Here’s another Belinda Blue Brown episode draft. What do you think?
By Laura McHale Holland
As if I didn’t have enough to sort out, what with Velda Sue supposedly askin’ for me and me not bein’ sure if I should call her because we’ve got this complicated history, and then I find out that my Bernie’s been at it again, you know, befriendin’ odd characters, folks who aren’t anywhere near the norm. This time it’s Dunderhead. We’ve all been callin’ him that since grammar school, so nobody remembers his real name. Well, actually, that’s not true. Like I said, sometimes I lie, even to myself. His name is Dave Dunderfield, and we just started callin’ him Dunderhead way back when we were small, and maybe that’s not so nice. I mean, I don’t—and this is the truth—I don’t know how it got started. I just know that’s what we’ve been callin’ him ever since forever, and I just pray to the gods that be that I’m not the one who thought that up because, golly gee whiz, I don’t like to think of myself as someone who would do something like that. But like they say, kids can be mean, and maybe I was too. Heck, right now I might be mean as a hornets’ nest and maybe nobody wants to tell me that to my face. I sure hope not.
Now, as far as Bernie makin’ friends with Dunderhead goes, I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut and not say somethin’ stupid I’ll regret later even though Dunderhead is undoubtedly not workin’ with a full deck. I mean he can’t look anybody in the eyes more than a second or so, and he’s hard to understand, too, because he hoots and snarls between his words, not that I’m some sort of social marvel, but I can at least carry on a conversation without lookin’ cross-eyed and makin’ everybody within earshot start fidgeting and tryin’ to figure out how to get out of the room. But my Bernie, he didn’t have anyone to hang with after his mail route anymore since Jake the Wolfman’s demise. Oh, it still makes me sad to think of Jake gettin’ eaten up by his very own wolf-dogs, and I know it makes Bernie sad, too, and a little scared because we own four wolf dogs ourselves now, and we sure don’t want them jumpin’ on us, or on our little niece Pansy when she comes to visit, either. But then Bernie saw Dunderhead in town one day, and Bernie, being the amiable guy that he is, asked Dunderhead how he was, and Dunderhead said he was in a bad way because his daughter had gone off and left him with his grandbaby to care for. Dunderhead said he didn’t think his daughter had left of her own free will either, and he said he thought it was the same with our own Glory. Well, Bernie was fit to be tied because we never talk to anybody except ourselves about Glory’s disappearance, and Dunderhead knew things about Glory, like the note she left, that only the family would know. And so Bernie and Dunderhead got to talkin’
Now Dunderhead is one of those conspiracy theory nuts, too—it seems every flood, every bombing, every killing, every spill is a government plot in his book. Plus he’s always said he can see things happening when he’s not anywhere near. He gets little glimpses of scenes, and frankly, that creeped all of us out when we were younger, you know, having our very own cross-eyed, barking, psychic quack right here in North Bend, but Bernie got drawn in a few months ago now, and he started going over to Dunderhead’s home in the woods just outside of town. Now, his home started out as a cabin long ago, way back when going back to the land was more of a thing with young people, baby boomers, you know, and so Dunderhead and his wife, Clara, a real pretty gal who drowned in a river one day tryin’ to save a hound of theirs that had gotten swept away in a strong current, and that was a sad one for sure, because Dunderhead had to raise their four kids up himself. They were rangin’ at the time from about six years old to sixteen. Now, it’s the one who was six at the time who just up and left after she’d had a baby boy, just a few months into it, just like our Glory. Dunderhead says this is way too much of a coincidence. He thinks it’s some kind of plot he doesn’t quite understand, but he had a dream of a time-share condominium place way down on the Gulf Coast somewhere, you know, where they have all those hurricanes and such, and he looked online and found just the place he’d seen in his dream, and it was practically right on the beach. You could see the waves lap the shore from the window, and there was an opening for the top unit on the fourth-floor. Now, a strange thing about this building is that it looks like it was carted off from some place in Europe. It’s made out of some weather beaten stone and has one of those steep, slanted roofs. It’s so tall and narrow it makes me dizzy just to picture it in my mind, and its long windows have shutters, each one a different color, so it’s a strange mix of ancient and modern, and it has flowers on each windowsill, too, and a wrought iron gate with a flickering neon sign that says Welcome, and it seemed just not to belong on the beach in the Gulf Coast. But Dunderhead convinced Bernie we should go in on this time share. He was sure there’d be clues about our missing girls, and I said then and there that was a bunch of hooey, but you know what a pushover I am when Bernie turns on the charm, even after all these years together, and so we, and I’m still havin’ a hard time believing it, we bought a share in this place on the beach in the middle of nowhere, even though people are sayin’ time shares are a thing of the past. I guess me and Bernie and Dunderhead are a thing of the past, too, much as I hate to admit it.
