by Johnny Giesbrecht
Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht
Johnny Giesbrecht is the writer of seven adventure novels, as well as 13 thrillers under the Johnny Carlton byline. All are available as e-books at www.amazon.com
[This week I thought I’d advertise one of my Giesbrecht books by posting a free chapter. The book is MIXED NUTS, and is available as an e-book from Amazon. The book contains four humorous short stories and one daffy novelette titled, THE HINKELDICKERS. The following posting is Chapter One of that. Each of the fifteen chapters can also stand alone as a story in itself.]
Chapter One — Farewell Party
WHEN MY AUNT GWEN married Frank Hinkeldicker many years ago, she did a good thing in that she prevented other women from marrying him. No one else would have been able to live with him without becoming unhinged. But Aunt Gwen loves him in spite of his talent for constantly getting himself and everyone within a ten-mile radius into trouble; in fact, I think she considers him to be somewhat of a hero.
On the surface they seem typical and entirely normal for a retired couple from small-city western Canada (they’re from Calgary), in manners as well as in appearance, although they’re both quite short. Uncle Frank has a pot belly and wears rimless glasses topped by an old canvas fishing hat with a floppy brim, and he has his hair cut so short you’d think he had recently faced a close-range shotgun blast. Aunt Gwen is one of those sticklike ladies that the wind can’t blow away because there’s not enough there to get a grip on. She wears pink pant suits, klutzy sandals, and sometimes–if you’re up to the awful vision–shorts. Her legs look like bamboo stalks with enlarged joints.
Uncle Frank used to work as a warehouseman in a glassworks factory, and they retired him a bit early on an extra large pension in order to save the company.
One day not long ago Uncle Frank asked Aunt Gwen, “What do you say we make a trip through all of Canada?”
“Fine,” said Aunt Gwen, “just so long as we’re back for my Tupperwear party on Monday.”
So they bought themselves a big motorhome and prepared for the trip. I thought the least I could do was give them a send-off party, even though I was busy with my work of managing the Blackfluid Chemical Plant while at the same time running in a by-election for the office of commissioner of water and sanitation. Realizing I was much in need of positive publicity, I asked a reporter from the Herald to come over and cover the party.
I had my maid prepare a dinner of fried oysters because that’s Uncle Frank’s favorite. We had collected a couple dozen friends and relatives, and soon all were seated around the big table enjoying the meal. Probably most of us were partly relieved at the idea that Uncle Frank and Aunt Gwen were leaving (although we love them), but we were also somewhat concerned that they might, in their travels, somehow destabilize the world on its axis or cause some other cosmos-shaking calamity.
The convivial tranquility of the evening ended abruptly when Uncle Frank’s calm voice came through clearly under the pleasant drone of conversation: “I found a pearl.” He put something down on the table and kept eating. He seldom gets worked up about anything. First there was a hush, then came excited questions with everyone wanting to see the pearl; so Uncle Frank handed it to the lady sitting next to him and she passed it on to me. My own inspection made me decide that it might actually be a pearl, although an immature one and lopsided at that. I hoped the reporter from the Herald would soon arrive, for the discovery of a pearl in my home sounded like worthwhile publicity.
Aunt Gwen was the last to get a good look at the thing after it had traveled all the way around the table, and she immediately let it slip and dropped it on the floor. She ducked down but couldn’t find it. We all considered this to be a major disaster, so soon everyone was down on their hands and knees looking for the pearl, or whatever it was. There was always a chance it had rolled or bounced away from the table, so we fanned out across the floor, crawling this way and that like a bunch of dizzy ants or cockroaches. The reporter arrived and took pictures. I could already see the obvious caption: Farewell Party at the Giesbrecht Residence.
I began to protest but was cut off by Aunt Gwen yelling, “Get me out of here!” In searching for the pearl she had removed a wall grating near the floor and got her head stuck in the air vent. I tried to rescue her. Crouching between her knobby knees I got a good grip on her and began to pull–gently. The reporter took a picture of that too, and another caption flashed through my mind: Giesbrecht and his Aunt at Party. Aunt Gwen must have been holding her head the wrong way; I couldn’t get her free.
In the meantime Uncle Frank, who can seldom be outdone, got his head stuck in the bottom rungs of my antique rocking chair. We couldn’t get him free either, but then one of the guests–a neighbor who lives two doors down the street and works on furniture in his shop–said that if he could get Frank and the chair down into his basement he could get the chair off by steaming it. I have double doors leading out onto the street, but we weren’t quite sure we could get Uncle Frank and the chair down the stairs into the basement of the other house. Anyhow, it was worth a try.
