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SilverMoon
October 7th, 2010, 10:40 PM
They would never have thought that she’d move away from Manhattan in a pre-owned red pickup truck, adopt a full grown mutt from a shelter or cut up all of her credit cards just a week after they were sipping Cosmopolitans at Maxim’s.

KiKi’s clique were all trust fund babies whose family trees could be found in the Social Register. And she was expected to marry into a family whose tree was older than hers. All the grooming. From a young age she was trained in the social graces. French classes at age five, cotillion dances at Knickerbocker’s, coming out party where she almost tripped, walking down the majestic stairway, arm and arm with her father for the “presentation.” Teenage boys eyeing the girl mother and father would approve of. It was all a matter of what was “correct”.

None of the women in her family were addressed by their birth name. Her mother, Edith, was DeDe. Aunt Susanna was DooDoo. She never knew what to make of that! Her maternal grandmother, TaTa. And the Jack Russell Terrier went by the name of PooPoo. When her sister’s first boyfriend came to the home for the first time for formal introduction, he botched it all up. He extended his hand to Aunt Susanna and said “Glad to meet you PooPoo”. You could hear darling tittering in the living room. But DooDoo promptly sat down, head held high and continued sipping her sherry. KiKi, otherwise known as Charlotte, had lost it right then and there, receiving mother’s familiar look of disapproval. And disaster continued on through dinner. He was not invited back. Her sister cried for weeks.

The truck was a sturdy old girl. Chipped a little here and there with a missing passenger's headrest but that's what she liked that about this truck. She was so tired of "perfect". So suffocating, she thought, which reminded her to roll down the window. The breeze on her shoulder felt odd in a way. A city girl who always hailed cabs was now being touched by nature's breath. It was a sensual feeling, finer than her silk sheets at home. Home? Not a home, really. Just a house.

She gave thought to her two names. Neither would do. She decided on Char. Char. A fine name for her from now on and she said it many times over just to become acquainted with the sound of it. Yes. It suited her. It sounded like what it is. She tried to remember? An onomonopia? Never mind. It was hers now. Nothing had never really been just hers before. Well, not even her name.

She had a hard time keeping her eyes on the road, passing cornfields, old fruit stands, the remains of old barns. She smiled turning up the radio when Born to be Wild came on the oldie’s station while Ruff was ruffing away in the back, taking in the brush of the wind. Something new to him, as well. An extraordinary day for them both. Free of the cage, they’d be in Mannersville in a short matter of time.

The town smelled like old leather. She collected scents like some people collect stamps. Paris smelled like a Cotton Fresh candle just blown out. Morocco had the aroma of baked ham. It just went that way with her.

She quickly noticed the sidewalks were cracked. Big Betty, the town gossip, wearing little Edwardian-like shoes, was swiftly strutting along the street, stopping now and then to peek into the shop windows. Then bash! She tripped on a wide crack in front of Claudia’s Dresses, hauled herself up on the ledge, hurriedly brushed down her floral dress and continued on her way in a huff with bit of a limp. Char laughed, Ruff barked. She hadn’t laughed in such long while. Yes. This was the town she wanted. But would it want her?

She parked in front of the General Store and managed to get out of the truck though not all so gracefully. And there she stood. In fitted burgundy shift, hair in French twist and wearing Jackie O sized sunglasses. Audrey Hepburn if there ever was one. She just hadn’t quite got the hang of how to dress for this new life. Hadn’t thought of blue jeans, plaid shirts or boots from L.L Bean.. She just wanted to get on with it.

A little bell chimed as she opened the door. The plump older woman at the cashier said,

“Can I help ya fancy lady? I’m the owner so I can tell ya just bout anything in the shop. And where ya hail from? Look like one of those gals from... what’s that show called? Oh yeah, Sex in the City. Love that show. My husband Burt loves it too! His nose right up to the TV. Have to Windex that screen every damn time after the TV's off!”

And she let out a large self satisfied hoot.

“Might I just look around a bit?” Char smiled, thinking she was a real character.

Mrs. Duffy chucked. “Might?"

Then the little bell chimed and in hobbled Big Betty. She spotted Char, turned to Mrs. Duffy, then back to Char who was looking at the magnet rack. She took in one delicious deep breath, cleared her throat and said, liltingly,

“Miss? Is that your red pickup out front with that precious dog in the back?”

Char could not but help recognize her and smiled amusingly. “Why, yes. And you ask because…?”

Big Betty sung. “Just curious”.

This would keep her busy for weeks to come. Big Betty quickly left the store and swiftly waved to Becka across the street, who was nagging at her husband again.

The trailer park was a ways off North Country Road, set off just far enough. Char was pleased with her purchase. The trailer looked like a small house and had a nice screened-in porch area. And the immense oak tree on the small property was a plus. She owned a tree! In her new grey and black plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers (her boots were on order) she drove over to the antique warehouse the next town over. She saw it! Just what she had in mind. A large crystal chandelier and in mint condition. Old Jack Crowley, who owned the warehouse, was more than happy to help her hook it up after he finished work.

