Friday, July 29, 2011

Old Home week.

For some odd, lovely reason, people from my past came out of the woodwork this past week.

I received a cryptic voicemail from my friend Mark. The brief message suggested there was something I knew that he needed to know. 

I talked at length with my friend Mike. Mike and I have known each other since junior high, for god's sake. He's one of the most pensive, intelligent, relevant people I know. We had a long, very textured conversation, some of which was obligatory catch-up, most of which was so much more than that.

My lovely college friend Dorie was in town for her reunion, and we had an amazing evening catching up on my back porch.

And tonight, after way too long, my friend Cass called.

What are the odds; all of these random people from the past dropping into my life very serendipitously this past week?

I've loved every minute of it. There's nothing like old friends.

But enough about me.

Let's catch up on the ladies.

They'd arrived in Bozeman ahead of schedule. After some passive/aggressive pestering from Maisie, Stella decided a brief detour at the Cat's Paw didn't sound like such a bad idea.

So while Stella took a bathroom break and took a walk around the Paw a few times, Maisie headed for the tables.

It didn't take long for Maisie to convert her original kitty into a pile of money.

It was all discreetly tucked away, and Stella didn't know a thing.

Everyone has secrets. And now Maisie had a thick stack of secrets bankrolled between her breasts.

During her search for Maisie, Stella had become distracted by the Wheel of Fortune slot machine. She'd had three spins at the Wheel, and every time she thought she'd hit the jackpot.

Stella had spent some time making her donation. That's what she heard her friends say when they'd lost at gambling.

Eventually, Stella found Maisie at a blackjack table.

"It's time to go," Stella said, insistently.

She felt like she was interrupting something.

"Oh! I'll be right with you!" Maisie slid off her high stool and spent some time saying her goodbyes to a group of people with whom she'd obviously become wildly familiar.

"The service starts in 10 minutes," Stella said. "We're lucky Bozeman's a small town, and we're close."

The woman Maisie used to be, the woman she'd had a chance to become for an hour or two, nicely folded itself back into the person Stella expected to see as they left the casino.

"Well," Stella said. "That was fun."

"It's nice to see the sites," Maisie said. Even to her, the response seemed forced.

"Bob." That's all Stella said. It could have been a verb or a noun. Maisie didn't know what to say, so she kept her mouth shut.

Enough time passed, and Stella understood that Maisie didn't know what she'd meant.

"That was his first name," Stella finally said. "Bob Engelbright."

They were welcomed into the Open Arms with all the information they needed.

And they were hungry. They'd both been tempted by the buffet at the Cat's Paw, but they knew they had bigger fish to fry.

Stella was handed a program as she and Maisie headed into the makeshift sanctuary at the Open Arms. Apparently this type of event happened with frequency.

Stella did a double-take.

All the color drained from her face.

Maisie could tell right away that something was wrong.

They were seated, waiting for the ceremony for Mr. Bob Engelbright to begin when Stella regained her composure.

Stella tipped her head, and momentarily leaned on Maisie.

"I think I know someone here," Stella whispered.

"Things could get ugly."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Poker face.

It's been five days since I've visited these ladies.

It's been a very fast five days for me.

I've done a bit of dropping out, and dropping in.

I'm spending more time kinetically. I'm outside a lot, even when it's been hot.

I've dropped out of checking my blog. 

I no longer subscribe to cable tee vee. 

I'm now only streaming netflix. Damn that new pricing plan.

I don't feel I need to feel quite so connected to the idea of feeling connected.

And despite all of this disconnection, I'm very informed. I know all about the debate about the debt ceiling. Too much, I think.

You don't have to be connected to be connected any more.

That being said, let's just say that's enough about me for now. Let's just say it's all about time.

And now let's see what's going on with our two fictional friends.

No one expects certain things from old ladies.

No one would think an old woman would mug an old lady for her purse.

No one would suspect that anyone who wasn't on meth, especially an old person on meth, would knock off a 7-Eleven for the cash drawer.

And no one would expect a septuagenarian to be good at 21.

Maisie didn't really count cards. She just had a particular sense. And when a dealer isn't dealing from a 6-deck shoe, when there's just one or two decks to a round, when you sit far to the dealer's left, so much the better.

In Maisie's case, at the Cat's Paw in Bozeman, with an hour or so left to go before the funeral, she was in her element.

She was just playing some cards.

She split when she had two sevens and the dealer had a 3. She doubled down whenever she could.

She had a bit of a stake, tucked between her breasts, thanks to Mrs. Clark Thompson.

Maisie had replenished her stake three times over. She converted her chips to bills very unobtrusively, and she tucked the bills between her money makers whenever everyone at the table was distracted with the shuffle of a new deck or the arrival of a fresh round of free beverages.

She had over three grand in her cleavage, and no one knew but her and the lord.

Stella had no time for the folly of spirits or distraction. She loved to chat with the folks at the table, and everyone was patronizingly awed at Maisie's streak of good fortune.

Maisie was over the moon, and no one knew that she knew exactly what was happening.

She prided herself on her poker face.

Maisie appreciated the irony. Because she was playing 21.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Open arms.

I've had an illuminating two weeks. 

Two weeks with no Logan, two weeks with intermittent Connor sitings. 

It's been a good two weeks.

Things I haven't missed: the boy-pee smell in the bathroom. The mess I'm left to contend with that I didn't create. Requests for rides. Loads of extra laundry.  

Things I have missed: my boys.

I'll have pieces of my puzzled life back this weekend.

As for today, thanks to Anne for her birthday celebration breakfast; thanks to Robin for such a fun night.

I do love my friends.

And here's an update on our lady friends, as they find their way through this crazy maze...

"I'll drive if you want a break," Maisie offered as they packed the Dart.

"I think I'm fine."

Stella's tone was dulled by her ache for solitude and routine. She found a bit of both behind the wheel.

Stella didn't like drama, despite the gastronomical grift she and Maisie had so effectively created. She wasn't a liar. And despite the wad of bills that were tucked safely in Maisie's womanly parts, Stella wasn't a thief.

She tried to convince herself of all of those things as she drove out of the Best Choice parking lot.

"You get the map and check the paper. I'll find us some breakfast." Stella said it with a touch of understanding that Maisie might be feeling the same tinge of ambivalence about their recent windfall.

They couldn't find a diner or cafe in Powell, so Stella decided McDonald's would have to do.

They were each balancing what passed for breakfast on their laps as they drove on the 789 toward Bozeman. Maisie finished her McMuffin and let out a satisfied, dignified belch as she opened up the newspaper.



Stella thought that kind of "Oh" exclamation was manipulative, and that assumption made her grip the wheel a bit tighter.

She figured Maisie was passively asking to be asked, "What?"

"Oh, it's just sad. Mr. Clarence Engelbright passed away at the Open Arms retirement community in Bozeman. There was quite a write-up in the paper. Apparently Mr. Engelbright was a pillar of the community."

"That's who I was talking about yesterday, Maisie," Stella said. "The funeral starts at noon, right?"

"You're right. Noon at the Open Arms."

Maisie was stunned by Stella's savvy. She seemed to be one step ahead, every time.

But it didn't take long for Maisie to become distracted. Although Montana was much more scenic than the moonscape that was Wyoming, Maisie's head was deep into the newspaper, primarily because of the ads.

Apparently people gambled in Montana. Bozeman was a hotbed of debauchery.

Maisie thought Bozeman sounded like a lot of fun.

So as they wound their way through the beautiful landscape that was Big Sky country, Maisie subtly referenced a few places they could stay once she and Stella arrived in Bozeman.

"The Grand Tree Inn sounds nice," Maisie said, head tilted high, reading through her bifocals. "So does the Magic Diamond. And the Cat's Paw Cardroom."

"What are you driving at, Maisie?"

Stella wasn't born yesterday.

"I just thought it would be nice to stay somewhere nice once we got to Bozeman, that's all. The Open Arms sounds like such a downer."

Stella got the picture right away.

Maisie wanted to gamble.

And she had a bit of seed money germinating in her cleavage.

"Maybe just a few minutes at the Cat's Paw. We'll need to stretch our legs by then." Stella had her own intentions.

The Open Arms event for Mr. Engelbright would be there, even if they were a bit late.

Game on.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Sky country.

A lovely day was punctuated by yet another evening of rain and thunder, so what better time to do a bit of an update on our erstwhile pair of intrepid travelers?

