Blue

Linna always looked good in blue. Everybody said so. Blue was her color. So, of course, she wore a blue when she went to have her portrait taken.

She sat in front of the camera, posed with her smile, waiting for the photographer to come back. But she was thinking, “What the hell am I doing here? Is this really what I want to do today? But it’s what Robert and David want, so it must be what I want.”

Her two sons stood behind the camera and watched her as she posed in her blue suit and blue shoes.

“Had she been a good mother?” The question flittered through her mind. Of course, she had. Just look at the two of them, standing there, smiling back at her. They seemed so happy.

Robert, the older, now worked in a prestigious law firm and pulled in a great salary. He took after his father, her first husband, even walked like his father in that plodding kind of way he walked. He was walking back and forth, impatient for the photographer to return from the bathroom.

What about her younger son? He was more like her than she wanted to admit. He leaned against the wall, hands in the pockets of his jeans, and watched her watch him as she posed.

David. Son of her second husband, that sad bastard of a son of a bitch.

Three husbands down—all bastards—and here she was, posing in blue and thinking about them. Couldn’t get them off her mind. They were always with her. And they all insisted that blue was her color. Damn them!

Now here she sat in blue, a middle-aged woman with her middle-aged smile, with three ex-husbands and two grown sons, and she didn’t know what had happened to her life.

She had always worn blue, even as a baby. Guess that was because her dad wanted a boy.

Her blue strapless gown had caused such a stir at the high school prom, had caused all the boys to turn their heads her way and stare. She’d liked that.

Her first car, a mustang, it was an almost blue—a bit of a turquoise—but it drove nice. She didn’t mind that it wasn’t completely blue.

The gown at her first wedding was white. But she’d had a blue corsage. Everybody said she made such a beautiful bride. So why had she felt so shitty inside when she said her I dos that day? Though it had been a clear blue sky of a day that day of her wedding, it had rained all through their honeymoon. And she’d given up a promising career as a singer to have babies and be the perfect wife and mother Bruno wanted her to be. Course that was what her mother told her a woman did in those long ago blue days.

Five years to the date and one kid later, she woke up to the phone ringing. It was four o’clock in the morning and Bruno’s side of the bed was empty. She picked up the phone.

“It’s Bruno,” the blue phone said. “I’ve been arrested.”

In the next week, she lost everything—her blue car, her blue house, her blue life. She was on her own with a four-year old-son to feed and care for and a husband who was going away to prison for embezzlement and a whole lot more. So much that she’d forgotten all the charges. She didn’t even like thinking about the stuff the prosecutor had thrown at him. And that was not counting the things the feds had on him. The day of his sentencing was a real blue day.

After that, she moved on with her life. She started selling real estate and found that she was good at it, showing the clients around in her light blue suits.

She winked at youngest son. David smiled back. She tried to wink at Robert but she couldn’t bring herself to it. He was much too serious for winking. She tried not to play favorites, but she knew she had a favorite. It was David, son of her second husband Charlie.

Charlie may have been a bastard, but, at least, he was a lot of fun. And the sex had been great. With Bruno, it was slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am. Charlie’s lovemaking lasted all night long with lots of romance and lots of foreplay. Just thinking of him gave her goose pimples still.

She’d met Charlie when a coworker, Joan Vargas, insisted that they go to Vegas and get in a little gambling.

“Sorry,” Linna said and took a last sip of her coffee just before showing a house, “I’m just not interested. I’ve got way too many houses to show to take time off.”

“It’s been five year since you divorced Bruno and you’ve been working your ass to the bone. It’ll do you good. And the kid too. He’ll love being with his grandma. She’ll spoil him like crazy. Grandmas do that, you know.”

“But I can’t,” Linna said.

“You’ve been working like since forever. You need a break. It’s just a week off. Doug can show your houses. You still get in on the take if they sell. All work and no play…well, you know.”

She was right, of course. But Linna wasn’t sure she wanted to go off with Joan and her don’t-give-a-shit attitude. Linna wasn’t sure she was ready for the kind of time Joan would show her. If there was a good time, Joan would find it. After much coercing, she decided a trip to Gambler’s Paradise might be the thing she needed to get her out of the blue funk she’d been in lately.

She left her nine-year old with her twice-divorced mom, and off to Vegas she and Joan went. They’d only been there for one night when she met Charlie. Tall, blue-eyed Charlie with that killer of a smile of his. She should’ve known he was trouble. He was wearing a blue suit with a blue tie when she met him, throwing dice at the craps table. Three nights later she woke up in bed with Charlie and a wedding ring on her finger and a wad of hundreds in his pocket.

