Mary’s boychild (fanfiction)
A Stephanie Plum short story. (Stephanie Plum novels originally written by Janet Evanovich.)
It was Christmas Eve. The wind was chasing trash along Hamilton Avenue and I was chasing the button in my jeans.
– Joe! I howled down the stairs. Make sure Bob has a poop before we leave!
– Will do, cupcake! he said. You buttoned up yet?
– I’m freakin’ working on it! I yelled back, feeling little floods of non-menopausal sweat running down my neck. Just get the dog!
I heard him pick up Bob’s leash and pooper-scooper and heard the two of them trot off from the porch. Great. Now just the button. I swear, I couldn’t be me gaining weight. I’d been working out. Twice last week, at least. Tuesday, I ran the entire way from Vinnie’s office to the donut shop and back. Connie had a hormonal emergency, and since the donut shop is pretty much just across the street, running would be faster than taking the car. And Friday I took Bob for a long walk down to Joyce Barnhardt’s front lawn to have a poop. Bob is a plus size dog with plus size poops. So this was one of them returning of favors things. Matter of fact, going home was pretty much of a run there too. So no, it definitely couldn’t be fat. Right there I froze and just screamed, while my eyeballs popped out of their sockets and fell back in. It was slightly painful.
– No! I whispered through my teeth. No. I am NOT pregnant. NOT.
Logic told me I was right. I’m a protection girl, right? And there was not that much hanky-panky going on anyways. Well, yesterday in the shower, Joe sort of walked in on me and one thing led to another. And then day before yesterday there was that cosy evening on the couch watching the ball game. It was really like watch and learn. I more appreciated the practical ball game, though. But naah, we’re nearly chaste in that sense really. But then there was Joe’s grandma Bella. When she’s not giving me the Eye and I’m in fear of dying a mysterious death she finds other ways of scaring the crap out of me. Last week she showed up with one of her casseroles, which is creepy enough already. I usually eat any food she brings over, cause I don’t think she’d harm her favorite grandson, and Joe is obviously eating whatever comes into our household. And grandma Bella makes good Italian homemade food. But this time, handing me the casserole, she was gazing at me sideways, with a grim smile, whispering “Babies, I see BABIES!”.
– Steph, you ok, cupcake? Joe yelled in the stairs, just as I finally won the furious fight against the button. I heard you screaming?
– Yeah, I’m done now, let’s go!
I wiped the sweat off my neck with a towel, borrowed a puff of Joe’s aftershave to hide my traces (cause that was at hand and none of my nicey smelley things were) and hit the stairs.
This is pretty much my life in a nutshell. I’m Stephanie Plum of Trenton, New Jersey, bounty hunter and in a constant on/off relationship with Joe Morelli, the man who used to be every girl’s wet dream when we grew up. Well, he still may be for some. Or quite a few, really. Even though he’s not as dangerous anymore, or at least not on the outside. These days he’s a very decent cop on the right side of law and order. He sometimes gives me illegal glances and smiles, which usually get me where he wants me. That’s where the dangerous part starts.
With Bob squeezed in into the back seat we took off with Joe behind the wheel. As we turned onto Hamilton and raced along with the trash tumbleweed I yelled “Wait!”.
– What now? Joe sighed.
– Rex! We need to feed Rex!
Even though my pet is of the nocturnal and not very social kind, I still have obligations. And since I had stayed over at Joe’s Rex needed to have his Christmas dinner before we went over to my parents. Once we got there, no one knew when we’d get out of there. My mom had always been an ambitious person in the kitchen, and Christmas only intensified her efforts.
– You know we’re already late, right? Joe asked me with a poorly hidden tint of impatience.
– Joe, he’s hungry, I said.
– So am I, Joe sighed, while taking a U-turn on an empty Hamilton Avenue.
In Trenton, on Christmas Eve, at this hour, you had to be a burglar or just plain rude not to be having dinner with your family, so traffic was scarce. Just as Joe caught up speed again, a very black Dodge Ram sailed up to our right. Cruising next to me, close enough for me to just stretch my arm up and out and touch him if my window would have been open, Ranger tipped his sunglasses to the tip of his nose and gave me a long, good stare. He had his usual severe look on his face, his eyes deep and black, sucking me into a universe where all the calm expressionlessness turned into heat and burn. All of a sudden he turned his eyes and wheels right and disappeared into an alley, no doubt on a mission searching for people who were not only rude. I might have seen him smile. Possibly. My tummy felt funny.