As for the earlier part of my day, I was kidless, and I very thankfully snatched a full 8.5 hours of sleep, which is rare.

I had a very fulfilling lunch with my friend Shawn. Like unlocking a bike lock combination, we go to the same place at the same time without having to remind each other of what we mean, every time we have lunch together in Denver. The only tricky variable is the date, which is never frequent enough. 

I mowed my back lawn before the rain came. It was a challenge. But I love the dissociative, productive, immediate gratification of mowing the lawn.

And after writing this, I must get back to The Machinist. What a great modern noir movie to watch on this noir night of rain and thunder.

Their room at the Best Choice Motel was comfortable enough, but probably wasn't the best choice.

Both Stella and Maisie woke up early, and while they took turns in the bathroom, their chatter was subdued and strained; marginally polite.

"I don't know why, but my sciatica is doing its thing again," Maisie mumbled as she took the foam rollers out of her hair.

"Your sciatica isn't yours, Maisie." Stella was unsympathetic. "It feels like my left leg was put through a vice and tightened by Satan himself.

Damned mattress."

Stella's beauty regimen was much less formulaic and habitual than Maisie's. Such was the benefit of a quick shower, minimal vanity and naturally curly hair.

So while Maisie was making the most of what remained of what she assumed she still had when it came to "good looks", Stella paid a visit to the Best Choice Motel office, poured herself a cup of complimentary coffee and bought a copy of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, hot off the presses.

Thankfully, Powell was close to the Montana border.

By the time Stella returned to the room, she had plotted their course.

"Let's grab a quick bite and head for Big Sky country," she ordered while she packed her bags. "We need to be in Bozeman by lunchtime."

Maisie shoved her Cover Girl concealer and pink foam curlers in her bag of cosmetics. For some reason, the social and gastronomical mid-day imperative Stella provided made her move a little faster.

It was 7 a.m.

They were expected in Bozeman by noon.

Maisie stashed the nine bills that remained from the day before safely in her cleavage, and pocketed the change. She figured they'd use the balance from the Franklin they'd spent for a questionable night of rest at the Best Choice for decent breakfast.

Four hours and change, and they'd be one step closer to Oregon.

Their destination.

Neither Stella nor Maisie had any idea just how big things could get in Big Sky country.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The price is right.

I've taken a few days off from this project, and the heat of the afternoon made writing sound so appealing. I've been doing my share of wondering where to go next with these gals - here's a bit of an update on the calm after the storm of Burlington. I'm assuming both of our ladies are wearing their seat belts....

"Where should I put the money?" Maisie held onto the ten crisp $100 bills with a tight grasp of tentative excitement, as if she were a contestant on her favorite game show, The Price is Right.

"Just put them where no one will find them." Stella sometimes felt Maisie would be lost without her. But as she drove, Stella also reflected to herself that she probably needed Maisie as much as Maisie needed her.

Maisie folded the bills in half and tucked the them into the warm cleavage of her bra, where they rested like a thin volume of poetry in a crowded bookshelf.

"No one will find them there," Stella chuckled.

Maisie took the subtle insult in stride. She was too tired to respond, so she simply turned her head to the right and looked out into the Wyoming darkness as they drove to Powell. The heat and excitement of the day had cooled, and the breeze from the open car window put Maisie in a quiet, contemplative mood.

Not unlike the windows of time Maisie spent ironing her husband's shirts, trousers and pocket squares decades ago, driving at night was a time when she let her mind wander.

There was a time, she thought, when she was seen differently than she was seen now. Back then, there were men who felt as passionately about her as Earl felt about Claudia.

But time changes many things.

The passage of time slowly molded Maisie into a woman who was taken less seriously. Decades created a distinct disconnection from the woman she used to be. She understood that she was no longer seen as the spirited, attractive, intelligent vixen she once was.

Now, she was seen by others for what she was: An absent-minded, endearing, gray-haired, 72-year-old  pillow of a woman.

But that's not how Maisie felt in her head.

And she was sure, even though they'd never talked about it, Stella felt the same way.

Stella had a harder edge. Maisie didn't think Stella thought about how things had changed from when they were younger to where they were now. Stella lived in the present.

Maybe, Maisie thought, thinking about the past was too much for Stella to bear.

