Meet My Imaginary Friends: Paris Friedl
Years ago Paris Friedl was a real beauty stuck waiting tables in a Harrisburg diner which is where Farmer Friedl found her. Farmer didn't have a lot to offer--he drove a garbage truck in the Pennsylvania Dutch town of Marienstadt--but he promised Paris if she'd marry him she'd never have to work again. That was good enough for her. Now Farmer is gone and Paris lives in his camp outside of town with her collection of animals. In this scene from The Last Time I Saw Paris in The Bucktail Cap in the Trunk, Chief of Police Henry Werner pays her a visit as he investigates a series of peculiar robberies.
Farmer’s house started out as a mobile home but over the years he had built on to it, mostly with cement blocks. Here and there Henry recognized parts of salvaged barns and sheds. The screen door opened with an ear-splitting screech.
“Henry Werner.” Paris Friedl stood in the doorway. Despite the heat she wore a plaid flannel shirt over a nylon tank top. Her hair had once been dyed an apricot color but now two inches of gray root showed. She squinted through the smoke from a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. Henry kept his eyes on her face. He noticed that she wore old blue jeans chopped off above the knees and was shoeless. He couldn’t bear to look at her feet. Whatever glamor her name once evoked was now a distant memory. “What do you want?” she snarled through the cigarette smoke.
“Just wondered if you had a few minutes?” he said. A rusted out Pontiac Firebird sat in the driveway and he glanced at the inspection sticker; it had expired three years ago.
“For what?” Leaning against the door frame, she removed the cigarette from her mouth. Henry never felt less welcome anywhere.
“I was just over at the Wilde Tavern and Boone mentioned you stopped in recently. I wondered if you’d mind answering a couple questions.”
“That a crime now? Having a beer at the Wilde Tavern?” She took a long draw on her cigarette then pitched the butt into a coffee can next to the door.
“No.” Henry stayed in the driveway. “There was a burglary at the hotel that night. I’ve been talking to anyone who might have seen anything unusual. That’s all.”
“Compared to what? I ain't never been in there before and I ain't been in there since, so how’m I supposed to know what's ‘unusual’?”
Henry nodded. “That’s a good point.” He looked at the goats. All of them crowded against the pen’s gate watching him, pushing and shoving each other to be the closest. Amid the squawking and bleating he heard another sound—a high-pitched trill that he knew he’d heard before but couldn’t place. “You’ve got quite a collection of livestock.”
“I like animals.” She narrowed her eyes. “They don't suck as much as people.”
“Do you have any problems with wildlife out here in the woods? With all your chickens and ducks I’m surprised you don't lose some to foxes or coyotes.”
She reached inside the doorway and pulled a shotgun into view. “They know better.”
“Fair enough. I just wanted to check in with you. Don't hesitate to call the station if you think of anything.” He paused. “Or if you ever need help.”
“Why would I need help? Do I look like a helpless maiden?” She dug a cigarette out of her shirt pocket, put it between her lips, and pulled out a lighter.
“Not hardly.” Henry smiled. “I just want you to know I’m there if you have any problems with wildlife or…" He hesitated. “You know—enemies.”
“I ain't got no enemies.” She lit the cigarette and took a long draw on it.
“Well, that's good. You’re lucky.”
“I out-lived the bastards.” She stepped back into her house and pulled the screen door shut.