Stephen Roberts remembers a Peggy Dobbs we never knew…Our contest continues

Illuminati!–ooops!–I mean Illiterati–I mean, I mean…oh, you know!…All of you who visit this site to give and get a good story over a pint or a cup. (or a cuppla pints?) But the cup thing. A Word with You Press started out several years ago with an invitation to submit a story about anything in …

Illuminati!–ooops!–I mean Illiterati–I mean, I mean…oh, you know!…All of you who visit this site to give and get a good story over a pint or a cup. (or a cuppla pints?)

But the cup thing.

A Word with You Press started out several years ago with an invitation to submit a story about anything in the world as long as you could tie it back to a cuppa coffee. We (moi) promised to publish the best one hundred entries in an anthology, and that, we(moi,– joined by Derek Thompson, Diana Diehl and Monika Spykerman)- did.  Peggy Dobbs’ entry was among those we published, and it started her passion for dropping in at A Word with You Press, where she always offered such encouragement to new-comers and established writers alike. Peggy left us the end of June this year, and The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage Contest is in her honor.

Stephen Roberts also entered our original contest, and he, too was published in our second publication: The Coffeeshop Chronicles; Oh the Places I have Bean!

So here is his special tribute to Peggy, who joined her beloved husband Homer just six months after he lead the way.

The Detonation Squad

by Stephen V. Roberts

The detonation squad arrived after a 9-11 call alerted authorities to a ticking suitcase abandoned by a storefront window. Peggy Dobbs, the anchor to a highly successful police team approached the suitcase with trepidation.

Three years, multiple entries with little injury, a ticking suitcase and all I have is a cup of coffee, like my first day on the job.

A yell came from behind a distant police car.

“Peg, be careful. I don’t feel good about this one.”

“Nonsense, Elliot! We all carry suitcases some just a little heavier than others. I’m a strong woman and forever blessed.” She squinted at the suitcase in the distance and noticed a sticker on it. Her eyebrows rose in astonishment and moved faster towards the target.

“You don’t need to do this alone!”

“You don’t understand; I need to be alone- this one’s my burden.”

“It’s a fucking suitcase….

“Homer’s suitcase…”

“Homer who?”

“And I thought you knew me…”

“Not THE Homer….”

“You see that giant cruise ship sticker on its side? That was our 25th anniversary present. I’m not sure how the bomber got it, but he must have known I’d be the one to disarm it. Homer was my weakness and now that he’s gone…” She sniffled and then shook it off. “The man who planted this bomb was certainly waiting for this moment. Now that it’s here, it’s all on me…”

“You don’t need…”

“I do! Now let me get on with this!”

He went silent for a few moments and returned in a softer voice as she neared the suitcase.

“Did I ever tell you about Marilou?”

“Marilou who?” She giggled after the words left her mouth.

“Not the Seuss character, my friend in Louisiana,” Elliot replied. “She just turned eighty: one damned hardy well travelled woman. She wears a pith helmet when she crosses the Sahara.”

“Sounds like someone I’d like,” she yelled.

“Most definitely. She’s part of my tapestry.”

“What do you mean?”

“The tapestry that’s weaved my life. Imprinted every memory with a stamp so interesting I started an album. You’re part of that book.”

“You’re talking nonsense, Elliot.”

“I told you I didn’t like the feeling of this one and you just keep going. What if we’re out of time?”

“Blow it out your ass! We have plenty of time.”

She put the cup of coffee on the curb and then placed her fingers on the fragile latches to the suitcase. She lightly jarred it.

The ticking noise rose 2 decibels.

Elliot turned to the other officers in the unit, “Get down fools!” He turned back, “Peg, we have no idea what’s in that thing! Retreat!”

Her face closed on the top of the case, her fingers gripped the two zippers, which she moved to each side carefully listening to every notch it passed.  There was silence as her face peeked inside. She saw several tightly packed papers on each side of a digital clock and two sticks of TNT below. A slim ray of light pierced the right side.

The Coffeeshop Chronicles: Oh the Places I Have Bean. I’ll be damned.She turned her head left and right several times and then looked at the timer. Forty seconds.

She blurted out.

“You’re wrong Elliot,” she smiled, “it’s my lucky day.”