As they burned through the miles from Burlington to Powell, Maisie thought about the money tucked in her cleavage, and how innocently they tripped into this episode of their lives.

Maisie thought this funeral-chasing game she and Stella were playing seemed simple enough, in theory.

Her vibrant, daring, younger self - the person she saw before she looked in a mirror - thought what they'd created was the perfect crime.

Two old ladies paying their respects, sampling regional delicacies borne of bereavement, seeing the country, meeting new people.

What could be more innocent, and more duplicitous.

Maisie felt at twang of guilt as Stella steered the Dart into the gravel parking lot of the Best Choice Motel in Powell, Wyoming.

"This is where we're going to camp tonight," Stella said. "This Best Choice place looks like the price is right. Peel me off one of those bills."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fluttering Franklins.

So. During my Real World day, I prepped my kitchen for its ensuing paint job. I worked from home for a while. I had a day comfortably spent in my head.

I did watch Catfish - a highly compelling documentary.

Despite my distractions, some of my time was spent wondering what would become of the mess I've made when it comes to these two women.

This is what I came up with as the thunder begins once again to rumble.

Time to take a break.

Maisie didn't tell Stella about the envelope right away.

They were driving toward Powell when she let Stella know what she'd stowed away so easily, so surreptitiously as they walked away, sated but stunned, from the buffet table that was cooked and presented, despite a lack of audience, in memory of Mrs. Clark Thompson.

"I took something back in Burlington."

Maisie said it sheepishly, almost like a confession.

It was starting to get dark and it had been a long day, so Stella's patience was less than stellar.

"What did you take and why did you take it." It was more of a statement than a question.

Stella wasn't particularly interested in the answer. She assumed Maisie was talking about a Kaiser roll or a handful of mints.

"I took this envelope off the table. I thought it might be a clue. A First Name clue."

Stella was instantly repulsed and energized. "Open it, damn it!"

Maisie curled her finger around the lip of the envelope's sticking point. She extracted a piece of paper, folded in thirds. When she opened the flaps, ten crisp $100 bills fluttered to the floor of the Dart.

"Christ," Maisie said it softly.

Then she read the letter.

"My Dearest Claudia:

I was crushed when I heard of your passing.

You and I both know I owed you this money, and so much more.

I salute you, and all we were, with one gunshot today.

My heart is broken.


"Well that stirs up a new pile of shit now, doesn't it?" Maisie said the words with bravado, despite the trickle of tears she brushed away.

"No one knows about this money but you and me, Maisie."

Stella's knuckles were white, clutching the wheel as she drove them to Powell.

"Let's sleep on it, Maisie," Stella said as she tried to fix a plan.

"Let's spend the night in Powell and work this through."

Maisie thought that was all she needed.

A good night's sleep.

It had been a long day.

She let Stella focus on the road to Powell as she gathered up the fluttering Franklins.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Taking a break from fiction while enjoying the rain.

I used to have some little bad days.
I kept them in a little box.
And one day, I threw them out into the yard.
It's just a couple of innocent bad days.

Well, we had a big rain.

Don't plant your bad days.
They grow into weeks, they grow into months.
Before you know it, you've got yourself a bad year.
Tom Waits' preface to More Than Rain

As for my preface, let me just say that I love Tom Waits. If there were some kind of Make A Wish foundation for adults and I found myself its recipient, I'd make it my wish to see him in concert.

That being said...

The planting I did on Mother's Day paid off yesterday. I plucked my first zucchini.

The hollyhocks have spread like laughter after a good joke.

In all the years I've lived here, these flowers have never put on this kind of show. The tallest plant is a well over a foot taller than me.

I've harvested some decent tomatoes. I'm trying to decide what to do about a few items that may be weeds or may turn into something tasty.

I do a lot of weeding, but I leave some stuff alone. Because some plants may turn out to be delicious surprises.

I didn't plan my garden well. That's part of its charm.

Everything's so prolific right now. I'm sure it's because of the rain.

The rain's been torrential lately, every afternoon.

After mowing this morning, before the rain came again this afternoon, I noticed tonight that my lawn looks like Augusta. No more crusty brown spots.

I wanted to update my fiction tonight, but the outcome of last entry's envelope procurement has had me thinking.