Char had already hung white Christmas lights, neatly strung across the roof’s base, around window frames and the front door. They were to remain there all year long. Crowley got to work on the electricals, then brought out a hefty ladder from his van. Done. The chandelier was now hanging from a high sturdy branch on the oak tree and she could hardly wait for evening. Char offered to pay Old Jack Crowley but he would accept no money from her. This would never happen in Manhattan unless there were strings attached, she, remembering. “Novel” Crowley said, as he drove away “Novel, indeed!”

She kicked her feet up on the old wood coffee table outside on the porch while Ruff jumped up on the couch nudging his snout under her armpit as he had taken to doing lately when wanting her undivided attention when resting. Char gazed at her glorious, hand fashioned moon, hung in the black of night. Her fantasy moon, out from a faiery tale. Char marveled at her creation for some while. It represented her beginning. She leaned her head back against the couch, her hair long and now cascading, wondering if anyone in Manhattan missed KiKi. There were so many of them to choose from.
 
After all it was natural. In a short matter of time the peak of her immediate purpose had been realized. Though, Char felt divided with one foot still frozen on Park Avenue, the other one planted here, Mannersville, where she wanted to move like a gypsy dancer. She was finished with the waltz.

She pulled her foot right out of Park Avenue the morning she saw her neighbor, Dwight, trimming his hedges, whistling some cheerful tune she couldn’t make out. She took that step forward, after having holed up on the porch for three days.

“Dwight. What is in that canister over there filled with red fluid?"

He put down his shears “Well, come on over! Just don’t stand there. This here,
by the window is humm’n bird juice. Attracts ‘em like bees to honey.”

Char examined it, realizing she had never seen a hummingbird.

“You know… Ye can’t be telling me you ain’t never seen one? Well, now, we’ll just have to fix that! Margie!” he called to his wife “The feeder needs some more juice. Nearly down to the bottom. Eh! It’s your job to keep up with that this here.”

His wife, hair in pink curlers, came out giving him a good hollering and the two went at it not even realizing Char had left. Two, still in love and at this business probably for years. She smiled for the first time in three days.

She had been living, sleeping on the porch couch since she had arrived and decided it was time to get rid of the echo in the house. Here, the time to express herself; express it all, finally. Then she remembered the chandelier. If she could create her own moon she could craft anything.

Most people wouldn’t think to start with the bathroom but Char reasoned that it was the first place you see yourself in the morning and the last at night. Two of the most intimate times you spend with yourself. Her mind was rushing like a waterfall, overflowing and wild. She would go kitsch. An Elvis Presley theme. Not that she cared much for his music but what she could do with the imagery!

She found a poster of Fat Elvis in the mall forty minutes away. Purchased a loud pink shag toilet seat cover and rug. Found a stencil kit for guitars which she’d use for a border. The walls would be painted silver. Not sure she would find that there. She would have to wait to get home and check out the hardware store. Char found a sundry of paraphernalia which would suit the Fat Elvis theme. But what she found! An exclusive store which sold high end bathroom fixtures which carried some of the off-beat. There it was! A clear toilet seat with works embedded. Small syringes for shooting up, pills; all different sizes and colors. Now, this is what Fat Elvis would have had in his bathroom.

There was silver paint in Joe’s Hardware, so off she went to work while playing the Beatles White album. The work took her two days to finish because painting the stencil guitars took up much of her time. “Fini !” she laughed. Her second favorite thing in the bathroom, next to the drug toilet seat, was the old garish frame she painted gold for Fat Elvis’ poster. She slept well that last night dreaming up what she would do tomorrow.

She woke feeling peculiar, uncharacteristic. It wasn’t a bad feeling. In fact, she felt a rush of adrenaline surging through her veins. Char felt tempestuous. Very Janis Joplin-like that morning, ready to live on the edge. She’d brought an array of clothing here. The clothing was all very different. But of course, she was still going through an identity crisis. What to wear in this new life? So that morning she dressed in a long hippie smock, found the love beads still in the bag, teased her auburn hair into an entire disaster and sang “Me and Bobby McGee” off key. Freedom's just another word...

It was a small, clannish Irish town. Generations of 'O Malleys, Boyles, Kellys. A haven unto themselves. The town was never very busy but it was the busiest that day as far as she could tell. Char walked around town with Ruff who was in the training process. “Heel, heel, heel” she’d instruct. But he would just look at her with those sad eyes. Manipulator, she thought. Being careful not to trip on the sidewalk cracks, she heard rushed whisperings, noticed piercing or bewildered looks and some abrupt bursts of coughs. Well, she held her head up high as Janis would have done when she wasn’t nodding off. Then she saw Big Betty passing her way.

In the diner, Big Betty was waiting for Becka who she'd just rung up as soon as she pressed herself into the booth. Becka arrived ten minutes later complaining about her husband but Betty put an immediate stop to that.

“Our town is being infiltrated!”

Becka thought she was beginning yet another histrionic rant.

