Jester

The Jester dances the dance that makes the people laugh.

That’s her job. To play the fool, to ridicule without ridicule, to fumble and fart her way into your heart with her jokes and her gags and her cagey, Chesire Cat smile, until all you remember is laughing. You go to bed, lay your head on your pillow and say “This was a good night.”

What you don’t

See

Is the Jester disrobing.

Boots off of feet bloody from all the

                bouncing and

            trouncing she’s done for your entertainment.

Voice a metallic mess of shattered vocal chords

                 and cracked lips from the fear of the one word she might say to make you angry, “Off wif ‘er ‘ead and I’ll thankee not t’leave a stain onna carpet”

A growl, an inner howl of anguish and pain that you don’t comprehend because all you Hear are

the

Clanking

Bells of her

Hat.

The sweat soaked costume *sklikts* off her frame like dead, peeling skin still desperately trying to cling to a Framework of solidity

She sits.

Hips aching,

breastbone breaking against the

Shuddering tide of feelings she’s kept inside for so long that

In her dreams (that she don’t remember)

They fly like seagulls alongside the storm

High and free and Laughing

 

Knowing that it’ll all just start again tomorrow.

 

Musings from how to QC the Apocalypse

She snorted the second line up, sniffed once, twice, brushed her thumb across her nose, and smirked.

“Your Protocol sucks. Which leads me to think that neither of you wants this to happen.”

“The Apocalypse isn’t to be taken lightly,” Uriel said.

She laughed a laugh that was as deep throated and full bellied as it was hysterical. She shook her head, the laugh dying as she licked the slight white residue on her thumb off.

“So sayeth the drug-running Angel who should be guarding Eden.”

Uriel had the decency at least to look ashamed.

She poured another pile out, cut it leisurely with the Ace of Spades in her hand, and snorted both lines up lickety-split.

“Do me a favor. Stop lying to me, both of you.”

How Long? (Very Embryonic)

‘Till my soul gets it right?

Can any human being

Ever reach that kind of light

I call on the resting soul

Of Galileo

King of Night Vision

King of Insight

(Galileo – The Indigo Girls)

There’s…something in those words…actually the entire song…..I…need to keep listening…

He backtracked so as not to be burnt at the stake. He gave up and gave in….to stay alive…

Don’t we all?

Fast Forward #1

“Everybody here wanted something More.”

********

She sat in her chair, the high backed beast with cushions that sank under her weight and welcomed her like family, the chair that was Her Throne, that she owned like a Queen, complete with hassock that had a divot her legs had settled into because of the way she sat, when she didn’t have to move.

When she’d sit and gaze out the window for hours upon hours. In the background, Sesame Street mixed with Mr. Rogers blending into Julia Child and her wine and butter and cream…and the Galloping Gourmet with yet more libations…and butter…and cream…Occasionally Zoom broke through, or, even better, The Electric Company. She liked that one best. Tom Lehrer and Morgan Freeman and Rita “West Side Story’ Moreno. And, when she could watch what she wanted….which remained PBS…

The fact remained that she had to pick up her toddler-granddaughter from All Souls.

All Souls.

All. Souls.

That was the steeple with the cross she could see from her throne. Brilliant white and sun-blessed golden on good days…pale gray and dull bronze on bad ones…evermore it was her locus. Her focus. What she stared at until her eyes teared no matter the day nor the weather nor the hour, what she stared at with all of her being and kept asking…

“Why?”

The cross blazed in sunlight and dimmed in storm clouds, but never did give her an answer.

“Why?”

She knew the little one was watching her. Her daughter’s child. Named after her with an addition that…was…current in song. And…Ultimately unfair, but…it recognized her linage. To a degree.

She was quiet, the little one. Much like her own child was until the thunderstorm that was so powerful it set the windows rattling and curtains flying like the devil himself was dancing in the room…when she wailed and wailed and wailed…

And then…He was Dead.

