Extreme Writing Challenge #40: “Gretchen”

It’s a miracle I’ve gotten any writing done this past week since my hands have been full with this little cutie-patootie:

SamanthaYes, she’s very squeal-worthy, but she’s also a lot of work.  A LOT of work.  Does anyone want to trade a newborn baby for an 8-week old puppy for a night?

Miraculously, I did crank out a story and I gave my blog a little bit of a makeover.  (Didja notice?  Didja didja?)  Enjoy this bit of Sunday reading!  Challenge is revealed at the end of the post…

__________

“I’m a celebrity, you know,” Gretchen tells me, running long, purple fingernails through her French poodle’s spirally fur.

“No you’re not, Gretchen,” I say as I turn my back to her. She sits on the front porch with a glass of peach-flavored iced tea. She doesn’t respond, but huffs with an air of disagreement.

Gretchen hired me six months ago to tend to her garden twice a week. A compulsive liar, she’s told every fib under the sun, plus some from another universe entirely.

“Pick off those dead leaves, dear,” Gretchen instructs, pointing at a curtain of ivy ten feet from where I’m standing. Only a moment ago, she’d told me not to bother with anything other than the tulips today.

“Yep,” Gretchen says with a stretch, “back in 1979, I was on the cover of Modern Wife magazine.”

“Why were you on the cover of Modern Wife?” I inquire, my bullshit detector picking up a signal.

“Why do you think?” she asks. “I was a model, and I portrayed a damn fine wife if I do say so myself.”

I pat the dirt, pet it light I might stroke a kitten, wondering if this story could be true. It certainly seems true, not like the others Gretchen tells that involve copulating with werewolves and singing in an a capella ensemble with Prince.

“I’ve tried to bond with Gretchen, thinking it was odd to spend 15 hours a week with a woman I hardly knew. Now, as she flicks cigarette ashes onto the flowers I treat with such care, I would rather bond with a grizzly bear.

I make my way to the ivy, plucking away leaves with browning edges like burnt paper. “Do you want my autograph?” Gretchen asks, adding, “I’ll give it to ya for five bucks.”

Gretchen does this all the time: tries to swindle money out of me by feeding me bogus stories. “Did you know I sponsor starving lemurs in Africa?” she once asked. “You can feed 50 of them for a 20 dollar donation.”

If only she knew what five bucks can do for me. If only I could pay 50 dollars to sit on my porch and bark commands at some poor woman. “But Gretchen, I already have your autograph,” I say, “on all of my checks you’ve signed.”

Gretchen purses her lips, old and weathered from a lifetime of cigarettes. “I think you might just be jealous that you’d never get featured on the cover of Good Wife magazine.”

“Isn’t it Modern Wife?” I scowl, ready to hogtie Gretchen in ivy and stamp burning cigarettes into her eyes. She will spend the whole afternoon concocting a new tale. For now, Gretchen mutters a “hmmph” at her being caught, again. Sometimes I can understand why she does it. How I would rather the world see me as a model or a lemur-saver than as a poor girl surviving on plucking dead plant leaves. But that’s the difference between Gretchen and me. I want to believe that at her age, I will have real stories to tell, true memories to share with the woman tending my garden.

Gretchen says, “My mom won the Nicaraguan lottery once…”

__________

The challenge for this story was:  Every sentence contains exactly three 3-letter words.

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