Meet My Imaginary Friends: Ethel Hauber
Ethel Hauber from my Marienstadt stories is sort of an amalgamation of half the elderly ladies I knew growing up. She is on a permanent crusade to drive handsome Chief of Police Henry Werner nuts. She's cranky and always upset about something whether it is being trapped in her house by a bear sitting on her porch or breaking up a beer party next door by playing her Lawrence Welk polka albums at top volume out her window. Poor Henry is so kind to her. In this excerpt from The Rhubarb Epidemic in The Bucktail Cap in the Trunk, she's positively livid.
Henry pulled open Town Hall's front door and had barely stepped inside when Ethel Hauber bore down on him like a plump, angry whirlwind.
“Look at this,” she hollered holding up a bundle of newspapers with large green leaves sticking out of one end. “Just look at what that vandal did! I want him arrested right now.”
“Hold on, Mrs. Hauber,” Henry said as he opened the glass door to the police department. “Let's go in my office and you can tell me what this is about.” He held the door for her and she stomped past him muttering what he assumed were dire threats and curses.
“Donna,” he said, ignoring the dispatcher's smirk, “hold my calls.” He stepped aside. “After you, Mrs. Hauber.”
“Don't think for one moment you're fooling me with all this politeness, Henry Werner,” she retorted, “I remember you when you were in diapers and don't think I'll hesitate for one minute to call your mother.”
Henry shut his office door and sat down at his desk. Calling his mother was one of Ethel Hauber's favorite threats. “What have you got there?”
“This...” She jumped up sputtering with indignation. “Is my prize-winning rhubarb!” She flung the bundle down on his desk and it popped open to reveal half a dozen stalks of rhubarb coated with something red and messy. “This is rhubarb that grew from the very same plants my Grandfather Grotzinger brought from the old country. Look what that animal did to them!”
She had tears in her eyes. Henry folded back the newspaper and noticed the red stuff was all over the newspaper. He touched it with his finger tip and smelled it.
“Paint?” he asked.
“That hooligan next door sprayed red paint all over my rhubarb stalks. I want you to go over there and arrest him.” Her entire body trembled with indignation and outrage. Ethel Hauber was a short, chunky woman with bushy gray hair that had been permed to death over the years so that now it looked like a well-used scouring pad. She habitually wore flowered tunics and coordinating pants of the bullet-proof polyester variety and scuffed around in bedroom slippers whenever the ground was free of snow. Though Henry figured she had to be about his mother's age—mid-seventies—she seemed a great deal older.
“I don't understand this.” Henry looked up at her. “Are you sure it was Juney Wickett who did this?”
“Who else would be that depraved?” she asked. “I want you to go out there....”
“Yes,” he said. “You want Juney arrested, but I'd have to be able to prove that he did it.”
“Well.” She glared at him. “Can't you get a search warrant and search for red paint?”
Henry sighed. “I'll go have a talk with him.”
“Good.” She jumped to her feet, grabbed her bundle of painted rhubarb, and stomped out of his office.
Henry leaned his head on the back of the chair and groaned.