Lady Vic's started out as a Ladies Boutique back when Victoria Jones-Smythe-Witherill-Chapel-Clayton-Barrows-Kleinschmitt had been Vicky Jones for all of a minute and a half....In other words, it was a wedding present from her first husband. "Dear, Dear Arthur." That's how she referred to him when some dolt who didn't know better asked.
Upon hearing that the shop was a wedding gift, they‘d say, "Your husband gave it to you? How sweet."
Then she'd look into the distance getting a bit teary eyed, sigh dramatically and say, "Yes, my dear, dear Arthur gave me the shop as a wedding gift. He was such a sweet man." She'd sigh some more, wipe her eyes daintily with a lace hanky as she held onto her Chihuahua, Brutus the Fourth, tightly choking the little tyrant into barking in protest, as the idiot that asked the question in the first place realizes that all other inhabitants of the room have disappeared mysteriously and prays that they haven't brought up memories so painful that Lady Vic might need sedation.
Lady Victoria's as it was called back then was a high priced boutique that started out carrying only the latest in fashionable Ladies wear. Everything from Chapeaux to Pumps. Handbags to Hankies. Nylons to Nighties. It was in a fancy, schmancy neighborhood. In a fancy, schmancy building. With a fancy, schmancy doorman and all. The dresses hung on models as they paraded the very latest in evening gowns and tea dresses as dainty dames drunk tea out of dainty china teacups and discussed the latest in fashion from Paris.
Over the years, Lady Victoria acquired husbands like the neighborhood acquired squalor. Each husband bringing his own personal touch to her business.
Hubby number two thought that adding sportswear to her inventory was the thing to do. It was. And she did. While, Hubby number two had been a smart business man who met a tragic end while battling mosquitoes in the Gulf of Mexico, Hubby number three was a lamebrain that thought adding a few toys to the store's shelves was the way to go.
Now while Victoria hadn't a problem in the world with adding a few teddy bears and perhaps a china doll or toy tea service that duplicated the service her customers were served on, she did have a problem with the fact that her hubby, sweet though he may have been; her loving, darling hubby, who could cause her heart to skip a beat with a glance, but wasn't the sharpest of knives in the drawer, wasn't thinking of the same kind of toys as she was.
Most of the stock was still sitting in boxes hidden WAAAAAAY in the back of the storage area waiting for a self contained flash fire and flood that would removed any trace of its existence.
Each husband in turn added his own flair. One gasping "Expand!" as another breathed "Diversify!" at the last and as the years accumulated, Lady Vic's took on a life of it's own gaining in character and characters.
And this dear reader is the first story of Lady Vic's and its characters....
Tuesday morning broke forth in a cavalcade of colors so splendid that the birds fought amongst themselves for the right...no...privilege to wake up the people in the neighborhood so that they too may enjoy as much of the beauty of the day as possible.
When Winsome broke forth from her bed and heard the birds singing their song of praise, although she was happy to be among the land of the living, she looked at her digital clock rolled her eyes heavenward and spouted the first thought to come to her mind..."Lord, if you can stop the sun in it's pursuit of the moon for Joshua...." she stopped, thought and blinked hard to awaken a bit more as she yawned,..."It was Joshua wasn't it? Or was it David....Father I am too sleepy to be up at this hour. But if you can stop the sun’s pursuit of the moon for whomever, can't you stop the moon's pursuit of the sun for me? I could use another two...no, three hours here. I've got to go out and battle the huddled masses and all and I won't be up to full speed until, ohhh, maybe 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. tops."
She kept up her one on one "discussion"...in her head of course, after all she didn't want people looking at her the way she looked at them when she saw them walking along telling their invisible friend about the space alien that they had dinner and drinks with the night before and how Elvis provided dinner music with a three song encore as they ate cheesecake and discussed the days headlines...all the way to the store.
Jake was on his post in front of the door as usual. He was holding down the concrete, as the two sheets of newspaper were holding him down to the very same concrete.
Jamming the key into the lock Winsome began her daily fight with the lock for domination as she bit her tongue and came up with a few colorful expressions..."why you dirty, no good, stinking," kicking the door and slinging her tote bag into a better position on her shoulder, she continued on..."I better not break a nail or so help me I'm going to be forced to find the nearest Army and Navy Surplus and get me a small guided missile and...." She was still plotting and jiggling the lock when Lady Vic, the Grande Dame of Ladies ready to wear appeared looking as if she'd never stoop to talking trash to a door and gently removed the key from her hand and with a firm look at the door she said, “I will have none of this this morning.” Then she did no different than Winsome when placing the key in the lock and turning except the door sprung open magically...as if it’d dare not do otherwise. And as she swept inside she called back to Winsome, “Tell Jake to get up. He’s blocking the entrance and bringing down the tone of my establishment.”
The inside of Lady Vic’s was...uh, well...different.
It still had all the things that made it as uniquely fabulous as it always was. But after numerous hubbies adding their opinion, it wasn’t as tiny as it once was. Where as it had once taken up only one average sized corner store front, it now covered from the corner of Smith Street and Wiley Avenue more than half way down the block, stopping only when impeded by the Chinese restaurant not quite three fourths of the way down. Sections of the store, although not abandoned weren’t given the same care as the other areas. Where each day the main area with the dresses, hats, shoes and such were lovingly cared for, dusted and cleaned daily, the areas that housed the “additions” to the Lady Victoria’s inventory were often merely checked to see if they were still there. Upon occasion, when there was nothing else to do she’d send one of the troops in to “battle the dust bunnies”.
