Friday, July 10, 2009
Gracie squirmed. Her chair pressed against her making time pass uncomfortably slow. She slumped over and onto the table top, resting her head on her hands. Her sister’s wedding was not the most enjoyable thing she’d ever done. In fact, torture was the word she used to describe the ordeal.
She sat at the old people's table. She was bored and tired quickly after hearing them tell each other old people's stories. She wasn't old and wondered why her mother made her sit there. She watched her mother and father dancing with the other parents. The teenagers huddled in groups under the trees or near the band stand. Some just disappeared entirely. There were a few younger boys. She thought they were gross. The entertained themselves by skipping rocks into Moon Lake. Gracie was the only girl her age.
The sun disappeared below the horizon, leaving the moon alone in the sky. Gracie watch it’s shimmering silver light against the moving water. It was peaceful, and for a moment she forgot where she was, until something distracted her attention. Something large and pink was passing the refreshment table. This rosy mass appeared human but strangely disfigured either due to an unfortunate accident or a play of light and shadow from the paper lantern swinging lightly in the breeze overhead. The object moved, slowly and with the aid of an appendage resembling a cane. A few seconds later it emerged from the shadows into light. There, standing in full view near the punch bowl was her Great Aunt Esmeralda hovering over the refreshments like a vulture circling fresh road kill. The woman licked her heavily lipsticked red lips. Her expression changed reflecting a new desire. No longer was food her reason for existence. There was a new scent in the air, the scent of a child’s cheeks. She sniffed , circling her head until the aroma identified a direction. She finished off a Vienna Sausage, tossed the toothpick and rocked back and forth until her large frame was repositioned onto a direct course across the dance area to Gracie’s table.
“Rosy red cheeks,” she mumbled to herself. She lurched forward placing one foot forward to test the stability of the lawn. The cane came next and then, in an act that seemed to defy the law’s of nature, the entire pink mass moved.
Gracie’s heart beat faster, reacting to a surge of adrenaline. She was the hunted. The hunter was making progress, slowly and steadily, ignoring the moving couples. Esmeralda used her cane to redirect those that came to close. “Careful!” she snapped to those the cane missed and entered her perimeter. Gracie’s escape window was closing. She had to act quickly. In a flash she was under the table. Once out of sight she navigate the maze of legs into the bushes along the shore of Moon Lake. Once safely hidden she stood and looked back. Esmeralda stood at the table looking back and forth for a prize that seemingly evaporated into thin air. Gracie took delight in her Great Aunt’s disappointment. The days of letting her pinch and pat her cheeks were over. Gracie was a big girl now.
Gracie moved cautiously through the bushes toward the lake not wanting to divulge her location. She heard another sound, a kind of slobbering. She stopped. The sound stopped. She waited for several seconds. The sound didn't return. She walked forward, out of the bushes and stumbled across her brother’s legs.
“Watch were you’re going,” her brother whispered.
“What are you doing,” she whispered back as she stood up and brushed herself off. There was mud on her nice red dress. Her mother wouldn’t be happy.
“Nothing,” he said in a guilty voice. Gracie looked up from her dress and saw Laura, her brother’s girlfriend, lying on the blanket next to him. Gracie was young but informed on teen age love from the hours she spent watching TV and movies.
“Are you two kissing?” she asked with a sense of pure enjoyment knowing she had good dirt on her brother. Owning a secret is like money in the bank and her brother just made a large deposit. She knew, sometime in the future, she’d need to make a withdrawal.
“Don’t tell mom,” the sixteen year old demanded.
“What’s it worth?” Gracie answered. She knelt down beside him. She liked Laura and decided not to make it a big deal. After all, she was a big girl.
“I’ll owe you,” he said.
“Please?” Laura added, taking advantage of their good relationship.
“Yes you owe me,” Gracie said standing up. She stood there. They laid there. A minute passed - then two.
"Well?" her brother asked.
"Well what?" Gracie answered. Chris waved her away with a look of urgency.
"Then do it,"
She knew she wasn’t welcome so she shuffled away slowly, purposely showing she wasn't in a hurry.
