So nice of you to stop by. I hope all is well. Me? I'm STEADY!
It's March. It's READING MONTH! So, in honor of READING MONTH, I'd like to give all the readers of Wrinkles Wallace: Knights of Night School, a BONUS CHAPTER to help with your celebration. Rejoice!
The following bonus chapter reintroduces you to Agnes. In WWKNS, Agnes meets Wrinkles and Spork at the local grocery store.
Agnes S. Moore
It’s hard to remember exactly how it happened. No, not because I’m a senior citizen (which I am, and I’m proud of it), but because after I met that young boy, things happened really quickly. When you get to be my age you’ll understand how slowing down and enjoying things has its benefits. But, with this little boy, life sped up, and I went from talking to him in a taxi, to getting free cab rides for a week, just for looking through a fanny pack. He didn’t save me a lot of money, but I really wanted to see if the kid could predict the future the way he acted like he could. And he was right on the money in both ways. Plus, I ended up going on a hot date with a changed gentleman who made my wig spin and brought smiling delight to my dentures.
It all started when I was on my way to work. Every evening I take a taxi cab to my job at GARDEN-GOTTEN FOOD. That’s the name of the place, but since some of the light bulbs are blown out (and we’d have to raise the prices on plums and pickles to replace them), everyone calls the store ROTTEN FOODS. You would think that light bulbs are the most expensive things in the store because we won’t even buy any of the bulbs we sell to replace the ones that have burnt out.
At GARDEN-GOTTEN FOOD, I’m a greeter, and everyone who can read and be polite calls me Agnes because that’s the name on my name tag. As the greeter, I make sure I greet customers coming in the store with a smile, kind words, and coupons. Nothing says hello like 50 cents off a gallon of 2% milk, or buy-one-get-one-free toilet paper coupons. Personally, I think putting things on sale at stores just shows that the stuff we sell is overpriced, but I’m a greeter, not a manager, and my job is to make sure each customer gets a smile and a chance to save when they come into our store.
On the day I met that darling little boy, I wasn’t feeling very good at all. I was trying to battle my way through a bad cold, and I had just finished watching the news. I wasn’t sure what made me feel worse: the green stuff I kept blowing out of my nose that needed three tissues instead of the usual two, or hearing about how some students were acting up in school and being disrespectful to the teachers. See, I used to be a teacher when I was much younger, but I got older and retired. After years of traveling and visiting my grandkids, I decided to get a job as a greeter to stay active. Lots of people my age say you have to stay active to stay alive. Me, I’m not willing to see if they’re wrong.
When the cab, driven by my usual cab driver, pulled up to my driveway and blew the horn twice, I had just finished blowing my nose the same amount of times, and I was checking to make sure I had my keys, so I wouldn’t be locked out after work. Once I had my keys in my purse, I slowly walked out of my house, down the two stairs one foot at a time, and went to the driver’s side of the cab to get in the back door.
By the time I had on my seatbelt, I realized that there were three of us in the car. At first I thought the child in the car was the son of my cab driver. When the driver didn’t start the meter that tells me how much the ride will cost, I knew something was different. Clearly our routine was changing.
“Good evening, Mrs. Agnes,” said the little boy. “I’m Mr. Quiet.”
“Just call me Agnes because I’m not married anymore.”
“Well, Agnes, I’m still Mr. Quiet, and it is a pleasure to meet you. With your permission, I’ll be paying your cab fare for a little while.”
“That’s fine with me, but what for?” I had to know because most young kids usually spend their money on candy and video games.
“Agnes, I need you to do me a favor. I’m going to need your eyes.”
“Young man— ”
“My name is Mr. Quiet.”
“I don’t care who you are, or what your name is, nobody is getting my eyes, or my glasses!”
“Agnes, maybe you’re misunderstanding me. What I mean is that I’m going to need you to look for a particular customer who will be coming into your store exactly one week from now.”
“How do you know?” I thought that was an appropriate question.
“How do you know?” I thought that was an appropriate question.
“Agnes, I have my ways.”
“So, what do I get out of this?”
“As I said before, I’ll be paying for your cab ride to work until the night you see him walking into the store.”
“How will I know who he is? We have thousands of people who walk in and out of our store every day. You have no clue how many people I greet and give coupons to during my shift.”