Charlie was a professional gambler. Lately he’d been on the winning spree to end all winning sprees. It seemed he couldn’t lose. That is, until two months later when they were dead broke and in hock up to their asses. She left Robert with her mom and followed her second husband from poker game to poker game, living in cheap motel after cheap motel, always broke and on-the-bum. It got so bad that they would’ve been living in his old beat-up Buick, except he lost that in a crap game.

One night, she found him in an alley with a knife in his gut, almost dead from loss of blood.

“I really fucked up this time, Linnie,” he said, looking up at her leaning over him. Then he closed his eyes and died.

She was six months pregnant. She went home to her mother’s I-told-you-so’s and Robert.

Lloyd came along a year later. He was Robert’s Little League coach. Though she didn’t love him, he seemed like a stable guy, a secure bet. He had a job, he was a real gentleman, and he would get her away from her mother’s constant nagging. It was a whirlwind of a courtship, three dates, and then they were married. He even wore a blue suit to the wedding at the justice of the peace.

Three days later he came home drunk and punched her in the gut. Linna grabbed her two kids and left him on the floor, vomiting from the booze. She jumped in the car he’d just bought and off she went.

She drove for three days until she came to Florida. She pulled up alongside a small motel and walked in and told the lady behind the desk that she needed a job. She had two hungry boys and no gas for the car.

Now here she sat twenty years later, waiting for the photographer to come back from the bathroom. During those twenty years, she’d scrubbed floors, sold real estate, sang back-up, even worked as a bartender at several of the Disney resorts. Her Robert was a hot shot attorney and David had just been hired on as a graphic artist. She was proud of them. Proud of the way she’d raised them. Proud of all she’d done to get here.

It was her fiftieth birthday and the boys were treating her for the day. But, first, they insisted they wanted her portrait done.

The thirty-year old blond-haired photographer came back into the room. She looked into the lens as he snapped the camera several times. Then he instructed her to change poses. As she moved from pose to pose, she wondered if blue was really her color. Maybe she should take up green.

The session ended and she noticed that he was wearing a green tie and had green eyes to go with it. He smiled a very nice smile and winked at her. It had been a while since she had been with a man. Perhaps a younger man was what she needed. And this guy had a head full of blond curls she suddenly wanted to run her fingers through. She winked back.

The boys left her behind in the studio to gather up her things. The blond approached her.

“This was a good session,” he said. “I’ll have the photographs ready for you to choose from in two days. Would you like to go out sometime?”

After thinking about his question for a minute, she leaned over and lightly brushed her lips against his. Then she whispered in his ear, “I’m not interested. Blue is my color.”

Short Story Wednesday: The Blue-Haired Boys

Short Story Prompt: “The Red-Headed League” by Arthur Conan Doyle

I sat in the apartment of Mr. Shyrlick Homes, watching the Great Detective admire himself. How did I know he was the Great Detective? He had business cards printed to prove it. As a reminder to me, he showed me his card every time I came to visit him in his boudoir.

I know the word “boudoir” applies to a woman’s private quarters. Unfortunately Homes insisted on calling his apartment his boudoir. When I objected, he said, “Tut, tut, tut. Now, D. R., one mustn’t abuse the language, you know. The word for my quarters is boudoir.”

Why did he call me D. R.? you ask. That too was a misunderstanding I had given up correcting. I have on my card “Dr. Henry Wotsun”. He mistook the Dr. for D. R.

“My dear fellow,” I would retort, “I think not. I think the OED is quite clear on the definition of the word ‘boudoir’.”

“I have taken up the matter with the Word Committee at OED. They assured me they will make the correction with the next edition. Until then, old chap, you will have to take my word for it, will you not?”

“Of course,” I answered, resigned to the absurdity.

Why did I choose to join Mr. Homes in his “boudoir”? It was a good way to while away the afternoon. I needed entertainment after a long morning of patient after patient wanting their buns tucked, their breasts syliconized, their lips botoxed. One more pouty mouth and I swear. Well, you get the photograph.

So there I was, observing Homes admire himself in the mirror for a good fifteen minutes. It was such amusement to watch him stroke his chin and make faces, then turn to his left side and give his face the eye. Then it was to the right and more eye. Finally it was a full face. He turned to me and asked, “I need your professional opinion on my appearance.” I am a plastic surgeon so I do have a certain expertise in these matters.

