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THE BOOMER WOMEN TRILOGY

Three Comedies about a Generation that Changed the World

by

Anne R. Allen

© Anne R. Allen, 2014. All rights reserved.

These novels are works of fiction. The resemblance of any characters to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

A Foreword from the Author

THE LADY OF THE LAKEWOOD DINER

Part 1

1—HAPPY ENDINGS ARE ONLY FOR FAIRY TALES

2—CAMELOT DREAMS

3—JUNGLE BLOOD

4—WITCHMOBILE

5—MORGAN'S SECRET

6—AVALON BURNING

7—MANIACS

Part 2

8—DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW

9—HOWDY DOODY TIME

10—LOVE ME TENDER

11—BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY

12—WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR

13—QUE SERA SERA

14—MY FRIEND THE WITCH DOCTOR

15—HANG DOWN YOUR HEAD, TOM DOOLEY

16—COMMIE BEATNIK

17—LET'S DANCE

18—RUNAROUND SUE

19—TORCH SONG

Part 3

20—ODE TO NOTHINGNESS

21—DIDO'S CURSE

22—ONE TRUE DWARF

23—GOOD HORATIO

24—FOLK FESTIVAL

25—WICKED MAMA BLUES

26—VIRGINS

27—WEDDING BELLE

28—ACTING OUT

29—LETHAL WEEJUN

30—GREAT TIME COMING

31—CONFINED

32—THE FLUFFY REVOLUTION

33—YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN

34—EASTER PARADE

35—THE WAKIE HOLE

36—HAIRY AND LOOSE

37—HAND-ME-DOWN WEDDING

38—THE WONDERFUL WIZARD

39—HOMECOMING

40—BOYCOTT

41—LA VIE EN ROSE

42—PROTEST LEADER

43—MISSING IN ACTION

44—GO FLY A KITE

45—FISHING FOR ANGELS

46—MIRACLES

47—A TASTE OF HONEY

48—NIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE

49—DAYS OF THE SQUARE

50—SEEING GHOSTS

51—MEN ON THE MOON

52—BROWN ACID

53—MERLIN

54—CRUMPLED HEARTS

55—LIVING BEIGE

56—NEXT TO CHE GUEVARA

57—THE GOOD WITCH OF THE NORTH

58—LI'L BUCKAROOS

59—WANDA WOMAN AND THE KING

60—FIRST WITCH

61—BACKSTAGE PASS

62—MORGAN LE FAY

63—DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW

64—STARS IN HER HAIR

65—DIVAS

Part 4

66—THE NEW EASY GOD

67—THE SILENT WOMAN

68—AUNT JULIE

69—ONLY FOR FAIRY TALES

70—LIKE A FISH NEEDS A BICYCLE

71—ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

72—LITTLE GODDAM YELLOW BUTTERFLIES

73—THE DEVIL AND ALL HIS WORKS

74—CITY GIRLS/COUNTRY GIRLS

75—QUEEN FOR A DAY

76—OLD STORIES

Part 5

77—GOOD VIBRATIONS

78—OLD SINS

79—A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

80—CHUM OF SATAN

81—WITCHCRAFT

82—ALL FOR HATE

83—MIRACLE WORKER

Epilogue

84—THE ASHTRAYS OF AVALON

85—THE LADY OF THE LAKEWOOD DINER

FOOD OF LOVE

1—Regina: The Smile of the Spoon

2—Cady: Crisco and Prayers

3—Cady: King of the Wild Frontier

4—Regina: Sharing

5—Regina: White Light for Breakfast

6—Regina: Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear

7—Regina: The Crutch

8—Cady: Oasis

9—Cady: The Pearly Gates

10—Regina: The Pits

11—Regina: Sober Christian Women

12—Cady: Darkness

13—Cady: Ringworm and Caterpillar

14—Regina: Satan Rules

15—Regina: California Dreams

16—Cady: Lush Life

17—Cady: Church Lady

18—Regina: Pie with the Angels

19—Cady: Acts of God

20—Cady: Blind and Crippled and Old

21—Cady: LadyFat

22—Cady: The Stupid Book

23—Cady: Darkness Within

24—Cady: Colored Girls

25—Cady: Death by Chocolate

26—Cady: Not With the Band

27—Cady: The Laws of the Aztecs

28—Cady: Old Maids Never Wed and Have Babies

29—Cady: Wise and Foolish Virgins

30—Cady: The Queen of Clubs

31—Cady: International Terrorists

32—Cady: Under Siege

33—Cady: Arthuritis

34—Cady: Family Values

35—Cady: Devotion

36—Cady: Stradivarius

37—Cady: If You Small at Me

38—Cady: Join the Jamboree

39—Cady: Vermin

40—Regina: Alien Abduction

41—Cady: Bluebeard

42—Cady: A Real Man

43—Regina: An American Princess

44—Regina: A Pair of Kings

45—Cady: Terrorist Activities

46—Cady: The Goddess out of the Machine

47—Cady: Hostages

48—Cady: Elvis Leaves the Building

49—Regina: Queen of the Wild Things

50—Regina: Arrangements

51—Regina: Vermin Redux

THE GATSBY GAME

Part 1

1: THE CORPSE IN THE MOVIE STAR’S BEDROOM

2: HOLLYWOOD PEOPLE

3: A MAN WILLING TO BE HONEST

4: A TOWN CALLED MORON

5: ENTER THE GORGON

6: THE NANNY DID IT

7: SUCH A BIG GIRL

8: THEA EX MACHINA

Part 2

9: THE MAN IN THE SAVILE ROW SUIT

10: PRINCETON MAN

11: THE BRONTËS

12: THE DARK CHRISTMAS BREAK OF THE SOUL

13: WINTER WINE

14: BEGIN THE BEGUINE

15: OPEN HOUSE

16: THROUGH THE CRYING TREES

17: THE DEVIOUS AND THE DAMNED

Part 3

18: FORGETTING AND FORGIVING

19: A DIVINE DRUNKENESS

20: MAGICAL GLORY

21: LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN

22: FOUL DUST

23: THE BEST DRESSED LIE

24: GASLIGHT

25: THE GATSBY GAME

26: SPOTTED DICK

27: THE BLACK PIG

28: THE FAMILY RETAINER

29: MIDNIGHT WITH NO PAIN

30: A WEEK IN THE COUNTRY

Part 4

31: BETWEEN THE ACTS

32: INTO THE VAST OBSCURITY

33: GATSBY’S FUNERAL

34: SEX SCANDAL

35: MAKING ARRANGEMENTS

36: NO SECOND ACTS

Part 5

37: MAXWELL'S SILVER HAMMER

38: BOATS AGAINST THE CURRENT

About the Author

Other Books by Anne R. Allen

A Foreword from the Author

––––––––

The Leaders of the Twenty-First Century was the original title for the manuscript that branched into three and became Food of Love, The Lady of the Lakewood Diner and The Gatsby Game. It's a terrible title, of course, because it sounds too dry and pretentious for a bunch of comedies.

