Language warning. You’ve been warned.
He put on his coat and hat and quietly made his way down the stairs toward the back exit. Relieved to have made it to the congested city sidewalk without being noticed, he joined others making their way home or to a pub on a Friday, late afternoon. He fell into the pace of the crowd, but he did not blend with the crowd. Those paying attention to the moving mob, would have noticed the unique character dressed in dark grey; there was something different, something mysterious about the tall man. Listening to conversations with each step, the man stayed with the pulsating crowd for five city blocks before cutting through an alley – a shortcut to a nearby park. He had a nagging feeling when he passed a homeless man who was tossing trash can scraps to a skinny cat.
He was still bothered by the man and the cat when he stepped onto the park path. He didn’t know exactly what he was looking for, but earlier that day he overheard two ladies talking about a strange man approaching women in the park and he wanted to investigate for himself. He took his time walking along the path, looking and listening and venturing off the path in a few locations. The few rays that shined a light on his walk had disappeared and other than two joggers and a couple kissing on a park bench, the park was empty and quiet. He made it to the edge of the park without noticing anything of concern, except for the absence of any constables. Curious, he thought. He would return tomorrow in the daylight to continue his investigation; it was now time to make his way to Baker Street – home. Not one to eat while working, his preoccupation with an alley cat and a strange man in the park was now replaced with thoughts of dinner – lentil soup and pork followed by a few calming puffs from his pipe. He could already taste the delicious meal and smell the black shag smoke.
“Sherman, is that you?” Harriet shouted down the hallway when she heard the door shut.
“Yes, unless you are upset, then no, it’s not,” he said. He immediately regretted saying that.
“It’s about damn time. Where have you been? Clearly not at the market picking up diapers and cat food like I asked you to do earlier today.”
“Oh, shit. Sorry, it slipped my mind. Busy day at the office. You should have reminded me.” He immediately regretted saying that.
“So, it’s my fault you can’t remember to do the one thing I ask of you?” she scolded.
“Never mind, I will take care of it myself,” she said while thrusting Junior into Sherman’s arms.
“Hold on, let me take my coat off,” he said as calmly as he could muster.
“You and that damn coat. It’s not even that cold outside!”
With his coat and hat now hanging on the hat rack, his arms were free to hold Junior, who was noticeably heavier than when Wilbur had left that morning. I am in deep shit, Sherman thought.
“You had another book delivery today. It’s on the counter. You sure don’t have a problem remembering to buy more detective books!” she said before slamming the door behind her.
“Your mum is mad at me,” Sherman said to his now fussy son as he carried the smelly boy into the nursery.
“First, let’s get you out of this disgusting diaper,” he said to his son while laying him on the changing table and removing the explosive foul mess. “What the hell did you eat today?” Remembering that he had put a diaper in his backpack when he took Junior to the park last weekend, Sherman’s recoiled face changed to victory. Sherman carried his naked babe, first to the trash can to dispose of the lethal package, then to his backpack. Giddy, Sherman unzipped his backpack and to his horror found only an empty pocket.
“Oh, shit! We really are in a mess now, little man. Please promise me you won’t take a piss until mum comes home with a box of diapers.” It didn’t hurt to ask, defeated Sherman thought.
Holding his son on his left side, Sherman opened the brown padded envelope and pulled out a shiny new hardcover copy of The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “Well, let’s read until your mum gets home, then we will get you into a fresh diaper and see about dinner, which, for me, will probably be a bowl of cat food.”
Sherman kicked off his shoes, then father and son settled into Sherman’s favorite chair. He cracked open his new book. Sherman loved that sound. He was only two sentences in when Princess, the hungry cat, found them and began meowing incessantly at the foot of Sherman’s chair.
“Be quiet, damn cat. Make yourself useful, go find a fat rat to eat.”
The cat not only ignored Sherman’s demand, she began to meow louder. He thought about searching the fridge for anything to quiet the cat, or the trash for scraps, but that would mean getting up from his chair and digging under a dirty diaper and he did not want to do either of those things, so he began reading, loudly, to his son. Saving his mind, he lost himself in the story. So lost Sherman was, he forgot to cover his baby boy’s resting missile. They made it to page three when the tiny missile sprung to action, spraying everything in range, including Sherman’s new book.