“Yes.” I knew that I should tred lightly in supplying an opinion on such a delicate matter as Mr. Homes’ face.

“I am thinking of having my hair dyed. What say you, old fellow?”

I was flabbergasted. “You have such a marvelous head of black hair. Why would you want to do such a villainous act?”

“I want to die my hair blue. What say you, old chap?”

“This is madness.”

“Will you do it?” he pressed.

There was no convincing my friend once he had set his mind on a thing. What choice did I have? “Yes, I will.”

Homes grabbed me and hugged me and raised me in the air, then spinning the two us. Finally his enthusiasm exhausted itself and he dropped the two of us to the floor.

“I will,” I said, “if you will share with me the reason.”

He looked at me with a deadly seriousness. “I am joining The Blue-Haired Boys.”

“The Blue-Haired Boys? No, Homes, you can’t. I won’t have it.”

“You have no choice.”

He was right. I had no choice.

“Why?” I asked. The Blue-Haired Boys were the most dangerous gang of thugs in London.

“I have been invited to join. I will have you know. And join I shall.”

“But why would you want to join that gang of thugs?” Every crime in the city of London since The Great War could one way or another be traced to the Blue-Haired Boys. That was what the newspapers said. That was what the police said.

“Now, now, now,” Homes said. “Their reputation is simply a matter of bad public relations. Which I shall rectify once I am a member in good standing.”

Finally I agreed to the dying of Homes’ beautiful hair. I gave him the full body treatment. Not one hair on his chinny-chin-chin would be another color. All the while thinking that once you’re true blue, you cannot return to your former tincture.

Several days later I visited Homes in his “boudoir”. Once again, he stood before the mirror. Once again he admired himself quite extensively.

Finally, he said to me in his cheerful way, “Well, D. R., I am off to the races. The game is indeed afoot.”

“What are you up to, Homes?” I was becoming concerned that my friend might be getting into deep water. I am speaking metaphorically here, of course. What I meant was that he might be getting in over his head.

“The Blue-Haired Boys have accepted me as one of them. I am indeed True Blue, as we say in the trade.”

“So what dastardly path are you about to set out upon?”

“I am bound and determined to show the world what nice fellows my new comrades-in-arms are. And I shall do this one alone.”

In the past, I had accompanied Mr. Shyrlick Homes on each and every investigation. I was actually the detective, solving the crimes he received credit for. I liked it that way. It kept me in the shadows in the public’s mind and gave me a certain ability to move about unchallenged. But now Homes had decided to do this one alone. His very life could be in danger. With this in mind, I followed my friend.

He walked to the waterfront and to a certain ship whose name shall be nameless. No use accusing a ship when it may very well be totally innocent. It was the Blue-Haired Boys headquarters. For many months, I suspected it. Now I had proof. Mr. Shyrlick Homes was taking his blue hair there.

I left the shadows and rushed to the nearest telephone. It was in a pub called the Rotten Smelling Egg. It was a smelly place if ever there was one.

Sergeant Roughed answered the line, “Scotland Yard at your service.”

“This is Wotsun,” I said to the Cop Shop. ” Dr. Henry Wotsun. Give me the Top Cop.”

“Wotsun, sir?”

“It is indeed.”

“And you say you want the Top Cop in the Cop Shop?” As you can see the sergeant was not the brightest bulb in the room. No wonder the Blue-Haired Boys had escaped so many times before. But not this time. I had them and I was not about to let them escape. Besides Homes might be in a bit of the way. His very life could be in danger.

“I do indeed want the Top Cop in the Cop Shop. And get on it chop-chop,” I said amazed at the slowness of the man’s brain.

“Did I hear you correctly, sir? Did you say that you were about to chop the Top Cop in the Cop Shop? That’s illegal, you know, sir. I will have to report you to my superiors.”

“Look, Pop, hop to it. Chop chop. Get the Top Cop in Cop Shop. And don’t slop, please.” My nerves were beginning to fray. What could I do to convince this dodo bird that my call was serious.

“Well, sir, if you insist,” the other end of the line said.

I looked at my watch. It said fifteen minutes till seven. Soon it would be six forty-five and the Blue-Haired Boys would be getting away.

The other end of the phone finally said, “Detective Scheister. May I help you.”

I related my story. Before you know, a battalion of London bobbies had arrived and arrested the world famous criminal, Blue Berry Pi, and his gang of Blue-Haired Boys.

And, of course, Mr. Shyrlick Homes got all the credit. But that is the way I want it. It is the way of we Incognitos.