But the phrase has excellent comic credentials. It comes from Mickey Mouse himself. The original Mickey Mouse Club TV program always signed off with the inspiring proclamation that the show was dedicated to you, the leaders of the twenty-first century!

When my little girlfriends and I giggled in our basement rec rooms, mesmerized by the addictive new show, it never occurred to us the announcer wasn't talking to us as much as to our brothers. We didn't see any women leaders around us, but somehow, the magic of Disney was going to propel us all to new heights. My best friend planned to be a doctor and I wanted to be a famous writer. Or maybe princess of the world.

The heroines of these three novels, Congresswoman Rev. Cady Stanton, Princess Regina of San Montinaro, diner owner Dodie Hannigan Codere, rock star Morgan le Fay, and sporting goods CEO Nicky Conway are powerful yet vulnerable (and I hope funny) women who represent those Baby Boomer women who watched the Mickey Mouse Club with me.

Our mothers, who fought WWII on the home front only to be lured out of the workplace to a life of suburban housewifery, often saw our generation as entitled and self-involved. But as my character Dodie Hannigan said in the first version of the manuscript:

We're called Boomers, but it wasn't us that did the booming—that was our parents. We just showed up nine months later and got plunked in front of those brand new TVs.

We were born at the dawn of the television age to become Madison Avenue's most coveted target demographic. Advertising campaigns and kid-centric programming made us the first generation to be given a collective identity separate from family or community.

And for good or ill, they made us who we have become: women who have demanded to be treated as equals by the other half of the human race.

I know it's still something of a taboo to write novels—especially romantic comedies—about women of a certain age, but Boomer women have been breaking rules since the Mickey Mouse Club proclaimed our destiny. I hope you'll enjoy their stories.

Anne R. Allen

Los Osos, CA., 2014

THE LADY OF THE LAKEWOOD DINER

a comedy

––––––––

The myth of the Golden Age springs from a longing for our own lost childhood: we have all dwelled in Atlantis in the watery haven of the womb. The land of milk and honey is no farther than our mother's breast; and in some half-remembered dream, all of us were once High Kings, defending bucket sandcastles in a long-ago beachside Camelot.

C. L. Brown...Camelot Dreams

Part 1

The Falsehood of Morgan le Fay: Dodie

Then all had marvel of the falsehood of Morgan le Fay; many knights wished her burnt....Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur

1—HAPPY ENDINGS ARE ONLY FOR FAIRY TALES

––––––––

Morgan always said she wanted to be a witch when she grew up. I guess that's why most of us in her hometown of Avalon, Maine figured life wasn't going to have a lot of happy-ever-after in store for her.

Not that I'd ended up with much of a fairy-tale life myself, by the time that guy shot Morgan on network TV, with the whole world watching her blood splatter all over Joan Rivers' white suit.

When I got home from work that night, out straight after a crazy-busy Taco Tuesday at the diner, I still hadn't heard the news.

The grandkids were zombified in front of the old Zenith. I could see their faces through the window of the trailer, pale as a couple of space aliens in the blue TV light.

Okay, couch spuds, I said as I kicked the snow off my boots. Time to turn it off. I bet neither one of you has finished your homework.

Look, Gramma, Lily said. It's Morgan le Fay.

Big deal. Morgan is always on TV, doing infomercials for that boob-exercise machine of hers or advertising her Greatest Disco Hits CD. Yup. I could hear it—the boinky disco beat of City Girls was playing in the background.

What—am I talking to myself here? I glanced at the screen as I reached for the off button. It was some Hollywood awards show. Morgan, in a black see-through thing that showed off as much of her plastic surgeon's work as possible, towered over everybody with that wild hair, dyed a weird orange today.

In the corner of the picture, I could see a little guy move in close to Morgan. Then she crumpled and clutched her chest. Blood sprayed on Joan Rivers. Little Richard screamed.

I wanted to scream too, but no sound came out.

... you are watching our exclusive video of the scene outside this afternoon's People's Choice Golden Oldie Music Awards in Los Angeles, where one-time rock diva Morgan le Fay was gunned down by an unidentified assailant.

A skinny old man with a mustache, wearing jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, ran into the crowd.

Morgan is in critical condition at Cedars Sinai Hospital, the TV voice said. Her assailant is still at large.

At large? My head felt about to explode. This guy shot a celebrity in front of the entire world, they can't find him? What is the matter with those cops in California? Are they all on drugs?

It's too weird, Gramma, Lily said. They chased the guy, but when they stopped his car, nobody was in it—just some old lady. She said the killer carjacked her.

The Entertainment Tonight guy came back on, all smiles, like he was having the time of his life.

Another witness claims to have seen a second gunman, he said. They say they saw a man with long white hair shoot at Miss le Fay from a second story window across the parking lot. This has given new life to the old rumors that Miss le Fay's late husband, rock legend Merlin, did not die when his motorcycle crashed off the coast of Maine in 1978. The fact Merlin's body was never found has fueled such stories for decades.

The video clip started again. I wanted to smash something. Instead, I went out to the vestibule and lit a cig. I try not to smoke in front of the girls—I know I gotta quit—but it was better than letting them see me lose it.

They're saying Merlin's not dead. Shouldn't we tell Aunt Vivie? Emilie called to me. She won't hear about it with no TV at the farm.

Homework! I said. Tomorrow's a school day. Vivie could wait. She'd been waiting near on forty years.

I took one big drag off my cigarette before I tossed it out the door into the snow. I went back to the den, plunked myself down in the Barcalounger and tried to work my feelings into thoughts. Poor Morgan, hardly even famous anymore, and some creep goes and shoots her. Now every teeny detail of her life would be on the news for weeks. Everything about her and Merlin—all the lies.

