The Phosphorescent Terrier

Home at their fixer-upper in Nevada City, California, Trevor and Gabrielle are troubled by the spirit of the neighbor’s terrier.  On top of that, they discover that their backyard is the home of a family of extremely small enchanted Masks B&Wbeings.  Enter Madame Griselda to save the day!  Or does she?

From The Phosphorescent Terrier

Gabrielle arrived home around five fifteen, while I was spreading the crème pâtissière into the tart shell and enjoying one of Liz’s fruity island concoctions.

“Oh, Trevor, you didn’t have to cook tonight. I could have made tacos.”

“With all due respect to your taco making ability, I think this will be more festive.”

“Well, I love you, so don’t wear yourself out. Say, I’ve got some great news.”

“So have—So you mentioned. What’s up?”

“I was looking online and I found something really cool. It’ll look great in the living room.”

Gabrielle is an ardent antique hunter. When she worked as part of a group ophthalmology practice and was drawing enough of a salary to support it, she filled our old house with end tables, desks, lamps, and chairs. Even the living room sofa was a surprisingly comfortable 1930’s piece with green velvet upholstery. The furniture travelled with us; we now had a little more space for it, but many pieces still lodged under the non-leaky part of the attic roof. In our straitened circumstances, she had curtailed her habit, only occasionally splurging on some unexpected item that we would have to find room for.

I inhaled deeply. “What is it this time?”

“You don’t have to throw so much emphasis on ‘this time.’ It’s not like I find a deal like this every day. Besides, I got it for you. It’s a Valentine’s Day present. It’ll keep you occupied.”

“Swell,” I said, hulling a strawberry and setting it large end down in the middle of the tart. “What is it?”

“A spinet. It’s not an antique, but I was looking online, and there was a good deal on one that needs a little restoration work.”

“Wait a minute. A spinet? You mean like a miniature harpsichord spinet?”

“Exactly. It’s only six feet long, so it should fit against the back wall of the living room.”

“What about the sofa?”

“On the front wall.”

“That’s where the entertainment center is.”

She hissed. “Never mind, Trevor. You’re just making excuses. We’ll find a good place for it.”

“I’m glad to see your practice is so busy you have time to go searching for toys on the internet.”

“It’s not a toy, and I was between patients.”

Checking the red currant jelly glaze on the stove and seeing that it had started to boil, I turned the burner off. I went back to the strawberries. “Look, Gabrielle, I don’t want to burst your balloon, but I’ve never restored a musical instrument before.”

“Where’s your sense of adventure? Besides, I’ll help you. It’ll be a bonding experience. It’ll strengthen our marriage.”

“It’s going to need a lot of strengthening,” I muttered under my breath.

“What?”

“Nothing. Do you intend to play this thing? The house is full of musical instruments already. When we first met, you were trying to learn the trumpet. You wanted to be like Alison Balsom. Next you were annoying the neighbors with that steel drum set. Then it was a Celtic kick with the tenor recorder. None of which did you stick with.”

“You’re the man who hath no music in himself.”

“I love music. But who’s going to teach you the spinet? It’s hard enough to find a harpsichord instructor, I bet, let alone some obscure instrument that no one’s played since the eighteenth century.”

“I’m sure there’s a book. Come on, Trevor, you’re not getting into the spirit of the thing. It has a beautiful poplar case with pearwood keys. You could even paint the cover, like one of those decorated harpsichords. It’ll be a real showpiece.”

Her enthusiasm was, as usual, catching. “I have always wanted to try something like that. When does this thing arrive?”

“Sometime in the next two weeks. I can’t wait.”

I smiled. “You’re something else. And how much is the bonding experience going to cost us?”

“Not that much.”

“How not that much?”

“Only $750.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“We’ll have to postpone the roof, I’m afraid.”

“Gabrielle, we’ve got to get those stairs fixed, too.”

“That’s not too expensive. All we need to do is get a new stair tread. I’ll put it in tomorrow.”

“What about the rest of the treads? They’re as old as the one I fell through.”

“We’ll have to be careful, then.”

“The roof may cave in, and we’ll both have broken legs from falling through the stairs, but at least I’ll be able to listen to you pluck out ‘Jingle Bells’ on the spinet.”

She stuck her tongue out at me. “Speaking of broken legs, don’t forget, we’re going to the doctor’s to get a cast put on that thing tomorrow.”

“No, I remember. I’ve canceled my classes.”

She took one of the strawberries off the tart and bit into it. “Mmm.” Wiping her lips with the back of her hand, she said, “It’s still pouring outside. I’d better empty those buckets in the attic.”

I grabbed her shoulder as she turned. “Don’t go upstairs. Relax and have one of these instead.” I handed her the box of candy. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Thank you, Trevor; you’re sweet. Chocolate covered cherries. They’re my favorite! Where did you find these?”

“Secret,” I said, replacing the strawberry she had eaten.

“I love you.”

“Good, because I have something to tell you, too.” I felt like I was about to dive off the high board at the swimming pool. Taking a deep breath, I began the story of our unexpected visitor. I could see Gabrielle’s jaw tightening more at every word I spoke.

Before I could finish, she picked up a chocolate covered cherry and whizzed it past my ear, missing my head by a fraction of an inch. It splattered on the cupboard door behind me. “Trevor, you spineless worm! Why didn’t you tell that English vixen to find herself a hotel room? Where is the bitch, anyway? I’ll throw her out myself.”

“She’s upstairs taking a shower.”

“In our bathroom?”

“Yes. Really, Gabrielle, I don’t see what you’re getting so upset about.”

“Oh you don’t, don’t you? How could you be so blind? That woman is here to break up our marriage. You don’t go inviting old girlfriends to stay with you. How would you feel if I suddenly wanted to put Ron up for a few days?”

“I guess I hadn’t really thought about it that way.”

“That’s because you’re an idiot.”

“Gabrielle, she’s married.”

“She doesn’t have a clue what a committed relationship is. She broke up both yours and mine happily enough.”

“But I got you out of it. All’s well that ends well.”

She picked up a frying pan and advanced on me with it. “Don’t try to sweet talk me, you lily-livered toad. And what’s that rum bottle doing on the counter? Don’t tell me you’ve been mixing her drinks, too?”

“Actually, she’s been mixing them. Have a Mai Tai? They’re superb. Liz even brought along some little paper umbrel—”

“I’m going to strangle you!”

“It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“It’s going to be the day of your funeral if you don’t get rid of her.”

Next:  Walpurgis Night

 

Copyright 2015 Ian G. Wilson

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