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The Tallywacker Chapter 1
The first installment of what is designed to be a humorous serial a la Dickens and Wodehouse
from the fountain pen of Alexandra R. Nyfors
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Mrs. Hibbert Takes a Job

Virginia Hibbert had, up until the point in time of which we speak, managed
to be that rara avis, a housewife.
However, being saddled with a husband of
a somewhat spendthrift nature had given her several nice cars in the
driveway without her having the wherewithal to pay the grocer.

This embarrassing situation was not made better upon the morning that her
husband discovered there was no coffee. The ensuing domestic scene was one
that we shall draw a kind curtain over, however, the result was that he had
agreed that she should take a job.

Unfortunately, the general worth in the marketplace of your average
housewife is somewhere in the realm of a potted plant, and Mrs. Hibbert had
found acquiring a job almost more difficult than acquiring her husband’s
permission to take one. After yet another morning of discouraging words from
various kind-hearted girls young enough to be her daughter, Virginia was
cooling her face and her feelings in the dairy case of her local health food

She hovered irresolutely, trying to find a container of goat cheese small
enough to be bought with the meager contents of her pocketbook. The manager,
a pimply-faced young man who had gone to high school with her son came over.

“Hi Mrs. Hibbert, finding everything you want?” he asked.

“No,” she replied forlornly.

“What is it? The Jarlsburg? I know it isn’t the right brand.”

“I can’t afford Jarlsburg,” she snarled, her very mouth watering at the
thought of the inferior product before her.

“Oh…” he said, thinking of her son at the Sorbonne. “Money troubles?”

“Carl,” she confided, “bought a Mercedes.”

“Oh!” he said, immediately understanding the situation. These temporary
shortfalls often happened to people who shopped at his store. “Would you
like me to open you a line of credit?”

“No thank you, dear,” she sighed. “I don’t think I’ll be coming in much any

“But Mrs. Hibbert!” he was astonished. There was no more devoted follower of
the latest dietary fads and supplement wars than Mrs. Hibbert. It had been
thus from his childhood, when he waited counter at his father’s knee under
extreme duress.

“Can’t be helped I’m afraid,” she sighed.

Young Tom sighed, casting his mind on the problem. She was one of his best
customers. If he lost her, the volume of business in certain vitamins would
drop to unacceptable levels. Where would he be without her monthly intake of
Sweet Honey and Wormwood Gall Bladder Soother? How could he explain to his
father that without Mrs. Hibbert, the entire stock of Mrs. Ficus’ Mid-Life
Crisis Herbal Supplement which had just come off back-order would be
entirely useless?

“I’ll tell you what,” he said, “I could use some part-time help. Then you’d
get the employee discount!”

“Tom!” she cried in pure joy, “you’d really give me work?”

“Uh, sure,” he said, stepping back a bit from her rather intense reaction.
He was afraid she was going to hug him or have another motherly episode of
some nature.

“How many hours a week?” she asked.

“Well,” he thought hard. “How about we start you on Fridays and Saturdays
when it’s busy and go from there?”

“Oh Tom, that’s just wonderful! And how much….how much….”she blushed. The
question seemed so crass.

“We start everybody at $6 an hour,” he said firmly. It was a full forty
cents an hour over the minimum wage, and therefore better than working in
fast food. Mrs. Hibbert declined to work in fast food. Not only was it
undignified, but it was awful for your skin.

“Oh thank you!” she said. “So I should come in this Friday?”

“No, you’d better come in on Thursday afternoon and fill out the paperwork
for your taxes. We can show you where everything is and how to run the cash

“Oh dear,” her face fell.

“What is it?” he asked. “Can’t make Thursday afternoon?”

“No. But I’ve never run a cash register,” she said. “Are they…difficult?”

“Don’t worry about that!” he laughed. “You’ll get it in no time!”

Virginia went home over the moon at her luck. Her husband’s reaction that
evening was more subdued.

“A health food store?” he asked. “Well, I guess it’s a growth industry in

She realized that she had sprung the news on him too early in the evening.
He had not yet penetrated to the bottom of the first double-scotch.

“Yes, dear,” she said. “Just Fridays and Saturdays for now.”

“Saturdays!” he said, “But I don’t work on Saturdays. Who’ll fix my lunch?”

“I’ll make it before I go,” she said.

“And what about all the errands? And what about when I have to go see my
sister?” he asked, suddenly realizing what a hole this was going to make in
his routine.

“Well, I’ve never worked dear, I don’t have a lot of choices,” she said.

“Yes, but…” he puttered around the living room like a very round teapot on
the boil.

“This is just dreadful!” he opined.

“Can I get you another Scotch, honey?” she asked.