And everybody in Avalon, Maine would be up to our keisters in paparazzi.

I picked up the phone to dial my sister Vivie's number, then put it back. I wasn't ready yet. No matter how much Vivie tried to keep her gloating to herself, I'd know it was there.

Vivie's hated Morgan for a lot of years. Not that she doesn't have good reason.

Then darn if the phone didn't ring all on its own.

Yes, Vivie, it's true. Morgan got shot, I said, without waiting for her to start in. I don't pay for call waiting, but I usually got a sense of who's on the other end of the line. Call it ESP or whatever.

But my ESP seemed to be on the fritz.  Some man's voice came out of the receiver.

Ms. Hannigan?

Jeez. It was starting already. My name hasn't been Hannigan since I was twenty. They had to be looking for Vivie.

If you're looking for Vivienne Hannigan, forget about it, I said. She doesn't give interviews to anybody.

Vivienne, the folk singer? Is she still alive? The guy laughed like I'd told a joke. No, No—it's Dolores Hannigan I'm looking for. Dodie, people called her. She married someone named Bobby, but I can't remember his last name.

You a reporter? What kind of creep would call me and remind me about poor, dead Bobby?

I'm a novelist—C. L. Brown. I met Dodie and Bobby once, a long time ago. I'm a friend of Morgan le Fay. This number is probably thirty years old, but I thought I'd give it a shot.

C. L. Brown. It rang a bell. Not because I remembered meeting him, but because I'd seen him on Oprah or someplace. He got one of those Pulitzer Prizes. Camelot Dreams. That was the name of his book. My Celie couldn't stop raving about it.

I'm Dodie Codere. Are you going to tell me Morgan's dead?

I think that's what I said. Something like that. But my voice choked up halfway through. We hadn't been friends for a long time, but still, I'd miss her.

She's still alive. Her manager just called me. He says Morgan is refusing to see anyone but himself and two other people. I'm one, and you're the other. I just called my travel agent. A ticket to LAX can be waiting for you at the Bangor airport. I'm on my way to Kennedy now, but the first plane out of Bangor doesn't leave until tomorrow morning at seven. Please say you'll come. Mr. Fischer says you may be the one person who can save Morgan's life.

Stony Fischer?

Yes, he said you might remember him.

I might remember him? Is that what he said?

Do you?

Maybe.

Like Neil Armstrong maybe remembered going to the moon.

~

So I tossed some clothes into the only suitcase I could find. It had purple dinosaurs on it, but I did not want to snow-shovel my way out to the storage shed for my old Samsonite at that hour of the night.

I tried to sleep a little in the Barcalounger until Celie got home from her shift at the hospital.

When she did, of course I got an earful.

How can you want to help that woman? Celie said. You know she once threw a live wolf into the audience? That's animal abuse. And when you play her albums backward, there's hymns to Satan.

Did you hear that crap from Vivie? I grabbed the Barney suitcase and my parka. She knows not a darn word of that is true.

It's amazing how a lie can take on a life of its own, and even if you were there, you start believing the lies instead of your own God-given memory.

You're driving yourself to Bangor at this hour?

Yup.

Celie knew better than to argue.

All the way to the airport, darn if every station I could get on my car radio wasn't playing Morgan's old song, Happy Endings. The only way I could keep big, stupid puddles of tears from blinding me was to sing along, real loud—

Happy endings are only for fairy tales

Everything born has to die

So kiss me and say—

You'll remember today

With a smile, when it's time for goodbye.

2—CAMELOT DREAMS

––––––––

On the plane, I didn't order any of those little bottles of booze everybody else was getting, even though I was wicked nervous and felt like a darn fool after checking a bag with purple dinosaurs on it.

I guess a little whiskey would have calmed me down and let me get some sleep, but it was only the second time in my whole life I'd been on an airplane and I didn't want to miss anything.

The other time was when I flew down to Boston to identify my ex-husband's body after he OD'd. Having to identify the rotting corpse of the father of your kids is an experience you really want to get out of your mind.

Just once, I'd like to travel when nobody's going to be dead or dying on the other end of the trip.

All I could do was think about how I could have picked up a phone any time in the last thirty-whatever years and just say—

Morgan, what Merlin did wasn't your fault. It was about him and Vivienne. It was always about him and Vivienne. You just had a walk-on part in their drama.

Amazing how you can put stuff like that in some back corner of your mind and just not deal with it—decade after decade.

~

I didn't want to spend the money for the headphones for the stupid movies they had in the little TV thing on the seat ahead of me, and I ended up falling asleep and missing most of the flight anyway.

I dreamed about me and Morgan running around in snowdrifts when we were kids. But it turned into a nightmare with mean guys throwing snowballs at us.

When I got to L.A., I kind of felt like I was still in some kind of nightmare. There I was in a sweat suit, carrying my big old parka—wanting a cigarette so bad I was almost ready to risk getting arrested for lighting up. I couldn't see a smoking lounge anywhere. Just wall to wall scrawny half-naked people—in November for cripes' sake—all of them talking into those smart phones. None of them talking to each other. Not one. It was like everybody was in his own personal movie.

I've never seen the need to pay through the nose for a phone that lets people bother you wherever you happen to be. I need all the don't-bother-me time I can get. So smart phones never seemed all that intelligent to me.

Well, up till now. I had no idea how to call Mr. C. L. Brown or get to the hospital where Morgan was, or what to do next. I'd been so worried about Morgan, I forgot to ask him that stuff.

But first I had to find a place to smoke.

What made things worse was the TVs that were everywhere—all showing that same awful video of Morgan getting shot and her blood spurting all over Joan Rivers white suit. One minute of film and it was the only thing on TV. I stood and watched one for a while, thinking maybe there was news about how she was doing, but all the TV bimbo said was the same stuff from last night—that Morgan was being treated at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Hollywood, and her assailant was still at large.

At least she was still alive. Or they seemed to think so.

Luckily, Mr. Brown was waiting for me by the baggage carousel thing. At first I thought he must be talking to someone else when he came up to me, all silver-haired and magazine-handsome in one of those Italian designer suits.

Dodie? I'm so glad you're here. He held out his hand.

