NOSEY: Greetings, cybernuts! This is I.B. Nosey, your official unofficial reporter! Today I’m browsing the aisles of my favorite department store in search of a new pair of ‘Rock ‘em & Sock ‘em Blunderland’ shoelaces. Hm. Wonder where the help is? *gazes around* Ah, here’s some clerks. Greetings— *men stare at Nosey, gasp, and then flee* Hey, you! *bongs a straggler over the head with microphone* This is I.B. Nosey, the official unofficial reporter and—
EMPLOYEE: Yeah, yeah. *rubs bruised noggin* We know all about you.
NOSEY: *puffs out chest* My reputation precedes me.
EMPLOYEE: *sighs* Unfortunately.
EMPLOYEE: *clears throat* Mr. Nosey, can I, for once, interest you to enter the ‘world of Ralph Lauren’?
NOSEY: *blinks* Who?
EMPLOYEE: The famous clothes designer who can give you a - ah… *gestures towards Nosey’s blazer* better - er, um, that is -different look.
NOSEY: Why would I want anything different from my tweedy-weedy blazers? They’re all the rage, you know.
EMPLOYEE: Mr. Nosey. *clasps hands in earnest plea* If you’d only allow me— *shrieks as human cannonball flies down aisle* Watch out!
*Nosey is tackled, thrown to the floor, then dragged behind rack of clothing*
MAN: *hoarse whisper* Get up! What’re you doing lying down on the job?
NOSEY: *gives groggy shake of head* Holy torpedo! What sub did you escape from, pal?
MAN: No time for sandwiches. I’m hiding from the Scary Man.
NOSEY: Er… *bolts upright* W-w-what Scary Man?
FK: I’m Frank Kahren and you can read about him here. *thrusts book into Nosey’s palm*
NOSEY: *frowns* An author’s found me in the middle of… *looks around* the women’s girdles?
FK: Keep your voice down!
NOSEY: *gulps* Is the Scary Man t-that d-dangerous?
FK: *hisses* Read the blurb and figure it out for yourself.
NOSEY: Yeah, well, ya never know… *darts nervous gaze around* that might just be a good idea. *turns book over* Let’s see, the title is Brand Loyalty and it says: ‘Retired from the Marine Corps and the California Department of Corrections, Major Matt Rommel’s life has been one long exercise in applied violence. A docent at San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor, he spends his days surrounded by art treasures and his nights in the Mission District at Vince’s bar…’ Excuse me, but…*Nosey leans over to whisper* Those art treasures. Uh, there’s something kinda funky about one of them.
FK: That so?
NOSEY: Uh huh. It’s a…*glances across shoulder* portrait of me! Yeah. Pretty cool, eh? But it’s gotta be protected so that it won’t get stolen!
FK: *grunts* There’re more than one portrait of you there.
NOSEY: Oh, yeah? *eyes light up*
FK: *peers around edge of cabinet to check for eavesdroppers before beckoning to Nosey* As you must know…
NOSEY: What? Huh? What? *gives fast cleaning to left ear and scoots closer* You were saying?
FK: There’s a portrait of you in one of the galleries. I believe it was painted by El Greco?
NOSEY: *nods* El Geeko. Right. Captured my likeness to a nose.
FK: Well, there’s also a Rodin sculpture of you in the Spreckles gallery, plus an intriguing ‘I.B. Nosey’ image in one of the Watteau paintings.
NOSEY: *awe fills voice* For real?
FK: Friend, apparently you’re virtually immortal. I can assure you that everyone at the Legion of Honor is committed to protecting their I.B. treasures.
NOSEY: Heh heh. Keep talking like that and I just might wind up buying your book.
FK: First, we have to escape from the Scary Man. *nods to book* Don’t you want to know more?
NOSEY: About the Scary Man? Um, not especially.
FK: But what about Carolyn?
NOSEY: Who’s Carolyn?
FK: *taps book* In here.
NOSEY: Somehow I knew you were gonna say that. Ahem. Okay. Continuing: ‘The years have also changed the life of Carolyn Kast, leaving her with a failed marriage to a man committed only to his forlorn hope of a technology company. Now, Carolyn is a single mother in her middle forties with a fledgling ad agency and two partners who are always at each other’s throats. Worse, it is becoming clear that someone’s trying to kill her…’ *Nosey shudders* Whoa. How’s it ‘becoming clear’ that someone doesn’t like her very much - to put it delicately?
