A Clever Case of Clarification
By Wayne L. Smiley
“Grab the mail, Art, and get inside,” Helen insisted. You’re still in pajamas, and the garbage pick-up is today. I’ve asked you to take the trash out several times this morning, but I’ll have to do it myself or we’ll have another battle.”
“I’m going to.”
“Yours,” he muttered, handing over two garden magazines while clutching a single envelop. “This one’s mine.... No stamp, and the handwriting looks like Molly’s. Our daughter’s up to something.”
Moments later Art, maneuvering a joystick, was hunched over his workroom computer when Helen jabbed a dust mop directly in front of him.
“Move it——can’t see the screen,” he griped waving her off.
“How can you spend all day playing those flying games?”
“Good for the reflexes,” Art answered, pumping his free fist a few times.
Helen wagged a finger. “I’m told helping a wife around the house, the few times she asks, does wonders for the muscles and the relationship. That’s if you try.”
Staring at the monitor, Art just bobbed his head without looking up.
“Was the letter from Molly?”
Away she stomped.
“Forgot about the mail,” he mumbled, hitting the pause key. Leaning back, Art tore open the envelope. Out slipped a note and a twenty-dollar bill.
“Got a heap of dirty laundry upstairs,” Helen shouted from the washroom. “Bring your night clothes down too, so I can get the wash started.”
“In a sec.”
The paper he was scowling at contained two sentences in dark font.
You’ll find these instructions no bore. Look under the printer, and there’ll be more.
“Garbage truck’s coming soon, Art.”
“Was our daughter here yesterday?” he piped up.
Helen strolled into the computer room clutching a broom. “Maybe... I was grocery shopping while you were off with your coffee buddies. Why?”
“Is she still a poetic prankster?”
“You taught Molly sleight-of-hand tricks decades ago——apparently a prelude to your retirement work philosophy,” Helen answered with a look of frustration.
The phone rang, and Helen stepped away.
Art, cupping his fingers beneath the desk printer, nudged it upwards. He smiled at the crisp ten-dollar bill and fresh instructions.
Dressed is best. In the bedroom drawer, you’ll find more.
Minutes later, Art bounced down the stairs and into the kitchen clutching the next note he’d found.
“Will miracles never cease,” spouted Helen, wheeling a vacuum cleaner toward the living room. “You’re clothed before noon.”
When the kitchen door closed, Art glanced at the typed message.
Ice is nice, but cream’s supreme.
Quietly he opened the refrigerator freezer and reached inside. Tucked in a zip-lock bag, beneath the ice cream container, were two ten’s, and another folded slip.
“Molly’s up to something,” he muttered whipping the next set of instructions behind him as Helen entered, gripping a pail of cleaning supplies.
“Porch windows need elbow grease,” she barked, sporting a sour expression. “There’s a rag in the dusting drawer if you have the energy or inclination.”
A weak acknowledgement was all Art could manage as his wife breezed toward the front door. Eagerly, he opened the creased paper.
More money is yours to complete the chores. Once it’s done, you’ll know who’s won.
“Fifty bucks so far,” he mumbled distractedly, pressing a finger to his chin. “This will buy the next flying adventure I need——the Cessna one-seventy-two acrobatic action upgrade,” he finished, grinning.
“Could someone help me with the porch window,” Helen begged from two rooms away, “before my shoulder collapses.”
“In a minute,” Art stammered, his thoughts circling like he was setting up a demanding landing approach. Let’s see... Once it’s done has to mean the garbage. Molly’s always had a trick up her sleeve at game’s end, but where would she hide the money stash without a hint this time? She’s teasing me with this last challenge.
Helen’s cry snapped Art’s thinking. “It’s getting heavy——can’t hold up the frame much longer.”
“Almost there,” he shouted wheeling the stuffed garbage container to the street, and then turning toward the house.
“Thank you,” rang out from the person in the porch rocker with their feet propped up.
Art stared at his wife from the street curb. “Thought you needed help?”
Helen patted her chest. “I’m resting.”
A moment later, Art was standing at her side. “Getting the rubbish out was worth it,” he said shrewdly, fanning the cash he was holding. “There’s more somewhere——just got to find Molly’s last clue.”
Helen gestured at the seat next to her. “Sit, if you can spare the time.”
After hesitating, Art plopped down. “Not another heavy talk,” he moaned, grimacing.
“Remember when our daughter was twelve and won those two poetry contests?” she said.
“And you swore her rhyming skills came from your mother’s side of the family.”
“We almost had a fight about it, Art.”
“Then you bragged that Molly inherited your father’s cleverness, and I decided to let things stand because it wasn’t worth us battling over. We had too many other issues at the time.”
Up shot Art’s arms like he was catching raindrops. “Where else would Molly’s talents come from?”
“I’d be embarrassed too,” Helen started, handing him a folded-up paper, “if I’d credited the wrong genes.” She gave a quick wink and rose from the chair.
“Another love note?” he asked lowering his eyes.
“A long overdue clarification, dear.”
Art’s jaw parted as he read the typed lines:
Your wallet can be heavy or light, depending if you’ve kept it in sight. Put back what you have, and you’ll have what you had, but keep your wallet in sight.
Wayne L. Smiley is a retired community college teacher. Before turning his hand to fiction, he had a few science articles published in a middle grade magazine. Currently, Mr. Smiley is working on a middle grade fantasy adventure with his eighteen-year-old granddaughter.