Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Abortionist in the Basement, Part II

Woodward & Lothrop & Trouble

When MD arrived at the police station she had no idea what she would find.  What could Marta have done?

MD approached the desk.  "Good afternoon.  I am Mrs. Darling.  I received a call that my maid Marta has been arrested for heaven-knows-what and that I should come to the station and get her.  Do you know what this is about?"

The flagship Woodward & Lothrop department store
in downtown Washington, D.C.
Affectionately known as "Woodie's"

MD was ushered into a small office where she was asked to wait.

Several minutes later a man entered the room and introduced himself as Detective Stuart.

"Mrs. Darling, thank you for coming to the station today.  I'm very sorry for this inconvenience.  Do you have a woman by the name of Marta in your employ?"

"Yes, I do, detective.  She is one of my maids.  What has she done?  What is this about?"

"Well, I'm afraid we picked your girl up shoplifting at Woodie's.  She was helping herself to some of the merchandise.  She had quite a stash of it, too, in fact."

"Oh, dear!"  MD said.

"Mrs. Darling," the detective continued, "how long has this Marta been in your employ?  Do you know her well?"

"Marta has worked for me for six months or so.  I'm really quite surprised that she's been arrested for shoplifting.  I haven't had any trouble with her to speak of and, as far as I can tell, she's honest.  I'm very surprised about all of this."

"Mrs. Darling, do you know how long your Marta has been here in the States?"

"I think maybe a year or two.  Why do you ask?"

"Well, we find these girls who come up from south of the border just aren't accustomed to life how we live it here.  Most of them are from small towns in the country, and the shops they have there, well, everything's under glass, so no sticky fingers can get to it.  These girls get here and go into the big department stores and they just can't help themselves.  Well, they help themselves, that's right, to what's spread out on the counters.  That's what happened here, I think, with your girl Marta."

"I see."

A postcard of the main floor of Woodward & Lothrop at Christmas,
ca. 1964, around the time Marta was picked up there for helping herself

"Now, Mrs. Darling, your little Marta doesn't strike me as a bad girl, and she's been scared out of her wits by all this.  She's been crying like a baby for the past couple hours.  She's all shook up."

"I would imagine she is, Detective Stuart."

"Here's what I propose to you, Mrs. Darling.  I'm prepared to let her off this time, and so is Woodie's.  But before we do, Mrs. Darling, I'm going to give Marta a real talking-to, and I'm going to scare the daylights out of her about what could happen if she gets caught again helping herself to something she has no right to.  She'll get the message loud and clear, believe you me.  I'd like you to sit in on this conversation, Mrs. Darling, so you know what I'm saying to her, and so she can watch you hearing it, too.  And if that's okay with you, Mrs. Darling, I'll let you take her home with you afterwards, and we'll let the matter drop, so long as she doesn't get caught again, which I hope she won't.  What do you say to that plan, Mrs. Darling?"

"I believe it is one, Detective.  Thank you."

And so Marta got a talking-to by Detective Stuart about the perils of shoplifting and what happens to the bad girls who do it here in America—particularly those who get caught doing it more than once.  And, true to his words, he did "scare the daylights" out of poor Marta, who sat in a chair in his office, blubbering with fear and remorse.

Afterwards, in the car, Marta tearfully promised MD that she would never, ever shoplift again, and she pleaded with my mother to give her another chance.

"It's all right, Marta," my mother said. "I'm not going to turn you out for this.  But you must promise me that it really will never happen again.  Do I have your word?"

"Yes, Señora, I promise," Marta said, crossing herself. "You have my word in the name of La Santa María!"

"Okay, Marta, I believe you—you don't have to get carried away about it . . .  Now, for more pressing matters: What are we going to do about dinner tonight?  It's late, and Mr. Darling will be home in only half an hour.  We had better be ready!"

With her reprieve in hand, Marta was on very good behavior for the next several months.  There was not one bit of trouble to be had with her.

That is, until her gentleman-friend returned to the scene . . .

Next: Hello, Big Daddy!


  1. Seriously, Reggie, screenwriting. I'm thinking mini-series a la "Downton Abbey". You have heroes. You have villains. You have colorful characters upstairs. You have (I'm gathering) colorful characters downstairs. You have impressionable children watching the goings-on. Even a detective. I can't wait for the next installment!

  2. WOW!

    (and i must be old because i remember woodies!)

    1. ...and Raleighs, Garfinkels, Jellefs, Hechts, Hahns, S. Kanns?

  3. Reggie, Just finding your blog. Love it. Great writing too.
    Have a great weekend!

  4. Hello Reggie:
    We are enthralled with 'The Adventures of Marta' and are keenly awaiting the next episode having gone from 'gentlemen' callers to petty pilfering, or perhaps not so petty. Whatever, we can only assume that it will end in tears before bedtime!!

  5. Fool me once twice thrice eye carramba!

  6. abortionist, an embassy, shop lifting...and now Big Daddy. I'm glued

  7. goodness! I am ready for the next installment!

  8. We're hoping to stage a little 'piece' on this as entertainment on Labor Labor if the third installment is published in time. There's so much good dialogue that it is too good to pass up. As props for the shop-lifting scene, there's a disagreement whether the merchandise should be sexy lingerie or knitting needles & yard. Hopefully all will soon be resolved.

  9. Reggie really isn't fair of you to torture us with these cliff hangers. I'm waiting with baited breath!

  10. I have fond, albeit dim, memories of Woodies "in town" as we called it.
    You really are cruel to leave us hanging with such interesting gossip!

  11. I can imagine that a department store might be a little too much magic for a simple girl too handle. Delightful story, beautifully told. Can you imagine that happening today???? The poor child would be on an armored bus home in a snap.

  12. Enthralling story Reggie! Your Woodie's reference makes me again pine for our local icon, Marshall Field's-and it's State Street flagship, which is now a Macy's. I cringe every time I walk by.

  13. Holy Moly. Now you've done it. I read the first two installments to my husband last night. I shouldn't be the only one left hanging, should I?

    You'd better be cranking out Chapter Three instead of frittering away your time enjoying Labor Day weekend.

    That beat you hear are my fingers drumming the top of my desk.

    Hmmmmm.....Maybe honey would work better.

  14. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. I had spent a good deal of my time looking for someone to explain this subject clearly and you’re the only one that ever did that. Kudos to you!
    Keep it up...

    kredyt konsolidacyjny

  15. If you like this stuff you may enjoy the characters in A Confederacy of Dunces. RD have you read it?

  16. Reggie, your mother was good to give her a second chance, but in any language or culture, a thief is still a thief. But like MD, I would be inclined to give her another chance, too. Looking forward to hearing the rest of the story.





  18. Hello? Big Daddy who is BD.? Why did the friend return.? was his new squeeze not panning out? Marta begged him to return?? and now he has two birds in the hand ...or is Big marta the brains behind any of the shenanigans??? as she is a con artist bam-boo-zo-ling the other hand?

  19. I am in the process of reading ACOD and the colorful characters are a symphony to educate the reader and a sermon to take to heart. no wonder it is perhaps a movie in the making-- Hello Zack G. I read Midnight in the garden of Good and Evil have NOT seen the "movie" But I have visited Savannah many times would like t return in the SPRING

  20. Woodie's! Jellefs, Kann's, Hahn's & Hechts!



Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails