Everything She Wants

I am ill.

It’s been threatening since last Thursday morning, when I woke up with a nasty, periodic cough that hurt at the base of my throat; I hoped it was sinus-related since the weather went through one of its typical New Orleans bipolar moments and went from cold and damp to warm and humid overnight; but this morning I woke up with a croaking voice, a slight headache and a mild fever. I chose to stay home from the office today and nurse it, hoping to head off something even worse. I am going to be drinking hot tea with lemon and honey, and chicken noodle soup. I do not wish to be sick in any way, shape or form. I cannot be sicker. I have too much to do.

The odd thing is I felt good enough yesterday to go to the gym for the first time in weeks, and even felt fantastic the rest of the day. Oh, I still had the periodic cough that hurt, but my body felt terrific. I didn’t even wake up feeling sore this morning. But my throat hurts, and coughing feels like gargling acid. And then there’s the damned fever. Sigh.

Although now I wonder if the energy I used at the gym is what opened the door for the illness to take over? BASTARDS.

All right, I am going to go dose myself and try to feel better. Ugh, I hate being sick. And this is twice in less than three months.

So, here are today’s short story offerings.

First, we have “The Shoeshine Man Regrets” by Laura Lippman, from Hardly Knew Her.

“Bruno Magli?”

“Uh-uh. Bally.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Some kids get flash cards of farm animals when they’re little. I think my mom showed me pictures of footwear cut from magazines. After all, she couldn’t have her only daughter bringing home someone who wore white patent loafers, even in the official season between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Speaking of which–there’s a full Towson.”

This is a Tess Monaghan story, which opens with Tess and her old friend Whitney bored while waiting for their car from the valet service, so they start playing a game: identifying the shoes of the other people waiting for their cars. A laundry truck has the parking lot blocked so everyone has to wait. The ‘full Towson’ is approached by an elderly man of color, who points out his shoes have a spot of mayonnaise on them and asks if he wants a shine. The ‘full Towson’ is a typical asswipe, an altercation eventually ensues, and the old man is arrested–and confesses to a forty-year-old murder….and this is when Tess gets involved. Very satistfying, and a most excellent denouement.

Next, I pulled out the MWA anthology Ice Cold: Tales of Intrigue from the Cold War, edited by Jeffrey Deaver and Raymond Benson, and read the first story, Deaver’s own “Comrade 35.”

To be summoned to the highest floor of GRU headquarters in Moscow made you immediately question your future.

Several fates might await.

One was that you had been identified as a counter-revolutionary or a lackey of the bourgeoisie imperialists. In which case your next address would likely be a gulag, which were still highly fashionable, even now, in the early 1960s, despite First Secretary and Premier Krushchev’s enthusiastic denunciation of Comrade Stalin.

Another possibility was that you had been identified as a double agent, a mole within the GRU–not proven to be one, mind you, simply suspected of being one. Your fate in that situation was far simpler and quicker than a transcontinental train ride: a bullet in the back of the head, a means of execution the GRU had originated as a preferred means of execution, though the rival KGB had co-opted and taken credit for the technique.

As I read along, the story seemed familiar, and yet at the same time I couldn’t remember much about it. When I finally reached the end, I realized I had read the story before, but it’s a good story and I enjoyed it very much. Deaver is of course a bestselling author; and I’ve read many of his Lincoln Rhymes novels–years behind on him, of course. I actually submitted a story to this anthology, and was rejected. I still haven’t placed that story anywhere, either–but I think I finally know how to fix what’s wrong with it.

And now, to my reclining chair and some soup.

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