I can't speak for other writers, but for me, much of the writing process takes place in my head. Like the produce we'll soon consume from my recently tentative garden, most of what I write is stuff that's spent lots of time germinating.

It's been a pleasant diversion; the garden, and the fiction.

And in addition to finding edible presents in my garden, I found this tasty spot on my blog site that let me know a few details that were previously illusory.

I've been counting my hits for a while. I've been chasing 20,000. But what I learned was that I surpassed my goal a while ago, without even knowing it.

According to what the blogspot tells me, I've had 22,982 hits. And those hits haven't sprouted just from my friends and family.

I have readers in India, Australia, the Netherlands, the U.K.

Of course I imagine there's some person who's trying to make me feel better by creating these unusual statistics. "Let's let her think she has a few readers in Sri Lanka! That will make her feel so very valued."

Apparently I do have a few Sri Lanka readers, if I believe the seed that's been planted.

Finding that odd aspect to my blog site was such a coolio bonus, as was the realization that I've had more hits than I thought I did.

Like rain to my garden, it keeps me going.

As for the fiction, I have a full day planned tomorrow, and I hope I get a chance to open the envelope to see what's coming next for Stella and Maisie. I've received some succulent feedback.

I think they'll be heading toward the coast. Or they might take a page out of my book tonight, and just relax where they are.

Maybe they'll enjoy the rain.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Burlington to Bozeman.

Here's another installment to my current attempt at fiction. I've decided I'm giving myself some latitude. I'll update this pair's odd proceedings every day or two.

I do appreciate the feedback. Via this site, facebook, email, I'm glomming onto each suggestion. I'm completely enjoying this made-up world, these colorful people I've found.

And in large part, it's because of your suggestions.

What happens next?

Maisie went down in slow motion. First she went to her knees, then to her elbows. Then the soft pillow of her generous breasts made for a soft, crazy, unanticipated landing.

Stella had a different reaction to the sound of gunfire.

Startling circumstances compel different people to do different things. Some people, when faced with an adverse situation (i.e., watching someone fall or, in this case, potentially getting shot) tend to offer assistance. Or in the case of falling, they actively attempt to stifle a laugh.

Neither was the case with Stella.

After hours of driving, and having a certain inbred, conventional comportment, Stella simply needed to "p".

So as Maisie curled herself into a crisis-driven fetal ball after hearing the gunshot, Stella headed straight for the bathroom.

What was once a place of contemplative worship and respect for the dead had become a wild ride of disorganized mayhem once the unanticipated shot of gunfire occurred.

As Stella quickly entered the First Presbyterian Church of Burlington with a very singular objective, the stoic folk of Burlington streamed out of the church in a crazy fractal.

Maisie slowly regained her bearings during the crowd's crazed exodus from the church. She straightened herself up, and attempted to regain some sense of composure.

Saunter. Saunter. Saunter. She repeated the word as she adjusted herself, trying to look normal in the midst of a completely abnormal situation.

Stella and Maisie found themselves at the swinging door of the bathroom; one entering, one exiting.

"Cattle herd."

That's all Maisie could say.

Stella had to be the strong one.

"Let's see what in the hell is going on, Maisie. For god's sake, pull yourself together."

So they did their best at sauntering and strolling, despite the chaos of the situation. After a series of frenetic twists and turns down several hallways, they found themselves in the church kitchen.

It was as though no one in the kitchen knew what had happened. Everyone was cooking up the last supper for Mrs. Clark Thompson.

The two women did their best to muscle up a shred of composure. They smelled the Beef and Barley Stew. Each of them salivated when they saw the crock pot of White Bean Chili. Both took note of the complete lack of vegetables and fruit.

Despite the lack of freshness and the recent gunfire, they were both hungry.

"Do you need any help?" Maisie broke the ice.

"Take this tray to the dining hall." The woman who quickly dispatched the order apparently had no idea what had happened that disrupted the event's solemnity.

"Will do."

Maisie had regained her composure, as well as her appetite.

She had been given a tray filled with steaming smoked pork ribs and roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

Despite the lack of audience, she dutifully brought her tray to the Multi-Purpose Room in the church, and laid the tray down next to the series of water jugs, each of which was peppered with ice that was quickly melting.