– So what was that? Morelli asked me grimly.
– What was what? I asked back.
– What is with that man? Joe said. What was that look?
– He’s just being Ranger, I said. It’s a Ranger thing.
– I’m not fully comfortable with my girlfriend having a Ranger thing, Morelli growled.
Joe and Bob idled by the curb, while I hit the stairs for my apartment. No time to wait for the elevator. When I reached the second floor, mr Landowsky peeked out of the elevator saying “Going down, sir?”.
– No, I’m fine, thanks, I said, while unlocking my door, slipping into my apartment and turning on the lights.
Rex had been having a blast. He was in his soup can sound asleep, but he had wrecked his wheel. Can’t understand how he does that, it’s not like he’s a body builder. I put his wheel back into place while telling him what a naughty hamster he was. Then I went treasure hunting the kitchen for his Christmas meal. The fridge didn’t offer much. I reckoned Rex wasn’t into beer drinking, and that was my last can anyway. He got an abundant mix of hamster nuggets, Cheerios and Cheez Doodles which I hoped he’d appreciate once he woke up. I could see his whiskers tremble. Probably he was snoring, if hamsters do. As I locked the door behind me my cell phone rang and echoed in the stairs. I rapidly picked up the phone and said “Mom, I’m on my way!”.
– But the gravy, Stephanie! What about the gravy? It will be cold. And your father is hungry, you know what he’s like when he’s hungry.
My mother was on the verge of a panic. Probably she had been consulting her kitchen counter for liquid comfort, as this was a true emergency. I tried to calm her down, jumped into the car and Morelli sped off towards the Burg.
Upon arrival I could tell my mother had been socializing with her Sherry bottle. And I was soon enough to find out a number of reasons. And there would be more.
It seemed my sister Valerie and her husband Albert Kloughn, and Valeries children, were having Christmas Eve dinner at their new apartment, in some kind of independence act on Valerie’s part.
– She said she was grateful for all the help but that she wanted to build her own traditions, my mother sobbed brokenheartedly. What’s wrong with THIS family? What’s wrong with OUR traditions? She could have told me if she wanted me to cook something else, couldn’t she?
I hugged my mom and told her all the standard lines that she expected to hear – that her food was the best in the world, and the traditions were just fine and that I totally understood the tragedy – and doing so I missed other things happening behind my back. I heard Joe suck in air and so I turned around facing my grandma Mazur holding hands with Elvis. Or something Elvisish.
– Stephanie, I’m so happy you get to meet Elmer, grandma Mazur said. He’s my new toy boy. Good thing with toy boys is they still can stand on their own, if you know what I mean.
Grandma was wearing a dazzling grin (besides that missing tooth, or two) with a pink square dance dress and high heeled silver shoes. The dress covered too little of her bony, varicose legs. And the non-existent sleeves should have covered what was left of her arms at this age. Elvis, who was marginally younger than my grandmother, stretched out his hand.
– Howdy mam, he said.
I mumbled a “Hello” while he squeezed my knuckles with all the fake rings on his fingers. His hands were both wrinkled and greasy, it might have been the same product that kept his blueish black hair up and back. At least that is what I was hoping it was. I could hear Joe snort silently behind my back, and thought that whatever happened over at my family’s house it would still be better – or at least less scary – than spending Christmas Eve with his grandma Bella.
– Is there ever going to be a dinner in this household? I could hear my father’s exhausted voice from the kitchen.
As we were seated by the table Elvis popped a button from his rhinestone shirt – it was a bit tight over the belly. The button flew over the table and landed on my father’s plate. He silently went over to the sink, threw the button in the garbage can and then rinsed and dried his plate. While my mother pretended this was an ordinary Christmas dinner and with tears in her eyes of affectedness held her short welcoming speech, my father stretched over to grab food. Doing that, he stepped on Bob, who had curled up under the table. Bob leaped up and yapped, the table performed a storm at sea number and half of the gravy ended up on my father’s chest. Silently, he took a potato, dipped it in the gravy and systematically ate it all up. My mother quietly sat down on her chair, mouth open and eyes far, far away. Grandma Mazur and Elvis were already digging into the goodies. Bob was licking my hand under the table – probably he wanted to go home.
