Nancy Clue Mysteries 1 - The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse

BOOK: Nancy Clue Mysteries 1 - The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse
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The Case of the
Not-So-Nice Nurse
Also by Mabel Maney

The Case of the Good-For-Nothing Girlfriend

The Hardly Boys in A Ghost in the Closet

A Nancy Clue and Cherry Aimless Mystery
The Case of the
Not-So-Nice Nurse
Second Edition

by Mabel Maney


I WAS BORN IN APPLETON, WISCONSIN, a small town famous for being the birthplace of Harry Houdini, and as producers of high quality cheese. Escape and cheese: two things, I believe, that made this series work. When The Case of The Not-So-Nice Nurse came out, in 1993, a friend said: "Mabel, at your sanity hearing, this book will be used against you." I agree, and, if the letters I get are any indication, so do my readers.

Appleton is a scenic spot an hour from Oshkosh, where they make fine overalls. The town has a river running through it, with the Appleton elite-cheese factory owners, Cadillac dealers, and the like-on one side, and the descendants of German and Irish immigrants on the other. I was born downwind of a cottage cheese factory, to a salesman and a housewife. I believe the story of my birth, which includes a thunderstorm, a ruined cocktail dress, and a cheese log, was a portent of things to come.

One night, my mother, a slip of a lass (like many women of her time, she believed coffee and cigarettes the fundamental building blocks of nutrition, with an occasional crumb cake thrown in for variety) ventured forth into a rainstorm in her best black cocktail dress, suede pumps, and high school graduation pearls, for a night on the town. After one dance at Appleton's finest supper club, she felt a contraction, and raced to the nearest Catholic hospital, spoiling her shoes in a puddle. When she informed the Obstetrics Ward head nun that she was having a baby, she was told to go home, put on a few pounds, and come back in six months. Her fear of nuns greater than her fear of giving birth on cold linoleum, she withdrew to the waiting room, to take a load off and have a cigarette. In the middle of a Redbook quiz, The New Boxy Suits, Are They For You?, her water broke, and the dress, an organza A-line with a black sequined net overskirt, copied by her seamstress mother from a Doris Day film, the movie star my mother most resembled, was ruined. My grandmother rushed to the hospital with a silky hostess pajama set, and a cheese log, which the nuns greatly enjoyed.

It was not my mother's first clothing catastrophe, nor would it be her last. In 1968, an incident with an ironing board scarred her, and soon her fear of ironing and ironing-related appliances began to take an ugly turn. One hundred percent cotton clothing was banished from the house. The kitchen curtains disappeared, followed by the fringed fingertip towels in the guest bath. We felt powerless, as, at this particular time, the American Mental Society had not yet recognized cottonophobia as a treatable disorder. Luckily, the 1970s were right around the corner, and with it, polyester acceptance unheralded in American history, proving, once again, that my mother was ahead of her time, fashion-wise.

Next came a period in my life best left unexamined. All I can say is that it involved reform school, and more polyester clothing. While I was "away, studying in Europe" my Uncle Wesley, who raised Dachshunds, all named Fritzi, was involved in an accident far more serious than my mother's run-in with the ironing board. My Uncle Wesley had married Aunt Alice because she was a woman who knew her way around a kitchen, pie being her specialty. In the 1960s, my Aunt Alice won the Wisconsin State Fair Bake-Off five years in a row, until an interloper, whose name I've since forgotten, snatched away the crown with a prune Brown Betty. My mother had never approved of Alice, who went everywhere in curlers, even to the tavern, and whose undergarments lacked adequate support. One day, Wesley announced that he was leaving, and that he was sick of pie. Alice accidentally shot him, and, after a stay in the same Catholic hospital where my mother mussed her dress, he went home, quietly, with a new appreciation for Alice's cooking, and minus a limb.

At this point you may be asking yourself, if indeed you are still reading, what does her wholesome Midwestern upbringing have to do with the ruination of a beloved childhood heroine? The answer involves a fire, ruined clothing, and another story about my mother.

In 1991, I decided to reread the Cherry Ames series I so enjoyed as a girl. Beginning with Cherry Ames, Dude Ranch Nurse, I worked my way through the series, a few weeks later, sadly, coming to the last page of Cherry Ames, Boarding School Nurse. For those who haven't picked up the originals, I recommend doing so. They are a homoerotic, fetishistic cheese fest, escapism of the purest form. Who wouldn't want to live in an all-girl dorm, giggle late into the night, and wear a starched uniform and jaunty cap? Finally, a girlfriend my mother would approve of!

I wondered what life would be like with Cherry. The uniform fixation I could work with, and her experience with medication would come in handy, but her slavish devotion to righting wrongs, at the expense of her own health (See Cherry Ames, Cruise Ship Nurse) worried me. Could we find a 12-step program that would help her actualize her potential, yet still allow her to iron my sheets? For so many reasons, too embarrassing to list here, that relationship could never work out. I was on the verge of abandoning Cherry, too heartsick to pick up, say, Cherry Ames, Country Doctor Nurse, and read of her adventures with attractive, uniformed women, when my mother suffered yet another tragic mishap, one that gave birth, in a roundabout way, to this series. A fire broke out in the garage of her ranch-style house, and the flames snaking up the side, completely consuming a closet filled with cruise wear, one hundred percent synthetic clothing covered with sparkles and sequins. Her collection, which included tops and bottoms, swimsuits and beach robes, melted into one big toxic blob. Four firefighters carried it from the house, set it on the front lawn, and hosed it down. The house was saved, but the contents had been destroyed by smoke and water. Nothing of our past remained, except for a little wooden bookshelf, tucked in the corner of the basement, containing my complete set of Nancy Drews, which my mother promptly shipped to me. When they arrived, a little smoky, I began reading. I knew I had the Cherry puzzle solved. She would date Nancy, tormenting her with her goodness, medical advice, and cheese puff recipes. And I would get to watch the whole thing.

Mabel Maney

San Francisco

July 2002

BOOK: Nancy Clue Mysteries 1 - The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse
5.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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