Before the Ding Could Dong

Editor’s note: A couple days ago I wrote Roam where you want to, a blog about “superpowers.” After reading it, Goldie told me he wanted “more Delbert and Marge.” I told him “Okay” and decided to continue their story in today’s “mysterious” blog.

“Delbert. Do you hear something?”

“No, but I feel something…I feel a mysterious force.”

“We better get inside, Delbert. Just in case.”

“We’d better, Marge. Just in case.”

Delbert and Marge scooted back indoors before I could finish interviewing them.

“Delbert. I don’t say it often enough but I love you.”

“Me too, Marge,” Delbert said through tears. “Me too.”

The Honeywells may scare easily but seem like good people. They love gardening, which is why I was interviewing them. I’m new in town. Just got a job reporting for Salt of the Earth and am writing a feature about Tomford’s most prolific gardeners. The interview seemed to be going well. I don’t know why I lost them.

Maybe if I retrace my steps…

Minutes before they fled, Marge strangely proclaimed, “Gardening is something we enjoy doing together!” She said it loud enough for the neighbors to hear. Then she leaned into me and whispered, “Even if I’d rather just do it myself.”

I looked at Delbert. I wondered if he heard what his own wife just said? If he did, he didn’t seem to mind. He just stood there, grinning from ear to ear and nodding his head.

I wonder if he’s high.

“I’m not the bragging type,” Marge shouted, interrupting my thoughts. “But our tomatoes always come up perfect!”

I looked Delbert square in the eye and asked him what his secret was to growing perfect tomatoes. He kept smiling. He pointed to his head and winked at me.

Definitely high.

“He’s a man of few words,” Marge exclaimed, again, very loudly. “But he knows his tomatoes and it’s not just me who says so!”

It’s true, I checked with the neighbors on both sides of the Honeywell house and they all said the same thing: “Delbert knows his tomatoes.”

Just before they took off, Marge shouted, “We Honeywells grow the best tomatoes this side of Kent Creek!”

But on the other side of Kent Creek, Marlis and Doug Doherty are top dog when it comes to tomatoes, literally. They own Top Dog Tomatoes Gardening Supplies. Word on the street is they’ve won awards, not just at the county level but state, too.

With my Honeywell interview cut short, I decided to trek across the Kent Creek Bridge to talk to Marlis and Doug, face to face, about their tomato gardens.

I rang their doorbell. Before the ding could dong, the door swung open and Marlis and Doug embraced me in a triple bear hug.

Entrez vous,” said Doug as he clapped my back.

“Come on in! The Honeywells said you’d be coming” said Marlis.

I found that odd. I hadn’t told anyone about my spontaneous interview.

“Let’s talk in the family room, son,” Doug said.

I took a seat on their sofa and they sat on either side of me.

“This is where we like to sit and love on our babies” Marlis said.

Their ‘babies’ are the gardening prizes they display on their mantle. There are hundreds of ribbons, medals and trophies, all in need of a good dusting, arranged above their fireplace. The surrounding walls are adorned with countless framed “Master Gardener” certificates and dozens of glossy photos of the two of them on the grand stage at the Illinois State Fair shaking hands with various Illinois governors.

“We have shaken hands with seven governors,” Marlis boasted. “And that’s as close as we ever have come to mingling with criminals.”

Doug lit a cigarette. He exhaled through his nostrils.

“I think they call that ‘the French inhale,'” Marlis said.

“It’s not the only French I know,” said Doug as he took another huge drag.

Marlis made the peace sign with her fingers, stuck her tongue through and wiggled it. She withdrew her tongue and smiled at me.

“We’re both fluent in French kissing!”

Doug exhaled and said, “Marlis, honey, that’s not what it means and you’re making him blush.”

“What about you? You’re a reporter. I bet you speak a lot of French.'”

“Just American English, ma’am.”

“Good for you. I bet you know your way around a comma and a colon.”

“Yes ma’am. Punctuation’s fun.”

Omigosh, what does that mean? Does she think I’m…bi?

Marlis put her hand on my thigh and asked me what my favorite tomato was.

“Not sure, ma’am. They’re all so…delicious.”

Dammit. Not now.

My little stenographer was growing and sweltering, begging to explode, much like a tomato in the hot afternoon sun. I struggled to focus.

“Ma’am, you mentioned the Honeywells called you. Can you tell me what they said?”

“They said you were…coming.”

“It’s just that I didn’t tell them my plans to interview you.”

“Son, the Honeywells are psychic,” Doug said. “They know everything.”

“Everything?” I asked with a journalist’s healthy and unbiased skepticism. “Sir, nobody knows everything.”

“The Honeywells do,” Doug said as he tugged at his shirt collar.

Just then an ambulance sped across the Kent Creek Bridge and turned onto the street.

“Right on time, just as the Honeywells predicted,” Doug said, clutching his chest.

“Sir, are you alright?”

The ambulance turned into Marlis and Doug’s driveway and several medics rushed inside. A couple of them noticed my erection, and averted their eyes out of respect. An older EMT looked me square in the eye.