– Steph, sweety cakes, could you please pass me the rest of the gravy? Joe said.
Half way through the meal, Bob flew out from under the table and started growling and barking at the window.
– Stephanie, did you have to bring the dog? my father asked.
– Stephanie, get him to calm down already! my mother yelled.
I went to the window and grabbed him by the collar, and as I was pulling on him, I saw a shadow of a person crawling into Mrs Markowitz ‘s living room window. Since my parents live in a semi-detached building, it was very close and I could clearly see this in the outdoor Christmas lights.
– Burglar! I yelled, running for the door, first dragging Bob with me in his collar, later flying after Bob who was galloping for the door.
We stumbled into the door, I got it open and we flew out racing towards Mrs Markowitz’s yard. When Bob hit his target there was a lot of tumbling around in the bushes beneath the window. I heard a person screaming and Bob licking and panting. My family came running over the lawn. My dad with gravy stains all over his shirt, grandma with a potato on her fork, fencing her way through the bushes in her pink dress, stumbling on her high heels.
– What on earth is going on? I heard mrs Markowitz’s voice, somewhat muffled.
– Mrs Markowitz, call the police, there was a burglar… I started.
I then realized the person being licked by a very excited Bob WAS mrs Markowitz.
– Never mind, I said, and dragged Bob out of the bush.
We learned mrs Markowitz had gone out just to rearrange an ornament and she had locked herself out. Since she knew her window was open she thought she’d give it a shot. She didn’t want to bother anyone on Christmas Eve. Joe quickly opened the door by Morelli magic and I dragged Bob back to the house, he was still jumping with joy. I let him in first through the door, to make room for everybody else to get in. We were discussing mrs Markowitz.
– Just imagine she tried to climb in through her window. At her age, my mother said.
That’s when we heard my father in the kitchen. He sounded like a male lion attacking prey. Bob came trotting as fast as he could, whining, tail tucked in under his belly, hanging his head down low.
– The damned dog ate my turkey! my father growled. He will be on the porch for the rest of the evening!
– But darling, you can have more turkey, my mother said.
– Well I don’t think so, my father replied. He had the WHOLE turkey.
– What? My mother was blinking fast now and holding one hand on the kitchen counter.
Luckily, my mother is an ambitious person in the kitchen. We would not starve. But my father was grumpy all through dinner and Bob was howling on the porch.
– Does he have to be that loud? my mother asked. What will our neighbours say?
– Should I bring him in? I asked.
– NO. my father said.
We finished our meal in silence, except for Bob. Eventually he stopped howling too.
– There. See, I told you he would settle! my father said.
Well technically he never told me that, but I didn’t challenge him. I just finished up my meal and secretly unbuttoned my jeans to set my belly free. Elvis went out to smoke a cigar, and my grandmother followed him out with a giggle. I swear I could see her pinch his butt.
They returned in an instant, grandmother Mazur waving her arms and trying to tell us something. Elvis had a seat in a comfy chair in the living room. He was just sitting there, cigar unlit in his hand pointing into nowhere, his eyes following the cigar’s lead. My grandmother uttered a few words.
– The dog. Porch. Baby.
Once again everybody ran for the door, except for Elvis who was stuck in the chair, cigar stuck in hand, unlit. My father was the first person to reach the door. He peeked out, turned around and ran for the upstairs bathroom. My mother silently went into the kitchen. I could hear something clink. I guess it was her sherry bottle. That left me, Joe and grandma Mazur on the porch studying Bob’s deed. He’d been tied to the porch, and the howling we heard was him REALLY needing to go. Obviously the turkey he gobbled did wonders with his metabolism. We could feel the smell of my father’s aftershave linger down the stairs and blend with the stench of dysfunctional canine abdomen, and we could hear my mother clinking incessantly in the kitchen. Joe and I were looking at each other.
– We’ll need a wheelbarrow, Joe said.
– Look, it’s just like a natural size baby! grandma Mazur said happily. It’s Mary’s boychild!