Stella was soon to follow, with a tray of Buffalo Chip and Wyoming Cowboy cookies, which apparently were the dessert items on the menu for the passing of Mrs. Clark Thompson.

"God, I'm hungry."

Maisie said it first.

Silently, piously, both of the women sampled items from each of their trays.

They washed it all down with water, now devoid of ice chips.

Everyone was elsewhere.

That's when Maisie saw the envelope that was most likely left by one of the mourners who had swiftly departed when the gunfire changed everything.

"To Claudia." Maisie knew it was time to leave.

"Eat up, Stella. We've got to get to Bozeman."

She quickly pocketed the envelope. They had a first name.

And thanks to grazing at the buffet, they were full.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Tomorrow, I'll revisit my fiction. I have a bit of reality to chat about.

Let's back up.

Yesterday, I took a walk with a friend.

It was early. We walked in between the heat and the rain.

We walked around a lake, and in an effort to maintain some kind of lake-walking left/right order, someone painted lanes on the walking path.

And then someone painted something else.

This made me stop, just long enough to take a picture.

It was good to pause, to catch my breath and notice this.

And tonight was good, too.

I went out tonight.

I went with a different friend to a different place.

We started out way in the back of a lovely restaurant. We initially found ourselves way in the back, because the place was packed. A table opened up outside, so we snagged it. Then the sky opened up with buckets of rain.

We found shelter with some people who were so welcoming. We shared the rainstorm with two people who were so open.

Eventually, it became obvious that the rain wasn't going anywhere. So we went back inside.

We found purchase at a table with two women who told us more about themselves than most people share in years of therapy. We did the same.

What a great night.

What a fun game.

Hangman has no distinct end point. Add some fingers, add some toes, fill in some features.

This game of life is similar. So beautiful, so perplexing, so many ways to play.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Casper to Burlington.

I started this bit of fiction yesterday, and as I mentioned in yesterday's entry, please give me feedback about where you'd like this story to head. Thank you to the groovy folks who have given me such great suggestions - when I was writing tonight, there was more fodder than I knew what to do with (sorry for the preposition...). I'm enjoying getting to know these characters, and I hope you are as well! 

If Maisie was reading the map right, they had almost four hours to drive until she and Stella would find themselves in Burlington. They'd left Casper just a shade before 2 pm, so if Maisie trusted her sense of direction, they'd be right on time for the post-funeral dinner in honor of the passing of Mrs. Clark Thompson.

"What do you think her first name was?" Maisie was trying to make conversation with Stella, trying to find a distraction from the heat, the quiet, the desolate northern Wyoming landscape.

It quickly turned into a game. Stella could be harsh, but she had a generous slice of good humor.

"How old was she?" Stella figured a date of birth and a dose of heart disease might make her pick a name like Gladys or Pearl.

Maisie tipped her head up to read the fine print of the obituary through her bifocals. "Doesn't say. But from what the newspaper says, the family sounds positively bereft."

"Sadness is not a clue, Maisie." Stella's hands held tight to 10 and 2. "I'd say Genevieve. Or maybe Chris."

Of course Mrs. Clark Thompson had a first name of her own, Maisie thought as she went through a catalogue of women's names in her head. Carla. Melanie. Leanne.

Too young, she thought. But probably very proper, what with the Mrs. Clark Thompson.

Maisie was distracted by the complete lack of distraction that was northern Wyoming, so she stopped thinking about Mrs. Clark Thompson's first name, and she started paying attention to the vast terrain of nothing that flanked their Dart as it made its way through US 20 onto the 789.

They passed Thermopolis.

Stella thought it was an odd name for a Wyoming town, but she didn't say it out loud. That would just get Maisie started on some Grecian tangent. And Stella thought they needed a few more minutes of quiet before they found themselves in Burlington.

"We're so close - we really need a first name." Maisie was worried.

"We'll be fine. I'll find the bathroom, you find the buffet," Stella was feeling the sting of sitting too long. If it were a movie, she thought, northern Wyoming would be one of those black and white instructional films from the '50s. Duck and cover.

They passed the rectangular green and white sign that announced their entry into Burlington, and without saying a word, a look passed between Stella and Maisie that instantly registered wild disappointment.

Under her breath, Stella said, "Population 210?"

Maisie was adjusting her glasses, trying to figure out which left was the left they needed to take to get to the church.

