Short As Fictober #17: “The Well-Read Woman’s Literary Sofa Society”

Usually, The Well-Read Woman’s Literary Sofa Society meets every Thursday from 7:00-9:00 in the basement of A Darn Good Yarn: Craft Supply and Bookstore. But tonight three of its four members have arrived fifteen minutes early to discuss the membership of the most recent addition to their select circle. Jillian Maynard, second-in-command of the WRWLSS not so secretly campaigning to assume leadership of the group, had telephoned the other ladies asking that they all get there before Brenda. When everyone’s found her favorite chair or couch cushion, Jillian stands and passes round a plate of blondies, and then tosses a copy of Tana French’s In the Woods onto the chipped, walnut coffee table with a crash.

“What’s wrong now, Jillian?” April Sunderland, the founder of the WRWLSS, asks. She’s using her own copy of the novel as a makeshift plate for her blondie.

Jillian glares at April. “We need to talk about Brenda.”

Wilma Stevenson nods. “Is it about her birthday next month? We should get an early start, maybe find a book she really wants to–“

“It’s not about he gd birthday,” Jillian says. “It’s about her membership.”

April sets down her book, and brushes the crumbs from her pant legs. “What about her membership? I think she’s been a welcome addition to our club.”

“Brenda doesn’t quite match the group’s mold, though, does she?”

“I like her,” Wilma says. “She did a bang-up job on crowd control during the last job.”

“Of course she did, but what if she’s not so solid next time?”

“How do you mean?” April asks. “Where’s this coming from?”

“It’s the books. It’s like she actually wants to read the books.”

“We are a book club,” Wilma offers.

“In name only. Our ‘club’ has only ever been a front. An excuse to get out of the house and not have to worry about our husbands taking an interest and wanting to join in. Who has time to read the latest from Anne Bogel’s What Should I Read Next? when we’re in the middle of planning the next big heist? Does she want to get caught? Because it’s bound to happen if we don’t iron out every single detail. How can we trust that she’s timed out the arrival and departure times of the armored trucks to Blanton’s Department Store when she’s going on and on about the symbolism of water in Peter Geye’s Wintering?”

“But there’s never been a problem,” April says. “Brenda’s good at everything. She takes meticulous notes, constructs beautiful scale models, has an extensive knowledge of safes, and is dynamite behind the wheel.”

“And she makes the best brownies,” Wilma adds.

“Oh my goodness, her brownies,” April says. “I must have–“

“Enough,” Jillian says folding her arms over her chest. “I say she has to go.”

April and Wilma exchange a glance and then stand. Each woman pulls a small pistol from her cardigan pocket.

“Why don’t we put it to a vote?” April asks.

Brenda Millam lets herself into A Darn Good Yarn through the back door and walks down to the basement.

“Sorry I’m late,” she says uncovering a plate of brownies. “It’s really coming down out there and I could barely see.”

As she comes into the main room, she finds April and Wilma scrubbing the carpet in front of Jillian’s chair.

“Oh, what happened?”

April smiles. “Just a little spill. Almost done and then we can get started. Is that your brownies I smell?”

“You bet. Where’s Jillian?”

April and Wilma share another look.

“Poor dear wasn’t feeling well,” Wilma says, “Went home.”

“That’s too bad,” Brenda says. “I hope she feels better in time for the Blanton’s heist.”

“Uh huh. So what’d you think of In the Woods?” April asks.

Brenda sets down her plate of brownies and pulls a well-thumbed copy of the book from her bag, and the Well-Read Woman’s Literary Sofa Society spends the next two hours discussing Tana French’s murder mystery and finalizing their plans to hold up Blanton’s armored car.

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