I’m the wife of Detective Staff Sergeant Deviled Yeggs, Trinity Naomi Tesla, that’s TNT, Yeggs, but most people call me Glyce, pronounced “Gliss,” since it is short for Nitroglycerin. I explode when shaken. My husband works homicide in the big city of Tracy. His partner is Jim Wednesday. Poached Yeggs works with him, too, but this time I am being asked by my husband to do some undercover work. He wants to know why Aunt Hortense came when she did. He says that the short hairs on the back of his neck are tingling, and that is never a good sign.
As it turned out, Aunt Hortense asked me to get three other ladies to be her think tank, but they had to be people who could keep a secret. I immediately thought of Pauline, the spy in our midst. Okay, she is an analyst for an alphabet organization just outside Washington, DC, but spy is close enough, and she works for me at T.R.U.S.T. for her day job. Next, I thought of Pink Lady. She kept the books for the organized crime organization in Tracy but waited for years for her opportunity to send them to prison and finally be free. She was accustomed to keeping a lot of secrets. And then there is Maeve. Maeve was also pregnant and due about a month before I was. She is the counselor at the mission downtown and she knows how to keep things confidential, but because Maeve pretty much works 24/7 out of her apartment, I decided to have our clandestine meeting in her office. Pauline was on maternity leave which left me teaching a lot more classes until she returned in six weeks. I was the hardest to schedule.
Maeve offered her desk chair for Aunt Hortense, but Aunt “Tensie” opted for a powered lift chair. A donor gave it to Maeve, and it had come in handy with handicapped people who wanted counseling. A powered lift chair was more comfortable than a wheelchair if the counseling session was a long one.
Pauline brought Buffy, since they were fresh out of the hospital. When Pink Lady entered, Maeve put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. Everyone would think she was in a counseling session and Thou, short for Maeve’s husband’s name of Thousand-Year-Old Yeggs, my father-in-law, was watching the monitors. He would make note of anyone who came by and ask them if he could help. Most of the time, it was a simple question. If they were about to fall apart, his procedure was to sit them down in his living room and then text the local pastors and church secretaries. The pastors did not need to know that Maeve’s closed door was not an ordinary counseling session.
I thanked everyone for coming, and then I turned to Aunt Hortense. “I told everyone that they were supposed to keep anything we said in this group confidential. I picked people that I knew could keep a secret. But that is all I told them for you have told me nothing more.”
Hortense looked at her shoes and pushed the buttons on her chair so that she was slightly reclined before she spoke, “I want to learn a little about each of you first. I suppose that you picked Maeve because she counsels people and understands confidentiality. I have met Pauline at the hospital soon after the baby was born. She is a professor in your department, and I am sure you can trust her there, but can she keep secrets?”
Pauline blushed, “The job at the university is my primary income, but my husband is a retired agent for an organization that keeps secrets. He and I do contract work for them, but with a child, that might be less likely. I know many secrets that I have never told. I have kept a few from my husband.”
Hortense nodded, “I hear that is not good for a marriage, but in your business, it may not be avoidable. I was never married, so I wouldn’t know. And as for the last to arrive, you are Pink Lady Yeggs, married to Dynamite’s husband’s brother?”
While Pink Lady nodded, I suggested, “My nickname is Glyce, short for nitroglycerine, not Dynamite.”
Hortense laughed, “You are far from the explosive child that you once were. You control it well. Nobel invented dynamite so that the nitroglycerine would be safer to handle, but still explosive. I prefer to call you something short for dynamite since you have matured and are less dangerous when shaken. I am thinking ‘Mighty’ might do. Do you agree?”
I knew not to argue with Aunt Hortense, “Yes, Aunt Hortense.”
“Oh, please, call me Aunt Tensie, and the rest of you can simply call me Tensie. If this works out, we will be best of friends. But back to Pink Lady, you were once an Apple. Does that mean you were a member of the Rotten Apple Gang?”
I rarely saw Pink Lady turn pink, but she did then. “I was supposedly the madam of the city’s only brothel. It was run by a handler who made sure I never left the building. I had an accounting degree and kept enough financial records and other records that I could obtain. When the time was right, I enlisted Naomi’s husband to help me. I guess since I stayed alive for over twenty years in the midst of killers, I can keep a secret or two.”
