LINGUISTIC FINGERPRINTS EDITION: 2020
Compilation copyright ©2020: Barbara J. Becker
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Illustrations ©2020 Barbara Linklater
Oprah Winfrey 2002. O Magazine.
Worry is a misuse of imagination.
BARBARA J. BECKER writes and edits stories. She lives in Winnipeg. Recent works are the Measured Words trilogy, and assorted articles to the Manitoba Genealogical Society magazine, Generations, editor David Farmer. Barbara wrote the same introduction to both of the Covid Caper stories and then let them happen.
BARBARA LINKLATER is a talented author and artist who generously agreed to offer her illustrations to this fun project. Barbara works in elementary, as well as high school, teaching Art, and her works grace the walls of many homes. She lives in Winnipeg with her awesome feline friend, Fiona.
JACK FRANCIS grew up in St. James – Assiniboia, Winnipeg. His exploits are recounted in his memoir Time Warps. Jack is currently working on a second memoir.
PAT STEFANCHUK turned to writing fiction and poetry after retiring as principal at Margaret Park School. She was also the music (arts) consultant in the Seven Oaks School Division. Originally from Flin Flon, her stories often focus on her years growing up in this northern mining community.
JULIANNE DANNER in addition to her marvelous singing voice, Julianne, originally from Portage La Prairie, also enjoys writing stories and poems. Some of her poetry is published in Absolutely Barbados, editor Julian Armfield.
LAURIE GYDE lives and writes in Winnipeg. She enjoys writing mystery fiction.
The new neighbour moved in a month post pandemic. Normally speaking, I’d have scooted over to welcome her to the neighbourhood, but with social distancing and masks, and all, I never quite got around to it. My first thought was that she was retired. She looked fairly sprightly but with the grey hair and all, I put her somewhere past her prime. Now you must understand, I’m not a nosy busybody, but with time on my hands, I became fascinated with discovering who she was and more importantly where she went every day. You see, I quickly noticed that she went out on a regular basis. Odd behaviour for seniors in a pandemic. Leaving and returning varied a bit, but often she left before 8:00am, and returned early to late afternoon. This was seven days a week. Was she working? Was she visiting? Was she shopping? What on earth was she up to?
As the tedious months rolled past, and the weather improved into a warmish summer, my curiosity grew. What if, I thought, I got up and ready to go, and followed her? Could I be discrete and unnoticed? Well, I could sure try.
“Are you kidding me? Hire a body-guard? Call the Police? Sadie, is that the best you can do? Oh and, stop moving the curtains, he’ll see us. Look at him Sadie, the man is watering his lawn. Its 7:45 in the morning! Who, on God’s green Earth waters their lawn at 7 freaking 45 in the morning when its covered with dew? And, he looks so well,...normal.”
“Moira, He looks like Sean Connery! I mean, the man is drop dead gorgeous, forget about the Restraining-order. What you need girl, is a ‘Come-Hither-order' and a bottle of wine. Stop talking about stalking and take the man a casserole. Now, I’m going to finish my breakfast and you, Moira O’my-god-I'm-being-stalked-Hara, get away from that window and come finish yours too. That Zoo Ferry won’t wait for you and you know Big Al likes his breakfast on time.”
“You aren’t funny, Sadie. If I wake up, bludgeoned to death, on some forest floor, I will haunt you till ... forever. Say I were to call the cops, what do I say to them? Oldie, over there is Stalking me? Sadie! Get back here! Look what he’s wearing, are those binoculars? Didn’t I tell you? It’s almost 8. He knows I leave at 8. He is spying on me.”
“My God Moira, he is not spying on you. Get over yourself. The man might be a bird-watcher. Maybe he wears binoculars in case a rare bird happens by. I mean, one did just move in across the street. Moira, if he were spying on you, don’t you think he’d be a little more discreet?”
Well, getting up early to water the lawn on Saturday gave me a little necessary information to help with my sleuthing. So now I know she has weekends off from wherever she goes early every weekday. And that she has an overnight visitor, a very attractive one.
And the moving curtains don’t lie. I am being watched, and there are two charming ladies sharing the view. It seems to me they would not be admiring my lawn care skills, good though they may be. So why are two lovelies watching me?
Are they sizing me up? Maybe for a pine box. Do they need to know how old and how able I am? What is their interest?
I think the advice of a wise man is needed. I’ll call my friend, Alphonse.
So I explained the situation to wise Alphonse. He was immediately very interested and agreed to come over to my place to get a first hand view of the situation and parties involved.
After careful observations and considerations, he agreed we needed to learn about the new neighbour and her visitor. After a week of observing and meditating, Alphonse was intrigued. He offered to track the comings and goings of the visitor and proposed I do the same with the new neighbour.
So early next weekday we set out following two fast moving cars as the two women across the street headed out to – where?
Being careful to avoid getting too close, I managed to tail her to an old building in the warehouse district. She drove up to a large door, which opened quickly and in she went. After waiting a few hours to see if she came out, she didn’t. Snack time, my stomach told me, so I drove around the immediate area a bit until I found a coffee shop. Joe’s Good Joe it was called. So I went in for a cup of joe and made some subtle enquiries. I learned that the warehouse my new neighbour drove into is an abandoned building, not in use for some time. It was once a small factory making denim overalls before everything was made in China.
When I got home I immediately called the wise Alphonse. He reported that he had experienced the same thing, in the same area, at a different warehouse.
“Moira, there’s a car that has been following us for blocks. It looks like your neighbour’s car. I think you were right. He’s stalking us after all.”
“Well, two can play at that game. We’ll just take him on a wild goose chase. My ex-husband, Marty, has a couple of warehouses in the Industrial Park a few miles ahead. I’ve still got the garage combination. Since those buildings are empty, we can merely drive in the front entrance and exit from the back delivery doors. That should keep him guessing for a while.”