To spare my uncle the embarrassment of walking down the street with a rocking chair over his head, we threw a big woolen blanket over him and the chair once we had him standing on his feet. He looked like a melted-down King Kong. The reporter started to laugh and took more pictures. I lost my temper then, and the reporter and I had a few words and everyone stood around watching us. By the time I had banished the newsman from the house, Uncle Frank was missing. Apparently he had decided that he could make it to the neighbor’s basement on his own. It was like him. But when we checked out the basement he wasn’t there. By now it was dark, so I quickly organized everyone into a search party.
We fanned out in all directions, calling his name. This had been going on for some hours when I finally came to my senses and decided to start back toward the house and call the police emergency number. I was by myself at this time, about two and a half blocks from home and near the Calgary Zoo. I became aware of a helicopter with a spotlight approaching. It soon circled directly over Dinosaur Park where replicas of prehistoric monsters, who actually used to roam the area, stand brooding in a landscape of weird rock formations. Lately someone had discovered oil seeping up, and there were speculations of possible discoveries of fossilized dinosaur bones, since some of the monsters might have been trapped in oil or tar pits millions of years ago. Was it possible that someone could still get trapped at the present time? Fearing the worst, I changed my mind about the call and ran toward the park. Large crowds had gathered and police officers were roping off an area. A voice was booming over a PA system but I couldn’t make out the words.
Coming to a panting stop in front of one of the officers, I asked him what was happening.
“Oh, it’s just a big panic for nothing,” said the young cop. “There’s been excavation going on where the oil seepage was found, and some large bones have been discovered. Now, only a while ago–get this–a passer-by reported seeing a big dark shape stirring in the hole. So all these idiots–” (he swung a hand toward the crowds) “–have got the stupid idea that there’s a live prehistoric monster emerging from the pit. A couple of professors from the university are taking turns speaking over the PA system, trying to tell everyone there’s nothing in the pit but dead bones, but you know how ridiculous people can be.”
Even as he was speaking, a hush fell over the crowd–for a brief moment. This was quickly replaced by widespread screaming. I glanced past the officer toward the pit and came close to screaming myself. The helicopter spotlight revealed a dark form slowly rising out of the slime of the excavation. Struggling against the muck, it relentlessly worked its way up to level ground. It was shapeless, black with tar and oil, as big as an oversized bear, and looked a bit top heavy. The crowd was beginning to stampede now, running for their lives. I would have done so too if I hadn’t been sure it was Uncle Frank.
So I ran forward through a barricade of plastic ribbon and police officers–who weren’t paying any attention to me–and arrived at the side of the black thing. “Uncle Frank,” I said, “is that you?”
“No,” said his calm voice from under the oil-soaked blanket, “I’m a bottle of cod-liver oil that sprung a leak. Is this being filmed?” He should have said taped, but, of course, he’s old enough to say filmed.
“I doubt it,” I said, looking back over my shoulder. “Everyone’s running away, except for the police officers. Here, let me get this blanket off; hang on to the chair so your neck doesn’t get hurt.”
“I’m glad you found me,” said Uncle Frank as I began to struggle with the oily blanket. “I thought I could find my way to Bill’s place by looking down at the ground, but after I fell into that mess I was too tired to move for a while. So I rested until I got some strength back.”
When I finally got the blanket off him I thought this might calm the crowd, but I was wrong. Even the police officers ran away now, at the sight of Uncle Frank, black from head to toe, with the equally black and dripping framework of the chair on his head.
I was pleased to find that because of the oil the rocking chair slipped up off his head quite easily. We were both tired so we sat down, leaning against the leg of a life-sized dinosaur statue. Uncle Frank said, “While I was in that pit waiting to get my strength back, I had time to think about all the traveling Gwen and I will soon be doing–about all the wonderful Canadian places we’ll be visiting.”
And that will never be the same again, I thought.
He continued, “And I made a decision. I’m going to write to you every week–Gwen will probably help by taking a turn at it now and then–and we’ll let you know where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing that week. What do you think?”
I said I thought that would be wonderful, but I probably looked kind of pale just then, especially in contrast to Uncle Frank’s oily face; for when he mentioned Aunt Gwen I remembered that she had been left in the house with her head still stuck in the air vent.
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Remember, the book, MIXED NUTS, from which the above chapter from The Hinkeldickers was taken, and which also contains four humorous short stories, is available from www.amazon.com. Look for Johnny Giesbrecht in their e-book catalog.