Aunt Tensie laughed, “I knew I was going to like you. Now for what I do not wish to have leave this room, at least until everything is set up here.” She bowed her head, but I had never known her to be religious. When she raised her eyes to our eye level she said, “My doctors down east were all in agreement that I needed a change of address. They were giving me six months to live.” Everyone gasped. “They said that with my recent inability to produce workable designs, I had lost my will to live. Who knows what they know. They gave me no diagnosis of an incurable disease. I am reasonably fit. Other than designing one failure after another of late, my mental faculties seem just as sharp. But my attention span is shorter, and I lose focus when reading novels. I am not very forgetful, maybe a little, but the neurologist said that I had none of the signs for Alzheimer’s. Their suggestion was that I move in with grandchildren. They could not believe that I had never seen a man naked before, much less touched one. There was no way that I had ever gotten pregnant, and I think I would have remembered if I had.”
Pink Lady said, “How sad. Did you never find the right man, Tensie?”
Tensie smiled, but a tear slipped from one eye. “I was in college during the War: that is WW2 for you. I was in competition with all the men in class. I learned one thing in college, that I could learn something new faster than most others, in this case a room full of men who felt I should not be in the same class with them. Sure, Rosie the Riveter was making tanks for the war effort while the men were fighting the war. But a senior encouraged me. We started dating. He asked me to marry him, but then he graduated and went to England to be an airborne engineer officer. He landed on Omaha Beach. He never really said what he did when he wrote, but I think he built bridges of some kind. He was a company commander when he was killed trying to defend a bridge he had just built.”
After a long pause, “All the rest would have loved to marry me so that I would be wearing an apron, at home, and not running circles around them at their job. I got a job in cosmetics. No one in a tough industry would trust a female mechanical engineer. When I recommended a half dozen design improvements in the cosmetics and in the processes that made them, my ideas were ignored until some man made a couple of nonessential changes and put his name on my drawings. I got the picture and I left the company. Without a job, I looked around at consumer products. I thought of a better gadget, and I made anonymous suggestions. My parents hated the idea of me turning their garage into a laboratory. They kept asking me why I did not date anyone. And no, I never liked girls, and after my fiancé died in the war, I only saw men as my adversaries. My uncle was a lawyer and he helped establish the “Design by Tensie” logo, the accompanying contract, and the shroud of secrecy regarding who I was. He presented Tensie’s designs. The contract had a clause that if my identity were made known by the company, they paid a severe penalty. Once my uncle and I were comfortable, I met with the company engineering staff, of course, after the contract was signed and they could not back out. They already knew that the prototype worked better than anything they had ever made. Within a couple of months, I had made improvements to the process line. And I sold my old cosmetic ideas to my old company’s competitor. That was delicious fun.”
Everyone laughed. Tensie continued, “A couple of companies did not think me serious and they released who I was, but I used the money from the lawsuit to relocate my labs. I did not want the men to beat me, but I really was never a Women’s Libber. They lost their femininity. I simply wanted an equal chance to compete. And now, I am looking for a new lab, again. But this time, I want a new lab assistant. I have no grandchildren, but Mighty’s children might do. Is that okay, Mighty?”
There was a silence in the room for a few seconds. I had already forgotten my new nickname, at least for Aunt Tensie.
Tensie cleared her throat. “Trinity Naomi Tesla Yeggs. You have forgotten your new nickname already. I thought you had a better attention span than that, Mighty.”
I turned red. “Sorry, Aunt Tensie. I had heard bits and pieces of your story over the years, but never in this detail. Are you thinking of grooming my children to be the next Tensie? I don’t know if they have the aptitude.”
Tensie looked me in the eye. “I know that Blaise used to do experiments, mostly to irritate his sister, but if he were supervised, guided, directed, he might be a good choice. His sister Sophie likes to solve mysteries from what they tell me. Maybe she could solve some mechanical mysteries. At this point, I do not know if either of them have the aptitude, the interest, or the imagination. But will you allow them to work with me? And since it may take a long time to set up my lab, I will need a place to stay.”
I swallowed, hard. “When you came to visit, we assumed it would only be a short stay. You have never stayed more than a week. Spoil the kids rotten, talk of wild adventures, and then disappear. I am not prepared to answer that question.”
Pink Lady interrupted, “If Dev Yeggs kicks you out, I have room in one of my apartment buildings. We might even turn an additional apartment or two into laboratories. But it would be away from a daily dose of children having fun with their auntie. I have a feeling that is what the doctors had in mind.”