“Last night you gave out 972 coupons. Last night you greeted 1,049 people. Last night you smiled and raised your left eyebrow at a little Yorkshire Terrier with its head poking out of a matching tan purse that was sitting where most people put their bread, eggs, or toddlers.”
After that sentence, the cab driver tapped the brakes. Both of us were amazed with the kid.
“How do you know so much?” I had to know.
“Agnes, I have my ways.”
“How will I know who I am looking for?”
“He’ll probably be carrying a small satchel or a fanny pack that could hide something small like a golf ball or biscuit.”
“And he’ll be at the store one week from today?”
“And you’ll be paying for my taxi cab until he shows up?”
“What if he doesn’t show up? You know you’ll be paying for my taxi rides forever, right?”
“He’ll be there. Just make sure you’re looking for him and everything will be fine.”
Before I could say anything else, the cab was right in front of the store, and Mr. Quiet was unbuckling his seatbelt. He paid the driver and exited the cab like he had better and more important things to do than sit and talk to an old lady. I was about to sit in the backseat of the car and ask the cab driver about the kid, but the driver cleared his throat and put his hand on the button that starts the meter.
“Oh, look at the time. I don’t want to be late for work!” I said. I gave the cab driver his usual tip and reminded him of when I would be off work so he could pick me up and take me home.
In the days leading up to the seventh day, I looked for satchels and fanny packs worn by guys. I had just about given up on seeing anyone wearing or carrying either one of them by the time the day I had to really look for them arrived. And, to be honest, I was getting used to the free cab rides. But the most important thing to me was to see if the kid could predict the future. To me, that would be worth going back to paying for my own cab rides.
On the seventh day, I was all set to get in the cab when I saw that familiar head sitting in the passenger seat. The cab driver put the car in reverse and rolled out of my driveway faster than usual. We swerved in and out of traffic like we were rushing to get to the hospital or airport. The only thing on the road faster than the car was Mr. Quiet’s jaw.
“Agnes, so far, I know you haven’t seen one person with a fanny pack or a satchel. Tonight it is going to happen.”
“I know I’m right. Tonight, I just want you to be on alert so you don’t miss the guy.”
“What’s his name?”
“Wrinkles Wallace is his name.”
“Am I supposed to ask every guy that walks in our store if he is Wrinkles Wallace, or will he just come up to me and introduce himself?”
“Agnes, you’ll know him when you see him. Wrinkles has a presence when he walks into any room. I need you to stop him, search the fanny pack or satchel, and just mention what’s inside of the fanny pack.”
“Do I have to put a sticker on it and send him to customer service?”
“Agnes, did you not hear me, or did you not understand? I need you to do exactly what I said. That’s all. Don’t send him to customer service or put a sticker on the fanny pack. Just check the fanny pack and mention what he has inside of it.”
“What if he has a problem with me checking or mentioning?”
“Just tell him management told you to check and move on to the next customer. Everything will be fine. If you do everything right, I’ll see if I can throw in a little something extra for you.”
“Well, if things go right, there may be someone your age that I want you to meet.”
My smile was my response to what Mr. Quiet said. I was about to reply when I felt the force of a sudden stop. We were already at GARDEN-GOTTEN FOOD before I knew it. The cab driver jumped out of the front seat, opened my door like a gentleman, and nicely snatched me out of the backseat.
Mr. Quiet said, “Sorry about that, Agnes, but we’re in a big hurry and he needs to get me home and back to work really quickly. Keep your eyes on the fanny pack prize tonight and everything will be great.”
I stood still, without taking a step, because I feared the rear tire of the taxi cab might crush my toes as the cab driver sped off. I coughed after inhaling a mixture of burning rubber and car exhaust. Then I walked into the store to start working.
Later that night, I did see a guy wearing a fanny pack. His name was Wrinkles Wallace, and like Mr. Quiet predicted, it wasn’t hard to miss him. I did what Mr. Quiet asked me to do and took a look inside the fanny pack. I mentioned what was inside the fanny pack and kept greeting customers and handing out coupons. By morning, I knew I had done the job Mr. Quiet had asked me to do, because I ended up having breakfast with a handsome, older gentleman named Lenny.
Thanks again for checking out this READING MONTH bonus chapter for Wrinkles Wallace: Knights of Night School. Please feel free to leave a comment below.
PS STAY TUNED for the next bonus chapter... I call it "Edible Abuse" for a reason.