Gone Grandpa, Part Three

Need to read Part Two? Go here! 

Delphine woke early Sunday morning to the sound of Marge Flanders singing “My Way” in the kitchen. And not just humming—really belting it out. Which might have been fine, if Marge had a nice singing voice.

It all came rushing back now. Had it only been twenty-four hours ago that Delphine’s life seemed normal, or at least quiet, with only the prospect of some unwanted house guests for a few days to deal with? Now she had a kidnapping to solve, at least one more impending trip to dreaded Orange County to look forward to, and very loud caterwauling coming from her kitchen.

After performing her morning ablutions, Delphine entered the kitchen to find Marge in front of the stove and Kenji sitting on a stool at the counter, enraptured by the culinary action. Delphine sat down next to him.

“What are we watching?” she asked.

“Mayhem on two feet,” he answered. “It’s incredible.”

It was then that Delphine noticed her kitchen was an absolute mess. Several cannisters from the pantry were open on the counter, as was a container of eggs and carton of milk. Various pieces of fruit were strewn throughout the mess, adding splashes of color to the tableau. Marge’s back was to them as she tended to something on the stove. Her bottom half wiggled as she stirred, and Kenji sighed.

“Oh no,” Delphine said with dread in her voice, and he looked at her.

“What?” he said.

“Just no.” Delphine gave him a hard look.

Kenji shrugged. “The heart wants what the heart wants. She has a boyfriend anyway.”

Her friend looked much too sad when he said those words, and she worried for him. It was true she didn’t know Marge well. Her daughter was married to Marge’s son, so they had that in common, but that was about it. And Delphine had always been on the go, and Marge lived in Oklahoma (or at least she had, until she took up with that crowd of jewel thieves in Florida), so their paths hadn’t crossed all that often. But she knew Kenji, cared for him an awful lot. She didn’t want to see him get hurt by Typhoon Marge.

“Oh, there you are!” said Marge, who had turned around when Delphine was deep in thought.

“Want some of my special choco-chip-rasperry doodle pancakes?”

“Do I have a choice?” asked Delphine.

“Don’t be such a fuddy-duddy!” said Marge.

Kenji beamed at Delphine. “Yes Delphine, don’t be a … a…” He turned to Marge. “What did you call her?”

“A fuddy-duddy!” said Marge.

“Fuddy-buddy,” said Kenji.

“Close enough!” Marge smiled at him and again Delphine had an oh-no moment. There was no way she would let those two become fuddy-buddies.

Marge went back to work on breakfast and Delphine went to the coffeemaker, which was full of hot coffee. “Did you make this?” she asked Kenji, who nodded. “Okay, good.” She poured herself a cup.

“So what’s on the schedule for today?” asked Marge, working with a skillet of something that was now starting to smoke.

Delphine formed a mental picture of where the fire extinguisher was (under the sink, to the left of the dishwasher powder). “Let’s start with breakfast and see how we feel,” she suggested. Not knowing what to expect from the meal or how long it would take her to restore her kitchen to order, she wanted to keep things open.

The three of them had breakfast on the back patio, looking out over Delphine’s garden, full of native plants that were hearty and drought-resistant. Her granddaughter Zooey, the seven-year-old ecologist of the family, had insisted. Delphine had been unsure at first, but had grown to love her arid backyard.

“This is so LA!” said Marge after they’d eaten a while and were no longer as focused on the food, which was surprisingly good, Delphine had to admit. “The sun, the beautiful sky, all the neato plants. You can’t grow this kind of stuff outside in Oklahoma. What is that, a real live cactus? Oh, this is just too much!”

Kenji never looked up from his plate and seemed to be engrossed in his breakfast. “Mmf,” he said.

Marge pushed her plate away, leaving half of her meal uneaten. “I tried to borrow the half mil from Riffy and Gordon for the ransom, but they said no.”

Kenji’s head popped up at the mention of the two names. “Who are those men?” he asked.

“Her two sons,” said Delphine, and watched as relief came over his face.

“Yeah, who’dya think they were, my other boyfriends? Ha!” said Marge.

