I'm linking this one to the Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge of the week, though it's rather stretching to point. The challenge was to write about a bad dad who is maybe also a good dad. I wasn't really starting out to go there, but since the dad does matter, what the heck. This is a little peek at the main character from the murder mystery I'm working on, Murder Stalks the PTA.
The Baffling Case of the Missing Socks
A Minor Domestic Mystery
“Mom! I can’t find my socks!”
There are few words more chilling to the heart of a mother on a schedule. No use ignoring him, though. I’ve known Brian almost 16 years, and he doesn’t give up.
With a sigh, I hit “save” and turned from the computer to call up the stairs, “There were a dozen pairs in your sock drawer yesterday.”
“I mean my new running socks. The ones Coach brought me from Seattle.”
I began the standard litany. “Are they in your gym bag?”
“Did you leave them in your locker?”
“No! Mom, this is important. We have a meet today in Sedro-Woolly!”
Brian runs the 1500 meter race for the Orcaville High track team. His socks bear a life-and-death importance to him on meet days. This was serious.
I stood up, preparing myself for a desperate search for the truth even as I made one last effort to avoid the crisis. “Don’t you have any others?”
“Not like these. I need the new ones for the meet!”
I hauled myself up the stairs, muttering to myself about useless males. Brian stood in the middle of his room, gym bag in one hand and book bag in the other, looking frantically about him.
I looked at my watch. We had about three minutes before we had to leave for school. I’d meant to spend those minutes finishing an article I was writing for the new “Rural Urbanites” magazine, but this took precedence.
“Finish getting ready. I’ll look.”
Brian dropped both bags and jumped. “What?”
“Hair.” I pointed. “And teeth. And shoes would probably be good.”
He clutched at his head and disappeared into the bathroom.
A few years ago I’d have wasted my time quizzing him about where he’d last seen the socks. I’m wiser now. It’s one of the mercifully few ways Brian resembles his father: Allen can’t find things either, but he’s not my problem anymore. Brian is.
I began with the sock drawer, rummaging hastily through the jumble of socks and underwear to see if Brian had really looked, or just glanced in. The new socks were neon green, which made it unlikely that even a guy could miss them. Still, it was the most reasonable place to find a pair of socks. Ninety percent of the time, when a male can’t find something, it is right where it should be, only under something else.
I made that up, but it’s true.
From the sock drawer I turned to the other drawers. Nothing. Then the desk. I was starting to feel the pressure of time slipping away, and I left an even worse mess than I’d found there, and still no socks.
Moving to the bed as the clocked ticked down to doom, I vowed Brian would clean his room that very day. Or maybe the next. He’d be late coming home from the track meet. Any time the team ran anywhere but at home, it was a major expedition for the same reason I couldn’t just run out and buy Brian new socks: tiny Pissmawallops Island is a 40-minute ferry ride from everything.
No, the honor of Orcaville hung on the keen detective abilities of JJ MacGregor, and I wasn’t going to let the team down.
I grabbed the bedcovers, yanked them back to expose the interior, and shook. Brian needed clean sheets, but he wasn’t sleeping with the new socks. A few garments fell to the floor as I shook out the covers, but not the socks.
I swept the bedding back into place as I heard the bathroom door open. It was crunch time, and I had to come through.
As Brian’s footsteps sounded in the hall, I dropped to my stomach on the hardwood floor and stuck my head under the bed.
“Mom! Have you found them? We’ve got to go!”
I jerked when he yelled, banging my head on the underside of the bed, so hard the bed moved. “Unspeakable excrescence of a cursed hunk of furniture,” I began, then stopped.
I reached out an arm, grabbed the glowing bundle that dropped from behind the bed, and back out from under before accepting Brian’s hand up.
Of course, when he saw the socks, he dropped my hand and grabbed them like a drowning man clutching a life ring. Or a lover clutching his true love. For a moment I saw red, which went well with the stars I was still seeing from cracking my head. Self-centered little beast, just like his father!
While Brian stowed the socks and gathered his belongings, I climbed more slowly to my feet.
Then he turned again. “You’re the greatest, Mom! A real Sherlock Holmes.” And not a hint of irony in his tone.
I could almost feel my deerstalker hat and Inverness Cape as I followed him down the stairs. Not so much like his dad, after all. Brian had an actual sense of gratitude, and a sense of humor. Allen had done better for Brian than he knew when he left us.
“Come on, Mom!” Brian called again. He already had the car keys and was leading the way out the door.
The last misty hints of the deerstalker faded away as I climbed into the passenger seat, and the greatest sleuth on Pissmawallops Island became once again a driver training instructor. I tightened my seat belt and crossed myself, muttered three “om manis” and followed it up with “Now I lay me.” A real sleuth can face any danger.