered a bit at the memory.

But, that was all that was left of the Legend of Wilhelmina: a memory. Some folks liked to think they knew the true story, regardless. You’d think a person would know what could happen or not after living, but many seemed to believe the longest yarns a body ever told no matter how old they were. It didn’t take much for a new person to come through with some new-fangled doodad, telling some heap of story about something or other -and you’d have every body in town talking about it by sundown.
Never you mind the circumstances. It didn’t even matter if the person was a flaming green dragon. If he talked real smooth and pretty, they’d lap up the lies like Farmer Brown’s poor thirsty dog on a hot Tuesday.

This was not a Tuesday. To be precise, there were no longer days measured by irrelevant identifiers like names. If the current intelligent species had persisted in archaic traditions, the day would be Friday. Once the Governing Council of Stars had reasonably determined more accurate methods of counting time, proving the system to be based on unfair emphasis on only one ancient group of peoples, further proving to be based on ancient supernatural beliefs, the current method of a ten time cycle was enacted. This we know.
These facts were known to Family Unit W1NT3R as well, and yet they still felt tired at some times during Waking and felt awake at some times during Sleeping. As precise as travel, time, and other measurements were, their bodies were still organic and subject to faulty behaviors. Perhaps the beeping machine was the better species. Of course, it needed to be built and maintained by intelligent creatures. They were not obsolete yet.

Soon, Cynthia would be obsolete. The long, twisting plastic coil ran down the couch until it stabbed into the flesh of her left hand. Its contents ran smoothly, inexorably, into her unresisting blood stream. It healed for now, but some day it would be useless. Everyone had his end.

Wil gulped and hoped this was not the end. She had long wanted to be entrusted with the Scroll of Truth-telling. With it, she could complete her level of training and move on to working directly under Grandwizard Grinzdle. With it, she, too, would know the secrets of the land, and join her parents at Couch City.
Together, they would bring peace, happiness, and light to the world. Unified and powerful, they would fight this battle to its end. Secrets would be banished. Fear would have no place. Truth and love would triumph.

“Wil,” Rob said. “I have a letter I need to show you.”

In the hand that was not holding his wife, he held a small paper rectangle. It was the envelope he had taken so quickly to his room the day before, the one Wil had entered his room to search for.

She could see that it had been forwarded by the post office, that it had been written on with cursive, and that it bent a bit over her father’s grip. After she moved closer, Wil also saw that it was addressed to her.

Rob lifted his hand, holding the letter out to her.

 

Continued from Fifty-One.
Keep reading to Fifty-Three.

Literary Prescription

“I need a new book to read,” a friend asks. “Do you have any to recommend?”

I have to steady myself against a wall; tell my thudding heart to slow. Almost euphoric, I compose myself. It simply wouldn’t do for a bibliophile of my standing to be caught drooling.

I straighten my posture and eyeglasses, immediately donning my physician’s overcoat. My pipe rests gently against my lip, held in my right hand. The left, of course, finds a casual perch halfway in a front pocket.

“What have you read lately?” I query.

The friend’s response is crucial. “Oh, I just finished up This Popular Novel,” she may say, telling me of an interest in mainstream, feel-good stories. Or maybe she admits to perusing dystopia, sampling science fiction, catching a guilty whiff of fantasy, or snitching a teen romance before dinner.

Without prompt, the information is almost always followed by, “I liked these details or this character, but am looking more for less violence or more of that world.”

I liked, but… is the imperative response to furthering my prognosis.

“Ah, yes,” I muse, pondering; filling the conversational space as my eyes wander a few titles. “Would you like another of that same genre?”

Yes or no will sort my mind to a flow-chart diagram of question, response, action. Yes leads to more of that section; then Same author?, Want another female lead?, or What about this one?

No, of course, follows an arrow to What other type would you like, then?

I’ve been out of practice for a tad longer than I’ve wished, life circumstances being what they are. I try not to allow this lapse to show, however. Professionalism is paramount; poise essential.

I clear my throat, nestling the unlit pipe in the right pocket. Striding excitedly to a shelf, I begin extracting pharmaceutical samples.

My patient listens, keenly, fully prepared to ignore my advice once within access of internet searches. For now, she watches my sorting hands move through the pile of books. She is judging appearances as I detail contents.

My calm demeanor is more difficult to maintain. I had thought my raised pressure, sweating palms, and nervous movements to be results of an overexcited reaction to a question. Instead, I realize I’ve dipped into the medicine cabinet a few times more than was healthy. I’ve become attached.

“I think you’d really like reading this one,” I say, feeling the shaky stress of a salesman’s position as I proffer a favorite.

A shrug; a, “Meh.”

I hock a few more titles. Strangely, I begin to view the rectangle-bound writings as closer friends than the human patient before me. In judging and dismissing these fragments of my soul, she has become an unwanted interloper at our private family party.

If she snubs another book, I may have to show her the door.

“I think I’ll go with your first one, here,” she finally says, drawing out the prettiest cover.

“Excellent,” I say, nodding. I gather my smock more snugly round the buttons; find the pipe with my right, and the pocket with my left. I attempt a businesslike smile.

“Thank you, Chelsea,” she smiles, holding a hand out to hug.

“Of course,” I respond, embracing. “Let me know how you like it.”

My friend departs, smiling. I close the shop door; its bell tinkles. Alone with my books, I collapse into a handy overstuffed armchair.

I pull an illicit title from a nearby shelf, immediately recalling its pleasurable side effects. I’d love to share it with another.

As I pass through the first chapter, I eagerly anticipate my next patient.