Anyway, after a while I did warm to the idea of spendin’ time there when it’s not otherwise occupied, just not during hurricane season because, well, that would be foolhardy, now wouldn’t it. So we took our first trip there just last week, and, oh, we had a time. Even passed through New Orleans and stopped in the French Quarter and had beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde. Think of that, us folks from North Bend doin’ somethin’ like that. I wanted to visit the graveyards where everybody’s in a crypt above ground, too, but Bernie and Dunderhead squelched that idea real fast. Dunderhead said there were too many voices cryin’ out for help in a place like that and he wouldn’t be able to think clearly if we got too close, so we had to skedaddle. I didn’t mention how it’s kind of questionable whether he ever really thinks clearly anyway.
When we got to the condo, it was all postcard quiet and peaceful. We had the entire beach as far as the eye could see to ourselves, except for one other resident who came and went, a guy who had a gold tooth right in front. Who has gold teeth these days, anyway? Dunderhead said that man was up to something no good. Bernie, of course, didnt’ believe that, and he got to talkin’ with the man and found out he was there year round unless there was an evacuation on account of hurricanes or oil spills or somethin’, but after a while the cold look in the guy’s eyes even gave Bernie the creeps. Dunderhead said it wasn’t safe to stay around him. So Bernie didn’t talk to him after that, and we all just sort of nodded if we were comin’ or goin’ in the lobby at the same time as that man was. Mostly he didn’t make any noise, except every now and then we thought we heard footsteps and murmurs in the unit below us. Other than that, our stay was uneventful, and before we knew it our week had whizzed by, and we were all packed up, car loaded and ready to go home. Gold Tooth pulled in just as we were about to drive off. The side door to the van was open, and there were ropes in there, and I got a vision of our Glory all tied up, and I wondered why I would picture somethin’ like that. And then I got real worried that Dunderhead’s weird vision stuff was rubbin’ off on me, so I closed my eyes and shook my head and tried to will that disturbing vision away.
And now, back at home I keep havin’ visions, things I’d never before pictured, like someone sneakin’ into Jake the Wolfman’s spread, climbin’ into the enclosure where his wolf dogs were sleepin’, and feedin’ them critters somethin’ that drove ‘em crazy enough to attack poor Jake when he came out to feed ‘em in the mornin’. Now, that’s even scarier to me than the notion of the dogs turnin’ on him for no reason at all, because that’s somethin’ that happens every now and again, but someone messin’ with the dogs so they’d go crazy on Jack? That’s downright twisted. And I picture Glory sometimes too in a room with other young women, all of ‘em tied up in ropes just like that man had in his van, and that’s makin’ it hard for me to sleep at night. I haven’t told Bernie. I don’t want to worry him. I did finally tell him about bringin’ our wolf dogs inside to spend the days with me, and I suppose I’ll have to tell him about these strange visions. I thought maybe I should go see my HMO doctor, too, you know, because maybe there’s a pill I can take to make this stop, but then I thought about side effects. I don’t want to spend my days sittin’ in a chair, lookin’ out a window and droolin’ if it comes to that. I mean, what kind of life would that be? So I decided against spillin’ out all this stuff about visions to a doctor. My Bernie. He does have a way of pullin’ me places I never thought I’d go, you know, bringin’ out things in me I sure never thought were there. I think I’m goin’ to have to pay a visit to Dunderhead myself and see if he’s been havin’ these visions too and ask him what they could possibly mean. And then once I can get a good night’s sleep again, maybe I’ll be able to pick up the phone and call Velda Sue. I sure could use a friend right about now.
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