68 False Quantities

“Oh, Mrs. James, thanks so much for making them. They’re awesome!” Lee admired the lacy and long, fingerless gloves. “They’ll be perfect with my dress.”

“Wear them in the best of health. You’ll be attempting projects like this, soon.”

“Thanks to you, by hook or by crook, or by needles!”

“Will you be able to give us a hand delivering flyers?” Mrs. James pointed out the brightly colored paper, hot off Gertie’s press, or printer anyway. “I was hoping we could each take one girl, and split up the floors.”

“After my bike ride and before I leave for pictures at my friend’s house.” Lee looked around. “Where are they now?”

“Up with their Dad, writing out a family recipe.”

“That’s different,” Lee observed.

“Are you going with anyone to this dance?”

“Oh, we decided, my friends like, to go in a group and meet up with a group of boys from this other parochial school. There’s this boy I like from there but parents get all worried if kids go as a couple. They pay less attention to what we’re doing if we all go together.”

“I expect it’s more fun, anyway. I’d enjoy hearing all about it tomorrow. It’s been a long while since I’ve heard a morning after, perhaps afternoon after, play by play of a school dance!”

Chapter 68 False Quantities

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By early Sunday afternoon hunger drove a sleepy Lee out to the kitchen, where Carrie puttered over the stove. On this, her one true day off a week, she often tried out a recipe to take her mind off work and the worst of her customers. Slowly negotiating across the kitchen, shoring up her reserves, she hated people less by Tuesday mornings, when they started to show up again at Pluto’s.

“The ladies of the evening, in the morning…” She teased Lee, who was still wearing her gloves. “You forgot to change.” Lee stretched out her wrists, to admire the frilly effect.

“I love them.”

“Very cute,” Carrie acknowledged. “Nice time?”

“Weird, mostly.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, I’ll say what happened but I’m not sure what did happen, or what will happen, if you get what I mean.”

“I’m listening.”

“O.K. so, one of the boys in our group is the son of the principal of his school.”

“Name of…”


“Michael’s Dad is the principal at the parochial school that Michael attends, yes?”

“That’s what I said. So, everything started out fine but then other boys from his school started acting all strange.”

“Strange, how?”

“They were like pointing at him and talking behind his back. Then one girl started meowing, right in his face.”


“Yeah, like this.” Lee pawed at her face and pretended to lick her hands, stopping as she tasted the fuzz of lint from her gloves. She then gave voice to a powerful string of prolonged, and pert meows. Guy walked into the kitchen.

“Why are we meowing? Are Sticks and Oblio sick? Any coffee left?”

“In the pot, Guy.” Carrie hoped Lee wouldn’t be deflected from her narrative about a girl going cat-like in public. Guy poured coffee, leaned back against the counter and pretended interest. Lee, her chorus complete, resumed her story.

“Told you it was weird. Michael got more and more freaked and ended up calling his Mom to pick him up early. It completely ruined everything.”


“Then after he left, we heard everybody talking about it. His Dad was caught having an affair in a car or a bar, I couldn’t hear, with Kitty Doyle.”

“Get out of town!” Carrie expressed doubt. Guy looked confused.

“You told me she’s going with Greg Mendel,” he accused his sister.

“Dad, it’s an affair, duh? I’m going to see Mrs. James. She wants a dance report, too. Then, I’m going for a spin. Later.” Guy slipped into the now empty chair, and grimaced. Carrie laughed at him.

Dedicated bike lane on Erie Street in the Third Ward.

Dedicated bike lane on Erie Street in the Third Ward.

“Out the mouths of babes, eh, big brother? Actually, Kitty told me this week that she was going to break up with Greg.” Carrie divulged the secrets of the spa but he seldom paid attention.

“Fast work,” Guy looked skeptical.

“Even for her,” conceded Carrie. Guy shook his head.

“What an idiot. A principal. At a parochial school. With his own kid there.”

“Another stupid man bites the career dust.” Very stupid indeed, to let a Kitty Doyle far enough in to wreck your life. The kitchen phone rang. They still had a land line, a holdover from when Lee was younger. Guy nursed his coffee. Carrie picked up; it was Lee’s former twirling coach, Cindy. They’d known each other since Carrie had ferried the littler Lee to and from practices and events.

“I have a favor to ask. A director of a sister twirling group down south, who’s also my cousin, just e-mailed me. She said they were considering an applicant from Milwaukee for a position with them but that the references were a bit skewed. To give the benefit of the doubt, she decided to forward her details to me, to see if I knew anything about her. I don’t but then I noticed that her address was the same as yours. It’s a long shot but I figured I could at least ask you what you knew about her,” Cindy laughed, “as you know everybody.”

“Let me guess the name.” Cindy was surprised but didn’t know if this was a good or a bad sign. “Kitty Doyle.”

“Oh, so you do know her, then.”

“Oh, yes. I sure do.”

“Tell all, then, please.”

Across the hall, and much to Mrs. James’ delight, wearing her gloves, Lee was telling an abbreviated, no-names mentioned, version of the previous evening’s events. Poppy and Pansy were all ears. Mrs. James wouldn’t want her spilling those kind of beans, delicious or not, in front of them.

“Your friend had a terrible time. Poor kid. And more to come by the sounds of things, with his father in a compromising situation, if what you say is true.”

Poppy, ever alert to adult hiding of meaning through difficult words, asked, “What’s com…promise…”

“…zing?” added Pansy. Between the two of them, no word ever need be too long.

“Compromising means a person saying or doing something and then that other people may think that person’s done something wrong. But it’s a word that adults use about other adults, not about children.”

“Kids always have to behave but adults don’t. It’s so not fair,” Pansy pouted. “and, they don’t get time outs, either.”

“Nonsense,” corrected Mrs. James. “Everyone has to face the consequences of actions and the sooner we learn that the better off we are. But sometimes bad things happen to people even when it’s not their fault.”

“Like to this boy,” Lee added.”People were teasing him for something that he didn’t even do.”

“It’s often how you say or do things that make a difference. Being kids gives you lots of practice, right? Speaking of practice girls, please go tidy up and pack your things. Remember, your aunt’s coming early.”

“Why are you going home so soon?” Lee was puzzled by yet another change in their schedule.

“Family coming over.” Moaning, they trudged into the den.

“So, Mrs. James, guess who the woman is?”