In her little brick house across the street, Carla Wylde could always be counted on to know nothing of current events. She prided herself on it. “Oh, I don’t listen to the news,” was not an uncommon thing to hear her say with a smile and a dismissive wave of her painted fingernails. She was the perfect person to go to when I had to escape Angry Grandma and just needed to be Diane.
“Oh, you do make the best peanut butter cookies, Diane,” Carla beamed, “It feels just like Christmas in October!”
“Always happy to bake for a fan!” I replied. It was good to be in a familiar friend’s house again. I looked at the array of framed “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters on the wall behind her. Four-by-four, sixteen small posters each in their own frame and on their own colored background and with their own message, “Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate,” “Keep Calm and Love Life.” Normally that kind of meaningless positivity might rub me the wrong way, but now it was just what I needed.
“I am sorry about the mess, Diane.” Carla intoned seriously, “we just got so used to William, it’s been a little bit difficult to start picking things up ourselves again.” She laughed at some unspoken joke.
“What happened to William?” I asked, stupidly wondering if she’d joined my campaign.
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Carla shook her head, and started reaching for another cookie, then pulled back. “We’re just trying to cut back on expenses. Lenny’s between jobs, after all.”
“Oh, dear, what happened?”
Carla paused, and her hand shot out and grabbed another cookie, “These are too good,” she said, nibbling off a dainty mouthful and chasing it with a sip of milk. “I’m not going to fit through the doorway if you make many more of these surprise visits.”
I said nothing. Getting Carla to talk was not rocket science. After a moment’s silence, in which she took a substantially larger bite of cookie, Carla told me what happened. “It’s nothing,” she started, “The construction yard just said a couple weeks ago that they didn’t need him any more.” “It wasn’t his fault,” she added quickly. “They said the same thing to all his friends.”
“Oh,” Carla added suddenly, “look at that look on your face. I told you, it’s nothing. We just need to wait for the market to turn up. It’s fine, really.”
I thought about the new services being rolled out by The Helpers, and wondered if Leonard Wylde and his friends could compete with a Leonard Builder. “Yes,” I said with a broad smile I hoped would be convincing. “I’m sure it will be fine.”
After I got home that evening, I sent an email to The Cleaners. “I would like to request that you reopen cleaning for the Wylde residence on my account.” I didn’t have an account, of course. If they tried to charge me money nothing would happen. Maybe, though, since they’d promised me free service… It was the least I could do. I tried to imagine Carla opening the door and seeing William, “No charge, Madam.” Oh, the look on her face!