“Meanwhile, we’ll be long gone, on our merry way to the Sanctuary. Yes, Sadie, we’ll give him a run for his money.”
On subsequent trips that week Moira and Sadie recognized the neighbour’s car tailing them and each time they would drive into the old warehouse building and out again through the back. A couple of times they noticed a different car that seemed to be intent on following them so they ducked into a different building.
“Moira, this is fun. It’s like we’re kids again playing a version of hide-and-seek with these guys.”
“Well, personally, Sadie, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous, playing this cat and mouse children’s game. I’d like nothing better than to go back to normal where we get on with the job assigned to us.” It was only a fifteen-minute drive from the Industrial Park to the preserve. The sign at the exit ramp said, “Red Maple Canyon Road”. This route would lead them to their destination.
The following Friday morning was gloomy and raining as Moira and Sadie made their way to the Sanctuary. They had stopped at the warehouse to pick up big Al’s breakfast. Moira was pleased with herself that she had found a use for the old, abandoned warehouse. As she made the turn onto “Zoo Ferry Road” she checked her rear-view mirror.
“I think our neighbour has finally given up following us, Sadie. I haven’t seen his car all week.”
“You’re right, Moira and I’m so glad. Like you, I was starting to get spooked!”
As they drove their car on to the ferry Moira observed, “I don’t think we are going to get much of a crowd today given this weather. Maybe we could leave a bit early, say about 3:30?”
“Perfect, said Sadie. I’ll spring for the pizza tonight and you pick the movie.”
After a fifteen-minute crossing, they drove off the ferry and headed through the security gate marked ‘Zoo Personal Only’.
“Good morning ladies” said the guard. “Big Al will be happy to see you. He’s been barking already!”
“So, what else is new?” exclaimed Moira as George swiped their cards and let them through.
Once they arrived at the enclosure, Moira backed the van up to the doors. As they got out, Big Al let out a loud bark, then a squeal of glee and did a big ‘roll over’ for them. Sadie and Moira laughed at his antics and started to unload the bamboo they had brought. Moira went into the enclosure with a bundle in her arms and cooed and petted her friend.
“Aren’t we a hungry bear today, Al” she exclaimed as she shovelled the bamboo into the hungry Panda’s mouth. She was so happy she was assigned to accompany Big Al to the Calgary Zoo for his stay. Once he and his family moved on, she would retire in her hometown.
Sadie and a fellow zoo employee unloaded the other 100 pounds of bamboo, waved goodbye and drove to Sadie’s workplace, the bird Sanctuary.
By 3:30 Sadie was back, picked up Moira and they headed on to the Ferry.
“I need a coffee” said Moira. How about you?”
“No, I’m pooped. Besides, too many foot passengers today” said Sadie as she put her head back and closed her eyes.
Moira got out of the van and joined the line at the concession stand. She was cold and tired.
“Coffee please, black, and keep the change” said Moira. As she turned to leave, she tripped over the foot of the person behind her who was standing a tad too close for comfort. The coffee went flying and so did she, but a strong arm grabbed her and kept her from falling.
“Sorry!” So sorry!” blubbered the man as he righted her on her feet. Moira glared at him in his wet raincoat, his stupid hat, crooked glasses and a pair of binoculars hanging around his neck. Her eyes opened wide, as did her mouth.
“Oh my God! It’s you!”
To make a long story short, Moira learned that this strange neighbour had noticed them watching him. This caught his attention.
“Well, yes,” he stammered. “I was following you … no harm intended – just to see where you went. I wanted to know why you were watching me.”
“Okay … mostly it was the binoculars,” Moira said.
Going back to the stand for fresh coffee, Moira and Stanley, as her neighbour had now introduced himself, exchanged stories and laughter. Stanley explained about his pal, Alphonse. And Moira explained about her pal, Sadie.
“Oh, gosh, Sadie,” Moira said. “She’s waiting in the car, probably asleep by now. I’ve got to go.”
“Maybe we four could arrange a get together – masked, of course,” said Stanley.
Moira smiled. “Maybe,” she said.
The following week on their way to the Sanctuary, and at her ex’s request, Moira and Sadie once again approached the Warehouse. They were to check for signs of overnighters.
“What’s with these guys – we’re being followed again,” Sadie said.
Moira slammed on her brakes inside the Warehouse and walked angrily towards the man who had pulled up behind them and was getting out of his car.
Rabbi Solomon. What are you doing here?”
“Call me Ari, ladies. First of all, we have been seeking a new place to conduct our services as the Synagogue is for sale. Condo developers have offers on the table.”
“But a warehouse, dark and dingy,” said Sadie.” You’re kibbitzing me.”
“No, ladies, in fact, I have been watching you drive through the warehouses in the area like Thelma and Louise. What’s up?”
“It’s a long story, Rabbi, I mean, Ari,” said Moira. “It has to do with a Peeping Tom in our neighborhood. He’s been playing catch us if you can!”
She and Sadie then recounted the adventures of the last few weeks.
“Well, is he single?” the Rabbi cajoled.
As Moira and Sadie looked at each other in embarrassment, Rabbi Ari starts to tell them that they wanted a place where more instruments for the mini orchestra section would fit for future performances.
Sadie said, “Would you invite that YUSUF Islam guy, you know, formerly Cat Stevens?”
“Oy vey ….”
“ Forgive me, Ladies, it’s time to get back to my relocation search. What does the rest of the day look like for you two?”
“Well,” replied Moira, “we’re off to work at the Sanctuary, and I’ll put in a good word for you with my Ex.
“Thank you, and remember, Ladies, next time ask about your neighbours … then buy the house.”