Immortal Spaniels

The spaniel was immortal and sighed often.

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Maudlin music and less than red linen made for soft people she felt, yes felt, which was beyond knew and just before faith –

In oneself.

Her red was of the blackish kind and her curtains blocked out the sunlight and opened to the rain of days- she was content.

She knew that was it.  She knew.  The world bloomed red in small startling places and she searches for the sear and pucker of it in the dead of winter

This proved effective to draw her attention away from the doggish way he looked upon her.  He had a spaniel that she liked and wished was hers

But he wasn’t.

They were well sheltered within the stonewalled cottages that were between a farm house and just shy of a manor house — and the walls encompassed them and there they lived.

Her looking for scarlet and he looking at her.

The spaniel was immortal and sighed often.

Magicians were not allowed through the gates and witches could fly over but the breeze was constant and she could not tempt fate with this or that bauble of love.

A nod, not even a sur name offered when they met upon the cobbled street, she always with her eye on the corner of a stone building looking for red.

What could he do?  Learn to dance?  Pray for drought? He walked the dog and they spied her over the scarlet rose of autumn.  Embolden he walked to the place and bent his head to smell the flower.

He looked back up to see her gazing out upon the horizon.

“Stay,” he said, “and the dog will dance until you see the famous scarlet sunset.”

She stayed and as the sun played out the light of evening he whirled her round and the dog barked and gamboled about their feet.

And the scarlet of sunset reflected against the once stone walls of their lives.

Gossips

It’s time for tea and to set the world right.

“Well, he’s at least 16 years older than her. Please pass the salt.”

“Mother always said, “There’s no fool like an old fool.””

“All I can say is poor Anne. Did you use real mayonnaise or is this salad dressing?”

“Mayonnaise. I don’t quite follow you about Anne. They divorced over two years ago.”

“Yes but the kids. They still get together with the kids. What happens now? Him running around with a younger woman. Are these the lavender cookies you were talking about?

“Hmmm. I guess but I think they get together at different times. And yes those are the cookies. I picked them up at the bakery this morning.”

“Whatever, they both still live in this town. He and that hussy could walk into a restaurant and Anne could be there. Is there pepper on the table?”

“Well, I suppose but Anne wouldn’t necessarily be alone. Really is she rarely alone?”

“Well, I don’t blame her. Did you see her latest?”

“So tall.”

“Just enough silver along the temples.”

“Oh, we are horrible gossips.”

“Yes, yes we are. This salad, I think, just needs a touch more pickle.”

“Yet, I don’t know what he is thinking. She is so young.”

“Do you see how she can’t take her eyes off him? She follows him with her eyes whenever he’s in the room.”

“They’ve kissed in public. Kissed, not pecked.”

“O mercy, did mothers hide their children’s faces – pass the ketchup please.”

“Sure. No, you know how people are nowadays. I guess they’ve set a date, at least they’ll be married.”

“Already? Mercy.”

“Yes, Anne told me herself. Kids are all attending. I think she’s hurt she didn’t get an invite.”

“Well, I don’t quite understand that. Why would you want to watch your husband marry someone else?”

“EX husband, dear.”

“Whatever. They still knew each other in Biblical proportions. Pass the cake, please. Is there cream for the coffee?”

“Oh dear, we are horrible gossips.”

“Yes, yes we are.”

 

The Beautiful

I’m not dead yet – but the beautiful is.

I read romance novels when in high school; wild and glorious sex and I thought about dying a virgin.

I’m not dead yet – but the beautiful is.  I saw her in the obituaries a couple days ago – and now her funeral is just across the street, in a stately Catholic church, but I won’t go.

First of all, because it’s Friday, second because I don’t want to see anyone dead today.

She was beautiful when she was young, very much so but her photograph for the obituary was only vaguely beautiful – what I call a George Orwell beautiful.  Remember, in the novel, 1984 remember?  He made love, the hero, and he was afraid of rats, and he thought the lower class, the ignorant lower class, had a moment in time, a brief, glorious moment in time when their women, young girls, were gloriously beautiful.  Then of course they married, had children, thickened around the waist and did all their laundry by hand — so became lumps.

