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The Cane Mutiny
By Tamar Myers
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright ©2006 Tamar Myers
All right reserved.
The city of Charleston, South Carolina, has more ghosts than natives. But it is not quite true, as one rude tourist recently put it, that our ghosts -- or, Apparition Americans, as they prefer to be called nowadays -- show more life than their flesh and blood counterparts. I was not particularly surprised, therefore, to see a pirate hobbling down the alley behind my antiques shop, the Den of Antiquity.
It happened one exceptionally foggy night in early April, when Mama and I were returning home from a musical recital at the College of Charleston. I'd decided to stop by my shop on King Street to retrieve a book on antique canes that I had recently purchased. My plans for the remainder of my evening were to snuggle up in bed next to my handsome husband, Greg, and peruse the book while he watched the end of a basketball game. Mama's plans were to curl up in front of her own TV and watch reruns of Leave It to Beaver.
At any rate, upon seeing the Apparition American, I stomped on the brakes, and as soon as we'd jerked to a stop, I flipped on the high beams. Unfortunately the light reflected off the moisture in the air, and in the split second it took to put the low beams back on, the ghost had disappeared.
"Did you see that, Mama?"
"Abby, I'm old, notblind."
"That was a pirate, wasn't it?"
Mama sighed. "A very handsome pirate. If my arthritis wasn't acting up, I'd jump out and chase after him. Wherever it is he went."
My heart was still pounding, and my legs too weak to support my full weight, so I remained behind the wheel of my silver Mercedes. I did, however, drive the entire length of the Alley, and finding no one about, either spectral or real, hightailed it back to my house on Squiggle Lane.
When Mama and I burst into the den, where my handsome hubby was already deeply absorbed in the game, we must have brought with us a surge of intense energy.
"So the concert was that good," Greg said, without shifting his gaze.
"The concert was just okay," Mama said. "It's the pirate who's put the wind back in my bloomers."
I cringed. "Mama!"
"You have to admit it, Abby, he was really a hittie."
"The word's hottie, Mama."
"That's what you think. I meant what I said. If he was twenty years younger, I'd hit on him."
Despite the fact that my mother, who stands all of five feet tall, is trapped in a 1950s time warp along with June Cleaver, she at times displays disconcerting flashes of lust. If it were not for the fact that my minimadre is still a virgin -- two children notwithstanding -- and will forever stay that way, I assure you, I would have been really creeped out. As it was, I felt nauseous.
"Abby, I'm only human."
"No, you're not. Besides, he wasn't all that cute."
Greg pressed the mute button on his remote and jumped off the sofa. "What's all this about a pirate? Or did you say 'parrot'?"
Meanwhile my sweetie pie jumped off the sofa as well, ambled toward me, and rubbed his cheeks against my calves. This sweetie pie, by the way, is my ten-pound orange tabby, who sometimes -responds to his name, Dmitri. Greg, on the other hand, seldom rubs his cheeks against my calves, and never responds to Dmitri.
"We saw a ghost," Mama said. "A really cute pirate."
"We saw an Apparition American and he was ugly enough to turn a train down a dirt road."
Dmitri purred loudly.
Greg smiled. "As ugly as that?"
"Even uglier. I bet that when he was born his mama had to borrow a baby to take to church."
"He was six feet tall," Mama said. "Just like Greg. And he had a huge black beard." She gasped. "I bet it was the ghost of Blackbeard."
"He was no taller than you, Mama. And he didn't have a beard; only stubble, and a scar that went from his left ear to his nostril. And those beady dark eyes -- I'll never forget them. He even had a wooden leg, Greg, just like the stereotype."
"Yes, he did have a wooden leg." Mama agreed reluctantly. "But it was cute."
Greg laughed before kissing me on the mouth and then pecking Mama on the cheek. "Well, at least you two finally agree on something."
I bristled at what amounted to a dismissal. "I didn't say his leg was cute."
"But both of yours definitely are." Greg winked before plopping back on the couch. He works long hours as a shrimper and is no couch potato. I certainly did not begrudge him his method of relaxation.
"What about mine?" Mama demanded.
I pushed her gently from the room. For much of the time since Daddy died nineteen years ago, hit in the head by a seagull with a brain tumor the size of a walnut, Mama has been competing with me for the attention of men. I'm happily married again, and no longer competing, but I'm not sure the message has really gotten through to Mama.
"Abby, are you trying to get rid of your dear old mama?"
"Why I never!" She stamped a petite pump and stalked dramatically to her very comfortably appointed room. One that I pay for, I might add.
Greg waited until we could no longer hear her. "So, Mrs. Ghostbuster, what are your plans for the rest of the evening?"
"Well, I thought we would get ready for bed and then I'd read this book on antique canes while you finished the game, but with all the excitement, I forgot to get the book from my shop."
"I have a better idea. What if we get ready for bed, and then instead of me watching the game, we come up with creative ways to use the bed that don't involve sleep?"
Both Mama and the pirate were soon forgotten.
Excerpted from The Cane Mutiny by Tamar Myers Copyright ©2006 by Tamar Myers. Excerpted by permission.
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