Short Short Stories

Susan Costello Gone For Good

The knock on my office door was brisk. "Come in," I called. To my surprise a girl of about ten with a delightful grin bounced through the opening door.
"Are you the private eye?"she bubbled, looking back at the sign on the door. My eyes followed hers. "Private" it read above a large figure one. Before I could correct her she continued, "Grandad says you find people and Mum needs a new boyfriend. I can pay you. I've saved fifteen dollars."
There was something appealing about her eager little face in its frame of curly hair. But for a visit to a clinic ten years ago by my ex, I could be the father of a child this age, and for the first time I felt a pang of regret.
Uninterested in matchmaking but not wishing to dampen her spirit, I said, "So you want me to find a new man for your mum."
"Yes," she beamed,"and before Saturday because it's her birthday and we're going to McDonalds after we buy grandad a new hammer."
Uncertain about the significance of grandad and the hammer, I smiled, bemused. "Where's your dad?" I ventured.
"He died in an accident when I was three," she stated calmly. "and yukky Alistair, Mum's last boyfriend, came to live with us when I was six, but it's just me and Mum now." She paused for a moment and then added, "Aunt Lulu says Mum is better off without men but I kow she would really like to meet someone."
"How do you know that?" "I heard her tell Auntie Lulu she's been reading the personal columns in the newspaper. That's where lonely people advertise for partners." She pulled out a photo. "I've brought a picture of Mum," she announced as she passed it over the desk.
Mum was the grown-up version of the gorgeous child and I was suddenly aware that I had been on my own for along time. "Are you sure Alistair has gone for good?" I asked.
"Oh yes" she giggled. For a moment her eyes twinkled as though deciding whether or not to share some great secret with me. Then she leaned forward, quivering with excitement, and said "Mum hit him on the head with grandad's hammer and Auntie Lulu helped her bury him in the garden."

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