"Middle of nowhere." Maisie said it even softer, as if she were somehow to blame.

It wasn't hard to find the church. The profusion of cars flanking every sidewalk was a dead giveaway.

They unwound themselves from the Dart. After hours of driving, both women adjusted themselves in their own particular way. Maisie applied a fresh coat of lipstick.

She'd worked up an appetite.

They toddled close to the sanctuary, both ready to do their best to honor the memory of Mrs. Clark Thompson.

That's when they heard the first gunshot.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A bit of summer fiction.

I overheard a conversation at one of our recent Feasts that went into detail about how good the food is at funerals. It didn't take long before I thought about some characters who duplicitously attend funeral brunches and dinners, simply to sample the bounty of good cooking.

This is a bit out of this blog's context, but who doesn't enjoy a bit of summer fiction? Here's what I thought about today. If you'd like to contribute, please do. Give me some idea of where these two colorful women should head next; what they might experience and why. 

As for today, this is what I came up with:

Stella brushed the crumbs off of Maisie's generous shelf of breasts as delicately, as indiscriminately as she could.

"That's your third piece of pie." Stella said it in a quiet, admonishing tone. They were in a church dining hall, for God's sake.

Just for a moment, Maisie composed herself. She knew exactly where she was, and she was reminded by Stella's hushed words that they weren't supposed to be there.

But Maisie was nothing if she wasn't composed.

"Yes, you're right, Mr. Johnson," she mumbled sincerely as she pushed a twirl of grey hair off her damp forehead. "Hank was such a strong man. I can't begin to believe he's gone."

Her eyes got a bit misty.

Maisie didn't miss a beat when it came to conversation.

Stella was just a shade jealous at how easily Maisie made friends, even in the most pitiful, sad situations.

Stella tried. She really did. Like using a hairbrush as a microphone in those private, adolescent bedroom moments, Stella practiced at trying to put on a face of affability and warmth. Because those skills come in handy, especially in the dead center of Wyoming.

"Tell Mr. Johnson goodbye, Maisie. We need pay our respects to Hank's family and we need to hit the road."

Stella added a tone to those last three words that she knew Maisie would understand.

Maisie was Abbott to Stella's Costello, and the straight man always knows when it's time to leave.

It wasn't until they got to the church parking lot, tucked neatly into their 1989 Dodge Dart, that Stella let loose.

"Why do you have to linger? Why do you have to draw attention to yourself? It's not about you. Today it was about Hank.

And apparently the pie."

Maisie was unapologetic, and she was full.

"I had no idea there'd be such good pie," she said proudly, adjusting her ample body into the well-worn seat.

"We've got ground to cover. No time to dawdle," Stella said.

She'd read earlier in the day that a Mrs. Clark Thompson had sadly fallen victim to heart disease in Burlington.

They had some ground to cover.

"Put on your seat belt, Maisie," Stella said as she put the Dart in first gear.

"I hear the Thompsons throw a hell of a party. And according to the paper, it starts at 6."

Monday, July 4, 2011

Beautiful sky, like fireworks. Then fire, like fireworks.

It didn't matter where I went today. It didn't matter what I did. Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by a beautiful sky.

The day was lazy, from start to finish.

Once I got going, I found myself surrounded by the most loving people, and the most beautiful sky.

Part I: Anne's house.

I love that family. Every single one of them.

Part II: Robin's house. Equally lovely. Never enough time with Robin.

Everywhere I went today, regardless of the crazy, sweat-inducing, sweltering heat, I was surrounded by clouds and sun that mixed into a tasty creation that became a breathtaking sky.

Then I got home.

I had no intention of getting involved with anything having to do with fireworks.

So I made a fire of my own.

What a craptastic idea, you might say! It's a bajillion degrees outside, even as the hot day turns into a tepid night, and you make a freaking fire!

That's exactly what I did.

And I watched it for hours.

I took a ton of pictures.

I just watched it.

I have no ocean nearby, and a fire is just as hypnotic.

So as the BOOM BOOM was booming all around me tonight, I was quiet, watching my beautiful fire.


Today was filled with friends, candid displays of color, just a touch of melancholy, lots of heat, and boundless, amazing works of fire.

It all started with a beautiful sky.