“Earlier this week, I told you, there was this city looking like girl in the General Store who owned a pickup truck. I thought that quite odd to begin with. Then no one sees her. Wait a minute! Jimmy did say he saw a pretty lady exiting Joe’s Hardware. So in fact, she’s still here somewhere. Now, if I wasn’t just blown down. I passed a hippie walking a dog just now."

Becka laughed. “Now, stop joshing me Betty. You had me come all the way down here while I was tell’n Jack I was cutting him off from drinking at O’Brian's Pub. Every night, he barely makes it to the door!”

Big Betty huffed “I tell you our town is being infiltrated by outsiders. This is no tourist town. We’re family.”

And word did certainly get around that more were to come to disrupt their ways.

Char had had a good stroll with Ruff but had had enough of it. He jumped into the back of the truck and off they drove to Old Jack Crowley's Warehouse. She had a rocking chair in mind for the living room.

“Char, my girl, look’n like you’re from the 60’s today?”

She pushed back her ratted hair.

“Jack, it’s called vintage dressing”

“Oh!” he said “Well then for that effort, you’ll be gett’n a big discount today. And how’s that chandelier holding up?”

The biggest smile “Holding up like the moon, Jack. Holding up like the moon.”

Once home, with a Quaker rocking chair, she went into her Fat Elvis bathroom. Looked at herself in the mirror, thinking of all the stares and whisperings she had seen and heard that day. She didn’t mind a bit.

The day she closed her eyes and pointed her finger on the map, landing on Mannersville, was the day she knew she’d make a home for herself anywhere. Anywhere but a metropolis. If it had landed on Chicago, she would just have to cheat and give it another try. She deserved other tries.

Char washed her hair, using nearly a whole bottle of hair conditioner to get the tangling out. Then, dressed in a flannel nightgown and with wet hair, she looked nearly like a young girl. She went out into the chill of the night to the side of the house to turn on the chandelier which hung from the strongest, high branch on the old oak tree. She returned to the porch couch, looked up to her chandelier moon and knew that happiness was a matter growing yourself up. 
 
  
Smallest Saviour

With wing of silver
and heart of gold
the hummingbird
picks a spider out from it’s web
to release a fly,
fastened,
destined to die
beneath a blue sky, sad,
wanting to abet.

Char wrote the poem late one evening after Margie, Dwight’s wife, had her over for tea one morning explaining the good heart of the hummingbird. She had had showed her a large book of the birds with lovely illustrations to accompany each species.

Absolutely fascinated, she repeated Margie's words.

“So small and they eat every twenty minutes.” Margie laughed and patted her large stomach.

“Guess I’m like a hummingbird but not so small!"

Char sipped her tea, then said "You’re just fine the way you are."

Margie stared into Char's dark green eyes.

“If only people thought the same way. When I used to go into town an old biddy or two were always tell’n me I’d be real attractive if I lost the weight. My reply to them? “And you’d be more attractive if you kept your trap shut!”

Char laughed, not accustomed to this sort of sparing.

“Marvelous snap, Margie! Do you mind if I ask why you don’t go into town?”

Margie pointed to her bum leg which was swollen and wrapped with gauze. “Dwight does all my errands. I know I give him a hard time but love the old bugger. Besides the town is a gossipy old place, a real rumor mill and don’t want no one knowin' my business anyhow.”

Margie took one long look at Char. “Betcha you must be the talk of the town! A charming girl like yourself with the posture of some society lady." If she only knew. Char thought. “Well, there was bit of gawking when I was down, strolling my dog.”

Char continued “A little Irish town. Every shop with an ‘O before surname.”

Margie said “Hon, try to talk English. She questioned "What’s a sir name? Like a sir’s name?"

Char explained.

“I would never have thought. Now that’s interesting. The origin. Talk to me the way ya wanna. Don’t go listening to me. I guess I could do with some educating.”

Char pointed to the hummingbird book.

“Margie, I wouldn't have known a thing about these charming little creatures if not for you. Fair exchange today. Yes?” Char said.

Shaking her head “You talk high flatulent. But I like ya anyhow.”

Boldly, Char informed Margie, “And I’m going to walk straight into 'O Brian’s Pub for a late afternoon drink today. I’m not going to shrink away from the town where I’ve decided to make my home!

“No!” Margie blurted. Yaw kidd’n me?! Me an Dwight used do our share of drink'n back then, there. Used to be a sport’s bar but 'O Brian bought it out an turned it into some quaint pub. But quaint it ain’t no more. Sluts and bikers, now.”

Char lifted her chin “I don’t care. I’m going because I’m curious.”

She thought of Trader Vic’s in the Plaza Hotel Oh, it was so tame there. I could walk in alone and just as I’d sit down at the bar someone I knew would be there sitting next to me talking about his stock portfolio. Jason used to go on about his latest yachting trip. And as I was trained I looked captivated. Such a predictable bore. I want to experience a real drinker’s place. I want to feel alive!

“Snap, snap out of it! Looks like ya in a coma or somth’n.” Char was back in the kitchen. “Sorry, went into a little daydream”. Margie’s brows furrowed.

