Posts Tagged 'very short novel'

Jinx

Virginia Frances Sterrett, 1928.

This year she is solitary and she looks ill. You know, you’ve seen it before. Maybe it’s even been you.

We are a pretty clever set, I fancy, but we have a good many advantages. Being solitary is not one of our advantages. We are joiners, we support, we advocate, we are featured in our local papers. We are social and cultural, we contribute to our communities. You know us.

The people I love the best jump into work head first. This was a surprise to me at first, but in retrospect, I can see that this was, I don’t know, predictable or inevitable. Predictable or inevitable – how are those words alike, how are they different?

When I met Ginger 20 years ago, she went by Jinx. She was a red-headed girl, newly married and boisterous in her outlook. “Is marriage a constraint or a comfort?” She asked during gin nights in our newly married club in the Silicon Valley. This was a very good question at the time, much discussed, and support groups supported questioning and affirmed affirming. Her eyes were often red.  She does not go by Jinx anymore. Or by Ginger. She goes by her birth name, Elizabeth, or Betty, and that suits the person she is now.

This year she is solitary and she looks ill. When I realized she was ill I was transported suddenly and unexpectedly into those years before, when our advantages were both meta-analyzed and taken for granted. She looks ill, like a charcoal sketch of herself drawn by a weak hand, smudged and only recognizable to me who watched the sketch being made.

 The past is a zesty remembrance some days, and a muddy sack cloth clinging, dragging me down on others. She never knew how robustly her love defended me against the collapse of my pride. Or maybe she knew. Maybe we talked about it endlessly, that spiraling rondele of confessional friendship that is as reassuring as a nursery rhyme. Fri Felipe Fri Felipe duermes tu duermes tu. Toca la campana toca la campana, tan tan tan, tan tan tan.

I hear the church bells ringing this morning. The birds sing non-denominational songs. The Ginger-that-was left her husband and that predictability to marry a king of an exotic country, the UAE or Morocco or some such. I won’t say which one, and I should say that Ginger, Jinx and Elizabeth are not her real names. The king has had his revenge, and Ginger is home again, here in the cool foggy land on the west coast of the great experiment.

She is living with me, secretly, in hiding, and she is ill. When I answered her call, it was late for now, but early for then. Around midnight. Meet me in the Mission District, I will be wearing a mud cloth jacket that hangs below my knees. I took her home to my second divorce apartment in the Haight – little remnants of that early assumed privilege. She is feverish and talks a lot. I know too much – I suppose she will have to kill me, but that is a joke not to be repeated.

“I have someone else’s eyes in my head” she says, she moans, repeatedly, for hours until the fever has broken and then she looks pale again and docile as a china doll.

The king does not know yet that she still lives, and it will be a challenge to keep it that way.

Knife

“Swiving is the first dance I learned, before the tango, before the mambo, before the twist, before the mashed potato, before the waltz,” Imelda tried to say, but inhaled wrong and laughed laughed laughed until the end of WWII with GI Joe and all his cousins.

Imelda liked a jolly good roll in the hay with GI Joes who came from the U.S. and spent time with her aunties and her uncles, and Manila was home to Imelda, who was going to school in Philadelphia after the war.

It was springtime in Pennsyvania and Imelda was crying in the arms of Angus Cormac, the Irish-Filipino son of a butcher who wanted to marry Imelda and take her to Allentown. She cried because she saw herself sitting in a blood stained apron wrapping haunches and hocks in newspaper and this is not what Severo had promised when he took her in four years ago, safely away from the meat district. The meat district. Imelda knew that the meaning of those words had changed, and she held that change against her body, sharp and ready to cut clean and deep. Severo, of course, was dead by the time she understood – young, still pretty, and dead of a knife wound. “My only thanks was that the knife was not mine,” Imelda said at the Severo’s wake. “I do not come to praise Severo, but to bury him. I bury Severo in my memory, and in yours, and that is the end of that. There is no more to tell.” She set the knife down, turned her back on them, and left the room.

(10-minute quickwrite – “swiving” a preferred  verb of  Mary’s)

The singing beggar

gold lame

There once was a beggar who loved to hear himself sing. He started out as a child.

Most singers start out as children. I remember, myself, singing to my small dolls, which were made of popsicle sticks dressed in fabric scraps. At that time, gingham was easily come by, but my small dolls did not sing back to me until after the war, when the fabric samples suddenly bloomed. The gingham was still there, but also sequined fabrics, gold lame, bright silks, rayon, some thin gauzy fabrics that were neither silk nor satin. My popsicle dolls dressed more and more for evening wear, their little painted faces had rosebud mouths and eyelashes drawn on for many nights on the town. They put on little plays, some geisha action, but with Debbie Reynold’s moral sensibilities, and these popsicle girls were terribly conflicted. I didn’t know what to do with them, exactly, and put them away for some time. Took singing lessons, etiquette, even found a small Korean book on how to entertain American service men. This was in English, marginally, with many grammatical errors but the basic message intact: listen carefully, your face must mirror your companion, no extra movement of body, hands or face.

