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The Package

by Don Taylor

When I left Bertha's hotel room around 2 o'clock
this morning, she was chewing on a steak— like a
cow on cud.

That's right— Bertha was a lady who gave steak
good cud. She gave good cud, alright, but I wasn't
thinking about cud right then. No, I wasn't thinking
about cud; my mind was on something else— I had
to get to LA by noon.

It was a ten hour drive by backroads to LA and I
wasn't sure if I could get to LA by driving back
roads— but by God I was going to try! I had to try.
A lot depended on it— maybe my future.

After an hour on the road, I started to worry about
Myrna. Yes, it was Mryna I started worrying about.
I don't know how I got mixed up with Myrna. It hap-
pened fast— one day I was a salesman for California
Electric and Coal, next day I was mixed up with Myrna.

I woke up with a bad feeling the day I met Myrna. I
took the city bus to the corner of Vine and Third and
when the bus stopped at the corner of Third and Vine,
I got off— as I always do when I take that bus.

Well ... standing by a cab with the back door open
was Myrna. I didn't know her name was Myrna right
then. I found that out later— after I got mixed up with
her.

She called me over. Seems she couldn't pay her
fare. The cabbie threatened to keep her suitcase
and coat until she paid-up. I don't know why, but I
pulled out my wallet and gave a ten to the driver—
that left me with a five and two ones and some
change I kept in the snap-pocket of my wallet—
the one Aunt Hildred gave me for tilling her garden
two summer ago, whenwallets were on sale at Jen-
na's Discount and Second-hand.

So I'm driving down these hilly back roads to LA
stuck behind a slow truck hauling chickens, and I
get a strange feeling. Maybe some people would call
it an odd feeling, maybe a weird feeling, but I call it
a strange feeling— like I feel something's going to hap-
pen, which it always does, like it or not.

I started to worry.

When the chicken hauler turned off, I kept worrying.
Then I began to doubt if I could get to LA by these
back roads, by noon. Plus, there was the Myrna issue,
and since last Friday, I had started to worry about
Vivian.

Vivian is a waitress at Mid-California Truck Stop on
highway 114, a back road. That's why I had to take
back roads. I had to stop and see Vivian and find out
if she still had the package. I left the package with her
about a month ago; I had to make sure she still had it.

I needed that package, bad— for Eugenie.

After I met Eugenie at a noon rummage sale down-
town at Saint Vincent de Paul's, I started changing
my mind about a few things I wasn't very sure about
before. At first, I wasn't sure if Eugenie needed to
see what was in the package, at all. And the Myrna
issue still bothered me— even after our all-night talk
sitting on the porch of her rooming house and drink-
ing lemonade.

I needed time to think— that's why I left the package
with Vivian.

A few days ago while I was buying some treble
hooks, a roll of monofiliment and a new pair of
pliers at Lake Chancy Tackle and Bait Shop I
realized I had to tell Eugenie about the package.
I had to open it in front of her and let her see for
herself what was inside— that was so she would
know what it was.

I had to do it that way. There was no other way.
Sometimes a person has an alternate way, or three
ways to do something, but not this time. There was
only one way.

Eugenie was leaving LA on the noon Greyhound to Phoenix.
That's why I had to stop by the truck stop,
get the package from Vivian, and be at the bus station
by noon. I had to let Eugenie see for herself the con-
tents of the package— then together we would decide
what to do, after that.

Everything was all mixed up. I guess it was Blendina
Coztagna's fault. All this started with that redheaded
IRS agent Blendina Coztagna from South Lake Ta-
hoe. If she hadn't walked into my office at California
Electric and Coal, sat down to light a cigarette, things
might have been different.

If she hadn't asked that question right at the exact
time my secretary Della decided, right at that mo-
ment, to peek her head around the door from my
private wash room and ask if I had more toilet pa-
per and paper towels, things might have worked
out.

Ms Coztagna gave Della a hard look so Della duck-
ed back inside the wash room leaving the door open.
I suspected that was so she could hear what we say-
ing. That meant of course Ms Coztagna could hear
the sound of what was going on inside the washroom—
but that was nothing to me since I had heard it all be-
fore.

Ms IRS stubbed out her cigarette in an ash tray I had
taken from the Ramada Inn in Barstow and asked why
I had claimed a one Bertha Ratterfield on my return
as a dependent for the last five years when she always
claimed herself on her own return?

As I drove down the back roads toward Mid-Cali-
fornia Truck Stop, I thought— if Vivian still has the
package and if I can get to the Greyhound bus sta-
tion by noon, everything— hope to God— will work
out.

I didn't know, though.

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