Out to Lunch is a Darla McDowell Novel
Out to Lunch
by G. D. Gaetz
Out to Lunch
Inge de Groot has met her soul-mate, again. It's love at first sight, again. Is it her fault the dear boy fallen in love with her?
But is Don Johns attracted to Inge or to Inge's money? Her oldest friends Darla and Maureen intend to find out.
Please join them for lunch at the Cactus Club in this short excerpt:
Except for the tapping of her fingernails on the tabletop, Inge remained silent. Darla munched on fries. Maureen swallowed a mouthful of beer, burped, and put down the glass, all the while eyeing her two old friends.
Something had changed. Something in the air, something in Inge’s breathing, in the way she held her long-stemmed glass, turning it in her fingers, staring into it.
“I have met someone,” she announced.
Darla picked up her empty coffee mug and peered over its rim at Maureen, waiting for Inge’s words to sink in, fearing Maureen would say something cruel and the fight would be on. But Maureen was busy chasing a cherry tomato around her plate with a fork. Had she even heard?
Seconds ticked by. Inge’s eyes shot back and forth between Darla and Maureen. Her well-nourished little body vibrated, slowly at first then faster and faster, threatening to explode. Little pieces of Inge everywhere.
Darla had to do something, say something. “Seriously?”
“Of course, seriously,” Inge snapped. “Would I make up such a ting?”
“I only meant…” What the heck had she meant? She was playing for time, nothing more. As usual, she was stuck in the middle here, trying to keep these two from spoiling another lunch with their thoughtless words. Sometimes she wondered why she bothered. She drew a long breath. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m happy for you Inge.”
Inge narrowed her eyes.
Maureen kept chasing that stupid little tomato. With any luck at all she wasn’t listening.
“And that I hope this one works out better than the last two or three.”
Maureen’s fork clattered to her plate. “So, tell us, Inge, did you meet this guy through shadesofsilver dot argh?”
“What on dis earth are you talking about?”
“A website for older couples. Good name, don’t you think? I just made it up.”
“Gotta love the dot argh,” Darla said.
“Hey,” Maureen winked at her, “how about we start a new website for seniors only? We could make a mint off all the lonely old Wrinklies out there who think they're still as sexy as ever.”
Pink blotches erupted on Inge’s cheeks.
“Admit it Inge,” Maureen continued. “Did you meet this guy online or not?”
“We have been dating for weeks.” Inge placed her hand flat over her heart. “I am afraid the dear man has fallen hopelessly in love with me.”
“Unbelievable.” Maureen shook her head.
“Please tell me he’s old enough to not be your son,” Darla said.
Inge’s fingers curled into her palm.
Darla cringed, picturing those dagger-sharp fingernails digging into soft flesh.
“I do not believe dis nonsense!” Inge’s words burst out unexpectedly loud. She glanced around the restaurant, at all the faces turned her way, and lowered her voice to a whisper. “I thought my friends would be happy for me but I now see you are jealous dat I have found a man who finds me attractive.”
“A man of what age?” Darla asked. “Eighty-seven with weak eyesight? Forty-two with a weak bank account?”
Maureen snorted. She plunked down her empty beer glass and clapped both hands over a mouthful of beer, choking back laughter, trying to swallow that last gulp of beer before it dribbled down her chin or spurted from her nostrils.
“Don is maybe a few years younger dan me, but he has plenty of his own money. And you must admit I do not look sixty-three.”
“That is so true, Inge, you don’t look sixty-three at all,” Maureen agreed.
Already Darla regretted her thoughtless words, sometimes her true thoughts spilled out of her mouth before she knew they were there. This was not going to end well.
Maureen picked up her fork and stabbed a slice of cucumber. “But you would make a fantastic sixty-nine.”
Inge sputtered, “I am not sixty-nine!”
Maureen crunched into the cucumber. “I’m just saying, Inge, if you were pushing seventy and looked as good as you do, everyone would be amazed. But we all know you’re not sixty-three anymore.”
“And that’s why you don’t look it,” Darla added.
Inge pressed shaky purple fingertips to her forehead.
“And neither do we,” Darla said. “So we’ve gained a few wrinkles over the years. Time passes. Life happens. Who cares? In case you haven’t noticed, this is not Hollywood. We don't all need to look younger than our daughters.”
Maureen went for the last cherry tomato on her plate. “Try to think of wrinkles as a sign of wisdom,” she offered, abandoning her fork and grabbing the tomato between her finger and thumb. “Wrinkly Wisdom.” She popped it into her mouth.
“Inge’s a Reluctant Wrinkly,” Darla said, attempting to keep things light. “She only looks in mirrors where the lighting is exactly right for hiding the look of wrinkles.”
“So then, what is this new boyfriend of yours, like forty-two?” Maureen asked.
“Isn’t her son forty-two?” Darla mused.
“Of course Don is not forty-two, do you take me for a fool? He is almost fifty.”
“Forty-nine?” Maureen asked.
Inge’s body trembled with barely contained anger.
“Forty-six?” Darla guessed.
“He is forty-seven if you must know. What does his age matter if he loves me?”
“If he loves you, Inge, age is a small part of the equation,” Maureen agreed. “But…”
They both waited for more, but Maureen had lost interest. She picked up her empty beer glass and focused on it as if it might refill itself.
Darla completed the thought for her, because it needed to be said. “… if he loves your money then age could be a biggie.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake I do not need dis.” Inge tucked her purse under her elbow, stumbled to her feet, and bustled out of the restaurant with short, quick steps, wobbling on heels so high they made her upper body lean forward as if she were about to fall on her face.
Darla watched her go. “She didn’t even stop to pay! Or take her leftovers!” She grabbed another French fry, but it was cold now, and soggy.
“That’s a bit extreme even for Inge. What do you suppose is going on in that humor-challenged little brain of hers?”
“My guess? She’s already lent him money and refuses to consider we might be right.”
“Agreed.” Maureen stretched her arms above her head, yawning. The yawn ended in a belch worthy of a disapproving look from Inge, had she been there to witness it.
“The time has come to put my web-tracking skills to good use. I’ll see what dirt I can dig up on this Don Johns character of Inge’s.
Out to Lunch began as a title. And the title was Revenge of the Wrinklies. Nothing more.
But it was a catchy title and I liked it. It lurked in the back of my brain for months until, almost unnoticed at first, three women began to make themselves known. Darla, Inge, and Maureen have been friends for thirty years, not because they enjoy shared interests, but because as young mothers they lived on the same street and their children played together.
Now they meet for lunch every Wednesday in different Nanaimo, BC restaurants.
Now that the book is completed and I realize how often the three friends go out to lunch, I've decided the title Out to Lunch, is a better fit.
In the novel Out to Lunch, readers are given glimpses into the restaurants the women frequent and the foods they enjoy.
Because I enjoy eating out as much as they do, why not combine my love of going out to lunch with my love of writing?
Darla and Maureen see new opportunites to help their fellow seniors and so establish Out to Lunch Investigations, with offices and meeting rooms in whatever restaurant they choose. Their first new case is Wrongful Confession.
In Wrongful Confession the Out to Lunch Investigators aren't convinced they can help Inge's cousin prove that, in spite of her confession and life sentence for first degree murder, Maarta did not stab her son-in-law to death with a butcher knife.
Click on "Wrongful Confession" on the menu bar above to read the first few pages of Wrongful Confession,
All the restaurants in Out to Lunch Investigations are ones I've been to often. I will review them, and many more as they happen in Chronicles.