I taught my dolls to keep their faces still and their stick bodies well dressed. We learned to sing simple Korean songs, little jingles that had two or three American English words. I learned to tilt my head at the exact right angle to convey interest, kindness, and willingness.  My dolls had red rosy cheeks.

Then one day my uncle, who was an American serviceman, came by to say hello and to bring us presents. When he saw my dolls, he took them and crushed them and screamed at my many Korean moms, who were raising me to be right for them, right like they were being, and I felt sad, confused, and angry, too, to tell you the truth. Then I went away to school at the American school where Ken, my American sponsor, sent me, until I was 17, when I went away to the U.S. to go to college, where I studied music. And that is another story.

Potluck

RaccoonSkunk

She is at a masquerade ball. She’s dressed as a skunk. Her husband as a raccoon. They pretend they are not together. She is hot in her skunk costume, smelling a sweet musky melon smell rising up from within the costume. I smell like an animal, she tells herself. Her little skunk nostrils flare and her tail rises up, as if to give absolute proof to that statement. She goes to the food table, which is decorated in prison gear, with balls and chains and convict striped tablecloth. She brushes her black and white tail against the table and looks at the food. Popeye is standing next to her, looking at the yam pie and the sweet potato custard. He chooses the yam; she is more interested in the Dagwood pile of cold cuts: salami, pastrami, bologna, ham, pimiento loaf, sweet pickles, hot pickles, cole slaw, iceberg lettuce, American cheese. She builds a mighty fortress of a sandwich and looks for a place to eat where she won’t be seen. She feels ravenous, predatory, nocturnal. Scott walks by in his raccoon coat and she sees that he, too, is sweating, and she controls an urge to go and smell him, rub her scent against his. She is a perfume scientist, blending pretty scents with predatory glands, mixing clove, sage, nutmeg, ylang ylang, lavender with musk, dragon’s breath, graveyard flowers, dirt, the smell of rotting underground. She blends it all together, stirs it with a licorice whip, makes an infusion and douses herself in it for this dead evening. She is someone’s dead relative, she knows that, but not whose, she’s not even sure what species she is now. The fumes she and Scott make rise together and settle over the potluck table, greenish vapors wafting, hovering, dispersing into the casseroles, the pasta salads and the sandwich fixings. The costumed guests wander by, pick at the olives and the little sausages wrapped in bacon. As the perfume settles on them, they fill their plates higher, higher, suddenly ravenous and revolting to themselves, until the entire party is rolling on the floor under the table, mashing foods into their mouths, into each other’s mouths, tearing at the flesh of the melon and the chicken with equal lust, equal abandon, and in the background they could barely hear, through their overpowering hunger, the minor chords of any organ in any moldy cemetery in any old movie with a theme that involves dismembered body parts, oozing bits, and smells that make the innocent turn faint and nauseous. There were no innocents at this costume party, on this Halloween, and all there were fed until they were hungry no more.

The accountant

data stream
I like specialty bubblegum flavors. Peppermint, of course, and sage, the rain flavors, mud, ocean, tomato worm, potato chip, and my current best ever favorite is dead roadkill flavor. I save all of the wrappers and when I have enough I fold them together in a custom built bubblegum chain that should reach from my bedroom here in Seattle to the outer city limits of Little Rock, Arkansas, if my calculations are correct.
My calculations are usually correct, and I do all of my parent’s accounting for their firm because they are not very good at calculations, which they say is not a nice thing to say but is true anyway. They point out to me that they have many skills that allow them to get me the things I need to achieve my goals, and that is true right now because of the child labor laws. The child labor laws were first instituted in this country in 1916 because many children, even children with very good accounting skills, were working in places that were too hot or too cold or dangerous and they worked so hard that many of them died before they could grow up to be accountants, which is what I am going to do. The job of parents is to support their children and give them the things they will need to be productive adults some day, and my parents are clearly doing this job, since I don’t have to work in a sweatshop and live in a sub-standard situation that would be hard to imagine these days anyway.

The accountant is the person in the company who makes sure that all the information about the money in the company is reconciled, with no missing information or information that is not true. This is an important job because missing or wrong information causes people and companies to make mistakes and then companies can fail, which can sometimes lead to children losing their homes, their computers, and their parents, whose job it is to raise the children until they are mature enough to take care of themselves. The other job of the accountant is to tell people when they’ve made a mistake and to hold them accountable for their mistakes. This would be a very good thing to do, although I’m not allowed to do this with my mom and dad, just make notes of the mistakes they’ve made so they can look later to see that I was right.

