In a small Oregon river town the local paper’s advice column generates a storm of controversy every week, because the letters in it are about real people and their real problems—but the subjects didn’t write the letters. The columnist, “Mrs. Bambi,” eavesdrops on conversations in public places and answers the letters that the subjects might have written, if they were willing to subject themselves to her snarky responses.
Everyone wants to string her up, but the columnist is not a woman, it’s a widower named Richard whose friends tolerate him mostly because of his adorable nine-year old daughter.
Richard has led a quiet life, raising his daughter, working part-time at his small computer consulting business, and drinking with his friends every Friday, when they take turns watching his daughter to give him a night off. His best friend is A.M, the owner of a deranged clothing shop: a smart, foul-mouthed, sex-crazed, brazen lesbian. Because most of his other friends are people introduced to him by A.M., almost everyone he knows is gay, except for the town hussy, the ailing owner of a mail order business, and the editor of his advice column—who wants Richard to stop writing it.
His quiet life is about to be upended, when for the first time since his wife died he begins dating again. Pam is a real estate agent who works to feed her sports addiction: windsurfing, mountain climbing, skiing—everything that Richard has no use for. They begin a romance of opposites, which soars until Pam discovers that Richard is Mrs. Bambi.
Despite his friends withdrawing, his new romance stuttering, the rumor of Mrs. Bambi’s identity spreading, and public attacks on him and his home, Richard stubbornly refuses to stop writing the columns. By the time the whole town knows who he is, the only thing that can prevent them from tarring and feathering him is for people to finally learn the whole truth about Richard, which is much larger than the simple mystery of Mrs. Bambi.
Richard Lantz picked up the first package of Twinkies he’d touched since childhood. Turned half away from the two women at the Quik Mart coffee machine, he pretended to read the ingredients.
“Can you believe that bitch?” the tall redhead demanded.
“Who?” Her companion was a thick-set brunette.
“Mrs. Bambi, who else? In today’s paper? Elsie was so mad her eyeballs were steaming. I thought she’d have a stroke.”
“Was that really how it happened?”
“You’re missing the point... Actually, I don’t know if that’s what happened, but that doesn’t matter. She has no right.”
“I’m sorry? Who—” The brunette tore open a package of Sweet ’n Low and immediately dropped it on the floor. She looked around as if desperate for a Dustbuster.
“Someone ought to pull out her eyelashes with pliers. God knows, Elsie would volunteer after being Bambied like that.”
“You don’t get it, do you?” Red said. “Elsie didn’t write that letter.”
“No one writes the letters. Bambi eavesdrops on people having personal, private conversations and she writes the letters herself. She could be listening to us right now.”
“You mean she makes up the letters?”
“No, darling, she doesn’t make them up.” Red set a plastic cover over her cup and whacked it tight. “That would just be funny. You’re not listening to me, are you? She’s a vampire. She sucks our blood and uses it to write the letters we would write if we were crazy enough to ask advice from a harpy.”
“But her answers are funny.”
“Oh, grow up. I don’t know why I bother talking to you.” Red flounced over to the counter, tossed some money down, and stormed through the door.
Richard grinned as he watched the confused brunette follow her outside. Bambied. He hadn’t heard that one before.
He put the Twinkies back on the rack with the other poisons. The dark young girl behind the counter didn’t so much as glance at him over her thick glasses as he paid for his gas. He was unexceptional, an average man in his mid-thirties, thin but not muscular. His receding hair was cut very short.
Once he had been annoyed that you couldn’t pump your own gas in Oregon, but now he saw it as a blessing. The eavesdropping didn’t get any better than this.
He got into his Subaru and headed into town. He had a date to meet A.M. at Pig’s Wings.