“Well, if ya planning on goi’n into 'O Brian’s ya better not be daydream’n, girl!

Having the common sense not to dress up, she dressed plainly. So it was yet another new plaid shirt, baggy khaki pants, no makeup and hair pulled up into a ponytail. She looked in the full length mirror in the Fat Elvis bathroom and knew this was the way to go. She grabbed the leather sack she had purchased in Costa del Sol some years ago and marched out the door after giving Ruff a good playful petting.

She parked next to a souped up old Chevy in parking lot out back. Took in a deep breath and was on her way rounding the corner. The pub was dimly lit and at this time of day it was not too populated. She was relieved for that and sat on the stool, closest to the door where there was light shinning in through the window. She had brought a book with her, “Madame Bovary,” just for a sense of security all the while tapping her nails on the table.

Buddah, the bartender and half owner of the pub was about 6’4 with shaven head and a big belly. An appropriate name. He had plenty of tats on both arms and his right ear had pewter looking stud earrings running up his ear. The other ear just had one. He was heavily built. Like he worked out. Worked out everything except his stomach.

He looked like he had seen an apparition when he spotted Char who was trying to concentrate on her reading. She saw him but didn’t meet his eyes just yet. She was too busy taking in the “all” of him. She eventually noticed his hazel eyes and got the feeling that they hid many secrets. She couldn’t peg him.

“I’ll be damned! Someone new has stepped into this ratty old dump and with a book no less” She refused to blush. “Whada have stranger girl? “

She knew they had no Cosmopolitans there so she asked for Grey Goose vodka with a lime. Grey Goose was so smooth you could drink it straight.
He smiled, almost affectionately.

“Grey Goose, hey? I can get you a purple hen?” Char laughed. She could be very self-effacing at times. She looked around the pub and noticed just about every one was drinking beer.

“I’ll have a beer. Your best.” she said firmly.

Buddah just about lost it. "Where on earth did you come from dear girl? How bout a Samuel Adam’s. Plenty would disagree with me but that’s my recommendation.”

She said “And with a lime, please”

He just shook his head and said “And with a lime”. He grinned like an impish kid. He just couldn’t help himself knowing she knew nothing about “real” drinks. He pretended to look serious “Now, would that be on tap?”. She didn’t know what to make of that but said “On tap” hoping it would be a good thing.

Beer. She didn’t really care for it but the lime made it taste better, she squeezing out all the juice into the amber drink. Buddha watched her work that lime and placed two more slices on a small plate near her book.

“What are you reading, there?”

She sips the beer managing not to make a face and said “Madame Bovary”. He leaned into the table.

“Never heard of it. What’s it about?”

Char was eager to explain. "It’s about a doctor’s wife, Emma Bovary who has adulterous affairs and..”

Whoa! Stop right there. You look to young to be reading a book like that!”

Char did look much younger for her age in general but with ponytail and without makeup, sliced off even more years.

“Do I need to produce a driver’s license?” She said, mockingly.

He scratched is shaven head and said,

“Maybe I should take a look?”

She laughed. “You certainly will not! I’m old enough to know better. Any twenty-three year old woman would tell you so.”

He was surprised. “A pretty clever little thing to say, revealing your age. Wouldn’t have thought.”

She returned to the discussion, “As I said, Emma Bovary had adulterous affairs because her doctor husband was about as dimwitted as they came. So, I find her to be a very sympathetic protagonist, though some would argue”. He tried not to look puzzled.

“Protagonist. Now, I’m straight, here. Gotta explain that one to me” And so Char went on and on.

They talked for sometime. She thought Now I’ve made three friends. Jack Crowley, Margie and now Buddah. Well, not exactly friends in the sense of the word that you trust them, yet, but fine enough to share company. Not bad for just arriving to a strange town who dreaded outsiders.

“Another beer? She just had to confess, leaned over and whispered “No, I absolutely dread it. What kind of vodka do you serve here?” Ah! Absolute for you. With a lime?” She nodded her head and instructed “With tonic. Lots of tonic. I’ve already had the beer”. “Oh another big time drinker here! You got it.”

She studied the pub. There was an older couple at the far end of the bar. They looked liked they had come out of the woodwork. She imagined that they had been drinking here since they were first married. Maybe this was how they met? Both were in a haze, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular. She did spot a slut with a black leather skirt. The shortest skirt she had ever seen. The guy next to her wasn’t a biker but wore a goatee and even from the distance she could tell his black hair was greasy. It was the way the lighting was hitting.

Buddah returned with her drink, turned, and said “Yeah. In here every night, those two, making out. All hot and heavy. Like, man, get them a room!” Char realized that it was getting darker outside. The time had passed quickly talking with Buddha. But she refused to gulp her drink down and dash out. Now, he didn’t have that much time to spend with her as the pub was getting busy. By the time she finished her drink, she noticed the younger crowd entering. The younger crowd…. What was she thinking? She was the younger crowd. But she had never felt young since her fifth birthday on Park Avenue with the terrace overlooking Central Park. The terrace decorated with pink balloons. She remembered a particular photograph from that day. She and her friends standing in a row with the Park as a backdrop. She, the birthday girl, the only one not smiling.


