Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Before and After (05/14/09)
TITLE: Guess Who Hid in My Bushes
By Betty Castleberry
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It was a good thing I had come out to the patio for some fresh air before bed. No feline was going to destroy Wanda Harper’s garden.
My yelling didn’t cause any cats to skitter over the fence. Instead, I heard a deep male cough.
Ever since Harry passed away, I’ve been leery of living alone. Hearing a man coughing in my bushes was not good. I picked up the baseball bat I kept handy and removed my cell phone from my pocket. I calmly announced, “I’m calling the cops.”
That’s when he stepped from behind the bushes and into my motion light. He had jet-black hair and long side burns and reminded me of someone. “Hello Ma’am. Please don’t call the cops. I’m not a criminal.”
I held up the phone. “Help is a speed dial away.”
“I won’t hurt you. I run every night. Somebody saw me this time. I’m just looking for a place to hide.” His rich voice was very familiar.
“Why is it okay for me to see you?”
“No choice. You caught me.”
I squinted at him. “Who are you?”
He chuckled. “Reach back in your memory and think about teddy bears and clambakes.”
“How do I know you’re not a fake? You look about thirty. You should be an old man by now.”
He sang softly. Either it really was him, or he was a superb impersonator.
My knees went weak as I lowered myself into the swing. “This isn’t possible.”
“Maybe it is.”
“Then the rumors are true?”
I rubbed my temples. “It can’t be.”
“I’m winded. Could I hide here, or sit down just a minute?”
Tapping the bat against the cement, I replied, “I have this. Don’t try anything funny. And I’m only letting you sit down because you do look tired.”
Realizing I was wearing my hideous black glasses, I yanked them off, exposing my attractive ice blue peepers.
He sat beside me. My heart leaped like a jack rabbit, although I don’t know if I can attribute it to fear or excitement.
The handsome man coughed again and touched his throat. “I’ve got a tickle. Could I trouble you for some water?”
On the way to the kitchen, I debated calling the cops. Part of me thought they might take me away in a straight jacket, so I declined.
I returned to the patio with his water. Deciding to put him to the ultimate test, I asked, “Would you care for a peanut butter and banana sandwich?”
My cell phone rang. Mirabell, my next door neighbor, called to check on me.
Hanging up, I said, “As interesting as this is, I’d advise you to go. That was my neighbor and she is concerned that my lights are on so late. She’s on her way over here and she can’t keep a secret. I‘ll give you a rain check on the sandwich.”
He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, wiped his brow with it and tossed it to me.
“Okay. I appreciate the hospitality. Thank you. Thank you very much.”
I watched incredulously as he jogged away.
Unfortunately, I’m not a good fabricator. Mirabell took one look at my star-struck face and wormed the truth out of me. Our home town paper is hungry for a good story, so they came right over when she called.
Ever since, I’ve become a celebrity. Life was a lot simpler before the Stranger Incident, as I’ve come to call it. I used to go out and putter in my garden without stumbling over reporters from the National Enticer. Our local ABC affiliate station asked me to appear on the evening news. My phone rings constantly. Folks beg me for my autograph.
Mirabell has designated herself a tour guide, showing folks around my yard. They take pictures of my patio and sit in my swing.
Take some advice from me. The next time you hear a noise in your bushes, ignore it. Don’t be a Good Samaritan. It hasn’t all been bad, though. I’m making extra money. You’d be shocked at what people will pay on eBay for a one inch square of the handkerchief my visitor left. Just for kicks, I’m keeping a square for myself.
Now, where did I put that glass he drank from?
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