There is nothing like a cool, refreshing day at the beach to set your mind off all the troubles of the week. And there have been many troubles. For starters, there was the incident with the kite and Eleanor Fairfax. Eleanor is one of those tall, energetic women who finds that the only way to make her mark in the world is to beat everyone at anything. She’s got the most aggressive attitude of anyone I’ve ever met. Put her in a cage with a lion and the king of the jungle would be crying in the corner for his mother—and Eleanor would rein tyrannically.
How the kite incident began was this: it began with an urgent disclaimer on my part, informing her that anything to do with kites, hurricanes and strategically placed balls of yarn was something that would surely end as it begun—with a lot of hot air and a whole lot of trouble.
“Don’t do it,” I urged her. But she didn’t listen. No one ever does.
It was Bobbie Faydune who started the whole thing. Bobbie was a short, fat, little lady who spent all of her time skipping school and stealing candy bars from supermarkets. She was once the prom queen for her senior year at high school, but thanks to her failing math scores, she lost that title the next year—and the next year. Bobbie Faydune was not only the oldest student at Zoic High, but the oldest person at school, including the faculty. She was at least 11 years older than anyone else.
Bobbie was notorious for making people mad. It was her pastime, besides stealing candy bars. And when she saw that Eleanor was interested in the same man she was, Bobbie came up with the worst, most dangerous dare anyone has ever come up with in order to level the playing field.
“You must tie yourself to a large kite with nothing but yarn and wait for the hurricane to come and swoop you off the roof of the tallest hotel—the only thing keeping you safe being a long strand of yarn tied to one of your wrists anchored into the sandy shore.” And she bit into her candy bar, smearing chocolate all over her face.
I was with Eleanor at the time and I could see how Bobbie was able to work this into the poor woman. Eleanor could not refuse.
“I can’t refuse, Chip!” she said.
“But you must, Eli!” I pleaded.
She shook her head.
“What do you say?” Bobbie asked. She had finished her candy bar and looked very disappointed.
What could Eleanor have said? She could have said no!
But some hour or two later, there she was at the top of Bumper Heights, the tallest hotel at Ocean Front. She stood there, her arms splayed out tacked to the kite. Her wrist was tied to a piece of yarn that had been anchored at the shore.
“How’d you anchor that?” I asked Bobbie, who had somehow stolen herself another candy bar.
“I dug a hole and dropped the ball of yarn in it,” she said as defensively as you can get about yarn.
I looked out at the sea. Out in the distance, dark, ominous clouds were gathering. The sea was choppy and dangerous looking. The sane had packed there things and were hauling off the beach as the winds picked up, sending water and sand upwards. The insane stayed in the water and waited for the waves to pick up.
“You know why I’m doing this?” Eleanor asked me.
“To prove you’re the best?”
“Yes, but not to myself.”
“Well, who you proving it to? Can’t be me. I already know you’re the best at anything.”
“To him,” she said and nodded her head in the direction of a tiny speck out at sea that could have been a surfer or could have been a piece of driftwood.
“That piece of driftwood?”
“No. To Hank Halley-Bellbottoms.”
“Yes, his family are the Halley-Bellbottoms of Zoic, founders of Flounder’s Fish Farm.”
I nodded my head in wonder. Flounder’s Fish Farm was the name of a fish farm that had recently floundered. It had succumbed to the cities minor economic setback due to the misplacement of the Key to the City, a story that is altogether too long and difficult to explain here. Safe to say, there were huge economic implications, which meant that families like the Halley-Bellbottoms and all the Halley-Bellbottoms like it, were no longer part of the upper-elite, but instead spent their new allotted, impoverished time stealing from grocery stores or laying on pieces of driftwood in the center of the sea during thunderstorms.
“Isn’t he a dream?” Eleanor asked me.
I could think of a few other words to describe him, but before I could get a word in, the wind picked up knocking me onto my back; Bobbie face-first into the ground, her face into the candy bar; and Eleanor was taken up into the air. She vanished into the clouds. She was gone. Eleanor was gone.