FK: There’re always subtle signs. Like… *grabs Nosey by the collar and drags him behind stack of boxes*
NOSEY: Hey! *sputters* What’re you doing, man?
FK: Trying to keep us safe! This is for you. No need to call attention to ourselves. *steals hat from one of the boxes and plops it atop Nosey’s head*
NOSEY: I.B. Nosey does not need a disguise!
FK: You mean that’s not a mask you’re wearing?
FK: Be quiet! You want what happened to Carolyn to happen to us?
NOSEY: Uhhh… *drops voice* If she didn’t eat a bar of Gum Drop Nutty Whizz Bang, then I don’t wanna know.
FK: But you asked why someone didn’t like her.
NOSEY: I did?
FK: Ten lines back.
NOSEY: Ohhh. Guess I was too nosy for my own good, heh heh.
FK: Know what else is for your own good? Recognizing the signs of being ‘disliked’.
NOSEY: No worries there, fella. I know 'em all by first name.
FK: Really? You've had someone to drop a garage door on your head?
NOSEY: Er, no, although they’ve probably dreamed about it.
FK: Or had a capoera fighter try to knife you in an alley in Rio?
NOSEY: *scrunches face* Ooh.
FK: And that’s not all. Sometimes people shoot a cop and chase you into a mausoleum. If you stay in touch with your intuitive sides, you can always pick up on the signals.
NOSEY: If it’s all the same to you, I’ll stick with smoke signals.
FK: Well, Aubrey knows what to do.
NOSEY: Aubrey? Aubrey who?
FK: The blurb, Nosey. You didn’t finish it. *points* See?
NOSEY: *glances down* Oh, yeah. ‘Six-year-old Aubrey knows what to do. Go to the museum, to the man she has decided is an enforcer for Santa Claus: The Scary Man!’ *gapes* We’re hiding from Santa Claus?
FK: *scoffs* Get real. It’s like this, see. *glances both ways* Matt Rommel, besides what he does at the Palace of the Legion of Honor fine arts museum, is also an ex-marine and working at a prison as a guard. Let’s just say, he’s got a ‘gift’ for dealing with people.
NOSEY: If you don’t mind me asking, ah…does that gifting have anything to do with garage doors, or Rio?
FK: *shakes head* Nothing like that. See, once a year, he brings two bags of Christmas toys to the Toys for Tots barrel in downtown San Francisco. During that trip, he makes a point of ‘provoking’, shall we say, the Gunnery Sergeant who mans the gift barrels.
NOSEY: A gift barrel? *spies one in the corner* Like that one?
FK: Nosey! *grabs his tie* Stay put!
NOSEY: Unhand the threads! *knocks off FK’s grasp* Sheesh, man. Don’t you get it? I'm not named Nosey for nothing. *plunges into barrel and withdraws stuffed, fleeced octopus* Hey, look at this! What a cutie. It’s so soft and huggable and—
FK: Don’t squeeze it!
NOSEY: Yikes! *staggers back against row of umbrellas* Who turned out the lights?
FK: Ssssh! *yanks Nosey behind dressing room* Here. Use my handkerchief.
NOSEY: Uh, Mr. Kahren… *rubs glasses and smears ink all across face* …an idea’s suddenly flared over my head.
FK: Sorry, Nosey, but I don’t think your bulbs burn too bright.
NOSEY: I— huh?
FK: Forget it. What do you wanna say?
NOSEY: It’s about Matt. He’s too busy a guy, don’t ya think?
NOSEY: Sorry to have to tell ya, but these toys … *waves arm toward gift barrel* just plain downright stink. As in last week’s garbage truck stink.
FK: And you’re sorry to tell me that?
NOSEY: Well, listen. Your Matt, if he wants the ‘totties’ to like him, he’s gotta get tuned to their brain waves.
FK: Hm…*gives considering nod* How?
NOSEY: Matt needs a break from his ‘dangerous docent’-ing, ‘ex-marine’-ing, and ‘prison guarding’-ing. He oughta clear his head. And no better place to do that except at Gum Drop Island.