She sat down next to her coffee cup and hurled the suitcase over her lap, reached in, grabbed the book and pulled it out.

“What are you doing, Peg?”

“I’ve led a very wonderful life, Elliot” She thumbed through it quickly. “I swear it’s not too late. Every end has a beginning and in turn writes another story. It’s the irony of life. Hey, this tapestry you wove. Who was Marilou to you?”

“My teacher. A woman who brought out the best of me.”

“Another Peggy Dobbs?”

“There’s only one Peggy Dobbs and we thank the Lord for her.”

The ticking noise again escalated and slowed for five counts when an explosion rang throughout the neighborhood. Elliot looked at the scene and saw nothing but a shredded suitcase. He looked to the sky and saw bits of paper by the thousands blow like a tickertape parade. With a tear in his eye, he slumped towards the concrete and moved slowly to her last job. Out of nowhere a paper drifted into his hands from the clear sky. He caught it and read a phrase that filled its center:

“A generation of men is like a generation of leaves; the wind scatters some leaves upon the ground, while others the burgeoning wood brings forth and the season of spring comes on. So of men one generation springs forth and another ceases.” Homer.

9 comments

  1. Mike Casper says:

    Steven V. Roberts you completely nailed it. Outstanding story (I wanted to write ‘dynamite’ story but figured Thorn would delete my comment and steal that one) with a surprise ending I didn’t see. You did Peggy proud. You did Thorn proud. Heck, you did all of us proud. Good job.

  2. Parisianne Modert says:

    Before this contest began, I made a promise to read and offer critique on ever story. I have a feeling that there is material here which Peggy, Homer and those who knew them would and will understand that I do not. Given this confusion about the substance, I’ll move on to the writing style. The descriptions of the characters, scene and objects was easy to get a grasp of; although the dialogue lost me other than the pleading for Peggy to back off the scene. I’m guessing that there is symbolism here which is supposed to represent the disconnect with life at the lost of a spouse which is so profound that it can make the other side of the veil more appealing than this Earthly coil existence. It is very common for a spouse to follow their loved one within months of the first one’s death. When we love that much we feel like nothing should separate us even for a short time. There is both a peace and mourning which causes this detachment and will to move on into the next life. Peggy and Homer from what I have been able to discern had that quality of love and relationship. For honouring this love I am glad I read your story, but for us outsiders, I hope you explain more about the story.

  3. “I have lead a very wonderful Life, Elliot.” about wraps it up. Never met a woman who felt as blessed as Peg. Her decision to walk with Homer (I have no doubt it was her decision) had everything to do with the love that is in her heart. Thanks for sharing this unique interpretation so creatively written

  4. One thing I really like about this submission is that you have all kinds of running jokes and personal tags (real or fabricated), but at no time do I as the reader feel left out of the loop. It’s a highly personal story, but it is still accessible for me to suspend my disbelief and get way more emotionally involved in where my imagination is going. I love that you wrote her a walking out story, but I wonder, her being Southern Baptist, would she have elected to use the foul language? I admit to only knowing surface images of Peggy Dobbs, and I LOVE the way you wrote her here, but I wonder nonetheless…

  5. Eli Fang says:

    Good use of suspense to encapsulate a story that about an intimate freindship and loss. The Homer quote at the end was an ideal way to end the piece. Enjoyable read – thanks.

  6. Rachel Walker says:

    Very creative reintroduction to the multifaceted Peggy Dobbs. I love all the ties in to her work and life. Thanks for the fun read.

  7. Suzanne Morse Liy says:

    I found this piece to be very touching. Although I would’ve enjoyed more description of the characters. My favorite part was the symbolism of the cruise ship sticker signifying their 25th anniversary cruise. I felt a closeness to all the characters. Having the message from Homer at the end was a great finishing touch.

  8. Stars Fall On My Heart
    Stars Fall On My Heart says:

    I miss her terribly <3

    Though I NEVER would have imagined Peggy in this way, it still captures the core of her: the love she felt for her husband, and the accomplishments as a writer she made in the last years of her life. And I know she's looking down on you with pride…and wiping a tear of laughter away LOL

  9. Diane Cresswell says:

    A very creative story involving Peggy. Well done and you certainly caught her attention with this one. Your trip into the outside the box thinking has done you very well. Love the ending.

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