Kenji looked a little hurt at that but went back to eating.

“Anyhoo,” continued Marge, “They said they won’t give me one thin dime for any hare-brained schemes — their words, not mine — on account of the trouble I had with the law over that jewel thief ring back in Miami. Which was super ridiculous since everyone knows I had nothing to do with any jewel thieves.”

No one at the table believed her of course — not even Kenji, who didn’t even know the whole story. But that didn’t seem to stop him from acting like an idiot.

“I’ll give you the money,” he said in the same tone he would offer to pick up someone’s dry cleaning.

And of course Delphine’s first reaction was to jump up and send Marge right back to Oklahoma or Miami or wherever she wanted to go. She didn’t care where, she’d pay for a ticket to just about anywhere at this point to get her out of their hair. Willard would be on his own, forget it all. But then she had an idea.

“Really?” said Marge, looking at Kenji with awe. “You’d do that for me?” He nodded. “You’d give me $500,000 to save my boyfriend?”

“Yes,” said Kenji, now with a little hesitation.

“For Willard, who I’ll probably just run off with to Vegas after this so we can get married because we’re super in love?”

“Sure?” said Kenji.

“You’d give me money so that Willard and I—”

“Marge, you should probably quit while you’re ahead,” said Delphine. She turned to her old friend. “I think that’s a great idea Kenji.”

His eyes went wide, confused by Delphine’s apparent reversal of opinion. “You do?”

“Yes, that’s very nice of you,” she said.

“Oh my,” screeched Marge, popping up from her seat. “You’re my hero!” She ran to Kenji’s chair and hugged him so hard he dropped his fork and gasped for breath.

Yes, thought Delphine, this would be just fine.




Kenji cleared the dishes and went into the living room to make a few calls. It would take a day to get the money for Marge, but fortunately the kidnappers had given them two. Today was Sunday, he’d get the money tomorrow, and they’d be off to Disneyland on Tuesday morning.

He was about to start cleaning up the kitchen but Delphine stopped him. “I’ll take care of this disaster area,” she said. “Why don’t you take Marge to the Huntington Library today? We have some time to kill.”

“Yes!” said Kenji. “Perfect!”

“What’s perfect, besides my breakfast?” asked Marge. “Oh! Are you making mimosas? That would be perfect!”

“No, but Kenji is going to take you to one of his favorite places today,” said Delphine.

“Is it a dog track? I love those! Willard takes me to one in Miami all the time,” said Marge.

Kenji had been feeling excited to take Marge to the Huntington, but he deflated a little upon hearing her penchant for dog racing, of all things. “Not a dog track. Gardens, art exhibits. I could take you for tea.”

“Oh. Well that sounds nice too I guess,” said Marge, considering her options. “Okay, let’s go! I just gotta put on my face.”

Kenji went home to make himself more presentable. The Huntington Library was one of his favorite places, and one of the reasons he’d moved to Pasadena. The other being Delphine of course. He valued her friendship above most other things and understood the importance of having a support system. He had no family in the area, and just a few cousins in San Francisco, so friends were everything. Delphine was everything, really. But Marge? An intoxicating breath of fresh air. He couldn’t help himself.

When he walked back in the door at Delphine’s Marge sat on the couch, typing away on the burner phone.

“I suggested she try to contact the kidnappers again before you leave, just to see what happens,” explained Delphine.

“And?” he asked.

“Not a peep,” said Marge. She put the phone in her purse. “I guess they’re just gonna make us wait till Tuesday. I sure hope Willard is all right.”

Delphine said, “I have a feeling he is. Try not to worry too much today. Go and have a good time, you’ll love the Huntington. Even though there’s no dog racing.”

“Okay!” said Marge. “Kenji I sure hope you have a Mercedes like ol’ D here. Dang, I miss mine.”

“No Mercedes, sorry.”

Marge shrugged and headed for the door. “See you later Delphine!”

“Bye,” said Delphine.

“What are you up to?” Kenji asked her under his breath. He knew his former partner well, and could tell she was up to something, but he didn’t know what.

“Just a little matchmaking,” said Delphine.