Well, listen, George, some of us are born lumps, stay lumps, then fade from memory – never close to glory.

Back to the beautiful.

She wore the short skirt of a cheerleader, and she was, I’m sorry to say, loud.  Her obituary says she was kind and gentle – she wasn’t when she was eighteen, thirty years ago now.

I won’t tempt fate (that’s 21st-century I-don’t-believe-in-God gibberish), so I’ll say, hey “rest in peace,” when the hearse pulls out, and her parents follow behind.

You see I got over the romance novels and followed up with Jane Eyre and all of Austen.  They didn’t pull any punches, the good are not rewarded, and the only defense an unbeautiful has is a dry humor and endurance.

I’ve never given up my conservative bent toward human nature because of the books I’ve read – we all fall short, don’t we.

What I’m trying to say is being unbeautiful, and realizing the lies of romance and gravity-defying sex, gave me a jump up.  Losing my virginity was a terrible experience – I really should have waited for someone who cared but then perhaps I would have died a virgin.  Perhaps I will die a virgin anyway, living on a technicality.

So when the hearse of the once beautiful pulls out, I’ll stand at my window, still standing as an unbeautiful, but still standing.  I will say a prayer to a God that no one believes in really, words that people disdain ( how do you know, how can you be sure).  I’ll pray because I’m sure that as surely as the beautiful die and fade and my teeth grind at all the lies little princesses are fed, we do not end up in glass coffins but in lead.

 

Photo by Greg Ortega on Unsplash

Accidents

he sat stony-eyed not acknowledging Carlos at all.  “Darla will have a glass of the house wine,” I said hastily fearing she would do something unconventional. 

“I have one question.” She looked at me with something between dread and vexation which merged and culminated in a purely “Darla-like” expression.

“I know, I know but really just one question,” I pleaded.  Darla leaned back and gave me a slight nod.  Taking that as permission I blurted it out, “What happened to men?”

Her pale skin blanched to a sudden milky gray and her beautiful sculptured lips turned a leaden color her smile conveyed a sort of evil satisfaction.  “Nothing, they’ve always been that way, you’ve just noticed.  That’s what I hate about optimists.”

Darla’s voice sounded as if she were down a deep echoing well.

Carlos, our usual waiter, was walking up to our table.  I could tell he was having a bad day because his usually pristine and pressed black trousers were splattered with something shiny from the knee down.  His small white apron had a washed out yellow looking blob almost dead center.  I felt myself turn red because the stain was dead center so I hoped whatever hit him hadn’t been painful.

“Stop blushing you idiot,” Darla whispered, “and stop looking at his crotch.”

Darla was never very nice.  I looked away and tried to compose myself.

Carlos came up to me and didn’t smile.  “How are you today?” he asked and I knew he didn’t care to know.

“I’ll just have a cup of coffee and whatever pie you have today,” I said squinting up at him.  He had managed to stand just where the sun was painful when looking up.  I though perhaps he should have been an international spy or an assassin rather than a waiter.  I looked over at Darla, blinking heavily.  She sat stony-eyed not acknowledging Carlos at all.  “Darla will have a glass of the house wine,” I said hastily fearing she would do something unconventional.

Carlos walked away not letting me know what sort of pie to expect.

“You see?” said Darla.  He’s a man and a typical one.  He has had a bad day, splattering grease on his pants…

“Trousers…”

“His pants when emptying the garbage at home before he came to work.  While at work some clumsy American tourist like you…

“Expatriate, I live here,”

“Tourist spills their orange juice in a projectile fashion because they saw a spider on the table so naturally, he’s a total shit to you.”

“Oh I know men are moody and take out all their frustrations on women, I was just wondering what happened to them physically.”

Darla lifted her eyebrows to me in question.

