Read Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, and Episode 5

When we last saw Clif Hangar, has-been nose model, and Simone Makaronni, has-been elbow model, they were wondering who had tried to kill Clif by luring him off a tall cliff, planting a bomb in a metronome in his hotel room, directing him into a giant trash compactor, and siccing a dangerous deadly drooling Komodo dragon on him.

Now they were with Clif’s mother in his favorite haunt, an elegant tea room decorated with antique porcelain and gold-framed Rococo-style paintings of flouncy skirted ingenues riding tree swings.

Clif’s mother, Nina Hangarsteinkopf, cotton swab designer and social media influencer, had been chatting about credit card interest and how to ferret out antiques at a storage auction. Nina and Simone had each just lifted a semi-tasse of rosehip and lingonberry tea to their lips when Clif asked, “Mother, why did you try to kill me?”

Simone did a spit take, spewing pink droplets onto the white tablecloth.

Nina did not do a spit take. She dabbed the corners of her mouth with a cloth napkin, saying calmly. “How could you say such a thing?”

“First,” said Clif, “you knew which hotel I’d be staying in, and you’re wealthy enough to have bought up the non-cliffside rooms. Plus I have a copy of the receipt and the last four digits of the credit card matches yours.”

“Circumstantial evidence.”

“Second, you’re a former harpsichord player with excellent rhythm, probably because of significant metronome use, since historically our families are rhythm-challenged.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Nina lifted her chin proudly.

“Third, you hold majority stock in the biggest trash compactor company in the world.”

Nina shrugged. “I’m an environmentalist. Trash compactors are used on recycled materials.”

“Fourth, you recently became a board member for the Pacific Northwest Lizard Rescue and Bowling Alley, whose logo is a Komodo dragon celebrating a strike.”

Clif’s mother waved away the coincidence as if waving away a two-foot diameter cloud of mid- to late-summer gnats. “That all proves nothing.”

“Lastly and most importantly,” Clif held up a yellowing roll of one-half-inch transparent tape. “You always buy off-brand.”

Nina pressed her lips together and rolled her eyes. “All right. You caught me. But I only did it because it was in your best interest. You needed to learn what was important in life.”

“By dying?” asked Clif. “That makes no sense at all.”

“Not by dying. By being confronted with death. There’s a difference.” Nina took a bite of marmalade teacake.

“So he was never truly in danger,” said Simone.

“Oh, of course he was!” said Nina. “But I know my child. He’s perfectly capable of extricating himself from difficult situations.”

Clif sighed the sigh of a man who has often dealt with family foibles. Mother was right yet again. “Just promise me that in the future you’ll never try to kill me.”

“Or confront him with death,” added Simone.

“I promise. Now that that’s settled, on to a more important issue. Lack of grandchildren.” Nina eyed Simone’s midsection. “You look fertile.”

“Mother!” cried Clif. “Not socially acceptable.”

“Yet accurate, I expect?” said Mother to Simone.

Simone smiled wistfully. “I’ll never know. I’m grateful you find me suitable for procreation, but the sad truth is I’ve got a sleep disorder that keeps me from finding out. No man has ever put up with it for long.”

“Is it Restless Leg Syndrome?” asked Mother. “If so you’d be perfect for Clif. He has it too.”

“Mother,” admonished Clif. “Again, not socially acceptable. Besides, she’s smart and beautiful and funny and everything a man could want, but two people with Restless Leg Syndrome would be quadruple the trouble. We’d keep each other awake and die of sleep deprivation.”

“I don’t have Restless Leg Syndrome,” said Simone. “The problem is that my parents are professional grape stompers. When I was very young, they carried me on their backs while working. I got so used to it that now I can’t sleep without a piston machine running next to me.”

Clif gasped. “Never before have two people been so perfect for each other. I piston my legs while sleeping, and you need pistoning to sleep!”

Simone gasped twice. “You want to save the children, while I want to save the adults. Together we can save everybody!”

Clif gasped three times. “Our babies would have perfect noses and perfect elbows.”

“And perfect everything else,” added Simone. “Oh Clif, let’s do it. Let’s spend our lives together and ensure your mother doesn’t kill you by spitting out a passel of children while continuing our quests to make nose and elbow modeling comebacks.”

They all nibbled beignets and petite-fours, sipped tea, and contemplated a murder-free future full of family, frolic, and fun.

Will our hero and his no-longer-platonic friend make their comebacks as nose model and elbow model? Will his mother keep her promise? Only time will tell.

Watch Lucille Ball stomp grapes

Watch pistons pistoning

Now available: The Climate Machine–A Novel


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