One month later, Cole and Sharon stood behind the counter of their newly acquired booth at the Sitwell Farmer’s Market. The sign attached to the back of the wall read, “Cole and Sharon’s Fresh Produce. We have Strawberries and Blueberries and Watermelons and Shit.”
Underneath the sign, Skippy’s stuffed head was mounted on the wall for the whole world to see. One eye was out, the other was. His jaws were open, as though they might snap down on an unsuspecting passerby at any second.
“I can’t believe you quit the FBI,” Cole said.
“I can,” Sharon said as she threw her arms around Cole’s waist and gazed up into her lover’s eyes. “If I never work another case again it will be too soon.”
“I’ll hold you to that, Mrs. Walker,” Cole said.
“Sure thing, Mr. Walker,” Sharon replied.
The romantic conversation was cut short when Maude and Burt bellied up to the bar. “Oh God, get a room you two. You got any strawberries?”
Cole pointed to the sign.
Maude nodded. “Alright then, give me a bushel. This one’s been raw dogging me non-stop and I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”
Burt’s face turned red. “Maude.”
“Oh please,” Maude said. “Sure, it’s more crooked than a Louisiana Congressman, but you can still pound nails with that thing. No small feat at your age. Be proud of it.”
“On the house,” Cole said as he handed Maude a box of fresh, red strawberries.
“You’re the worst businessman ever,” Maude said as she took the box. “You’ll be bankrupt in a week.”
“Then we’ll figure something else out,” Cole said.
Maude handed Cole a bundle of envelopes. “The post office is still sending your mail to the police station. You’re going to have to fill out one of those change of address forms…that is, unless you want to…”
“I’m never coming back,” Cole said.
“But the town council voted unanimously to reinstate you,” Maude said.
“They can vote to reinstate my foot up all of their asses,” Cole said. “They turned their back on me in my time of need. Now I turn my back on them.”
“Poetic,” Burt said.
“Then you do realize the department will be led by…Chief Rusty Yates,” Maude said. “Ugh. We’ll be lucky if he doesn’t burn the place down his first day.”
“Somehow he’ll manage,” Cole said. “He’s got you, doesn’t he?
“That he does,” Maude said. “And I’ll be riding his ass like a dime store call girl the second I get back from vacation.”
“When are you leaving?” Cole asked.
“Tonight,” Maude said. “Our bags are packed and they’re stuffed with more dildos and handcuffs than Charlie Sheen’s dresser drawer. Aruba, here we come!”
“Wait,” Cole said. “If you leave this week, you’ll miss the ceremony with President Stugotz.”
“Please,” Maude said. “Like I voted for that turkey or any of the other turkeys who ran for president. I’ve got one vacation a year, Cole, and I don’t have many years or vacations left, so I’d rather spend my limited time getting jackhammered by this tall drink of water here.”
“Maude, please,” Burt said.
“Shut up and own it,” Maude said. “Just like you’re going to be owning my vagina all over the Caribbean soon.”
“Well Maude,” Cole said. “The DC trip just won’t be the same without you.”
“Washington DC?” Maude asked. “No thanks. If I want to be filled with hot air, I’ll just ask Burt to…”
“OK,” Burt said as he pulled on Maude’s arm. “We really should be going.”
“Right,” Maude said. “We’ve got to rest up so we can join the mile high club. Goodbye you two. I’m glad to see you’ve picked up the pieces of your shattered marriage and glued them back together again.”
Cole watched as Maude and Burt walked away. “I’m really going to miss her.”
“I know,” Sharon said.
“She was like the foul-mouthed, abusive, nicotine addicted mother I never had,” Cole said.
Cole fumbled through his mail. Bill. Bill. Bill. Junk mail. Junk mail. Finally, he opened up an enveloped marked “International Adoption Agency.” He read it to himself, mumbling along until he shook his head and muttered, “Damn it.”
“What?” Sharon asked.
Cole glared at the letter sitting on the counter, inviting Sharon to read it herself. She did so:
“Dr. Mr. and Mrs. Walker,
We regret to inform you that processing of your adoption application will be delayed six months to one year due to the high volume of requests we are fielding at this time. We thank you for your patience.”
Sharon rubbed Cole’s back. “I’m sorry baby.”