The room. White walled, Shaker rocking chair, hard wood floor. Char, in the rocking chair, her Costa del Sol sack on the floor next to her boots, was thinking about her day; reveling. She slowly rocked while Ruff was ready to gnaw on her new L.L. Bean boots. “Heel, heel! I tell you. You are the most incorrigible dog! You’re getting a professional trainer! ”He was not used to this tone of voice and ran to the porch. She felt remorseful and cuddled with him on the cushy old couch. That night she was dreaming up ideas as to what to do with that empty living room. The only thing in it, the Shaker rocking chair.

She was woken by a tap, tap, tap taping on her door, looked at her travel clock. “Good God who on earth calls on anyone before ten 'o clock in the morning? Certainly not Miss Manners! Never before ten.” She threw on a bathrobe, stumbled to the front door. “Who is it? She was agitated. “It’s Margie, for God sakes! Who else do you know on these grounds besides me? And why the hell didn’t ya just open the door? I ain’t goin to bite!" That’s right. You’re not in Manhattan anymore. This will take some adjusting. Well, I did sleep in awfully late.

Margie, bright eyed, brought in her homemade biscuits and a big canister of hot coffee. Char had no kitchen table yet so it was to the porch, as usual. Margie nestled into the rattan chair. Pink curlers, all in place.

“Now tell me all about last night! I see you survived. Been wondering about you all afternoon and evening". Char wiped the sleepers from her eyes and poured herself some coffee. “Thanks for the breakfast, Margie, but you didn’t have to go…” “It’s my pleasure. Besides I’m always up at six. No better time to make biscuits to warm the morning chill in the house."

"Now, I get out nowhere, so let me do a little livin through you". Char was awake now.

“It went splendidly, actually. Buddah was good company and from a distance I got acquainted with the sort there. From a distance...” Margie was dead serious for the first time that Char had known her. “Good thing you went in mid- afternoon. Need I say more?."

Margie sighed, sadly "Poor Buddah. A heart of gold even though he’s been through such tragedy.”

Char’s eyes were wide open. “What happened to him?"

Margie leaned forward “He lost his whole family in a car accident. He was the driver. His wife was the sweetest, prettiest nurse. And those two kids! Josh was about seven when the accident happened and loved to collect stamps. Jenna was, I think, eleven. Smart little thing. Real good at science. And she was daddy‘s little girl for sure but not spoilt, ya know?”

Char didn’t say a word. She thought of his gentle eyes and jovial trickery. She just didn’t say one word. Not one.


She painted the living room walls deep turquoise and the crown molding melon. Very New Mexico but she'd fix that! Old Jack helped her load up the furniture into the back of her truck. He just shook his head and waved her off goodbye.

A red couch with a touch of burgundy, no bright garish red. An outdoor iron wrought table which had been painted white, now chipped. She kept it that way for “edge”, for a coffee table. Two mismatched lamps both fringed and set on two small, fat, black pedestals flanking the couch. Good sturdy wood floor. Only a teal blue area rug beneath the coffee table where a small stack of books sat, stacked. To the left upper corner of the table she placed a large ornate orange glass bowl. Nothing in it. Why did it need anything? It just “was.“ Everything else she’d find at the local flea market.

Of course, she left the Quaker rocking chair alone. To paint that would be criminal. But she just had to have a painting over the couch right then and now. She thought of all classic possibilities but banished the thought when she found “it” in a thrift shop a few hours later. Looked like an Outsider Art piece which went for very good money in SoHo galleries. Most likely a self-portrait of someone who was a mental patient. That’s what Outsider Art was all about. Here, a twisted, contorted young man with oversized eyes, green veins which bled purple tears. Had one ear missing like Van Gogh. Scribblings. Dark and bright thin slaps of paint here and there. A rough painting that took her breath away. Such agony was captured. Such purity. No filter. Seraphic.

She brought overhead lighting and placed it above the large painting. She sat in the Quaker rocking chair, slowly rocking, and discovered more about the painting, now that it was lit. It was more alive now. Perhaps because it was in her home. Maybe, it was the lighting? Never mind. It had a soul. Someone out there had splattered their core on canvass. Someone very courageous.
 

Fall seemed to have been put on ice, colder than the folks of Mannersville had ever experienced. The tear drop shaped crystals on Char’s chandelier, hung from the large oak tree, were busiley dancing with the bitter wind. A hundred of dangling crystals, ringing to the beat of a late bitter season.

The town was quiet. People most assuredly were in their homes watching TV, reading the newspaper, the wives making hot chocolate for the kids and then the bickering. The couples in town always seemed to be arguing over one thing or another. Surely, it might be worse in the homes.