But I didn't shake it because I had to grab the Barney bag off the carousel, feeling like an idiot.

It's very nice of you to meet me Mr. Brown, I said. I didn't know what I was gonna do if I couldn't find you. I don't do the cell-phone thing.

Cal, he said. He gave me a movie-star smile as he took hold of Barney. Please call me Cal.

I looked at this man who was wearing clothes that cost more than my car and thought I'd be darned if I was going to call him Cal. But the name jogged my memory.

I could see him like he looked forty years ago—long-haired, with a ratty little beard, and braces on his teeth.

So have you seen Morgan? I said. How bad is she?

He looked choked up.

"I don't know. They haven't let me see her. I don't know when we'll be allowed into her hospital room. The medical people refuse to speak to me. I don't even know if she's still alive. This is nerve-wracking.

She might be dead? I did not want to hear I'd come 3000 miles for nothing. I was going to grieve for Morgan, but I didn't want to do it here. Without even a cigarette. Well, what am I here for, then?

Mr. Brown sighed. Right now, we're here to meet with Mr. Fischer.

Mr. Fischer. Stony. I was going to see him again. With me looking like a trailer park grandma. I had not thought this through. I have some nicer clothes. I didn't think to put them on. Not that it would matter. I'm an old lady now. Nothing was going to hide that.

I wanted to say, Um, I forgot my younger self back in Maine. I think I'll just go home and see if I can find her.

Instead I said, And what does Stony want us to do?

I don't know. But he says the stalker who shot Morgan has sent another death threat.

3—JUNGLE BLOOD

––––––––

Mr. C. L. Brown even moved like a rich person. He kind of glided, like his joints were as slick and polished as his outfit.

As I followed him through what must have been about ten miles of terminal, he kept talking about what Mr. Fischer said.

I kept my eye out for a smoking lounge.

I don't know why Stony thinks I can help, Mr. Brown. You must know Morgan a lot better than me. I haven't seen her since the day she married Merlin, nearly forty years ago. Everything I know is ancient history.

Morgan and I are ancient history, too.

He gave a funny smile.

We haven't been close for a long, long time, he said. We had something of a reunion in the '80s—when her father was sick in the first wave of AIDS. I helped her with the funeral and selling his Manhattan nightclub, but I didn't see her again until I ran into her at the Oscars the year my film was nominated. She wasn't particularly warm. But she was with Jack Nicholson then, and I think he made her awfully insecure.

You haven't heard from her since then?

I called her a few times this last year, trying to get her to come to New York to read for my new play, but she turned me down. She seemed terrified of coming back east. I thought it was because of painful memories of her father, but maybe it was about this—this person who shot her. I guess this stalker has been harassing her for some time. That's what Mr. Fischer said.

Did he say how I'm supposed to be able to help her?

He thinks you and I might be able identify the shooter before she gets attacked again. She's been getting death threats for months, and she mistrusts pretty much everyone. He also said she's been paying off some blackmailer, but now that she's nearly broke, she can't pay and he might be the attacker.

Morgan with no money. How could that be? Her family owned most of Avalon. She wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth. It was more like platinum.

Mr. Fischer can't get Morgan to tell him who the blackmailer is. He thought I might know, but I don't have any idea, do you? Mr. Brown looked as baffled as I was.

Not a clue. A lot of people probably hate Morgan, but how do you blackmail somebody who's famous for being wicked? Threaten to tell the media that they never inhaled or something?

Mr. Brown laughed. A real laugh. It made me like him better.

But I shouldn't have brought up inhaling.

Sorry, I said when we got outside. I gotta have a cig.

Mr. Brown's face went back to frowning and he gave me a look like I'd announced I was going to take a dump in the middle of the parking lot.

I ignored it and lit up.

Did you say Morgan's broke?

He nodded. Just about, according to Mr. Fischer. He's taken over her finances since she fired her whole management staff, and he says everything is a mess. She has a big tax debt. That's why she's doing those god-awful infomercials.

What about the money she inherited from Merlin? She was his wife. She got everything. Did she go through it all?

We'd come to Mr. Brown's car. A silver Lexus. Natch. I took a last drag on my cig and tossed it on the asphalt as he held the door open for me. He gave me the eye daggers again.

Merlin didn't leave Morgan anything but debt, he said. The record company owned his catalogue and image. And he put everything he had into that Malibu property. I think she's got the place mortgaged to the hilt now.

~

Wow. All those years I'd been mad at Merlin for not leaving some of his millions to Vivie. Millions that never existed. I tried to get my brain around that as we sat in bumper to bumper traffic on some freeway. Aside from the palm trees, this place wasn't much different from Boston. Same burger places and mall stores. So far California wasn't impressing me. 

So if Morgan's lost it all, why doesn't she borrow money from her brother, our illustrious congressman? Now that the Bradford Corporation makes computer stuff instead of paper, he's some kind of trillionaire, isn't he?

Apparently she'd been feuding with him.

I'm with her on that. Congressman Tree-Hugger isn't real popular down our way. People talk about him on TV like he's the next JFK, but when he closed our mill and blew up the dam—he may have made some horny little fishies happy, but he put 90% of Avalon out of work.

I figured I'd better change the subject before I said something I shouldn't. I could tell Mr. Brown was most likely a tree hugger himself.

Here I am going on about me and our hometown troubles. What about you? I've seen you on TV, right—maybe on Oprah? You won a prize for that book called Camelot something—or was that a movie?

"Camelot Dreams was the book title. He gave a twisty smile. But they called the movie Jungle Blood. Stallone was horribly miscast."

I remembered Jungle Blood. I think I must have seen it pretty soon after my husband Bobby died. It was one of those real depressing 70's Vietnam movies—about a Puerto Rican artist who got blown up saving his buddies in a battle. All I could think of at the time was that Bobby might have been better off if he'd died doing something like that—at least he would have left some medals for the kids to be proud of.

"Camelot Dreams is a prettier name. I don't know why they went and changed it."

We were off the freeway now. The palm trees that lined the street looked like big hairy lollipops, swishing in the wind.

They changed it because my book was about how JFK's dreams of a mythic America led to the horrors of Vietnam. Mr. Brown let out a sigh. And how one heroic gay man gave up his life for that myth.

Heroic gay man. Now I remembered what he talked about on Oprah.