The air temperature dropped as she reached the shore. The moon seemed brighter. The clouds over the lake glowed with shades of red and orange. It was a picture perfect evening. After a few minutes of exploring she found a boat tethered to a post. Gracie turned a complete circle looking for its owner. She was alone. Curiosity overcame her hesitance and she climbed in, knowing her mother wouldn't be happy with her decision. But after all - she was a big girl. Each step forward cause the boat to rock. The rocking loosened it from the sand. Almost imperceptibly it inched away from the shore until the rope pulled tight. Gracie stepped carefully to the front of the boat and stood upright in perfect balance. A small cloud of gnats moved from the shore and paused around her head. Gracie held out her hands into the swarm. She was fascinated by their movement. She tried to grab them by the handfuls.
“Gracie,” She heard her mother calling from the shore fifty yards or so away. It was time to go. The reception waited. It was back to old talk and a possible reunion with a certain Great Aunt burdened with a fixation with children’s cheeks.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Sally Sloop has simple tastes and asks very little of life. She is happiest when she’s wearing purple and having a cup of tea with the girls from Woolworths at Cloverdale’s Voo Doo Doughnuts.
Last week I stopped by VooDoo’s for a chocolate sprinkle surprise and a chocolate milk. I found Sally and the Woolworths girls at their table engaged in lively conversation. Their contagious laughter could be heard outside, even with the shop’s door closed. Of course, being of a friendly nature and curious - always curious, I stopped and asked if I could briefly join them until I finished my sprinkle. I offered them each a chocolate surprise to sweeten the intrusion. They agreed. Sally introduced me to the girls. She remembered me from my regular visits to Woolworth’s for this and that and vouched for my integrity and kindness. She once slammed her finger in the cash register while making change for one of my purchases. I went to the lunch counter, asked the attendant to fill a plastic baggy with ice and offered it to Sally. They say no good deed is left unrewarded. They are right. That day I was offered a brief audience with the VooDoo Doughnut girls.
“How’s that finger?” I asked while adjusting my chair into a more suitable place at the table.
“Very well thank you,” Sally responded. “He’s the gent that fetched the ice. Remember me telling you about it?” she asked the others. They all nodded and smiled in my direction. The conversation went quiet. Several of the ladies filled the void by sipping their tea.
“I heard the laughter from the pavement. I said hoping to jump start a conversation.
“We were having a laugh at our Sally,” said the oldest at the table. Her cat eyed glasses gave away the decade of her youth. Her Woolworth’s badge had a thirty year pin attached. “She’s went and gotten herself a date for Friday. Their going to the pictures.”
“Good on you,” I said offering my hand in congratulations. She took it. I promptly turned her hand, brought it up to my lips and gave it a quick kiss. “The gentleman is lucky such a lady agreed to step out with him. After all, she has a reputation to uphold in the community. May I assume he is a visiting prince or perhaps a Duke of noble heritage?” The table broke out into laughter, startling two ladies and young boy who happened to be walking by the shop. They stopped for a moment, looked at us through the window and then continued down the street.
“He’s the head of Men’s Wear at the store.” Madge said. “He’s not much to look at mind you, but he is single, responsible, and they say has quite a tidy sum set aside.”
“Hardly ever visits the pubs,” Sally added. “They say he’s a regular at St. Bartholomew's.”
“That makes him a Catholic,” Nancy interjected.
“Do you think we’re daft Nancy?” Madge slapped Nancy’s hand. “He must be Catholic if he goes to St. Bartholomew’s.” Nancy held her hand up to her mouth and laughed. The table joined in, startling the young girl admiring the doughnuts in the shop window. She ran away.
The baker brought the chocolate sprinkles to the table. “Thanks Love,” the ladies said, nearly in unison.
“My pleasure,” I replied. “There’s more where that came so eat up.”
“Is he trying to get us drunk on doughnuts?” Sally asked the ladies. “Just what are your intentions may we ask?”
“My tastes are simple, a chocolate sprinkle and the company of beautiful women.” I sat back in my chair wiping a sprinkle from my upper lip. Once again laughter filled the shop.
We startled several pedestrians over the course of the next fifteen minutes. I made many new friends and learned more about my village on the border where nowhere and somewhere merge.