The accountant looks for predictable numbers in columns and rows and becomes highly sensitized to variations in the predictable columns and rows that suggest that an error, either accidental or intentional, has been made. This is important information to share with people who have an interest in the company, and this information should be made known as soon as possible so that mistakes can be corrected. This is the basic job of the accountant, and that is what I will be doing professionally by the time I am 16, which is when I should be done with my accelerated math program and ready to go to college. My parents say they don’t want me to go any earlier than 16 because of my social skills, which I don’t think matters, but I am still under age and so that is the end of that debate.

Scarecrow

scary scaregrow

I will tell you the story of the scarecrow’s birth. He was born in a small deer farm near where the road passes not far from the second hand tire store. He was born in Bull’s Blood Junction, so small a town that pizza was unknown and meat might be jerky, might be carrion, and might not be had at all. An old town, Bull’s Blood Junction. People said in Bull’s Blood the rain runs red, and every man, woman and child in Bull’s Blood is anemic. This was, of course, because of the scarecrow, his sad life, the cutting, the pain, the heartache, the rotting seeds. That scarecrow, who started out in life just a broomstick and a worn-out petticoat, didn’t scare much of anything until his first Halloween, when Red Duncan brought a pumpkin to the house, and a knife, and a fair amount of whisky.

The first slice in a pumpkin’s head is the worst. It’s like the eyes themselves have been slit open and the first thing they see is the slithering ooze of their own brain’s entrails swimming around behind their eyes. Then with a snap, Red pops out those eye holes and Crow is looking out, scared, into the sight of his own birth. Scarecrows don’t usually have hands, you may have noticed that, but they have the deepest craving for them. Red popped those eyeballs out and wiped Crow’s face with a dampened cloth, wiping away the sweat and the seeds that started running down those new cheeks. Red was a happy man that day, twisting the knife as Crow looked out, looking side to side and down as much as he could, for arms that could reach and hands that could grab. Red’s was enjoying his whisky, and gave Crow a belt about halfway through, as he was cutting a mouth that couldn’t decide whether it was laughing, crying, or snarling. In the background there was the sound of a chainsaw; Grey, Red’s cousin, was cutting wood for the coming winter months. In the kitchen, ma was lighting the woodstove and talking about pies. 

Crow listened, watched and waited for someone to give him a tongue, but no one did. With his nose, he smelled the woodsmoke and the piney air. Blue, Red’s brother, carried Crow’s head out to the field where the last of the corn lay fallow, and put him on top of the old broom stick in the petticoat that’s been there all summer, surrounded by crows laughing, stealing ears, rabbits snickering, stealing spinach, mice stealing grain, foxes stealing chickens.

Crow was born mad, put on this earth to scare nobody but man. That first fall and all through the winter, Crow watched. He watched the harvest moon, he watched the first frost, he sat up through the longest night, and he counted the stars night after night. A scarecrow with a broken heart needs arms, he said, needs legs, and needs a way to get on that sled on a cold winter night and leave. At the end of his first winter, he learned how to curse, and this put Bull’s Blood into a time of sorrow and need, until the day they gave him arms, legs, a hat, a pair of trousers, and a shirt. He waved goodbye as he rode away in a small wooden sleigh pulled by a sawhorse, over the horizon, to that next harvest moon.

Gramma and Grampa retire

rocker

Gramma’s rocking chair was a Sears and Roebuck, not old enough or nice enough to be a proper antique. She got it when grampa retired, telling him “That’s it, old man, if you’re retired, then I am too.” That was in 1992. She wasn’t even 65 yet, but she had no intention of increasing her workload by the number of hours he would now be home getting under foot.

They sat there in their living room for a year, gramma in her rocking chair, grampa in his sectional recliner, staring out at their big screen TV, daring each other to say one wrong thing.

After a year of going out to Burger King for a breakfast biscuit and then making himself a ham sandwich with chips for lunch every day, grampa decided he might learn to cook. He set the TV in the kitchen to the food network and started in with salads and omelettes and fish papillote.

Gramma bought a computer and started playing the stock market. Then they thought they’d mess around in real estate, and then they got richer than rich. They got richer than any of their kids, any of their neighbors, any of their fishing buddies. Money sweetened gramma’s temperament considerably, and made grampa better looking. They both lost weight, and when they died last year in a boating accident in Hawaii, they were looking great. Absolutely fantastic.

luxury-yacht


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 50 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 165,111 hits

Archives

Categories

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930