“Oh, yes,” he quickly downed the rest of the glass. “Thank you.”

Diverting Carl at the start of a tantrum was critical. Otherwise he would
work himself into a complete state of dudgeon, which would be followed by
days of sulking and she’d be back where she started with regard to the goat
cheese. After 30 years of marriage, she understood her husband. She had
found, as her children grew up, that her parenting skills had become much
more useful with him than with them. They were nice, mature, responsible
young people. Her husband would forever be two years old and in need of

She brought him the drink, with just a little more than usual in the glass.

“I’ve got couscous for dinner,” she said, naming one of his favorite dishes.

“Good, good. Did you get the fresh garlic and lemon?”

“Yes dear,” she said soothingly and automatically.

“You know I can’t digest it with that powdered garlic in it. It has to be
fresh. And you know, that last bottle of olive oil we bought just wasn’t
quite what it should have been, was it? Every since we opened it my stomach
just has not been itself.”

“It seems fine to me dear.”

“Well, pick up a new bottle for me next time you’re at the store.”

“Yes dear.”

She made a break for the kitchen, but he followed her, sitting down at the
kitchen table. He knew she abhorred having him in the kitchen when she was
cooking. As if the couscous was aware of his presence, when she lifted the
lid she found it stuck to the bottom of the pot.

“Oh fat!” she said, annoyed.

“Virginia, I don’t see why you must use that silly phrase,” he complained.

“Well I don’t want to swear dear,” she said. “You wouldn’t want to hear me
saying what I really mean, would you?”

“Of course not,” he agreed, “but surely you could say something a little
less silly.”

“Like what?” she asked him.

“Well, like ‘Darn’. There’s nothing wrong with ‘darn’!”

“Oh you take that back! You know very well that ‘darn’ is just another way
of saying the bad d-word, and that’s just not something that a lady does! I’
ve always thought that a lady should be a lady and I’ve always thought that
was something we agreed about completely, and why you’d want to hear me
swearing like a sailor when I’ve managed to train myself so that I don’t say
anything like that at all, at GREAT effort I might add since when the kids
were little God knows there were days when I just wanted to bang my head on
the wall and scream every bad word I knew at the top of my lungs especially
when David was at that age with the knife throwing fad and the emergency
room knew us on sight, and Sarah kept wrecking cars, and now all you can do
is sit there and tell me I’m silly. Well you just might as well give up
right this minute because I’m not going to swear like a sailor for anybody,
particularly not a man who buys a Mercedes we can’t afford.”

The torrent washed over Carl as if non-existent. At the beginning of the
first sentence, his face had assumed a peculiar look as if her were a tape
deck paused. While he continued to receive sips of scotch mechanically, his
mind was off wandering in the elysian fields of what he was going to say
next. However, the Mercedes remark was a sore tooth that she had kept at for
two months without rest, and this was not to be borne idly.

“I work all week long and everyone at my level at work drives a Mercedes and
I had to have it, and you know that.”

“Then why didn’t you sell the BMW?”

“Because I want you to take the BMW. It’s a good car. I don’t see why you
don’t want it.”

“I like my car just fine thank you, and it’s newer and in better shape than
the BMW, and I want to keep it.”

“But it’s a Toyota, Virginia. You shouldn’t be driving a Toyota. They’re not

“It’s safe the way I drive it,” she said.

“Let me at least get you a Volvo,” he offered.

“The last Volvo we had spent more time in the shop and sitting on the
driveway waiting for parts than it spent on the road. No thank you. I like
my car.”

The argument had ended this way for two months. Something clearly had to be
done. He decided to make the grand gesture.

“If I sell the BMW will you give up this foolish idea about working?” he

Five minutes earlier, if he had suggested the idea, she would have agreed
and unstuck the couscous from the bottom of the pan with nary a twinge. But
now, ‘foolish’ became another accusation of ‘silliness’ in her head and she
saw red.

“I will not. I like the idea of having a job.”

“But you don’t need a job.”

“Yes I do. After all, I just hate it when I have to ask you for money to buy
my yarn for my knitting and for money to get Christmas and birthday presents
and such. This will be much easier.”

“But we’ll be fine after I sell the BMW.”

“I’m keeping my car and I’m keeping my job!” she said.

“Now Virginia!” he reproached.

“Oh FAT!!!” she replied. Carl should have known after 30 years not to bother
her when she was cooking and here he was harassing her. “Here’s your
dinner,” she said, upending the pot of couscous on the table in front of

They both looked at the table in silence for a moment. “I’ll order a pizza,”
he said.

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Legal stuff: Please do not print, copy or distribute this without prior
permission from the author. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2001 Alexandra R.
Nyfors. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

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