Char, in blue Parka, walked through the town feeling like she owned it for once. As cold as it was, the hush of the street caused her to breath more easily. No longer the center of attention. Though walking up a ways, she heard the clambering of voices. As she neared 'O Brian’s Pub the scramble of voices were becoming louder. She quickly peeked in the window and noticed that half the town was jammed packed in there. She laughed thinking I bet Buddha is going right out of his mind right now, serving and contending with about fifty some odd sots!

Buddah had entered her mind periodically, thinking of his tragic loss and how he managed to be such a good spirit, despite. She’d quickly dismiss the thought of him because it only brought on guilt. She, privileged, born with a silver spoon in her mouth; had been concerned with inner suffocation. Yes. She had felt deadened. But Buddah…

That night she poured herself an Absolute vodka straight up and played Chet Baker to really set the scene for wallowing in guilt. She on the red couch with Ruff leaning against her. Knowing she was breaking her own heart, he stayed close. She looked up to the painting. She felt at one with the young man bleeding purple tears. But she could not cry. To her recollection she never had. She remembered the long lecture her older sister received after having cried over the boy her parents forbade her to see. Char, then KiKi, had stood by her father’s den door and heard most all of it.

Young lady, her father sternly said, tapping his pipe.

“Crying is sloppy, undignified. Keep your feelings in check for if someone should spy a sign of weakness in you, you will be trampled upon. And in our circle it’s gauche, as distastful as carnival glass. And that’s what they’ll see. Glass to be broken."

Then, her mother spoke.

Think about it, dear. What well mannered man is going to want a wife prone to outbursts when there are matters of importance he has to tend to. He’ll need you by his side. Strong and beautiful, you are dear. Don’t let the ugly get the best of you. We all have concerns but…and her mother went on in her very cultured sing songy voice.

Char became numb listening by the door and had to retreat to her room, wondering how her sister was taking all this in. The walk up the winding staircase seemed to take forever.

Yes. That night she thought of that conversation or rather lecture as she was drifting off, having had drunk too much vodka. She had a dream. A dream of an old woman’s face, greyish, worn out with shaven head. A face so sad, bony with deep brow furrows. Never in her life had she seen such pain. She saw all that which was around her eyes. But only that. She looked for them in this dream and in dream time found the eyes, large, animate and compassionate. She was a concentration camp victim. The woman spoke. We are all entitled to our own pain...

Breakfast consisted of an English muffin and coffee. She needed something to soak up the liquor. She thought about the dream. Such words from a woman who suffered through the Holocaust, stepping outside of herself, showering me with gift words. Of course, she knew that it erupted from her subconscious. She wondered what else lay there for her to discover. But these words, she never really wanted to digest. Real pain. Something so foreign. Forgivness never accepted.

Pad, pencil and charcoal were set right near the drawing pad. Ruff was asleep so he made for a good still subject. She was pleased when finished, having captured him well. Char amusingly thought of the nights when she studied, drawing nudes at The Art’s Student League on Fifty-Second Street. Of course, mother and father would have been mortified if they knew she was sorting with Bohemians and drawing nude strangers. So on the evenings out, she’d tell mother that she was meeting a VonGoaser at the 21 Club or having to meet up with the charity group or catch a film with Mitsi.

The subject’s bodies were not ideal. In fact some were fat with folds of flesh hanging from their stomachs, then the anorexic with bones looking like they were ready to slice right through their skin. The gruff instructor would pose them in all kinds of grotesque positions. Char drew quickly and loved shading the most. It was like sculpting clay for her, bringing in the three dimensional. One night the instructor chose her and an other student to seat themselves away from the group in order to capture the nudes from a more difficult angle. She realized then that she must be good.

An idea. It raced like a fire gone wild. It was what she was meant to do, now. I’ll draw portraitures at 'O Brian's, capture the soul of people who need to escape from life. The grotesque faces of despair.

Black turtle neck and long black skirt seemed suitable. She wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible and sit in a booth which would give her a full view of the bar where she could assess possible subjects. She noticed a man with grey hair, nearly yellowed from smoke, smoking a cigarette and offering one to the woman sitting next to him who brushed her hand away. A young woman, maybe her age, with eye makeup running down her face as a young man left for the door. Countless subjects. Char stood up, got up nerve and approached those who seemed approachable. She showed them her pad and charcoal and said for no fee she’d like to illustrate their portrait. Most all were delighted, perhaps because they were drunk. Some shoed her away, disliking the idea immensely.

While in the middle of drawing a man with downcast eyes, managing to drink nevertheless; Buddah snuck up on her.

“Well, if it isn’t the Grey Goose girl! She put down her pencil and said “It’s a real haven in here from the cold, I see. How are you managing all this?!”

He pointed to a guy behind the bar.

“Got myself some help tonight. It’s one of the crazier nights. Too many Mr. and Mrs. Bickersons, here.”

Char lifted her chin.

“Well, if you haven’t noticed I’m sketching them.”

He took a long serious look and said “You’re not bad. Not bad at all! They know you’re doing this right?”

"Of course, I’m not intrusive.”