“I don’t believe you for one second,” he said.

“Have a nice time,” said Delphine.

Kenji and Marge got into his car and Delphine waved as they pulled away from the curb.

“She sure is nice,” said Marge. “But she’s kind of a stick in the mud.”

“Sometimes,” said Kenji.

“But not like you, right K-yo? You’re a barrel of fun!”

Kenji smiled at hearing his new nickname. He liked it. “Oh yes,” he said.

Marge peered at the Volvo logo on the steering wheel. “Why is this car so quiet?” she asked.

“It’s electric,” he explained.

“She’s fast!”

“Yes, 402 horsepower.”

“Pretty good for an SUV,” she said, and leaned back in the seat.

Kenji’s heart melted a little more.

They spent a few hours wandering the gardens of the Library, winding past the botanical center to the Shakespeare Garden, and right around noon, they ended up—just as Kenji had planned—at the Rose Garden Tea Room, where he treated Marge to a full tea service.

“These little sandwiches are amazing,” said Marge. She looked down at her plate which at the moment held one remaining piece of food. “What are those little doodads on the cream cheese?”

Kenji looked closer at her plate. “Caviar,” he said. “Cream cheese, smoked salmon and caviar.”

She picked it up and popped it in her mouth. “Delish!”

They had more tea and some desserts—ginger cake with poached caramel apple cream cheese mousse, chocolate brown butter almond cake, fruit tarts, and more. Kenji learned a little about Marge’s past, including her marriage to Ziffy Flanders, whom she’d divorced when she was in her 50s after finally getting fed up with his laziness and complete distaste for adventure. Besides that, her life had been stable, and from what he could tell, fairly quiet until she’d decided to take a seniors cruise to the Bahamas earlier in the year. “That’s when all hell broke loose!” she told him, and he believed it.

He just let her talk, and he listened, amazed at a life that was so different from his own. He was first-generation American, but his family had always had close ties to Japan and its culture. Until Kenji went rogue and joined the Falls, the top-secret organization where he’d worked with Delphine until his retirement. Now life had gotten quiet again, and Marge was like an antidote. However, he wasn’t sure the cure wasn’t more dangerous than the ailment.

“Jeepers creepers I’m stuffed,” said Marge. “I can’t eat another bite. Let’s walk around some more, this place is so beautiful!”

Kenji took her to his favorite spot in the whole place—the Japanese Garden. They strolled at a leisurely pace, and he told her all about the different plants and why the landscape was designed and manicured the way it was. They looked at the bonsai collection and the tea house, and Marge was fascinated. When they got to the zen court, they sat on a bench and admired the beauty and simplicity of its design.

Kenji imagined himself taking her to Japan someday.

“This makes me want to take a nap,” said Marge, yawning.

“One man’s contemplative garden is another man’s feather bed,” he said.

Marge looked at him, not seeming to comprehend. He didn’t mind.

“I wish Willard could see all this,” Marge sighed, effectively ruining the vibe Kenji had been trying to cultivate.

“Does he like gardens?” he asked.

“No, but he would’ve liked those tiny little trees back there. He likes tiny things, like little meals cooked for squirrels, that kind of thing.”
Kenji nodded.

Around 4 p.m., Delphine texted that she would have some dinner prepared for them at 5:30, and could they please stop at the store for some vegetable broth. They meandered back to the car, stopped at the store, and made it back to Delphine’s in time for Marge to tune into the local news before they ate. Even though it wasn’t local to her, she liked to watch wherever she went, she said, “to see what kinds of bad guys and idiots each part of the country has.”
As she sat and watched TV, Kenji helped Delphine in the kitchen.

“So you had a nice day?” asked Delphine.

Kenji sighed.

“She’s trouble,” his friend cautioned.

“I know,” he said, sounding like a lovesick puppy. “I’ve never been part of a love triangle before.”

Delphine laughed. “I’m not sure this counts as one of those.”

“Maybe, not, but it’s probably as close as I’ll get.”

“What about that time in India, in the 80s?” she asked.

“Oh yeah.”


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Copyright 2023 by Andrea C. Neil