Prose Header

Of Fingerprints and Drinking Glasses

by Channie Greenberg

Family Spycraft
Related Stories

“He chased all of them away, Mom. All of them!”

“Turn that screen back on. Let me see. How did you sneak that equipment past Dad?”

“I fitted them with body cams. Dad was so busy sussing their fingerprints that he didn’t check their clothes. First lesson he ever taught me: hide in plain sight.”

“Why’d they go along with it? Seems emasculating.”

“Anyone who got far enough to meet Dad would have expected worse than having to avoid a pat-down.”


“I’m thirty-two, Mom, thirty-two. We’ll say nothing of the time, when I was eight, when you guys left your bedroom door slightly ajar and, after having a nightmare, I came seeking you. My nightmare dried up in comparison. I still shudder thinking of that cowboy hat of Dad’s.”

“Nuff said. Good thing we didn’t buy you a cat.”

“I needed one. Family architecture is no more concomitant to social success than a good shrink.”

“Shame on you, child.”

“The prescriptions were yours.”

“Granted. I couldn’t have stomached the thought of a cat on your bed.”

“I can’t stomach Dad fingerprinting my boyfriends.”

“Did you always know?”

“Wish I had; figured it out two years ago, when Billy Sam came to ask for my hand. Dad had his prints sent to the lab. The results were back before we even finished dinner. How could you let that happen?”

“PTSD is a lot worse in other soldiers. So, my husband’s bent on researching his only child’s lovers. He could be talking to ghosts or picking his nose in public. You should hear the tales told in the wives’ group.”

“I wish. Maybe I’ll elope.”

“And break your mama’s heart?”

“Did you see his contemptuous expression when he opened up the file with Billy Sam’s results? During my ‘good night kiss’ to Dad, I caught him checking Billy Sam’s numbers. He used his smart phone.”

“Dad’s harmless.”

“Really? Notice my hand? No ring. In Billy Sam’s case, he threatened to expose my man’s trafficking. That was ten years ago! I’ll never get married if Daddy keeps finding ways to blackmail my boyfriends.”

“Honey, I think it was good he caught Billy Sam. If someone else did, you’d be married to a jailbird.”

“Not if we stayed in Oregon. Cannabis is legal there.”


“Kisses, Mom. I’m driving back tonight. Will you come out to Portland to meet Marvin?”

“The guy who crochets amigurumi?”

“The one. He might be Mister Right.”

“I thought he had custody of his twins.”

“He does, Mom. So what? I’m almost at the end of my fertility. His babies are cute and he’s half responsible for that. Maybe we can go from zero to sixty in nine months. At least he’s fertile.”

“Put a ring on it, first.”

“Dad won’t let him. Marvin did a little shoplifting in college. He has a traceable record.”

“What did he study?”

“Library Science. Still works at Multnomah County.”



“I bet he won’t leave prints. Dad know about the misdemeanors?”


“Good. I want to wear cocktail-length to your nuptials. Do you mind?”

“You just love me for your future grandchildren.”

“Sometimes. We both know that lineage matters. I’ll go up to Portland. If I like Marvin, though, he has to come down to Corvallis. Online or brick-and-mortar for your dress? I think modern etiquette lets nonvirgins wear white.”


A few weeks later, Marvin came to Corvallis to ask permission to marry Glenda. He had left his twin daughters with his ex-wife; she demanded the use of his Macy’s credit card as payment.


“Call me ‘Captain.’”

“Captain, I’d like to marry your daughter.”

“What’d she say?”

“Seems willing.”

“Your line of work?”


“I was in Intelligence, myself. Still maintain my connections.”

“Yes, sir, I mean Captain.”

“Let’s drink to your idea. Give me the night to sleep on it. Guest room to your liking?”

“Yes, sir... Captain.”

A few hours later, Glenda’s Mom, Janice, found Captain crying at his desk. His back heaved as he sobbed.



“What’s all this?

“Office said I sent no prints. They’re full of horsefeathers. They hate me. They’re nothing but a bunch of sour winos.”

“There, there, tell me all about it.”

“I scanned his shot glass, like I had with all the rest of those yahoos — no telling what kind of trash Glenda might haul in — and sent my file quick-quick to Jim-Jam’s lab. JJ says I sent him blanks. So, I checked my Secugen Hamster Plus for defects and found none. While you were in the bath, Larry, from the local, came by to check my machine. It works. To be safe, I repeated with old-fashioned dusting and sent those to JJ. Nothing.”

Hubert put his head down and cried some more. Snot pooled out of his nostrils.

Janice patted his shoulder and then walked softly away. There might yet be an engagement party. She, too, had served in Intelligence. In fact, she had met Hubert in that branch during the war.

While he was trying to break enemy inscriptions, she was applying her advanced psychology degree to finding moles. She never caught a double agent, but she did glean much useful data, including the fact that folks who spend tens of years working with large quantities of paper often and unknowingly wear off the friction ridges on their fingers.

Copyright © 2016 by Channie Greenberg

Home Page