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Nothing Doing
About the Author: Carl Robinette is an author of many popular short stories and a freelance journalist. His fiction has been seen in multiple publications in print and online, including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Carl is currently writing new short fiction while working as a contributing reporter with the Los Feliz Ledger in Los Angeles.

You can’t do nothing. I mean if you’re doing, then it’s always something. And I’m pretty sure that it isn’t a double negative either because I think in this case, nothing is a positive. But I’ll leave that for the English majors to sort out. All I’m saying is, you can’t do nothing, but that morning I was doing as close to it as humanly possible. Then the phone rang.

My dad’s voice came over the airwaves through the hazy hiss of his favorite fifteen-year-old wireless earpiece. “Hey spaz. Why haven’t you called?”

I said, “Hi, Dad. Sorry.”

And Dad said something along the lines of, “I’m starting to feel like you don’t love me anymore.”

I laughed and said, “Shut up, you goof.”

“Oh gee,” he told me. “Now you’re making me feel all warm and fuzzy.” He goes, “Listen, Poopernickel, I know you’re just sitting around doing precisely nothing and I know that you could probably use some bread in your pocket.”

I told him he was making me sound like some kind of freeloader.

“Well, aren’t you?” he said.

I told him, “Yeah, but.”

“Yeah,” Dad said. “Well, as luck would have it, somebody stole something from me. Something precious.”

I said, “Oh no. What?”

And he told me his collection of skin mags had been stolen. He said, “I thought I could pay you to come down and help me get them back.”

“Good one, Dad” I said. “You hire me to find your old dirty magazines.”

He swore he wasn’t kidding. I was thinking maybe he was losing it.

I said, “Dad? This is your daughter, Daisy …”

“Well Daisy,” he said. “This is your dad telling you to get your lazy butt down to the marina before I die of old age. I need your help.”

I had a pretty lethal quip to fire back at him, but he’d already disconnected.

Dad lived down at West Harbor Marina aboard a big old pilothouse motor yacht which he named Daisy Belle, but before you go getting all flattered for me, he named me after the boat and not the other way around. Now before you go getting all offended for me, if you lived my life you wouldn’t see it as weird or bad at all to be named after your dad’s boat.

An hour later, Dad and I were sitting on his A-deck talking and I was saying something like, “I’m not ready to have the kind of relationship with you where we talk openly about your porno collection, Dad. Why do you still have that garbage anyway?”

So gross.

“Hey,” he said. “You kids are always saying old guys like me are too judgmental, eh? Now look who’s the Judgey McJudge.”

I told him pornography objectifies women and that I was glad he didn’t have it anymore.

“Porno?” he said. “Hardly, but I get it. It’s weird for you.”

More like gross for me.

He said, “I just don’t think of it that way, I guess. These are valuable collectibles we’re talking about here, vintage. Practically historical documents.”

Historical documents, right.

Grossness aside, I eventually decided to help my dad find his old smut collection. Recent divorce and early retirement were having bizarro effects on him and I wasn’t sure what he would do if he lost his collectibles too. Besides, it’s not like he was addicted to the hard stuff online like everyone else I knew. Plus, he was going to pay me two hundred bucks. And Dad was already pretty sure he knew who took his things—somebody named Gage—so it should’ve been a cinch recovering them.

“Who’s Gage?” I said.

“Ray Gage,” Dad told me. “He’s my boat guy.”

Ray Gage apparently helped Dad out with work on Dad’s boat and he lived on a little old, blue water cruiser called the Dawn Star. It was evidently down in slip seven. Dad said, “Only I haven’t seen him around since the magazines disappeared a few days ago.”

I wanted to know why it couldn’t have been a regular old-fashioned burglar took them, but Dad said they don’t really get burgled down at the marina.

“Besides,” he said. “A coincidence like that seems unlikely, Gage starts avoiding me at the same time the magazines go missing.”

“Aren’t there security cameras or something?” I asked.

“Hell no,” Dad said. “People around here aren’t scared stiff like the rest the world. Privacy outweighs security for most of us.”

This story appears in our JUN 2020 Issue
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