Char noticed he looked tired. Especially, so. Then the thought which caused her so much guilt. He has every right to look tired, and for the rest of his life. He winked at her before returning behind the bar.

Sometime went by before an old weathered looking woman, drunk, with bleached blonde hair, stumbled over to Char's booth.

“Whadda ya think you’re doing there girly girl? Let me see! Draw’n pictures of us?! You all neat and tidy look’n, look’n at us like we’re all some fuck’n drunken freaks! Who’s this ya drawing? Well, I’ll be fuck’n damned if it ain’t my own husband over there! You hussy in disguise!”

She then bent over and ripped the page from her pad, quickly zigzagging over to her husband. Char heard screeching, saw the woman punching her husband anywhere she could. He grabbed at her to make her stop, but to no avail. She was fighting mad. Buddah stepped in and had to carry her out, she kicking and cursing while the husband slowly followed.

The place turned into an uproar. Some women walked by Char with husbands in tow, spitting on her, drunk and thinking she was after their men for this woman had been loudly warning them. One picked up Char’s drink and threw it in her face. The men were marching their women right out the door. Name calling. Sounds of scuffles and cries.

She had been sitting straight up throughout the fiasco and still then, not even aware that she should be wiping the vodka off of her face. Something was happening to her. She felt like her stomach was ready to erupt, then the feeling traveled up to her solar plexus, stopping at her throat. Beginning all over again in her stomach traveling upward. Char didn’t know that this was anger, fury, with no escape route. She just sat there experiencing this over and over again. Helpless.

Buddah rushed over to her after he took care of the business. “Are you alright?!" She set her hand on her stomach and said “I don’t feel too well”. He said “Well, I can’t blame you for that. Obviously, I’m closing up for the night. I’m driving you home. You really don’t look so good.” He helped her slip into her Parka.


To accommodate his size Buddah owned a Ford Ranger with tinted glass and cruise control which he never used. Ever since the accident, he never drove that far away from the town. It was his nature to cheer people up and had plenty occasion to do so back at the pub. But, here, he knew better. They drove in silence past the General Store, Joe’s Hardware, Claudia's Dresses and up North Country Road to her home.

She spoke softly.“Come in. I’m well enough to make some tea.”

He sat down on the couch beneath the painting and stared out the window for sometime. Just staring. Char returned with the tea and discovered that he was tearing. Now, this large, tough man put his head in his hands, began to cry then bawl.

“Why do people have to fight all the time?"

Char quickly placed the tea platter down, sat next to him and reached her arms around him, knowing that he was really sobbing for his loss. His wife and children. She continued holding him.

“Why do they have do it!, he cried out.

Char found herself saying...

“Because love must be a terrifying place for them to be"

She was frightened holding him, feeling his body against hers, quaking. This was new to her. But she held on. They talked deep into the night. There were moments of silence then, more talk, more tears. It had to be gotten out.

“Do you need anymore tissues? You look like you're ready for another cry."

Char's eyes burned, her nose congested.

"No” she said weakly.

He passed her the tissue box anyway.

“Do you realize you’ve been crying for over an hour without a word?”

“No” she sniffled.

“You did manage to tell me that you’d never cried before.”

She let out the smallest laugh, while wiping her eyes.

“That’s true. It was scary.”

He kissed her on the forehead and said “Welcome to the world.”

Twenty three years on a diet of repression. She breathed in deeply and there was no more of that choking feeling in her throat. It was gone. Char had always feard that if she were ever to cry it would break the flood gates and she'd never come back sane. But here she was, sound of mind and in spirit.

“How bout that tea, now” he kind of sang “I’ll make it up quick. Go get yourself a robe or something. You’re shivering."

On the porch she sat in the rattan chair, curled up in her robe knowing she no longer had to "collect" herself. Just as an experiment, she went entirely limp like a rag doll. Her arms slung over the armchair, legs turned out, head lolling to the side of her slumped shoulder. Like trying on a new body. It felt good and right.

Buddah had settled in the large cushy couch across from her messing around with Ruff thinking She sure needed that. Never having cried your entire life? Almost like not breathing.

Char whatched Buddah, the pensive one she'd never seen before. She slowly got up from her chair and walked towards the door.

“Where do you think you’re going, young lady, out in the freezing cold.”

She waved her hand dismissively.

"You wait and see.”

Char went out to the side of her house and hooked up the chandelier moon on the high, strongest branch on the old oak tree. She settled into the chair, gazing, thinking of the day Old Joe hooked it up for her. Remembering how free she felt that day.

She sighed, still very spent.

“Glorious. Isn't it? This was my beginning."

Then, he nearly whispered.

“No. Tonight was your glorious beginning."

And he passed her a cup of tea. And they talked and laughed until sunrise. The dew on the grass glinting, the scent of morning's waking, her glorious moon still lit.

spider8
October 9th, 2010, 10:02 AM
They would never have thought that she’d move away from Manhattan in a pre-owned red pickup truck, adopt a full grown mutt from a shelter or cut up all of her credit cards just a week after they were sipping Cosmopolitans at Maxim’s.