But the movie was about blowing things up in a jungle. Mr. Brown gave a silly laugh. And Mr. Stallone's muscles, of course.

So were you and Morgan really—you know—together, back then in Cambridge? Because I thought you told Oprah you were, you know, a queer.

Lord, I sounded like a hick. Gay. The word was gay.

He laughed again. I don't like labels. I had a shrink in West Hollywood who calls me a 'Po-mo sexual'—for post-modern.

You're post-modern-sexual? I was confused now. But you used to be gay?

Luckily, the conversation ended when he pulled into the driveway of a fancy hotel.

~

There he was in the lobby: Stony.

He looked so much the same I felt like I was time-traveling. Maybe he was a little thicker around the middle, with gray hair—and more expensive clothes, but amazingly the same. Not handsome, but the sexiest man I've ever met.

I think I stopped breathing for a minute there.

Then Stony ran up and threw his arms around me.

I felt blood rush to my face. I couldn't talk.

Hey, Red, he whispered, as if my poor hair wasn't pure gray now. I've missed you.

And...darn if I didn't start to cry.

Is it Morgan? Mr. Brown froze. I guess he thought I was crying for some good reason. Is she...still with us?

Stony gave a look I could not read.

But Mr. Brown looked as if he might cry, too.

4—WITCHMOBILE

––––––––

Stony gave a weird laugh. Then he broke into that grin I always see when I dream about him.

Morgan's alive and kicking. And she'll kick me if I don't get you to the hospital ASAP. They're about to discharge her. Come on. I've brought the Witchmobile. She insisted.

What do you mean? Mr. Brown said. She's out of intensive care? What about security? Isn't she still in danger? You said somebody might attack her again.

Yes. That's why the hospital people want her out of there. The last thing a hospital needs is a crazed gunman stalking the patients.

They're throwing a dying woman out of the hospital? I felt like I'd missed something. Where the heck are the police?

Stony put a hand on my shoulder and steered me out toward the door.

Let's get to a more secure area. You never know who might be listening.

You think the attacker is here—listening to us? I looked around the lobby, wondering if one of the skinny, tanned people around us might be about to pull out a gun.

Or the media. They'll play right into his hands, I'm afraid.

They still haven't found this guy? Mr. Brown gave an angry sigh. He actually hijacked a woman's car and disappeared—in freeway traffic?

Apparently, Stony said. If it's a him. And there's the mystery of the second shooter.

It could be a her? I hadn't heard anybody say that on the TV news, but I remembered the weird dramas at Morgan's wedding. Her lesbian friend from New York showed up and tried to get Morgan to run off with her.

It wasn't that Susie Schwartz again, was it? I said. You'd think she'd have figured out by now that Morgan's not a lesbo.

Actually, Morgan and Susie developed a close relationship after Merlin died. Mr. Brown's voice took on a snotty tone. But they've both moved on. Susie's partner now is Harrie Wainwright, the philanthropist. I can assure you this attack doesn't involve Susie.

I didn't know what he meant by close relationship.

Maybe Morgan had turned into one of those po-mo-sexuals, too.

I concentrated on how good Stony's hand felt resting on my shoulder.

So how's your wife? I had to ask. Will she be coming to the hospital? And your little Analisa?

Stony gave a big laugh.

My ex? I hope not! She's running a boutique in Palm Springs. And as for Ana—she's an executive over at Disney. She doesn't have a lot of time for small-time players.

He led us to the biggest, blackest old Rolls Royce I'd ever seen. Even the windows were black so you couldn't see inside. The license plate said GDWITCH. Inside, it was upholstered in black suede. My brother-in-law would have traded his whole car dealership for something like that.

I didn't know exactly who Stony meant when he was talking about smalltime.  If this car was small-time, I was a goddam bug.

5—MORGAN'S SECRET

––––––––

Morgan was cranked up in the bed, with bandages across her chest. She didn't look much like the Morgan I knew. Her hair was straight and kind of thin—she'd always had big, crazy-curly hair as a kid—and her lips were puffy and beat up-looking. Otherwise, she didn't look that bad.

I didn't know whether to be relieved or pissed off.

She reached for Mr. Brown's hand.

Cal! I'm so glad you've come. Her eyes went teary as she brought his hand to her cheek. Thanks. I can't tell you how much this means.

She looked up at him, all kind of drifty, like she was watching him in a movie. She talked in a funny monotone without moving her lips. After a minute she sat up a little straighter and gave Mr. Brown his hand back. She didn't even seem notice I was there.

So I guess Stony told you I was desperate to see you. You get kind of nutty when somebody shoots you. You forget how long it's been...I would have phoned you myself, but somehow my phone got lost.

Her eyes were tearing up again.

Lord, I can be such an idiot. Now I got it. She was still in love with the guy. A queer. Her true love was never Merlin. Or even Susie Schwartz. It was this guy. Poor Morgan. She's the only woman I know who has more awful taste in men than me.

She finally seemed to register who the fat old lady with the gray hair was.

Dodie! She squealed like we were a couple high school girls running into each other at the mall. Dodie Hannigan! Is that you? What are you doing here? She pulled me toward her with her free hand and said, kiss kiss, into the air, not getting her lips even close to me.

What's wrong with your face? Mr. Brown had been looking at her kind of misty-eyed, but now it was like he saw her for real instead of through a nostalgia haze. I thought you were wounded in the chest. Has there been another attack?

I figured I'd get some collagen as long as I was in here getting good pain meds, Morgan said.

She was using her phony voice. She used the same fakey tone when she was lying at the age of ten. I had no idea what was going on, but I was beginning to feel conned.

Collagen? Mr. Brown turned to Stony. She's at death's door and they're giving her cosmetic surgery?

Death's door? Morgan gave her old goofy laugh. Stony, didn't you tell them?

Tell us what? Mr. Brown was starting to look pissed off.

The bullet—it just grazed a rib, Morgan said. I'm going to be fine.

Now I was confused. But all the blood—I saw it on TV.

The bullet hit me in the boob. All that dramatic spurting was from my implant—saline mixed with a little blood. But it looked so dramatic; we figured we'd let people think it was serious. You can't beat the publicity.

Now I was mad. But I didn't say anything.

Well, we figured if the shooter thought he'd succeeded, I'd be safe for a while, Morgan's voice sounded more real now. You wouldn't believe how scary it is when somebody wants you dead.