FK: How will that help?
NOSEY: Why wouldn’t it? Relax in a coconut strand hammock, nibble on the gingerbread hedges, pluck a couple of chocolate bars off the palm trees. *snaps fingers* Guaranteed ‘Kool-aid’ tot-toy inspiration.
FK: I don’t know. *strokes chin in pondering gesture* That creates its own problems.
NOSEY: Dude, how can spending time at Gum Drop Island be a problem?
FK: From Matt’s point of view, after some of the people he’s worked with, he’d never want to come back.
NOSEY: That’d be bad?
FK: How would he protect Carolyn?
NOSEY: Oh. *chuckles* I get it. So they get lovey-dovey with each other, eh? Bet that happened when he gave her a box of chocolates from Gum Drop Island.
FK: Actually, Aubrey the one’s that brought them together. She saw Rommel with those bags of toys and concluded that he works for Santa.
NOSEY: Uhh.. you’ve lost me. What’s Santa got to do with Carolyn? Is she one of his elves? *eyes the gift barrel* Oh, no. She made that exploding octopus, right?
FK: *spreads palms* Don’t blame me. I didn’t write nothing like that in my book.
NOSEY: So, then… what did you write about how a bag of toys gets Carolyn and Rommel together?
FK: Easy. It goes like this - Aubrey sees those toys, assumes that Santa must have enforcers. And Rommel’s scarred face doesn’t scare Aubrey because her mom, Carolyn, suggests that a face like that is used to “stop things”.
NOSEY: Like the clutches of a sardine-breathed, ornery sea critter?
FK: Possibly. But she needs an enforcer, or a big scary man to help her -or ‘stop things’- with a problem she has at her elementary school.
NOSEY: Gotta hand it to you. This is some kind of plot! *whistles in admiration* How did you dream up something like this?
FK: I picked the two groups of people that are most overlooked and least understood - veterans and single mothers. I once read that, after divorce, single mothers experience a 42 percent decrease in their income.
FK: Yep. Yet, they’re almost always the ones who must shelter and provide for the children.
NOSEY: Well, if you ask me, Carolyn sounds like Super Woman!
FK: Doesn’t she? *nods* Everyone gravitates toward Matt Rommel. Sure, he’s capable, decent, and he’s just about fearless. But Carolyn is my favorite because she doesn’t let Life kick her to the ground without getting right back up. She overcomes obstacles; she’s smart; capable; and she knows that her mission is to protect her daughter.
EMPLOYEE’S VOICE CALLS: Mr. Nosey! Are you back here? We have your shoelace order ready.
FK: Watch it! *grabs Nosey’s arm* It could be a trap. They might work for Carl Grinnell.
NOSEY: And, uh, this Carl - I wanna avoid him, right?
FK: You better unless you like an old, disreputable advertising executive who tries to exploit and ruin Carolyn.
2nd EMPLOYEE: And we’re ready for you to depart the store!
NOSEY: Oh. *gives relieved chuckle* No worries, Mr. Kahren. They’re legit. *pops up from his hiding place* Greetings, cyber—
*Men’s eyes widen, they scream, spin around and dash out of store, knocking customers out of their way*
NOSEY: Where you rushing off to? I didn’t finish my official unofficial intro— *turns to look behind, gasps* Aaaiii! *turns tail, leaps over counter, scales wall, and smashes through plate glass window - all in one Nosey super-sized fleet-of-foot single bound*
FK: *calls out* Nosey! Get back here!
NOSEY: No way, dude! *beats feet down sidewalk* It’s the Scary Man!
FK: *looks around and yells out to Nosey’s fleeing backside* But, Nosey, haven’t you seen a mirror before?
Available at Amazon
F. M. Kahren is the author of Brand Loyalty, his debut novel and Matt Rommel's first adventure. A graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in English, Dr. Kahren also has a masters and doctorate in business administration from the University of North Dakota and Golden Gate University respectively. He has published a number of technical articles for industry journals and is the author of Strategic Planning: The Practices of PCS Companies and the Academic Literature. In addition to serving as a Minuteman missile crew commander and missile operations staff officer, Dr. Kahren has worked extensively in the telecommunications and rail transportation industries.
For more information, visit Frank's author page at Amazon.
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