G’day, folks. Stu Magoo reporting for HPCI. It’s pelting down here. I just passed the Goran Vale is a Tidy Town sign. Rolling into the deserted little village now. There’s the Timber Town Motel on the left. Maybe I should check in, but hopefully I can find these characters and get the heck out of here before night.
There’s a parking spot just past the clock tower. Lots of spots in fact. This joint really is a graveyard. I saw someone standing in the doorway of the gift shop back there – probably the old woman Edna, or maybe it was Margaret. She looked nosey, or it could be I’m the first car to pass through town today.
Damn it’s pouring down. I have to make a run for it. Hope my recorder doesn’t get wet. If this comes out crackly you know what happened.
Aw heck. Aw heck… Whew! Made it. The Clock Tower Café. The joint’s empty of customers. This rather attractive middle aged woman would have to be Gwen.
Me: G’day, ma’am. You would be Gwen Harrington?
Gwen, eyebrow raised: Yes. Do you want to dry off?
She hands me the roll of paper towel she was using to wipe the counter.
Me: Ta. You look just like I imagined.
Gwen, eyebrow lifting again: Oh?
Me: From the book Beauty Skin Deep?. Or books actually. I see you get a brief scene or two in The Children’s Room and a short cameo in Ever Since April… I’m Stu Magoo by the way – reporting for HPCI.
Gwen: Oh, of course. Mr. Magoo…
She fixes her hair. Must be thinking the recorder I’m drying off has vision. Being from her future, anything’s possible, but no – no vision, sorry, Gwen. Although, I’m supposed to be interviewing the main characters from this story, but what the heck…
Me: So, Gwen, say hi to all of your readers. Everyone thinks you were one of the coolest characters.
I hold the recorder up.
Gwen speaks into it, blushing a big smile: Hi, readers!
Me: So, Gwen, twenty years as a psych nurse and four husbands – how has that been?
Gwen: All kinds of crazy – that’s how it’s been. And three husbands, not four, thank you very much. There won’t be a number four.
Gwen, scoffing: Pfft. Silly men. Who needs one fulltime? I get asked out often enough. Bert’s trying to work up to asking me to go on a cruise to Tahiti. He’s mentioned wanting to go a few times. I’m thinking about my wardrobe – what I’ll need to buy. I’ll need new evening wear.
Me: A cruise is a fine venue for popping a question.
Gwen: Nope. I’ve mentioned never getting married again more times than Bert’s mentioned the cruise.
Me: Hmm. I see. And what about your daughter – how is her marriage going?
Gwen: Kate and her dreamboat policeman are going wonderfully. Now there’s a marriage that will last. There’s a man who knows how to take care of his woman.
Me: Oh yeah?
Gwen, sighing: Oh yes – if only…
Me: If only you had found a man like that, eh?
Gwen, scoffing again: Pfft. Wasn’t to be, and I ain’t complaining. I live with a wonderful man these days. Not romantically, but I get spoiled rotten at home.
Me: Ah yes – Bobby Ray. And how is the big guy getting on after all that drama he went through in the book? Readers are always asking after him.
Gwen: Well, the readers might be happy to know that Bobby Ray now has a steady girlfriend. Veronica is a lovely lady – a few years older than him. She lost her husband in a traffic accident some years ago and was left with a vegetable farm to run. Bobby went to work for her when the Cosgroves retired and sold up last year. Technically, he’s her workman, but he often stays for dinner, and just this week he’s stayed the night twice.
Me: Some would say you were brave to take Bobby in all those years ago. You never doubted him – feared for your safety?
This question causes Gwen some pause. She stirs her tea. I sip the coffee she has placed on the counter in front of me.
Gwen: Yes, I had doubts in the beginning. Bobby had lost a chunk of memory and I never knew what he had been through – what he was capable of. And he was a big man. He was scrawny when he was admitted to the institution, but he got healthy and grew strong. I would be lying if I said I never feared him a little back then. But it was the unknown that was disquieting, not the man himself. The kindness in his heart was always obvious to us. He was like a big lovable puppy – one who had been mistreated.
Me: And you wouldn’t have known the extent of this mistreatment, or what it would have engendered in him?
Gwen: No. Except his doctor believed Kate and I were perfectly safe. And it very quickly became the case that he was not just a puppy – he was a guard dog. Our guard dog.
Me: He became your protector? This was the incident in 1998 when he put those men in hospital protecting Kate?
Gwen: Yes – that was one incident. There were others too. One other in particular when a man I was seeing raised his voice at me and ended up pinned to a wall by his throat. But we never told anyone about that.
Me: I see. And about Kate as a teen – she found out about her medical problem at what age?
Gwen: Fifteen. There were tests, but we knew right away that she would never bear children.
Me: And that changed her? It must have been difficult for a young woman to deal with – to accept.
More cause for pause. Gwen gives the counter a wipe, her jaw set, her eyes a little watery.
Me: Sorry. Forget that question, ma’am. I’m sure readers would have come to appreciate the portent of that from the story.
I click off my recorder and pocket it. My coffee is almost cold. I drink it and reach across the counter to place the empty mug with several others.
Me: So, Gwen, do you know where I might find either your daughter or her husband? Maybe I should check in for the night. Does Bernadette still run the motel?
Gwen: You should talk to Bernadette. She still has her motel. Don’t worry about these young pups. They’re all dreamy in love. You can’t get any sense out of them half the time. Bernadette though – now there’s a lady with a story.
Me: Yes, we know. Drug addict mother who died virtually in her arms when she was six years old. Father was a crazed murderer who she shot dead when she was eleven. Yeah, I guess I could speak with Bernadette while I’m here. Although she’s not scheduled until after the end of the series.
Gwen: Is that your old bomb Volkswagen across the road there? Is that what you get around in?
I join Gwen at the door. The rain is still pouring down outside.
Me: Yep, that’s my transportation, ma’am. It gets me where I need to go.
Gwen: Hmm. They say you can travel through time in it. I don’t believe that.
I shrug: What year is this? It’s on my trip computer but I can’t remember. Is it 2012?
Gwen: 2010. December.
Me: Oh. Well my next appointment is down south – a town called Everly Cove, and in the winter of 2005. It would hardly be possible to get around and interview all of you story book characters without the means to travel through time, don’t you think?
Gwen, shaking her head: So you’re saying you could take me back to 1970 and I’d be young again?
I chuckle: Um – no. It doesn’t work that way. First of all, you would still be the same age you are now. There’s no fountain of youth, I’m afraid. And second of all, no passengers allowed. Sorry.
Gwen: Hmph – figures. But you could go visit yourself?
Me: No, that would be too weird. Plus I’d get in trouble off my boss for wasting company time and resources.
I lift my kit bag and place it on top of my head: I think I’ll make a run for it. This rain isn’t going to let up… Nice to meet you, Gwen. Thanks for the chat and coffee…