THE WARDROBE’S BEST DRESSED: SUSANNA SOLOMON’S “POINT REYES SHERRIFF’S CALLS”

Susanna Solomon

From the Sheriff’s Calls Section in the Point Reyes Light, November 27, 2011

POINT REYES STATION: At 10:42 a.m. deputies called for back-up for a “pedestrian who was not following orders.”

Their Timing Was Perfect

All afternoon Kelly Dunlap, 45, of Point Reyes Station, had been watching the old guy trying to cross the street, and was about to help him when he saw deputies coming to the man’s aid. Satisfied, he turned his attention back to his work, refinishing the rebuild of a 1979 cobalt- blue Pontiac Trans Am. The car was as smooth as a tub under his practiced hands.

It was a busy morning at the garage. Five cars and two tractors were lined up, and the orders on clipboards flapped in the breeze from the open garage doors. That Trans Am looked great – it wasn’t the usual kind of car they serviced and Kelly was proud. It had taken over a month, fitting it in here and there. He couldn’t wait until the owner saw it.

Wiping his hands on his monkey suit, he headed to the office. It was time he made that call to his ex-wife. He’d put it off for hours, but wanted to call her before she called him. Otherwise, one of the wise guys would holler over the loudspeaker system: “Kelly, Betty is on the phone,” his laughter rising to the rafters, which would make Kelly cringe. The worst part of it was that everyone out on the street in downtown Point Reyes Station would hear the same thing.

Kelly picked up the dusty rotary phone in the office with grease-stained hands. No matter how much GoJo hand cleaner he used, the creases in his fingers were always black. He listened as the phone rang at the other end. Maybe Betty was in the yard with the kids, with dour Charles who hated his name or pretty Mary who liked to bring home the wrong kind of boys from school and while away the afternoons while Betty was stuck in her office, providing paralegal help to a bunch of rich guys from Petaluma. Kelly kept telling her to move to West Marin, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

In the middle of the fourth ring, someone walked into the shop bay and he put down the phone. It was Deputy Linda Kettleman and she was a knockout. He wondered if she’d been a model before she moved into his little hometown.

“Hi, Linda, can I help you?” Kelly asked, wanting to wipe his hands cleaner than they were.

“Cruiser’s got a dent, Kelly. Came around a blind corner last night, in dense fog, hit a deer.”

Kelly, a venison lover, started asking her about the deer. Was it hurt? Stunned? Dead on the side of the road? He was just about to ask where it was when he realized, with a start, he hadn’t asked her how she was. “I could come pick it up, Linda, save you the trouble, and quarter it for you.” He was used to butchering meat: it was in his family’s blood. They had a ranch along Chileno Valley Road and he’d still be there if he hadn’t taken body shop in high school, turned his back on the family business, and pissed off his father for life. He looked at Linda eagerly.

“Kelly, we don’t do that. We call the Humane Society.” She liked venison too, but she was a rules kind of gal. And she was new. At the station, the guys talked about hunting, but none of them ever did. She was a much better shot than all of them.

Kelly ran his hands over the cruiser’s crumpled fender. “As for the cruiser, three days, a thousand dollars, unless …” He stopped there. The boss wouldn’t be too happy if he found out Kelly bartered sometimes. He winked.

“I haven’t got all day. Can I have the car tomorrow afternoon?”

“So, you didn’t answer my question,” Kelly said.

“Oh, yes I did.” She adjusted the grip on her standard-issue holster: damn thing dug into her hip and still, after six months, she wasn’t used to the weight of the belt and all the equipment. Twenty pounds on her too-heavy hips was unnecessary in this cow town. “Just fix the cruiser. Forget about the deer.” She tossed her keys to him and headed to the door.

“Hey Linda,” Kelly called. “Paperwork.” He headed toward her with a clipboard, pen and form. His hands didn’t work right. He kept focusing on her front. He knew better: women like Linda were way beyond his world. But what the hell, worth a try. “How ‘bout a beer, you know, like, after work?” he asked. He had no way with women but was fascinated by them.

“You asking me out, Kelly? You know I’m not supposed to date perpetrators.”

“Perpetrator? What’d I do? Conspiracy to clean up road kill? Dating you, it’s legal, don’t you think?”

“And after the beer?” Linda asked, teasing him. She had a bit of a cruel streak, and sometimes didn’t feel like tempering it.

“Dinner?” he asked, not believing his luck. He came closer. “You know where I work,” he said, trying not to appear overly eager. Was she this easy? That’s not what he’d heard from the other guys in town.

“And after dinner?” Linda asked, knowing the answer already.

Kelly wasn’t going to say anything. He had a nice view from here. What would it be like when she took off her uniform? His hands were getting sweaty, and the pen kept slipping from his fingers.

“Kelly, Kelly,” Linda sighed. Not six months on the force and everyone hit on her. “I’m not going out with you.”

His face fell.

“I was teasing you – bad habit of mine.” Her manipulation of men was nothing to be proud of. She liked putting bad guys behind bars, but she had trouble being around the good ones. Too many years being chased by her two older brothers and they had been relentless. She’d been taught too well to fight back and had lost her gentle side.

Kelly, his face clouded, scratched his head. Twice denied in less than two minutes. He could understand the venison, and the date, but there’d been no call to tease him like that, to turn on him. Maybe he’d take two weeks to fix her cruiser, and fill the bumps and hollows with Bondo.

“The heck with it.” He threw a wrench into a tool chest. He’d been too forward, Betty was about to call, the guys were back in the office, and he’d been shot down. Not a good day so far.

“I’ll get to the cruiser today, ma’am,” he said, putting on his best businessman voice.

Linda felt bad for him. He did have a nice head of chestnut brown hair and eager, light- blue eyes. She could, she supposed, do something nice to make it up to him. Her dad had told her she’d never get a husband if she didn’t lighten up. But a husband like Kelly? Well, definitely not him. But she could at least.

“How ‘bout that beer?”

Kelly brightened, but guardedly, so as not to let her see it. He wasn’t going to be fooled again. “Say, six?” he asked, teasing her this time. He’d be long gone out of Cheda’s by then.

“While you’re working on the car, check this address.” She wrote something down on a piece of paper.

“Use a flashlight. Shouldn’t be too hard to find. See you later.” She handed him the paper and walked out the door.

Kelly looked at the address. Just where Samuel P. Taylor Park began, where the redwoods closed in over the road. He knew the place. “See you then,” he called after her. He could go get the deer with a friend and be back by six.

Linda was halfway down the block and out of earshot when the loudspeaker over Kelly’s head crackled to life. “Kelly, Betty is on the phone.” It was followed by the unmistakable sound of laughter from the wise guys in the office. At this point, and forever after, Kelly was thankful to the gods – wherever and whoever they were – for their timing was perfect this time.


This selection comes from Susanna Solomon’s collection of short stories Point Reyes Sherriff’s Calls, available from HD Media Press. Purchase your copy here!

Author of fifteen short stories in the Point Reyes Light, a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper, Susanna Solomon is an electrical engineer and has run her own electrical engineering business for fifteen years. She lives in Northern California. She loves her grandchildren, gardening and dogs.

Rhiannon Thorne‘s work has appeared in Grasslimb, Midwest Quarterly, The Sierra Nevada Review, Bop Dead City, and Existere among others. She is the managing editor ofcahoodaloodaling and a book reviewer at Up the Staircase Quarterly. When not busy wrangling a pet, a good book, or a bottle of craft beer, she may be reached at rhiannonthorne.com.

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