I looked about at the street, narrow hipped men with billowing shirts and long hair.  “They are all different colors and heights but all look the same.”

“Perhaps you are simply become cured of obsessing over them,” Darla said.

Carlos reappeared, his face looking like it was carved in oak.  He placed my coffee and blueberry pie in front of me and Darla’s wine in the center of the table. “Will that be all?” I could tell Carlos didn’t want to be standing next to the table. Darla stretched out her long gray hand and pulled the wine to her side of the table.  Carols blanched visibly.

“She is here today?” asked Carlos.

“She sees you, Carlos.  I’m sorry for that, truly.  I’m sorry too about the clumsy American tourist.”

I was sorry too, Darla was relentless and very good in causing accidents.

Love’s Trouble For Me

She’s beautiful too.  Clean.  Her hair is always glossy and she doesn’t fan out on the makeup; a little liner, when I’m in town she puts on a little mascara, a little lip gloss.  I can still see a few freckles across her nose.  So sweet, so dedicated. 

I, of course, worried after I fell in love that I would lose my edge.  Edge is everything in my business.  Love blunts every edge; I don’t care who you are.  It’s cruel if I don’t stay sharp, razor sharp.  If I take a swipe at someone and my edge has been blunted, well let’s face it they suffer.  If I’m not hampered by the preoccupations of love, that swipe is painless, goes without a hitch, you’re dead before your mind can reach even the idea of pain.

Yes, I’m a professional.

I was in love once before, years ago when I was young.  I mean, you know love.  I can’t help what I am, I can’t.  She didn’t understand and she moved to Milwaukee.  I was devastated.  I think that disappointment was what gave me my edge.  I wanted to hate her, I really did but I couldn’t.  Years later I had a job in that area and I looked her up.  She was still fine and she seemed happy.  I said hello and she seemed edgy, a little scared but okay.  Next thing I know she’s in Green Bay, then she’s in St Paul and divorced.  I called her a year later, you know just to check on her, make sure she was okay.  She was in Seattle.  I point blank asked her if she wanted me to look up her ex-husband and she said no.  She was emphatic about it, so I didn’t and I won’t.  She’s in Tokyo now, seems to be doing alright.

I met my new lease on life during an emergency room visit in Chicago.  One of those big hospitals.  I had run into a little bit of a problem in New Albany, thought I was okay but started running a fever while vacationing in Chicago.  I love that city; Chicago.  Anyway, I met Alice there.

Alice is tough as nails and hates her name so I call her Honey and Babe and things like that.  She’s an ER nurse and man, some of the stories she tells makes my skin crawl.  I mean she’s seen shotgun wounds, and people beaten to a pulp.  Then there are the car accidents and the scum of the earth who hurt their kids.  I was in tears one night; I don’t know how she stays sane.

She’s beautiful too.  Clean.  Her hair is always glossy and she doesn’t fan out on the makeup; a little liner, when I’m in town she puts on a little mascara, a little lip gloss.  I can still see a few freckles across her nose.  So sweet, so dedicated.

I, of course, tell her I have no family.  I’m not an idiot, I keep her well protected.  I am human; some may doubt that but I am very human.  She loves to read old novels and I’m starting to understand why.  I like The Portrait of Dorian Gray and The Invisible Man – man can you imagine how I can relate?

 

 

Candle Number One

I was and still am the bad girl. She held my hand through the first disastrous marriage, the second lackluster marriage, and subsequent love affairs, Harley purchase, nude beaches in France and my feeble attempt at motherhood. She walked me all the way through.

“What could possibly go wrong?”

I stared at her.  Yes with obvious disbelief. And here is the thing, I was and still am the bad girl. She held my hand through the first disastrous marriage, the second lackluster marriage, and subsequent love affairs, Harley purchase, nude beaches in France and my feeble attempt at motherhood. She walked me all the way through.

And now she is the one asking that dumb ass question.

Before I could say anything she was on with another cliché – “you owe me.”