I looked in her eyes and saw a little bit of the Morgan I used to know—a real Morgan, real scared.

6—AVALON BURNING

––––––––

So the threats aren't bogus, Mr. Brown said to Morgan. Even though this emergency is?

I think the word for how he looked is glowering.

There's a real emergency, all right. The hospital is discharging me, since my cheapskate insurance company won't let me stay another day. Morgan turned to Stony. You may be right about this psycho. I just got another note, delivered in a bunch of flowers. Third one since I got shot.

She pointed to an arrangement that looked like it was for a funeral. Irises. I've never cared for them.

Stony took the note. He shook his head and made a whistling noise.

Have you told the police?

Morgan shook her head. How could I? The paramedics lost my phone.

There was a perfectly good landline phone next to her bed, but I guess fancy people forget how to use them.

Stony studied the note and handed it to Mr. Brown.

What's this stuff about Camelot, Morgan? Mr. Brown said, 'You will burn in Camelot, witch, like you burned us in Avalon.' Have all the notes been like this?

Yes. Stony's shoulders tensed. They all about burning and Avalon. You see why I needed Red to come out here? He looked over at me. Sorry to pull you away from your family, but you're the only person I know in Avalon, Maine. I hope you can help us on this."

Things were starting to dawn on me.

Morgan didn't ask for me at all, did she? It was you?

Stony nodded and gave me a funny smile.

But I'm so glad you're here, Dodie. Morgan reached for my hand. I hope it's not a horrible inconvenience. I've caused your family enough trouble. I could tell she really felt bad about taking Merlin from Vivie.

I wished I could tell her the truth about them. But this wasn't the time. 

Stony looked upset. This doesn't have anything to do with Merlin! The police are myopic. So are the media. It's easy to say it's a crazed Merlin fan, but this stalker—or stalkers—came from Avalon. I'll bet on it.

So that was it. I had to tell them they'd brought me on a wild goose chase.

I hate to argue, but you know, Avalon folks, we don't go around shooting people all that much—not unless some guy gets drunk and mistakes his mother-in-law for a moose.

There was nothing I wanted to do more than to help Morgan and Stony, but they needed to know the police were probably right—Merlin's fans were always blaming her for his crash.

The name Avalon's there—in every single note. Stony turned the new death threat letter over and over. But this is the first that mentions Camelot.

Avalon and Camelot are both integral parts of the traditional Merlin myth cycle, Mr. Brown said in a Masterpiece Theater voice. Anyone semi-culturally literate could have written that, it seems to me.

Yes, and there's an Avalon right nearby—on Catalina Island, Morgan said. Camelot could be thrown in for lots of reasons—

Bullshit, Stony said. It's the name Merlin gave to the ranch—your house, Morgan.

Mr. Brown gave that twisty smile again. You call your house 'Camelot'? Isn't that a bit much?

Morgan rolled her eyes. No. I call it 386 Old Canyon Road. But Merlin put that name on all the plans. Yes, it was stupid and pretentious. That's why hardly anybody knows about the name—and Stony is right. That does make it scary.

So what do you want to do, Morgan? Stony still looked worried. Do you want to go to the police? We shouldn't take you home if it isn't safe.

No—I want to go home. Now. If the cops won't help, hire me some security. Call in a damned army if you have to.

I could see Morgan le Fay, the star, taking over.

An orderly knocked on the door. He had an empty wheelchair.

Time to go, Miss le Fay.

Morgan stood, wobbling as she drew herself to her feet.

Wait, Mr. Brown took her arm in a gentle way that made me like him better. I've made reservations at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Why don't you and Dodie go there? Mr. Fischer and I can talk to the police and fetch you when it's safe to go home.

That would be fine except for one thing, Stony said. Hospital security will help us get Morgan to the car, but there's going to be a bunch of paparazzi following wherever she goes. The shooter could be with them, or try to use them to find out where she's gone.

Stony looked at me and back at Morgan. He had a weird sparkle in his eye.

Morgan, do you have that big red wig you were wearing when you were shot?

Morgan pointed to a suitcase in the corner.

Stony opened it.

Red, do you want to be Morgan le Fay for a few hours? Maybe we can get the media to follow me so Morgan can sneak out?

He gave me the wig. It looked like I was going to get to be a red-head again for a few minutes. This was crazy. I didn't look a thing like her, but maybe from a distance...

We can drive the Witchmobile. He turned to Mr. Brown. Cal, you take Morgan to the hotel in a cab. Red and I will take the media on a little visit to our local branch of the LAPD. I've got to show the detectives this note, and I want them to talk to Red.

I didn't much want to talk to the Los Angeles police, but if it made Stony happy, I figured I might as well do it. I pulled on the wig over my own thin hair. It actually didn't look too bad.

~

A few minutes later, we were ready: Morgan wearing my sweatsuit, and me in the wig and dark glasses and a black velvet caftan—the only thing she had that was big enough to fit me.

She put on my scarf and parka and walked carefully to the door. She might not have been hurt that badly, but I could see she was in some pain.

She gave me a big grin. Ready for your wheelchair, Miss le Fay?

Stony laughed and helped me toward the chair. 

Mr. Brown stopped us.

Where will Dodie go after you meet with the police? We don't want any demented individuals shooting her, either.

I can take Dodie to Malibu, Stony said.

To Camelot? Mr. Brown looked worried. What about this fire threat? Won't that just put Dodie in danger instead of Morgan?

I've got a beach cottage in town, Stony said. It should be safe. She can stay with me until we get some security at the big house. Is that okay, Red? He rested his hand on my shoulder.

I laughed. Real loud. Somebody out in the hallway shushed me. But I didn't care. All of a sudden we'd gone from tragedy to playing a silly game.

And staying in little beach cottage with Stony sounded like Camelot to me.

7—MANIACS

––––––––

The media people followed us all the way to the police station like we were in a big crazy parade.

We ignored the circus as Stony helped me out of the back seat of the Rolls, put an arm around me and hurried me into the building. He must have called ahead, because there were a couple of detectives waiting to meet us. Stony seemed to know them, so I guess they were in charge of investigating Morgan's shooting.

We sat in a bare little room with a big mirror like the ones you always see on those TV shows.