I half expected her to come back down again. But she didn’t. Days passed and there was nothing. I felt guilty. I had tried to warn her. I had told her nothing good would come of it. But she didn’t listen. When I left the top of Bumper Heights that day I left Bobbie there, laughing up a storm almost as sinister as the storm that had gathered around us. And when I saw Bobbie again at the beach, she was still laughing. I always knew there was something off about her, but I never expected her to be a sadist.
So while I was trying to enjoy the wonderful weather after the tragic storm, there was Bobbie, standing over me casting a shadow the size of the pyramids. Sunbathing was out of the question for me.
“That’s how people die from the sun, you know,” she laughed, biting into a large candy bar. Her round face was smeared in chocolate while the rest of her large form was smeared in suntan lotion. She glistened like a newly beached oilrig.
“What?” I asked.
“Did you see the news?" she said, biting into her candy again. “It’s all over.”
“I did see the news,” I said. “It’s unfortunate.”
“I’d say it wasn’t.”
What Bobbie was talking about was the news about Eleanor Fairfax’s disappearance. It was all over the place. It even made the front page of the paper, right next to the nuptials of Prince Bumper and Winifred B. Baines.
“Isn’t it wonderful? She always thought she was the best at everything, but she isn’t. You see, I won.”
“Yes,” Bobbie said. And she turned and pointed at a tall, blond, muscular man walking towards us. He had what looked like a piece of driftwood under his arm and he walked with the surety of someone who suddenly realized that the piece of driftwood they were carrying didn’t have all the nails pried out of it. He hobbled over to us. “Meet my new boyfriend,” she said.
The man extended his hand towards me. I leaned on one elbow and shook it.
“Names Hank Halley-Bellbottoms,” he said.
And my eyes bugged-out of my head.
“So that’s the game you were playing!” I said to Bobbie between clenched teeth.
Halley-Bellbottoms laughed a long, high-pitched laugh. “Nah, man! I’m surfing.”
It appeared his IQ had also taken a significant hit with the stock market.
“Tragic what happened to Eleanor, isn’t it?” I asked him.
“Oh, yeah. Terrible. Totally terrible. Too sad. I liked the girl. I was telling that to Bobbie before this happened here, before we… you know, became a thing… I told her… I told Bobbie… you know, my thing. What was I saying…? Oh, right. I said I liked that chick. What was her name…? Yeah, Eleanora.”
“He’s so handsome, isn’t he?” Bobbie asked me.
“Um…” I said.
“And she’s so pretty, ain’t she?”
“Well…” I began and before I could answer, Bobbie and the piece of driftwood drifted away from me, leaving me at peace with the sea and the sun, which now shone bright on me. But just as soon as the sun was there, it was gone.
I looked up to see if clouds were blocking the light. There were no clouds. Just a small spec that eclipsed the sun. I looked up at the blur as it grew and grew into definition. I was enamored by its ability to grow into shape and form. It became blue, then green, then circular, then square, and then it was the shape of a woman who looked like she got too much sun. I watched as the woman above came swiftly down to earth. A piece of frayed yarn fell onto my lap, distracting me for a moment. Then I looked up and she was on me. With a thud I was crushed by a very competitive woman, a kite and ball of yarn.
“Oooouuuufff!” I went.
“Oooouuuufff!” she went.
Eleanor Fairfax picked herself up, dusted herself off and smiled brightly at me. I rolled off the ground and righted myself.
“Thanks for the soft landing, bub,” she said. “What an adventure. I was hoping I’d fly back to the beach and land with a flourish in front of Hank Halley—” and she was cut off in mid-sentence by the horrible sight.
I followed Eleanor’s gaze. It was Hank Halley-Bellbottoms kissing Bobbie Faydune.”
“What!” Eleanor exasperated! “I lost! How did this happen, Chip! Tell me!”
“I did tell you.”
“What’d you tell me?”
“I said this whole things was a bad idea.”
“You did no such thing.”
“I did too. You just weren’t listening.”
“Well, what did you say?”
“Thanks for listening.”