Page 38 of Hot Mess

All right, then.

“Hi, Elsie.” I waved. “How are you?”

“I’m just fine. We’re seeing the mayor tomorrow for our weekly protest, and I have a doozy of an article to show him about UFO sightings off the coast of Creek Keys.” She sat down on the sofa next to me. “Theodore, put the kettle on. I’d like one of those PG Tips cups of tea.”

“I’m not doing anything if you can’t use my name properly,” Theo replied.

“Theodore is your given name. It is how you were christened. I shall use it if I wish.”

“Aunt Elsie—”

“Theo, even I can see she’s not giving it up.” I fought a smile. “And what’s PG Tips?”

“Teabags,” he replied. “From England.”

Oh.

“Well, go on, then!” Elsie said, clapping her wrinkled hands together. “I’m dying of thirst over here! It’s like being in the desert out there.”

“Hardly.” Theo turned and walked out of the room, presumably to the kitchen to make Elsie her cup of tea.

She patted my knee. “Will you be joining us for our protest tomorrow?”

“Oh, I actually have a meeting around that time,” I lied. “But I’m going to try to come by at the end. Theo told me you get the mayor out.”

“We do! Dear old Robin gives us some of his time to hear us out. I think he might declassify some documents soon. We’re wearing him down!” She threw her fist in the air. “We will not be silenced by the Deep State!”

Well, all righty then.

There was no arguing with her passion, that was for sure.

“I actually wanted to ask you something.”

Oh, Jesus.

“What can I help with?” I replied, just knowing that was a terrible idea.

She placed her hand on mine. “You have that internet show, yes?”

It wasn’t really a show, but sure. “Yes.”

“Would you tell the world about us?”

“About Creek Keys? I’d imagine it’s on the map.”

“No, about the Krew. You know, let people know we’re here! Let them know we’re on their side!”

Yep.

There was the terrible idea.

I placed my hand on top of hers and patted gently. “Elsie, as much as I would love to tell the world about you, Maude, and Agnes, my channel isn’t really the place for such a thing.”

“Well, why not?”

“The majority of my followers are under eighteen.”

“That’s the perfect place! Initiate them while they’re young! That’s what the Satanists do, you know.”

Yeah, no. My channel was not the place for her.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ll reach out to some friends in the business who are more in line with your… beliefs… and see if they’ll interview you. Besides, I’m not posting videos right now.”

“Yes, yes, the sex tape. Don’t worry, dear, they’ll find something else to lie about soon.”

“Lie about?”

“Well, it’s not real, is it? That’s what the media does. They lie to bring people down.”

Hooey.

This woman was a trip.

An acid trip.

I also wasn’t about to tell her the tape existed, because that was going to open a whole can of worms I didn’t want to have to explain.

I was saved from responding thanks to Theo returning with her cup of tea. He set it down on a coaster in front of her and looked to me. “You’re still alive after being left alone, then.”

“Of course. We get on like a house on fire, don’t we, Elsie?” I winked at her, and she winked right back.

“Great. Just what we need. A recruit to the Conspiracy Krew.”

“Oh, don’t be silly, Theo. She’s not there. Not yet, anyway. I’ll make a believer out of her.”

That wasn’t ominous sounding at all.

“I think Elle has better things to do than listen to your codswallop.”

Elsie looked him up and down. “If that’s true, what’s she doing here with you?”

Ha!

I coughed to cover my laugh, but it was largely ineffective. It kind of barked out at me, because she was looking at him in such a way that it was impossible not to laugh. It was that withering look, the one that almost always accompanied a cutting remark like the one she’d just dished out to him.

The kind of comment you could never get a reply to.

“What are you doing here?” Theo asked.

See? No reply.

“We need to use the beach—”

“Absolutely bloody not. Elle is still scarred from the last time you were there.”

Well, he wasn’t wrong.

“Will you let me finish?”

“You know how I feel about you using the beach. You never do what you say you’re going to do. You always go crazy with the aliens. A new family is coming tomorrow, and they have four kids under the age of ten. You can’t go anywhere near the beach.”

“Four kids? Blimey. Do they use protection?”

“Aunt Elsie!” A wet-haired Ari came barreling into the living room, darted straight around Theo, and threw herself onto the sofa next to Elsie. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I came to see you, of course!” Elsie hugged her tightly, then pulled back and held up one finger. “I have something for you.” She rummaged in her purse and pulled out a chocolate bar, then handed it to Ari.

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