“You’re disgusting,” he said.

And he was right. I was so ashamed. I tried like mad to make it go away, but my little stenographer stayed put. They loaded Doug onto a gurney and into the ambulance.

Marlis shouted, “I’m coming with. Help me up, boys!” Before the EMTs pulled her up and Marlis whispered to me, “Follow us to the hospital. “

She surreptitiously pulled some car keys out of her cleavage.

“Take our beemer. It’s in the back. We’ll need it to come back home.”

The keys were warm and oily and slippery in my hands, which only made my erection grow. The EMTs visibly winced.

“That guy’s disgusting,” I heard one say.

“What a tool,” another one said as he eyeballed my crotch. “You better get that taken care of.”

“Son, you’re a disgrace,” a third EMT said as he slammed the doors to the ambulance.

The sirens blared and Marlis, Doug and the EMTs were off. I got in the “beemer” which to my surprise was not a BMW but a yellow and black striped Buick. I believe it was supposed to resemble a giant bee. Of course the gardeners would have an earth friendly vehicle that resembled a pollinator. I respect that. In fact, it only added to my arousal.

I sped across the bridge and headed for the hospital thinking about how precious life is.

I sure hope Doug makes it.

And that’s when I remembered the Honeywells. I drove past their house and saw that they were back outside, gardening.

Oh man, I really need to file my story by the end of the day. No time for the hospital or my little stenographer.

I turned onto their property, parked the car and tooted the horn. I hustled (uncomfortably) up the path to Delbert and Marge.

“Slow your roll. I knew you’d be coming,” Marge said. This time her voice was at a reasonable level. She sounded calm.

“How?”

“The Honeywells told me.”

“But…wow, I don’t understand.”

“Why don’t you come with us?”

I followed them into the house. Their decor didn’t surprise me: gingham curtains; a country-style kitchen with a little table and chairs. Delbert and Marge motioned for me to take a seat. That’s when I noticed their rifle situated above the door frame.

“You’ve been running around town,” Marge said, “asking questions that are none of your business.”

“Technically, they are my business. I’m a reporter and I’m writing a feature about you. I’m supposed to ask questions.”

“You asked too much of Delbert. You overstepped.”

“How?”

“Never ask a man what his secret is.”

I said, “I don’t understand,” but in that moment, I did understand and I felt remorseful. There are better ways to get to the truth. I was about to apologize.

“When you asked Delbert what his secret was,” Marge continued, “we knew we had to get rid of you.”

Get rid of me?

“And that’s why Delbert and I went inside.”

“So Delbert didn’t feel some mysterious force?”

“Of course not,” Marge said. “We went inside. I telephoned Marlis and told her you’d probably be over there sticking your nose–” she looked at my crotch “–and other things, in their business.”

Go away, little stenographer!

“We stayed on the line,” Marge continued. “I watched you walk across the bridge and as you disappeared out of my vision, my sister and Doug saw you approaching.”

Impressive teamwork. Wait. Sister?

“You and Marlis are related?” I asked.

“She’s my twin,” Marge said. “I knew I could count on her to raise your interests. She’s always had a talent for that kind of thing, right Delbert?”

Delbert grinned and nodded his head.

“My sister and I hung up and that’s when I called 911. I told them my neighbors and I saw some reporter breaking and entering into a bunch of houses. I told the dispatcher my neighbors across the creek were in trouble; that I feared for their lives.”

She continued to tell me that she knew I was so desperate for a story that I’d come back to them instead of following Marlis’s simple directions to go to the hospital.

“Several people can confirm you had an erection. And now it appears you’re a peeping tom who has also stolen my sister’s car.”

I could hear the police sirens approaching.

“Son, we are the salt of the earth,” Delbert said. “We don’t need some wet-behind-the-ears reporter who can’t control his ding dong interrupting our lives.”

“You act like you’re doing us a favor by writing a story about our tomatoes,” Marge said. “Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Get a life?'”

“He’s probably more interested in a ‘Get out of jail free’ card.

“Good one, Delbert.”

“Thanks, Marge.”

“This is ridiculous,” I said. “No one will ever find me guilty.”

“Maybe they will, maybe they won’t,” Delbert said as he took the rifle off its holder.

Marge added, “But at the very least it will stall your career and you’ll never show your face around these parts again.”

Delbert cocked his rifle.

“Now get off my property before I shoot you for trying to take advantage of my wife.”

With my arms in the air and my boner in tow, I backed out of their house where the police were waiting for me. They arrested me, read me my Miranda rights and my erection mercifully disappeared. I spent the next several weeks (and several thousand dollars) clearing my good name.

***

Life can be unfair, especially in Tomford, Illinois. That was a couple years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Now I work in Springfield and cover government and politics. I’ve made some good friends, the kind who look out for each other. I’ll be covering the Illinois State Fair this summer. It’s a major campaign stop for up and coming politicians plus I look forward to taking care of some old business with Marlis and Doug at the “Excellence in Gardening” awards ceremony. It will be fun to mingle with criminals.

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