How Do You Spell That?

spell“Phoenix Police Department, Detective Castellano speaking.”

“I’m deeply disturbed, Detective–chilled to the marrow of my bones to be exact.”

“What seems to be the problem, ma’am?”

“There’s no ‘seems’ to it, young man. I’m the victim of a heinous home invasion.”

“Are you injured? Do you require emergency assistance?”

“Not injured YET, no, but terrorized to within an inch of my sanity.”

“All right, ma’am, we’re here to help. Give me your name, please?”

“Mildred Colyer with a ‘y’: c-o-l-y-e-r. It’s an ancient Anglo-Saxon name for charcoal seller.”

“Where are you calling from, Mrs. Colyer?”

“My home.”

“And that is?”

“4349 Farmington Road, half a mile from the lake. It’s a quiet neighborhood of retired and widowed folks, no drive-by shootings or other ghastly criminal activities we see on the news. Until now, that is.”

“I’m familiar with the area. Now, Mrs. Colyer, as calmly as you can, please tell me…”

“Excuse me, Detective. What’s your first name?”

“Tom, ma’am.”



“What is your last name, Tom?”


“How do you spell that?”


“You might consider changing your name to something like Castle, Tim. Be easier for folks to remember.”

“Tom, not Tim–Detective Tom Castellano.”

“That’s what I said. Well, never mind. What’s happened is that a strange old woman’s invaded my house. I have no idea who she is or where she came from. One day she wasn’t here and the next day she was.”

“Can you describe her?”

“Like I said, she’s old, about my height, though much chunkier than I am, grey hair pulled back in a bun. She keeps out of sight most of the time, but I catch a glimpse of her every now and then. She has deep wrinkles all over her face and down her neck, like those Chinese dogs I saw in the National Geographic magazine. Do you know the ones I’m talking about, look like messed-up sock drawers?”


“Yes, that’s them. A woman with a face like that should never let herself be seen without a bonnet.”

“Has she stolen anything from you?”

“It’s bad form to point a finger, but yes, I know she steals money from me. Every time I make a withdrawal from the ATM, it’s gone in a day or two. I’ve always been frugal and never squandered money, so I’m forced to conclude the old lady pilfers it. And money’s not the only thing.”

“What else?”

“Food, especially sweet things like ice cream and cookies, vanish overnight. Every time I catch sight of her, she’s put on a few more ugly pounds.”

“She hasn’t directly threatened you, is that correct?”

“No, that is not correct. Every day of my life she threatens my health and well-being.”


“By never letting me get a quiet night’s sleep, that’s how. Her snores shake every window in the house and jerk me awake. Snoring is so unattractive in a woman, don’t you think?”

“All right, Mrs. Colyer, I’ll send over a uniformed officer.”

“Don’t get me wrong, Detective. Being a good Christian woman, I believe it’s my duty to help out those less fortunate than myself. We hear the stories on the news about old people thrown out of their homes and forced to live in cardboard boxes and eat rats. I don’t mind helping the poor old thing out if I can, but she must agree to a few rules…. Please excuse me a moment, will you? I have to…”



“I’m still here, Mrs. Colyer.”

“Who is this?”

“Detective Castellano, ma’am.”


“Tom Castellano. You were telling me about…”

“How do you spell that?”


  1. Susan says

    Love it!! Reminds me of a friend saying that when she and her partner went camping this old woman kept getting in their photos!!!! You are the creative now Missy—don’t you ever remove my name from your list or I will hunt you down like a dog.

  2. Phyllis says

    Well, good for you branching out. I am just glad I made the preferred list. I love reading your writing. This latest posting hits lots of nerves in anyone of our age group. Mildred could be any number of women my mother’s age. I love that the detective humored her and let her “report” her home invasion (of the body snatchers). It is a crime that we cannot remain as our brains see ourselves. Glad she reported the invasion!

  3. Jan McNutt says

    This made my day. You’ve created a great character within a tight, enjoyable story. Congratulations, my sweet writer friend. Keep writing these little gems & put them in a book of short stories & essays. Thank you so much for sending your story to me. It was delightfully funny. Well done, Miss Ann. You are a writer. And a damn good writer.

  4. Jane says

    Howzit Ann? I still laugh when I read about the “charcoal seller’! This is such a hilarious read & I look forward to being on your list.

  5. Mary Ann says

    Omg that’s me!!! Love it How funny n so true it scared me. I think you are right to do your writing like this. I think you’re talented and can receive more recognition!!

  6. Vanessa says

    WHOA-this is big! I’m soooo proud of you-it’s about damn time you stick your neck out! That neck is attached to the brain that concocts these delicious stories, and the world will be a better place when those stories are shared on a larger forum. BREAK A LEG, and let me know if I can ever help!!!

  7. Roxanne says

    I am so proud of you for taking this next step. You’ve been disciplined in posting to your website captivating stories and creating memorable characters and story lines in the process. These gems deserve a larger audience. This is the next logical step for you and one you are ready for! I remain one of your most ardent supporters and will be interested in your experiences. As for your most recent story…I’ve got a similar interloper! Thankfully, she hasn’t completely taken over! Ann, as always, you have a way of guiding the reader to places, emotions and experiences that resonate personally. You are extremely clever, girlfriend!

  8. David says

    I hope the writing career is a huge success. Soon you will be vaulting up the NY Times best seller list and a desired guest on the Tonight Show, sandwiched between Robert de Nero and Jane Fonda.

  9. Theresa says

    I like “How Do You Spell That?” I hope you’re going to flesh it out a bit. I want to suggest making it into a few conversations, with Mrs. Colyer’s dementia getting worse each time until you get to the perfect ending that you already have. That might make the whole thing more bleak, which makes me unsure. Some tales are meant to be short and bittersweet and not get dragged on too far. It totally matters what direction you’re going with it, so ignore me if I’m wandering outside of your vision.

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