Turning on the light as she entered the shop, Brutus trotting along side her, “You know I do miss the days when we had big windows that you could open and let all the daylight in. But Harold suggested that I put in those display cases instead and put locks on them for security reasons.” Looking at her able assistant questioningly, “Now was Harold my fourth or fifth husband?”
Stopping midstride, Winsome searched for the words to divert Victoria’s attention elsewhere, “Uhh, wah-lll....”
Throwing up her hand and dismissing her digression, “Well, it doesn’t matter. Whether or not I like them doesn’t matter. We’ve never been broken into and that’s all that matters. Even sometime ago when that moment of social disorder came and some overexcited young men’s social club threw a garbage can through our window; even then we didn’t lose a single stock item.”
They couldn’t find anything worth stealing, thought Winsome. How many places can a woman wear a tea dress with matching gloves, handbag and pill box hat?
“Now, before I forget,” her blue eyes twinkling as she gleefully clasped her gloved hands in front of her operatic style, “I’ve decided that we could used some more help and I’ve hired my nephew Pillsbury to help out around the shop. Maybe help a bit with lifting boxes and such. Her hands fluttering in front of her as she motioned to the shelves and racks, “Maybe help spruce up a bit and make sure I don’t miss the occasional decimal point.”
“Excuse me, Lady Victoria. His name is ‘Pillsbury’? Like in the Pillsbury Doughboy?” asked Winsome, her brow furrowed.
“Yes, just like the Doughboy. He was such a cute little thing when he was a baby. All fluffy like the doughboy and he’d even giggle like the doughboy when you poked him in the Tum-tum. He was such a delightful child.”
This, thought Winsome, does not bode well.
“Although I haven’t seen him in years actually, I imagine his laugh has stayed much the same. In fact,” she began to tick off the years on her fingers, “I haven’t seen my little Pillsbury in over thirty years. His Mother didn’t make the smartest match in marrying his Father, you know.”
Placing her bag beneath the counter and turning on the small AM radio next to the register, “Don’t tell me, he was dirt poor,” stated Winsome.
“Oh no, he just wasn’t the smartest man. I declare I’ve wondered a many a days how he managed to shower without drowning. But then again there was his tragic end that kind of sealed his reputation.”
“And what would that have been?” Winsome didn’t know why she asked, she was going to hear how the hapless brother-in-law sealed his fate and garnered the high opinion that her employer had whether she wanted to hear it or not. Perhaps, she just wanted to seem like an active participant in the conversation.
“Well, you know now that I think about it,” she pondered, “I can’t rightly recall the exact circumstances surrounding his early, albeit strange demise. But know this, the man didn’t have half the brains of my sweet little Brutus.” The dog hearing his name answered with a sharp little bark and began to prance at her feet joyfully until she picked him up. “Ahh, that’s my boy,” she said her normally dignified voice turning babyish as she spoke to the tiny excuse for a canine, “You have more brains than Pillsbury’s Poppa. Yes, you doooo.”
All Winsome could think as she watched Lady Victoria and Brutus was much the same that Lucy would say each time Snoopy gave her a wet one, “EUW! DOG BREATH!” She tried to hide the look of disgust on her face as she curled her lips, but try as she might, even the parties involved took notice of her look of distaste.
“Really, Winsome. You need to have a good breakfast in the mornings to avoid your stomach acting up like that. You look positively ill.”
“I’ll remember to have breakfast from now on.”
“Good! Now, Pillsbury should be...,” her next words interrupted by the entry of the perpetually late Doreen. “Good Morning, Doreen,” her voice cool as a winter wind, her eyes as piercing as a laser, “So nice of you to join us this morning.”
“Good Morning Lady Victoria,” sighed the young woman. Clad in a slinky tan and brown polyester striped dress a thin matching belt cinching her waist, a plain denim jacket and chunky brown platform Mary Janes. “Jake wouldn’t let me in. He called me a trespasser and said he was going to call the police and prosecute. I had to tell him it was a family emergency to get in. Can’t he sleep in the back alley like any other respectable street person does in the summer?”
“Well, honestly! That man! I know how to handle him.” Walking over to the door her stride quick and purposeful. Sticking her blue tinted head out the door and locating the hapless street person with a narrowed eye, “Jake! Either you get up and go to whatever corner you panhandle on immediately or I’ll put you on the payroll and make you a taxpayer.”
His position on the concrete shifted, Jake sat somewhat slumped with his back against the wall, his head hanging down, while his favorite cologne, “Eau de Funk” greeted all passersby. “You wouldn’t daaaaare,” he growled. “You make me a taxpayer and I’ll make you pay a tax or two. You’re not making me a part of the system. A victim of Big Brother! Nah uh. No sir!” He began to look around as if suspecting someone to jump out and say “boo” at any moment. “They’re not getting inside my head. It’s bad enough that they’ve got cameras watching my every move. I’m not getting back in their system and you won’t make me.”
“Well, you just continue to litter my entry way and I’m calling the labor pool and tell them where they can get themselves another bean picker. CHEAP!” Slamming the door as she brought the conversation to an abrupt end and the workday to a bang up start.