Nine heart warming, bottom warming stories for the holiday season. From Labor Day to New Year’s,each of these well-meaning but sometimes overzealous heroines manage to get themselves into in hot water, and over the manly knee of her own exasperated alpha male hero.
Whether she’s trying to liberate a luckless Thanksgiving turkey, or avenging her kid’s smashed Halloween pumpkins, things just never seem to go right for these ladies, leaving them to face the kind of justice that’s best delivered with a hand, a belt or a wooden hairbrush.
As she drove slowly through town, looking for the lawyer’s office, Jenny found herself pleasantly surprised. She had expected a virtual ghost town, with potholed streets and abandoned storefronts. But Elkfoot had obviously prospered in her fifteen-year absence. There were a number of additional businesses, and a brand new post office on the corner. Main Street had been completely paved, with a proper line down the middle, and the slanted parking slots on both sides of the street had been marked with white lines. There was even a traffic light at the intersection of Main and Chippewa.
The county offices were on the second floor of Elkfoot’s gleaming new City Hall. Since the mere words “past due taxes” suggested a certain degree of unpleasantness, she had left Katie at the drug store across the street, poring over copies of People and an article called “Celebrity Faves Exposed”.
Jenny’s first question to Mr. Toliver was why a great uncle she barely knew and avidly disliked would leave her a house.
“He didn’t, as a matter of fact,” Toliver explained. “The county notified you because Mr. Morris died in testate, and without stipulated heirs. According to our records, you’re his only living relative.”
“What you mean by that,” Jenny remarked, “is you went looking for someone dumb enough, or greedy enough to shell out the back taxes. Some sucker you could convince that that decrepit old house would turn out to be worth a bundle.” The suggestion was a bit hostile, and rudely phrased, but Jenny was hot, and covered in sticky Dr. Pepper residue. She’d just driven a thousand miles to a place she detested, in a sweltering car with a sullen teenager. She was in no mood to be trifled with.
Mr. Toliver raised an eyebrow. “I assume that means you don’t wish to claim the inheritance from your late uncle,” he said.
“What happens if I don’t claim it?”
“In that case, the house will de razed, and city of Elkfoot will lose a beloved historical monument.”
“Nice try, Mr. Toliver, but I remember that when I was a kid, the city fathers were always sending nasty letters to my uncle, complaining that his place was an eyesore. Which it was. When did it turn into a historical monument?”
Mr. Toliver smiled. “More like a monumental eyesore. In any case, as my letter clearly explained, the four-acre parcel on which the house sits is only twelve blocks from here. The property could have significant developmental value, due to its proximity to the expanding downtown shopping area.”
“I wouldn’t hold my breath, if I were you,” she said sweetly. “I just drove through your downtown shopping area. You and I and our grandchildren will all be in our graves by the time a town like this expands twelve blocks. I came here to unload the property, not develop it.”
He nodded. “That’s your decision, of course, but there’s still the matter of the back taxes, which will have to be brought current before you can sell the house.”
“Why can’t I just pay the damned taxes when I sell it?” she demanded irritably. “Out of the proceeds?”
Mr. Toliver smiled. “Ah, but that would require us to trust you, Mrs. Walters, and I’m afraid that county tax collectors aren’t very trusting souls. Liens can be difficult to enforce in cash transactions. What if you simply choose to abscond?” He sighed. “You might be shocked to learn how many cases there are like that.”
She thought for a moment. “I could tear the house down and sell the four acres, right?”
“You can’t legally demolish a house you don’t own,” Toliver explained patiently. “Not without first paying the past due taxes. Twelve years of back taxes, in this case.”
“Okay, then,” Jenny countered. “Can I just donate this beloved historical monument of yours—to the city, county, state, whatever?”
Mr. Toliver’s sly smile suggested that she’d walked into his final trap. “Not unless you can provide verifiable documentation proving that something of historical interest happened there.”
“Like Sitting Bull and George Armstrong Custer having both slept there—preferably in the same bed and with carnal intentions—on the very night before Little Big Horn. You know, it’s still quite a lovely old house,” he added, rather apologetically. “If you were to find a contractor, and put some money into it, you could…”
“Do contractors in the state of Wyoming work for nothing, Mr. Toliver?” she grumbled. “Because nothing is a few bucks less than I have in my bank account, at the moment. My car has a bad oil leak and a dead air conditioner, my cell phone got turned off three days because I couldn’t pay the bill, and you’re telling me to hire a fucking contractor?”
She left Toliver’s office depressed and feeling desperate. They could afford maybe four more nights in a motel—if they could locate one crummy enough—and maybe a week of food and gas. Her plan had been to sell the house in a hurry, for whatever she could get, and drive back to Las Vegas with a nice, fat check. But before she gave up and went home, she wanted a quick look at her unclaimed inheritance. Just in case.
When she walked into the drugstore, Katie glanced up from what she was reading, and yawned. “Are we going to be rich beyond dreams of avarice, or not?”
Jenny groaned. “Take a guess.” She gave her daughter a suspicious look. “Please, tell me you didn’t buy anything. We’ve got one hundred and ninety-seven bucks left on the Visa, and what’s in my wallet. After that, one of us will have to eat the other.”
Katie rolled her eyes. “Chill, Mom. I didn’t buy anything. They were fresh out of crack cocaine and diamond nose rings. Jeez! Can we at least afford lunch? I took a little stroll around beautiful, downtown Elkbutt while you were at the lawyer’s. There’s a place down the block that looks like the Beverly Hillbillies run it.”
“Edna’s Kountry Kitchen,” Jenny said with a sigh. “An Elkbutt tradition. Just don’t try peeking in the kitchen, and whatever you do, remember to wipe the silverware before you start eating.”