As soon as Mr. Cloverdale opened the door, the woman's volume dropped and she turned to him, pointing at Harry and me. We weren't afraid, just kind of stunned, and ready to laugh about some of the rabid fans of Mum and Pop's books. Mr. Cloverdale jammed his fists into his hips and glared at the big, angry, noisy woman. She quieted down and seemed to shrink about ten percent in height and width. He ushered us inside and locked the door, then told us not to mind her, Beatrice was a wonderful lady who loved books. She simply hadn't had her first pint of the day yet.
Yeah, that's right. Pint. As in Guinness. First thing in the morning. The sandwich shop/pub next door connected to the bookstore by a door about halfway back in the shared wall. The lock was on the bookstore side of the door. The sandwich shop opened at ten in the morning, and when the bookstore opened the connecting door, Beatrice got her first pint of the day. That was her routine. Step into the bookstore, get copies of all the morning papers, and cross into the sandwich shop and pub. Get her first morning pint, then cross back to the bookstore and settle into the big easy chair next to the fire to read for the next hour.
Well, that morning, her routine changed slightly, because she wanted to get Mum and Pop's newest book before she got her newspapers and pint. As she told us later, over the most incredible meal of gazpacho, goulash and chocolate soufflé, in her old age the slightest change set her off. Hormone therapy didn't help, lithium didn't help—only set routine, and her morning pint. Yes, we had dinner with her. By the end of the day, she was Auntie Bea, and we laughed a lot over our first encounter.
Bottom line: Harry and I had a blast. The coolest part of the whole adventure was seeing Mum and Pop as other people saw them. Charlie and Rainbow Zephyr were loved by both sides of the whole debate over the weird and wonderful. On one side were the cynics who lived their lives to debunk mysteries and wonders and miracles. They admired our folks for their honesty. On the other side were people who wanted desperately to believe in the weird and wonderful, in miracles and aliens, doorways to other dimensions, reincarnation and ancient astronauts. They also admired and respected Mum and Pop because they didn't mock or set out to shred whatever the extremist radicals held dear. No matter what conclusion our folks arrived at by the end of their investigation, both sides were at least happy with the rational and respectful treatment of the issue or question or mystery or theory.
Back home in Neighborlee, they were just Charlie and Rainbow. In England, they were celebrities, somewhere between priests, philosophers, and explorers. Back home, Harry and I were just the Zephyr kids. In England, we were envied and admired. Despite being Americans.