(Read the other chapters here.)
“So, you guys are Wireheads?” I said, not really asking. I had heard The Wireheads tales, and hadn’t thought too much of it. Tourists who came to Baltimore for the sole purpose of seeing the corner kids, pointing out drug dealers, and, time permitting, seeing someone get shanked. I looked at the pair, plain folk – Ma and Pa Middle America, smack dab in the middle of my kitchen, eating bonbons and drinking cream, light coffee, primed for something to go down.
“Wireheads?” The woman’s broad forehead furrowed.
“That’s your thing. That’s it, isn’t it?”
Sherilynn’s smile turned nervous, then defiant. “We like watching The Wire. It’s a good show with fine writing — award winning writing,” she said, standing. I looked over at Hank who was clearly revved up, and though he had that beer belly, looked like he had had just enough coffee in his cream to lunge across the table and grab me by my citified Baltimore neck, ringing it until I was able to grasp that there’s a proper way to talk to folks, especially folks who are paying guests in my critter ridden Baltimore bed and breakfast. I took note.
“Well, guys, it a television show–like I said, it’s HBO.”
Sherilynn took a breath, “Estella, for the most part, it is true. David Simpson worked at the Baltimore Sun, where he reported on the very folks that are shown. You know, I am an active and devoted moderator for several The Wire chat groups, and I admit, though we’re somewhat new to the show–we just got expanded cable–still, when Wire newbies ask how Mr. Simpson was able to come up with all these great stories and plotlines, I tell them what all devoted fans know: 1. He’s a brilliant writer, and 2. He actually lived it. David Simpson lived it, Estella, and he’s got these great gritty tales to prove it,” she said, exhaling, a bit of spittle coating her lips. “And, now we get to live it too.”
“Well, David Simon–,” I said, looking the woman directly in the eyes, trying with everything in me not to get lazy, not to make the mistake of selling this woman short as I so desperately wanted to. I understood that even someone as guileless as Sherilynn appeared to be could very well be the diabolical mastermind behind the network trafficking in human organ in urban cities.
“But you know, when I first got to Baltimore, I thought his name was Simpson, too. (I hadn’t, but it was getting heated.) I was probably confusing him with O.J. Simpson, or someone else, who knows?”
The woman tittered some more, and was about to reach for another chocolate, when her husband took hold of her hand, “Hon, enough already. Time for bed.” Goodnights were said, then they began heading up the backstairs to their room, but not before Sherilynn turned around, pulling me into a full on bear hug, one I couldn’t begin to return because my arms were pinned to my sides.
“I just want to say thank you for welcoming us into your home,” she blurted out, then hightailed up the stairs, rushing past her husband. “Night, ma’am,” Hank mumbled, quickly disappearing after her.
As I began tidying the kitchen, I felt a pang of shame. Even so, I held my head high because I had done nothing wrong. I had only turned off the kitchen light, when I heard the snap, and then the low eke, then my hurried footsteps as I ran up the stairs.
to be continued…
Willett Thomas is the president of Write of Passage, Inc. She earned her MA in writing from Johns Hopkins. She has received artist fellowships from Blue Mountain Center and the Millay Colony. She was selected as a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation fellow for the District of Columbia, and is the recipient of the 2008 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange award for fiction.