Yeah, I made up a name out of a hat. I don't know enough about the non-Patterson inhabitants of Milborough to know if there's a "real" counterpart to the bit character I invented.
The Massage-O-Matic chair whirred on.
April grimaced and looked away. Even knowing what her father was doing, it was still painful to watch. She stole a glance down the department store aisle, where her mother was talking to Mrs. Shonts, the treasurer of the Downtown Improvement Association. Her mother was trying to hold the other woman's attention with a rapid stream of talk that April could not make out, but Mrs. Shonts was growing restless. Her head twitched in April's direction but back again when her mother raised her voice. April caught the next few words before the voice sank again. "Oh, but I insist, John and I would love to host the..."
John looked up at April, waiting for a sign. She gave a microscopic shake of her head: the right moment hadn't arrived. John turned up the volume. "Ohhh yeahh....Aaaaahhh..."
At the last aaahh, Mrs. Shonts finally did what April was waiting for: her head started toward the noise and she looked straight at them. That was the moment. "DAA-AAD!" cried April. "Do you have any idea how much you are embarrassing me?" With the last two words she pointed her hands melodramatically at her chest, shaking them histrionically for Mrs. Shonts's benefit.
The old woman gaped for a few seconds then turned back to Elly. "No, wait," April heard her mother said, even tugging on Mrs. Shonts's sleeve, but the woman made some apologetic noises, shook herself free, and walked away. Elly stared after her for a moment, then glared at April before taking off after Mrs. Shonts.
"She gone?" John whispered from his chair.
April nodded. Her father switched off the chair and leapt to his feet, giggling in delight like a rascally ten-year-old who had just thrown a rock through a window.
"That was fun! I love messing with her like that. Hopefully Mrs. Shonts won't be visiting again for a while. I always hate it when Elly has one of her 'Downtown Improvement Association' friends over for coffee. Bunch of judgmental old biddies." John smiled at the goggle-eyed sales clerk and motioned April to follow him.
April mouthed a "sorry" to the clerk and hastened after her father. She hadn't wanted to help him with his stunt, but caved after he promised her a twenty once the joke was over. "Take your friend Gerald to see Get Smart," he'd said. I'm not that "friendly" with Gerald, she'd wanted to tell him, but she didn't.
It was rare to see her father in as good a mood as he was now. The only other time was when he was in the basement with his toy trains, wearing his silly conductor's uniform and calling out, "All a-board!" to his audience of one. He was so hang-dog the rest of the time, when he and April and her mother were eating dinner together every night at seven—always seven and always together, her mother insisted on that—or when her mother dragged John out shopping in town twice a week, or to city council meetings to complain about this new club or that new song on the radio.
"Maybe she'll even stop asking me to taxi her around Milborough on her shopping trips for a while," her father was saying. He sensed that April's mind was elsewhere and stopped. "April? You still with me?"
"That's good." He grinned in relief. "Look, I'm kind of sorry I dragged you into this, but, hell, it's not every day I get a chance to put one over your mother. I suppose you think it's stupid."
April remembered the last time her mother had hosted Mrs. Shonts. April had been drafted into the role of maid, serving coffee and biscuits and getting chided when she brough regular sugar to the table instead of the saccharin that Mrs. Shonts insisted on flavoring her coffee with.
"No, it's not stupid, Dad."
"Well, you haven't got that many months left to worry about it."
"No, I guess not. Although Mom's wanting me to stay with you after I graduate. I guess it will save money."
"Yeah, it would." For a few seconds, her father's air of frivolity gave way to an intensity that took her breath. "Forget the money. Get out of here." Then the goofiness was back. "C'mon, let's get back to the car."