Torpedo Row Tree Siren


            Gerard reread the briefs indicating Fennmeister lived two garbage cans down on Torpedo Row. He knew it was shallow of him, but he didn’t want to take the chance of soiling the cuffs of his white pants or squeaky reputation. He must prove Fennmeister was living house here; he didn't deserve a welfare handout. Imagine pretending that he lived in a garbage can! Only Gerard, Welfare Beagle, could solve this one. He shook his papers flush and slipped them into the Cambridge briefcase whose admirable brass nameplate, Gerard Snipes Soames-Welfare Beagle, had been presented to him by the director.

              Torpedo Street was a shiversome sight, inducing him to open his glove box for the portable blue can of mace, presenting it to his pocket in the manner of a small firearm. Thereafter he locked his car, straightened his tie and verified that his nametag lined up with the white stripe on his left wing-tip.

              In an otherwise perfect sky, an anvil shaped cloud hovered weirdly over Torpedo street. He gathered his courage recalling how the new welfare recruit had called him a silly old dinosaur, but who had won this assignment? Gleefully, he set off, making his way on foot past a tangle of chicken-wire fencing.

              “Whatcha want mister?”

              A heavy-headed child emerged from a cluster of poison ivy,     Gerard recoiled too late from the child’s chocolate covered hand on his white lapel.

              “Get out of here, you . . . “

              “You want something mister?” Inside the wire-caged yard, a mannish woman, also grubby, looked at Gerard over Neanderthal brow ridges.

              Gerard spread the chocolate, smoothing it across his white tie. “Lovely er, ah, child you have, ma’am.” When his charming mode had no discernible effect, he tried another tack. He smiled, baring an excess of blindingly capped dentition.

              “Whatsa matta? Something stuck in your teeth?” The woman had a voice like a foghorn underwater. “You can quit making them faces, I don’t want nothing you’re selling. Best not head down thataways. You come near her house, Elvira’s dog’ll take off your leg.”

              “Really?” he said, reaching to fondle his mace.

              A crack of thunder made his straight white hair stand on end. He read next mailbox: Elvira Smockler. It was a monstrous house that could have served as the stage set of a horror movie: half-built rooms hung on the outside like warts partly covered with mismatched cedar shakes, many of which had fallen off,scattered on the ivy lawn like rectangular dandruff; shutters nailed over the windows had streaks of rust underneath each nail like drips of blood; the lower windows were shuttered, the uppers barred. Branches of a willow swayed in a nervous wind. One cracked and fall at his feet as he opened the gate.

              “Trying to scare me off, are you?” He yelled at the house, his hand still on the gate. “Don’t think you can! I’m the Welfare Beagle and I’m on your trail! You can't expect us to believe Fennmeister lives in your trash.”

              The door to the house opened. Waiting for a hideous creature to emerge, terrified Gerard Soames trembled so that he almost forgot to greet the vision who, mumbling some sort of gibberish, stepped out on to the porch.

              “Miss Smockler?” Gerard’s voice squeaked like an adolescent’s. He’d been expecting Bride of Frankenstein; he’d gotten a pin-up from a mechanics catalogue.

              “Yes, of course.” she said breaking out of her gibberish, extending a hand. “Oh, bother,” she said, in a mesmerising voice, “It’s raining. You’ll spoil your suit.” She continued mumbling under her breath in a strange language.

              Gerard looked at his precious ruined suit. “It’s nothing.” He stood on the bottom step, just beneath the flooding rain gutter, gazing at her. He’d never seen so much hair on one head.

She was enchanting. He was enchanted.

              She stopped mumbling her melodious phrases, “And you are...?”

              “Gerard Soames.” he replied, blinded by a profusion of glittering earrings. In the background to the woman’s compelling visage, a large black panther circled, then entered a huge, hollow tree; and a moment later, a man in an impeccable black suit came stepping out of the tree. Gerard couldn’t remove his eyes from the woman. She was . . . .

              “You're the one who sent the letters," she said, then "Fenn, my kitten. We have a visitor. Before you go, do say hello.” A dog's head pushed the door open, bumping into her. She wobbled forward, nearly toppling off of very high-heeled shoes, and out of her very low cut halter top.

              Gerard could move neither eyes or feet. The sleek, black garbed man walked past and agilely leaped the gate. An Irish Wolfhound the size of a large Shetland pony pushed it’s way onto the porch.

              “Oh dear,” Gerard heard Elvira say, “My puppy got out.”


              The dog opened its mouth, clenching its teeth in a grin. Gerard tripped off the porch into a puddle, and shoved his way in and out of ivy tangling his feet. One shoe sucked into the ground. The "puppy" was so close he could smell sardines on its breath. He grabbed for his emergency mace and shot himself in the face.

              “Aaa!” He fell over the closed gate, clawing at his eyes.

              “Drop that shoe puppy. Oh dear, he’s eaten your shoe. Fenn’s not living in my garbage can!” Elvira yelled, “He’s living in that hollow tree.”

              “You can’t expect me to believe that!” Gerard shouted back.

              “He did eat your shoe!” Elvira protested.

              “Ma! Look what I found!”

              Through pouring tears, Gerard saw the child holding the mace.

“Put that down!” Gerard yelled

The rest of the mace emptied into his face.

              “Aaah!” He stumbled toward his car. Both of his feet were bare now, his suit was more brown than white. Thunder roared as he opened his car door.

“Try and fool me!” he yelled.

              “Hey mister, don’t start your car. You ain’t got no tires.”

              “You must think I was born yesterday.” He snarled at the child.

              “You ain’t got no tires, mister, honest.” After wiping his runny nose, the child dropped the empty mace can in the open window. “Thanks mister. It was fun. You can come and play any time.”

              Get lost kid.” Gerard said, his pants squishing as he shifted. He couldn’t wait to get home and think of what to do salvage his reputation and his suit. What about his shoes? He raced his engine, the child watching, delighted.

              “Beat it!” The Bonneville shuddered. “Why isn't my car moving?”

              “Hey mister, you’re a card!” The child laughed,

              Gerard climbed out and saw his car on concrete blocks. He wanted to cry, but instead walked to one of his shoes and then inexplicably on to Elvira’s house. She was on her porch waiting with what was left of his other shoe.

              “I knew you’d be back,” she said, hooking him with long eyes holding dark mysteries and sweeter covenant. “I've never seen anyone so in need of a little magic. Come, my pet, my dear little bird man, or is it beagle?” As she held out the remains of his sole, he could feel something new spiraling from his belly, filling his heart, his head.