Etta Jo removed the stopper from the cheap cologne. The pungent scent instantly filled the shop.
Lorene held her nose. “That stuff stinks.”
“I like it. It reminds me of Wade Lawson. He always liked it, too.”
“If you like it that much, keep it. I’ll never sell it anyway. And Wade Lawson? You mean that big guy that used to go through town selling brushes door-to-door?”
“Yep. Did you know he had a thing for me?”
“No, and I don’t want to hear about it.”
Etta swept her gray hair back in a dramatic gesture and rested her wrinkled elbows on the counter. “As my best friend, I thought you might be interested. Wade must have thought I was special because he always offered me a discount.”
“Maybe he needed the business.”
“No, that wasn’t it. The whole thing started the first time he knocked on my door, wearing a gray suit and skinny tie. Remember those skinny ties they wore back in the 50’s?”
Lorene nodded and handed her a fountain drink.
Etta took a sip and continued. “It was hot, so I asked him in. First I made sure Lizzie Hermann wasn’t peeking out her window. You know how nosey she is. Wade showed me some brushes and power cleaner for the bathroom. I got to noticing he wasn’t bad looking.”
“Good grief, Etta. Wade looked like a bull dog.”
“You didn’t see him when he talked about his brushes. His face went soft. I’ll never understand why he wasn’t a better salesman, because he really believed in his product. Anyway, that’s not the point. After that, I always invited him in, and he started confiding in me. The reason he never married was because he had a hereditary condition that caused him to sleep walk. Claimed he did all kinds of things while he was sleeping and never remembered them. He said he once drove to a fancy Italian restaurant, ate dinner, then drove back home without ever waking up. The only way he found out was when he checked his pockets the next morning and found a receipt from Luigi’s Spaghetti Emporium. Being a salesman, he always kept a close eye on his car mileage, and he found just enough extra mileage on the odometer to get him to the restaurant and back.”
“Do you expect me to believe that?”
Etta narrowed her eyes. “He woke up with heartburn, too, but that’s not all. His sister used to be the maid for a bachelor millionaire who made his fortune in toothpaste. She earned a huge salary and got all the free toothpaste she wanted. Wade said she had the prettiest teeth you ever saw. Well, one day when his sister went to work, this millionaire handed her a check. Said he was tired of living a life of luxury and was running off to a deserted island. He gave Wade’s sister his entire fortune.”
Lorene folded her arms. “Nobody gives their entire fortune away.”
“Well, he did, and I heard more. After Wade’s father died, his mother wanted to remarry, but his brother was opposed to it. His brother couldn’t talk her out of it, though. Just as she and her groom were about to say “I do”, a scruffy bearded man ran into the church and yelled, “Stop the wedding!” Etta lifted an eyebrow. “Do you know who he was?”
“I have no idea,” Lorene replied.
“It was the toothpaste millionaire. Turns out he made a radio out of coconuts or something, and heard about the wedding. He wanted Wade’s mother for himself. It worked out great because his mom had secretly been in love with the millionaire all along. Evidently, there were enough sparks flying between them to power up a 747. Now they both live a simple life on his island, and rumor has it they’ve discovered a plant that may be the cure for sleep walking.”
“That’s the most far-fetched nonsense I’ve ever heard. In fact, it sounds like a soap opera.”
Etta Jo went blank. “I don’t recall things as clearly as I used to. I suppose some of it could be from “The Secret Storm. Maybe even Gilligan’s Island.”
“A defunct soap opera and sit com?”
“”I had to fill in the gaps.”
“Let’s forget it.”
Etta Jo sighed. “Looks like that won’t be a problem for me, Lorene.”
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