Tensie smiled, “I said it. I had a feeling that I would really like you. Now, for the reason to call in four people that I could trust. We need a cover story. I never learned how to drive, so I will need transportation to and from your Medical Center. They will have to repeat all the tests, I’m sure, even though I have several files in route with my results down east.”
Pauline, who was nursing Buffy in a manner that was proper and polite, suggested that Dr. Yeggs and she would be glad to provide the transportation and ensure that the best doctors were assigned to her case, changing as diagnoses came in.
Then Maeve suggested, “Tensie, you seem to be as cool as a cucumber, but something tells me that you have a few things inside you that are spinning faster than a neurotic hamster’s wheel. I can have sessions with you. Even if you get your own mental health team at the Medical Center, it does not replace family.”
Tensie laughed, “Yes, it was not lost on me that three of you had a Yeggs last name and the fourth worked for my great niece. Right, Mighty?”
I sputtered, “Aunt Tensie, you wanted four people that you could trust to keep a secret. And now, I have to dream up a lie to tell my husband until you agree to read him into this group.”
Tensie groaned, “Yes, my back story for moving my lab to Tracy is the next agenda, but all my life I have had trouble with men who tried to take over. Deviled Yeggs is easy going at home, but let’s keep this among the five of us. I want no one fawning over me and offering extra pillows and a cup of tea. Is that a deal?”
Everyone nodded in agreement. Tensie still had that spark. She was not going to be pushing up daisies soon if she could avoid it.
As we brainstormed the false backstory, I shook my head, “No, people. The best back story is the truth. But before my Aunt Tensie objects, we simply do not tell everything. She is not coming here to die and leave her legacy to someone else. She is simply moving to Tracy for marginally better weather. We have more tornadoes and lightning storms. We have blizzards in the winter, but we rarely get the remnants of hurricanes and nor-easters are something we never get. You will get four seasons here, but the climate is a little warmer. Do you think our circle of family and friends will buy that? Less said, but the truth, means less details to have to remember.”
Tensie closed her eyes and smiled, “And now you know why I chose to move here instead of other available Tesla nephews and nieces.”
Pink Lady asked, “But how does the grooming of Blaise and Sophie fit in? If she has to move to Lily the Pink, we’ll need to work out a reason why they are spending more time at my place.”
Maeve suggested, “From what I hear, Sophie is finishing out her middle school at Lily the Pink. You could pick her up later and later until no one notices she spends more time there. But I also heard that Blaise’s science experiments were suspended indefinitely due to his mischief. He is the better bet to be the next Tensie, but working out a work schedule at Lily the Pink might need an extra excuse.”
Pauline suggested, “He has not been in trouble for a while, if he was, it could be punishment, but let’s consider it a reward for being a good boy for a change.”
I protested, “Other than his experiments on Sophia, he really is a pretty good kid. Let’s not make him out to be a monster. And his attitude toward girls has mellowed since he now has a girlfriend. Of course, giving his life to Jesus was the biggest difference.”
Tensie, still with her eyes closed, “Yes, he has been talking to me about that ever since I arrived. He might do very well as an evangelist, but can he not be both? And what I want both of them to work on first is my failures. If they can see what I did wrong, I will know I have the right one for the job. Some of my failures were simply intermediate steps. I have a finished product for those, but I kept my failures to remind myself that anything good in life usually comes after falling down a few times along the way. But my other failures are as you see them, things that I never perfected.”
Other than setting up doctor appointments and someone to drive her, the rest did not need to be done right away. The contents of her lab were being shipped and would not arrive for a few weeks. I just had to break it to Dev that Tensie would be staying for a little while longer than expected. I might have to admit that she was moving here once she found a place to live. And if her doctors “down east” were wrong, nothing else needs to be said. Dev liked her quirkiness, but I just had to calm those short hairs on the back of his neck until she moved to Lily the Pink.
As the four of us talked about everything that we had heard and how we could all support Tensie in her new life, we started to hear rhythmic breathing from the powered lift chair. Tensie was taking her nap.
The entire idea of Tensie and her “Design by Tensie” came from an old memory of having mostly Chevrolet automobiles growing up and stepping over a small logo that said, “Body by Fisher.” The rest is all my imagination, except as a young engineering student in the early 70s, it was hard for women to break into the field, though highly welcomed. I knew some extremely capable female engineers, some leaders in their field. Then came affirmative action and everyone wanted that female engineer. The old joke was that a dark-skinned, female engineer with a Spanish surname could name her price and get it, including being a manager, but I never met one of those.
Leave a Reply