The detectives listened politely to Stony; even though it was real obvious they thought his Avalon idea was Looney-Tunes. They were respectful to me, but kind of like I was somebody's senile old auntie.

I guess it was on their computer about my ex-husband Bobby and how he ended up a John Doe in the Boston morgue, so they asked me a few questions about that. They also asked about a bunch of people I'd never heard of—some convicts named Wanda and Leroy; a guy named Victor who died forty years ago in a burglary in some New York apartment; and a dope dealer named Hiram Weed.

Hi Weed. I had to laugh. I told them no, I was sure I'd remember a name like that.

I guess I had to forgive them for calling me Mrs. Co-de-ray instead of Co-dare. I wasn't too good at pronouncing Detective Jimenez's name, either.

They took the new death threat letter as evidence, but they seemed real skeptical about some maniac from Maine coming out here to shoot celebrities.

They had to make the old joke about Mainers being Maniacs, but I forgave them. They were pretty nice. And I had to tell them I wasn't convinced of Stony's theory myself

~

The paparazzi were still waiting for us after we talked to the cops. Stony's plan was that I wasn't supposed to look like Morgan anymore, so they'd think she snuck out the back way. Or maybe she was still in the hospital. 

So I took off the wig and sunglasses. Which was fine with me. It was nearly dark.

But they obviously recognized Stony, and when we tried to make our way back to the Rolls, I got a taste of what it must be like to be a movie star.

Let me tell you, it's not all fun—with creeps sticking microphones and cameras in your face and asking stupid questions.

Is this Merlin's revenge?; Will you comment on the rumor that the Congressman ordered the hit?; Who wants Morgan le Fay dead?

The who wants Morgan dead guy grabbed at my arm while Stony tried to get the car door open.

I pulled away with a jerk and my nose collided with a microphone.

Jeez-us!  That thing hurt.

Jesus wants Morgan le Fay dead? God is punishing her for her sins?

I just stared, amazed at how dumb these guys could be.

But of course I was the dumb one. He gave me a mean old grin and clicked off his video camera.

And that's how come people saw me looking like a lunatic, telling the world that God was punishing Morgan for her sins.

That's all there was to it, in spite of what it looked like on the evening news.

~

Stony got the door shut and somehow drove the Witchmobile out of there without running over any of those creeps, although I kinda wish he had.

We drove a while through the city on those crazy freeways until we got out to the coast road. I felt sort of like I was on an alien planet. The ocean was on the wrong side, for one thing, and the hills were fuzzy and naked-looking, with lots of dry grass, but no trees. The country was pretty in its own way, though, all lit up with half a moon.

Or maybe it was me that was lit up. I know I should have been worrying about crazed gunmen, but I have to admit, I was in some happy kind of daze. After all, Morgan was okay, and I was in California, riding in a movie-star car with the man I'd been dreaming about more than half my life.

Not that Stony was being dreamy. He was not giving up his notion that whoever shot Morgan was from Avalon, so he was grilling me about Morgan and me when we were kids and who we knew that might stalk her.

Did she have any friends who grew up to be weird loners—Stephen King guys who dress up like scary clowns?

I tried to laugh it off, but that stuff gets my goat, I gotta admit. Between the Maniac jokes and Stephen King, people think us Mainers are all lunatics. 

Avalon is just a normal, boring little town, I said. It was only after Morgan left that she started hanging around with weird people. She had friends named Harrie and Luce who were political radicals. They got her in all kinds of trouble.

Harriet and Lucinda Wainwright? Of the Wainwright Foundation? Stony gave a weird laugh. I don't think we need to worry about them, especially since Lucinda's daughter is Morgan's sister-in-law.

I'd forgotten that Congressman Boxer's glamorous wife was the daughter of one of those Wainwright girls. I tried to keep my brain flipping through my old memories.

What about those ministers from Morgan's wedding? They were pretty strange.

Lorraine and Lorenzo are still strange, but they're too busy selling their 'Chicken Soup for the Boudoir' aromatherapy candles to have time for assassinating old friends, I think.

I didn't know if he was making a joke or not, so I ignored that last comment.

The police didn't seem to hold with your notions about maniacs from Maine. What about these convicts, Wanda and Leroy? Or this Hi Weed?

That name made me giggle every time.

Wanda and Leroy are murdering scum, but they're still incarcerated, and Weed is a low-life sleaze, but I can't think why he would write about Avalon. Can you think of anybody back home who might have something against her? What about that priest who molested little girls?

It still made me feel kind of icky to talk about Father Grenier. I did not want the conversation to go in that direction. Not tonight. Jeez.

He died, I said in a voice that let him know I was finished with that subject.

I was pretty sure the guy was dead. That's what I heard from the Thibodaux girls, anyway.

What about some boyfriend—some high school guy who had a crush on Morgan and never got lucky?

I had to tell him Morgan Boxer hadn't been exactly the belle of Avalon.

Not likely. She left before she turned fourteen, and besides, she was serious wallflower material. A total dork.

A wallflower? Didn't her family own the whole town?

Yup. That's why the kids hated her. Her dad was the world's worst boss. Before I met her in fifth grade, I don't think she had one friend. A poor little rich girl. Sounds like a cliché, but that's what she was.

I guess we're all clichés when you think about it. There are only so many stories. So people keep reliving them. I wondered which cliché Stony and I were: star-crossed lovers, dumb chick suffering from unrequited love, or two old farts making fools of themselves. 

I was hoping like crazy for that last one.

Stony turned and gave me a grim smile.

Well, Morgan le Fay is a cliché that somebody wants dead, Dodie. Anything you can remember might help. You have to think back.

Part 2

Once Upon a Time in the Fifties: Morgan

Ayyh remember the Fifties? Remember television, Coca-Cola, and Dick Clark?

...Wolfguy Jack, The Simpsons

8—DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW

––––––––

On a January morning in 1958, Morgan Boxer sat alone at the dorky kids' end of the library table and got madder and madder as she flipped the pages of the last chapter of King Arthur of Camelot. How could the king be dead? Good guys were not supposed to die when the bad guys were still out there.

It wasn't fair.

Three queens rode the barge to Avalon. One was Vivienne, the ruler of the Isle of Avalon. The second was the Lady of the Lake, and the third was Queen Morgan le Fay, the king's sister. They placed the dying King Arthur on the barge and sailed into the mist...