I furrowed my brows. Yes, I owed her until I died but her voice sounded possessed.

“What do you mean…”

“You went out with my boyfriend.”

“Whaaat?”

“You remember, I know you remember — Tom?”

“Tom was your crush, chic,”

“And you went out with him, knowing.”

I looked at my friend of over forty years.

“He actually puckered up when he kissed, Vicky, I saved you a lifelong trail of misery.”

“Did you sleep with him?”

“I was fifteen.”

“You lost your virginity when you were sixteen.”

“I was eighteen and I paid, I’m still paying.”

“Birth control.” She said it in her home economics tone of voice and I had a sudden urge to kill her. “Right, can we get on with this?”

She turned back to the cake on the table. I picked up the fiftieth candle and placed it in the middle, feeling suddenly like the ten-year-old girl in the backyard – her parent’s back yard. I had just moved in next door with my Mom and step-dad number two. I was drug over to celebrate the tenth birthday of a girl I never met.

I locked eyes with the fifty-year-old woman sitting across from me. Perfect life, perfect husband, two perfect boys and scared to death of fifty.

The cake looked like a damn porcupine.

“If you light them all before the first one melts, I’ll live to be 100.”

“And if I don’t make it?” I felt a shiver run down my spine. Secrets hushed to each other under the covers, tears, and pain during childbirth, weddings, and champagne, death and boredom all faced together.

“Then I’ll live to be 80 and that will be better.”

I lit the flame, watched it flare up between us and set it to candle number one.

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

NO!

And there we were, me a common sailor watching her spend her last strength to rise up defiantly amongst the storm and turmoil that mocked all who cried out to God. 

In the wild whirl of the wind, her white hair whipped and lashed her face unmercifully.  I could only but barely make out her features; her eyes wide and her dark brows knotted in unnatural contortions upon her alabaster face.  Her expression was that of anger and fear.

We were sinking you understand, drowning and this woman looked as if to be fighting the strands of foaming water that the sharp winds flung into the atmosphere.  The very tips of the salt water were tangling their undulating and ever moving tentacles about her thin wrists and exposed neck.

Ah, the horrible beauty of it!  I was dying too, you see, there was no hope for me but rather than spending my final moments cleansing my soul before God, I was watching this creature struggle against the agony of death in a way that I was certain no other human being around her was doing.

She was outraged.

Outraged that such a thing could be.  Angered that death would be so presumptuous as to think her beauty, her effervescence should pass away without being fully arrayed in a long life of adoration.  I believed in that moment that if her life had been spared she would have been adored even into old age.  Her hair, yes white blond, her skin flawless her bright blue eyes flashing.  Oh yes, she would have had all the men mourning and the young wallflowers weeping.

And there we were, me a common sailor watching her spend her last strength to rise up defiantly amongst the storm and turmoil that mocked all who cried out to God.  She would not be mocked, even in her terror, her voice was loud and piercing and as her still slippered feet seemed to lift beyond the clutches of the lightening gray water, I heard her last word, a commanding No!

As her rebellious and deep throated word echoed out upon the water a gust of the wind, so sharp so piercing that it seemed to split the water before her, pummeled into her breast and pushed her into the cleaving waters of the cold Atlantic.  Her hands claw-like stretched out grasping at nothing but what would slip through her fingers and she was gone.

My only thought was not to be pulled down with her.  To die, to take my sip of cold salt water, but not to die with that expression of defiance before me.  I lifted myself up and away.  I looked about for any sorrowing features that struggled against the pull of the inevitable.  Yes, perhaps a human face that looked about at the last for humble companionship in meeting their maker.

I awoke in this bed, in this hospital room amongst the coughs and sobs of those who called themselves survivors.  Those sorrowing for their loved ones, those who still seemed soaked from the storm and sodden by their struggles.  All except one.  One young man who shook and shuddered and mumbled into his bleeding fingers.

“Don’t tell them I pushed her, please don’t tell them.”