She glanced at the clock on the dash. It was 7:34 pm. Her hands were wrapped so tightly around the steering wheel that it was starting to look more oval than round. Margaret was heading to a new Italian restaurant that had just opened downtown. Her descending mood was not going to get much better tonight.
When she walked through the door, the air was redolent with the smell of yeast. It's windows fogged and streaked with moisture from the heat of the ovens in the back. The smell gave her a memory...
"Mmmm.. what is it about the smell of bread that makes us feel loved, comforted, like we're back at home with mom's fresh baked loaves cooling on the..."
"Hey Margaret". She turned to see Charlie standing beside her.
"Hi Charlie, what are you doing here?"
"Actually, I was suppose to be at a songwriter’s meeting a few blocks away. I hear this place has good Costa Rican food, though."
"Costa Rican? I thought this was a pizza place."
Charlie turned and walked away saying something about Bullwinkle and watching where you’re going.
Margaret found a quiet table in the back and fell deep into the thoughts of her day.
"Mzzzzzzz Blair, may I remind you that YOU are the one being dismissed for your paranoid, out-of-control behavior???" "Or, would you rather see the menu?"
"Huh, what?" Margaret realized that the waiter was asking her questions. She just nodded and he walked away.
"Out of control? You know what's out of control, Misterrrr Gaines?? There's a genetically engineered, self-reproducing organism loose out there among our families!" "So, would you like me to give you a couple of more minutes?" the waiter said.
"Oh no.. I'll take a small cheese pizza and a green salad.. and, a beer."
"Mizzz Blair, we are done discussing your termination. Please surrender your security access card to this gentleman and he will escort you from the premises...." "... with your dressing on the side."
The waiter slowly walked away shaking his head while Margaret stared at the cheese as it oozed down the side of her plate. "What an ass. What a nut case! What am I going to do???" she whispered to herself.
She left the restaurant and walked home along the beach carrying her shoes in her hand. She dug her heels into each step as if Missterrrr Blair was lying there.
"You might just be the Security Guard, BOB.. but, sitting here.. being a corporate tool and NOT doing something to contain the V-17, you're most likely killing thousands of people!!"
The loud music coming for the neighbor’s dock made her realize she was near her house. She had never noticed before that the roof of the dock looked a lot like the building where she worked.
"Gee Margaret, that's pretty dramatic. I may be just a Security Guard.. but, I do know that the media will need a reassuring statement from the scientists who worked on the project.. just in case this whole thing gets out. What shall we give them?"
She had a good idea... make that a great idea.
As she reached the house, she sat down and wiped the sand off her feet carefully. "Good enough", she thought. Heading straight to the kitchen, she took the small package out of her pocket and with the speed and agility that comes only from repeated practice, carefully removed the fake bottom of the baking powder can and slipped it inside. One silent twist and it was closed again. Without disturbing anything else, she returned the can, closed the door and sat down to write the letter.
A knock at her back door broke her train of thought.
"Mrs. Franklin, what are doing out so late?"
"Oh Margaret, it's the children. They ride up and down the street on their bicycles instead of going to school!"
"Come in, Mrs. Frankin. Would you like some tea?"
"And, then, today, I saw one of them get hit by a car! And, I think I know who was driving, Margaret! I think I know!"
"Well, Mrs, Franklin. Why don't you go right back home and call the police. I'm sure they would like to talk to you about all of this."
"Oh Margaret. I dare not! I can't do it. I just can't!"
"Then, go home and make yourself a nice cup of tea and you'll feel better in the morning."
"Oh, do you realllly think so, Margarettttt" "Mizzzzz Blair.. may I remind you that YOU are the one being dismissed for your paranoid, out-of control behavior????"
The next morning, Margaret packed a bag and got into her car. It had been more than 10 years since she had visited her old neighborhood.
As her car rounded the corner of Florence Avenue, her stomach started to churn. She noticed the trees were much bigger, the houses looked smaller.
A weather-beaten mailbox next to a driveway indicated 393. She brought her car to a stop. The memories came flooding back. Some of them were good and some not so good. She sat in the car for several minutes, debating whether to get out. "I've come this far", she thought, "If I don't do it now, I'll never know." She got out of the car and focused on the front door. Her heart raced. "What in the hell am I doing here?" she thought, "Too late to turn back now."
Two taps on the door and it opened. Margaret's Dad was standing there in his old corduroy pants and sweater. She gave him a hug and walked past him into the living room, "It's not easy, Dad"
"I know, daughter. Your Mama brought the life into this house."
"Daddy, what are you going to do?"
"I think I'll just sell the place and move to Florida. Frank and Charlie both did that. I could find a place near them. And, your Mama is gonna be down there too.. with my Mama and Daddy... I remember back in 1940 when we all had that big bar-b-q down by the lake..."
"Misterrrr Blair... you figured I'm not on the INSIDE anymore, I CAN’T damage the corporation's image? Or, is it that you're cooking up some PR cover up strategy and you need a fall guy!!" "Don't you think, daughter? We could sell the house and move down there with Mama?"
Margaret's mind went from work to Dad and back again. Where was the sanity of it all? There wasn't any and she was losing control.
After such a scary few minutes, she headed to the kitchen for something cold to drink. As she reached for the light, she saw something out of the corner of her eye. "What was that??" she thought.
Standing still and waiting to see whatever it was move again, she nervously tried to remember why she came into the kitchen in the first place. "Oh, right! Something to drink". She turned on the light and headed for the refrigerator. As she opened it, a crash behind her made her scream in terror! She quickly turned around. And, there on the floor was a baking power can with the fake bottom lying next to it and, a folded note lying inside.
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