The Basement Files

A tale of the puma and the prairie dog


(Editor’s note: this is a continuation of last week’s column)

As I walked up the sidewalk I couldn’t help but notice the immaculate shape of this yard. The trees were trimmed, the grass cut with laser precision, and there wasn’t a weed to be seen. There wasn’t time to admire it, however. I was hired to find the whereabouts and possible shenanigans of the dog-faced woman’s, er, Mrs. Johnson’s husband, and he is on his way home.

I knock on the door, and Mrs. Johnson answered.

“Mr. Phil was it?” she asked.

“Frank, it’s a common name,” I replied

“Don’t get smart with me, Phil. Come in, tell me what did you find.”

I entered the cavernous expanse of the foyer and was greeted with the “clack-clack” echo of high heels on a hardwood floor. I focused on the sound, rather than Mrs. Johnson’s whisker-filled cold shoulder.

“Have a seat Phil, would you like some tea?” she asked.

I preferred scotch, but it would be rude for me to refuse.

“I have some information that you really should hear before he gets home.” I said, also filling her in on the fact that his return flight has already landed, and he would be back any minute.

“Great, hold onto it then. I want to confront him when he comes through the door.” She snapped, almost gleefully.

“That would be a rather big mista…” I was interrupted by the creak of the antique wooden door and shout of “I’m home!”

This was bad. I was hoping I had more time. Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have asked for tea. Or gone to lunch, or bowling. But no time for that now. I had to work fast.

“Honey, who’s that?” I wasn’t fast enough.

“He’s my P.I. The jig is up ‘honey,’ I know you went to Hawaii with your new friend ‘Tara.’ Tell him Phil.”


“Whatever. I know you were cheating on me!” she screamed at her husband.

Well, this was my last chance, I had to butt in if I was going to end this argument.
“Cheating on you with Tara?” Mr. Johnson rebutted.

Once again I was a bit slow on the draw. Perhaps I should stop narrating things and just spit them out next time.

“Who is she?” she yelled, now with a clenched fist that looked as ready to pounce as a puma on a prairie dog, or whatever puma’s hunt. I wasn’t good with zoology.

“Tara? Tara Lee? The confectionary conglomerate? I was down in Chicago on a business trip. They bought my dessert,” he said.

“The caramel-fudge volcano?” she replied, with a confused look of a prairie dog popping up out of the dirt to see that puma pouncing on his neighbor.

“They’re calling them fudge nuggets,” he said, despite the fact the name they chose was pretty awful. “I’m rich.”

“You mean ‘we’re rich,’ right?” she said, doing her impression of a puma again. She really needs to pick an animal and stick to it.

“Well, no. I’m rich,” her husband replied. “I’m sick and tired of you always questioning me and going overboard every time I leave on business. I mean, what am I supposed to think when I come home and I see Humphrey Bogart over there?”

That was the nicest thing anyone has called me in a while.

“Quit smiling, and get out of my house,” he added.

I had the feeling I wasn’t welcome anymore. So I pulled out a copy of my bill and left it on her coffee table, next to a cup of tea far too lukewarm to drink and left. When my curiosity hit me. I knew about the business deal, but I found nothing about the Hawaii trip. Fortunately for me, she brought it up.

“The Hawaii brochure? Well, first let me thank you for rooting through my private files once again, but as soon as this deal was finished, I was buying two tickets to Hawaii.” he explained.

“My dream vacation? Honey, I’m so sorry, I’ll never accuse you of cheating again,” she said, going back to the prairie dog face.

“No, I was.” he said, and this got my attention again.

“I’m getting the divorce papers drawn up tomorrow, before I go to pick up the tickets,” he added. “I’m going to Hawaii, and eloping, with your mother.”

I don’t know who was more aghast, Mrs. Johnson or myself.

“So, Who’s your daddy?” he said as he stormed out the door.

“I’m sorry,” I said as I was still unsure I heard everything correctly.

“I’ll be okay. So, what are you doing tonight Phil?” she asked.

There was the puma again, and “Frankly,” I’ve done worse. My afternoon suddenly freed up.

And they lived happily ever after.

Chris Hamble is a freelance writer and humor columnist serving newspapers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is a lifelong Stillwater resident.