At least the book showed that the story her father told was true: Morgan was the name of a magical queen, not some ugly wicked witch, like Grandpa Bradford said.

A paper airplane sailed close to her head and caught in the frizz of her hair. She could hear giggling from the other end of the table, where Bobby Codere and a bunch of other fifth grade boys were being obnoxious.

They started humming the stupid song How Much is that Doggie in the Window which was supposed to make her feel bad because Boxer was the name of a kind of dog.

She scrunched the paper airplane in her fist and hid behind the book, pretending she was a real magical witch queen who could turn Bobby and his friends into toads.

The yellowing book pages smelled like cigarettes. She kind of liked the smell. It reminded her of her dad's den back in New York. She didn't really want to turn the page, because the book was almost done, but she read on:

Yet some say that Arthur the High King is not dead, but hidden away on the Isle of Avalon, and that he shall come again and reign...

Hey, Bow-Wow. A voice called from Bobby's end of the table.

Sh-h-h!" Morgan hissed without looking up.

You with the witchy hair, a girl's voice said.

And the waggly tail. A boy started singing again.

Maybe the town of Avalon, Maine was named for some magical island, but this Avalon was freezing cold and full of swamp Yankee morons who didn't even know enough to be quiet in the library.

Hey, you! the girl said again.

Morgan didn't look up. Saturdays at the library were the only good thing in her whole life since her family had to move from New York to middle-of-nowhere, Maine, and she wasn't going to let anybody ruin her day.

Hey! You took my book.

Morgan could see out of the corner of her eye that some red-haired girl was inching down the table toward her.

I need that King Arthur book, the girl whispered. It's the only copy not checked out. I have to write my book report for Monday, and I haven't even finished reading it.

I haven't finished it, either. Morgan closed the cover so the girl wouldn't see she only had a page to go.

You gotta give it to me. I had to return it yesterday because it was overdue, and I was going to take it out again today, only you got it first. I really need it. Please? I'm sorry what I said about your hair.

Quiet girls, said the library lady. Her lipsticky smile looked painted on, like a doll's.

The red-haired girl leaned on the table and looked up at Morgan all puppy-cute with her pixie haircut and fuzzy parka and bunny-fur earmuffs. Most of the popular girls at North Grammar School wore fur earmuffs—the girls who were always giggling at the back of the room. Morgan couldn't stand them.

Susie Schwartz, her friend back in New York, said killing animals for their fur was mean.

Sh-h-h! Morgan opened the book again.

With one quick move, the earmuff girl yanked the book right from under Morgan's face. Tucking it under her parka, she ran toward the door.

Robber! Morgan called to the library lady. She stole my book!

Quiet! The library lady didn't even look up.

Morgan grabbed her coat and ran after the girl.

Give that back! Hey earmuffs! Give that back! That book is checked out to me.

She stood at the top of the library steps and looked for a grown-up on the street, but nobody was close enough to hear. Icy flurries cut into the bare skin of her arms. She stuck a hand into the sleeve of her coat as she ran down the steps. But the snow, which had been wet slush a couple of hours ago, had frozen into deep, icy ruts in the chilly wind.

The toe of her boot caught in a frozen footprint. She reached for the iron railing, but it was too far away.

Bump, bump, bump—she slid all the way down the stairs on her rear end. For a minute she lay on her back, cold as the ice on the sidewalk, her coat not even buttoned, wondering if she was going to throw up.

Everything started to go black.

She was going to die.

Only ten years old, and she'd be dead and everybody would say it was her own fault, just like everything else since her family left New York because the city is no place to raise a child.

Everything in Avalon—the big freezing-cold house on the hill; the stink of sulfur from Bradford Paper across the river; her Dad's thankless job managing the plant for Grandpa; the radio that didn't get WQXR and only played that rock and roll—it was all her fault.

We didn't have rock and roll before the war, her mother always said. Because we didn't have teenagers. You were a child until you turned sixteen, and then you could wear your hair up and go to parties with a chaperone, and when you were eighteen you made your debut. Then you got married. That was that. No teenagers. No ponytails. No rock and roll. Young women did not make spectacles of themselves. Julian, speak to the child. I'm going to bed.

Her mother went to bed a lot. She was sure to be asleep now, and Morgan knew she'd hate to get a call from some lipsticky library lady to say she had to come down and pick up her dead kid who was frozen to the sidewalk.

Hey you! Are you all right? The red-haired girl squatted above her.

Morgan shut her eyes again. Her rear end hurt. She held her breath. She could not cry, not when she'd just made such a goon of herself in front of this horrible girl.

Should I get an ambulance? the girl said. You're not dead, are you?

Of course I'm not dead, Morgan said in her most grown-up voice. She sat up straight to show she was fine and not a cry-baby.

The girl started to laugh. She put fingers painted with pink nail polish over her mouth and giggled. Her freckled nose wrinkled, and her little body shook.

Morgan wanted to smash her like a bug.

Give my book back. She started buttoning up her coat.

The girl sort of twisted her mouth for minute like she was thinking, and then unzipped her parka and pulled the book out. She handed it to Morgan like it had cooties on it.

I like true-life adventures better, anyway. About horses and dogs and stuff. I have to do this for an assignment, because Sister Benedict is totally mental over Holy Grail stuff. Hey, why don't we go somewhere warm and you can tell me what happens, okay? Enough so I can write a book report?

The girl had a thick Maine accent, and said wam for warm. 

Morgan pulled herself to her feet, but still felt dizzy.

You look real pale. The girl looked into Morgan's face. Are you sure you're all right? Being pale could be a sign of a condition. My friend Yvette Thibodeaux has a condition. Maybe you should go to a doctor.

I don't need a doctor. She was not going to let this girl know how scared she'd been.

The girl gave her a big smile. Good. I'm going to be a doctor when I grow up. An animal doctor. That's called a veterinarian.

Everybody knows that. Morgan brushed the snow off the back of her coat with one hand, clutching the book with the other. She knew she was supposed to want to be a mom when she grew up, but she didn't know if she was pretty enough for anybody to marry her. You have to be smart to be a doctor. She let the words come out kind of snotty.

Yeah, I know. That's why I'm glad I'm the smart one. My sister Vivie's the pretty one, but I'm the smart one. I got all A's last year.

Morgan didn't say anything. Getting all A's in a place