KiKi’s clique were all trust fund babies whose family trees could be found in the Social Register. And she was expected to marry into a family whose tree was older than hers. All the grooming. From a young age she was trained in the social graces. French classes at age five, cotillion dances at Knickerbocker’s, coming out party where she almost tripped, walking down the majestic stairway, arm and arm with her father for the “presentation.” Teenage boys eyeing the girl mother and father would approve of. It was all a matter of what was “correct”.


I hate seeing someone getting no replies. Better badduns than none. I've had that too. So here goes...

Your very first word 'They...'. I don't know who 'They...' are, so your following three lined sentence is weak. Pre-owned? drop it.

'...they were sipping Cosmopolitans...' I still don't know who they are and I don't know what a Cosmo is. All the time in published books I come across this so don't worry too much about it. But if it's a published book and I have a problem with the 'they' I'll skip forward because I've paid and bought the book. You don't have that luxury.

'Kiki's clique...' I don't know if this is deliberate but it looks clumsy. I don't know what a 'trust fund baby' is.

I just had a look back and can see a trust fund baby is like the aristocracy. But I can't read on. Sorry, I haven't been helpful but at least my comment will bump the thread up.

P.S. I'd have read more if it were just a few para's rather than a few pages (intimidating if you're not quickly into it, discouraging even).

SilverMoon
October 9th, 2010, 01:10 PM
Spider, I also make a point to comment. I can just imagine how the person must feel. So, thank you for being considerate.

I broke it down for you, below. If I were to indulge your preferences, I'd be saying too much to the reader too soon and would have no room to describe KiKi's plans to leave Manhattan. i.e.

They would never have thought that she’d move away/ after they were sipping Cosmopolitans at Maxim’s./ KiKi’s clique were all trust fund babies whose family trees could be found in the Social Register. And she was expected to marry into a family whose tree was older than hers.


they were sipping Cosmopolitans at Maxim’s.
Cosmopolitain is a drink. Maxim's is a fancy "hot spot". Just the names in themselves should imply an upper class "affect." The reader does not necessarily have to know, for example, that "Maxim's is a fancy restaurant where celebrities frequent" You want to "show" in a story not "tell". Leave it up to the reader's imagination. And you dont want to show too much too soon.

They...are her friends, the Trust Fund Babies. Yes. Like the aristocracy. You find this out soon enough in the beginning of the second paragraph. i.e.

KiKi’s clique were all trust fund babies whose family trees could be found in the Social Register.


pre-owned red pickup truck
She was hell bent on driving a truck which wasn't spanking brand new. This should indicate a bit of her character with more to come. She wanted to experience a different kind of ride and in life.

Spider, thank for your questions and for lending your time. I hope I've been of help. Sorry you were not able to get past the first two paragraphs but this is every reader's perogatative.

Peace, Laurie

Nellie
October 10th, 2010, 10:17 PM
Laurie,

I found your story to be very captivating from beginning to the end. I would go have a drink with Char any day, whether it be a Cosmopolitan or an Absolute vodka. Being familiar with your writing, the ending came as a surprise, but in a good way.
Furthermore, you do have the luxury to write any way you want.

Thank you for the wonderful journey.

Cindy

SilverMoon
October 11th, 2010, 02:16 AM
Thank you, Cindy. Am glad you found the story to be a journey. Writing it was certainly a journey for me, touching on freedom and lessons learned. Most of all, addressing the state of the human condition which I mostly do in my verse as well. The ending, quite different. Yes? Quite a departure for me. And Char would love to hang out with you and go drinking. But if you find a place that serves Grey Goose she’d be thrilled!

Thanks, again. Laurie

Chesters Daughter
October 11th, 2010, 09:44 PM
A fine comeback from a ten year hiatus from prose, Laurie, love. I hope you'll be writing another soon, but only if you promise not to abandon your poetry. I'd be lost without my regular dose of Laurie's dark. Speaking of which, way to end this baby, quite a departure from your norm, but equally successful. You brought it full circle with grace. I know you are concerned over the length, but in its entirety, it does not seem overly long as it moves along at a steady pace without any boring rough spots. Thanks for including at least one dastardly dose in the form of the bar brawl, stellar, that. Aside from the nits we've already discussed and the possibility of a bridge or two for continuity, this is a fine read. Kudos. Now please stop worrying your pretty little head, ya did good, kid. Now kindly go write a freaking poem.

Big hugs,
Lisa

SilverMoon
October 11th, 2010, 10:35 PM
After over a decade of not writing prose, who wouldn't worry a bit! I imagine someone with a large ego which could barely fit through a door would have no worries. That would be the height of hubris. Really, pleased that you did not find it overly long and that it went at a steady pace. The bar scene was a "must" as every story needs a climax. Rubbing my hands, before touching the key board, I thought of all the wicked possibilities! Here, my dark side revealed which I'll continue do demonstrate in Poetry. Just can't help myself in that genre. Thanks for your input, here. And it was a joy to have you following my story installment by installment. Hugs, back atcha! Laurie