Watchful, this little one was. ‘Fine.’ She said to herself. ‘Let her watch. Better for her to know.’ Her mouth turned further down day by day..

“Why?”

She had green eyes. The kind that changed with her mood, her feelings. Chameleon eyes, shifty eyes, eyes that would speak truth even as her mouth formed lies, needed or not.

“Why?”

She had the easy, loving, happy-go-lucky smile…….

NO!!!!

No.

No, she would not acknowledge it. Although she did sometimes, and thus….thus the Bond was formed between them.

The little one watched, perched somewhere or another in the living room. Like a goddamned monkey she was. On the back of the couch. On the back of the recliner that only Her Uncle sat in, mostly. On the back of her own Throne. On the hassock. On the radiator cover where she picked plaster off the wall because it was loose and watched it fall, fascinated by its crumbling so easily when it seemed so permanent. On the floor, seemingly absorbed in her coloring or doodling or whatever or “The French Chef” or “Wabbit Season!”…

“Why?”

She often, in askance, looked at the little one, who bore so much of her own daughter…and…son…at that age, and cried out, in her mind –

“WHY?!!!??”

********

The Watergate Hearings and no school were fucking up the normal morning routine.

The little one was bouncing around again, distracting her from her normal reverie. From the corner of her Throne to the hassock and back again. BOING. BOING. BOING. BOING.

Until she slipped on the last bounce from Throne to hassock and landed badly.

The whimper broke her back into reality.

“What did you do?!!??” she yelled.

She picked the little one up from where she lay on the cushion, right arm bent at a curious angle, and heard another whimper. She looked at her granddaughter, and the green eyes were somehow both bright and dull at the same time. Yellow flecks sparked, but then muted, then sparked….then muted.

She tried to explain to her daughter on the phone when she called at Noon that the little one was injured, but….she knew she wasn’t telling the whole tale.

The little one bore most of the brunt of The Anger, especially as they were to leave on vacation that night with her godparents, leaving Her alone with the puppy. Taffy. The “Gift” to her grandchild from…

Oh, the hell that was let loose by her daughter. The wild eyed-fear…

Some was directed at Her, yes. But she could say “She didn’t say anything…” and was believed, because it was Truth.

Truth.

Truth……

 

Thus, it begins.

His wife came to her with a request.

That was different.

Usually, she would go to their place of residence. That was their way, after all. Always had been since she’d sailed Elsewhere…

They’d “request” that those they wished to Hire come to them, in their stately splendor, with a singularly carefully worded note (signature by She who wished Your services, of course. The body was, of course, typewritten) so that You could see the magnificence of their benefice to You, the lowly, you, who without them would be nothing more than those who lived in The Five Points. Toiling away dreary day after dreary night, stuck in the slums and light-less rooms and causeways sewing for their bread, butter, and nothing else. It didn’t matter what your nationality, creed, nor color. You were from there? You were the dregs.

She knew it was a lie.

Oh, yes, she’d received the notes with a gracious nod of her head, a bright smile that showed crooked teeth,  a “Thank you” still heavily accented, and an assurance that she would, indeed, appear on the day and at the hour called for, down to the second.. Thus, she went, wearing her best coat. The one she’d chosen the cloth for after she’d found a place, a neighborhood, that she could work and live in, with those whose spoke her language. Light grey, heavy wool, but with an added dash of a thread of red. Not something that called attention to herself, but she knew it was there in the weft and warp of the fabric, woven as it was so unpretentiously that  she  could put her best black hat on, the one with the pale green flower, and feel like she had Survived so far.

Did that make her “elite?”

Maybe.

But she wore it well.

So, yes, she was surprised by the person who knocked on her door that day. Because They never came to her.

She opened it hesitantly, because there was a mess of many fabrics half-stitched half-finished and/or embroidered all over the place, and, truthfully, because she was bloody tired.

“Hello. May I help you?” She winced at the way the words rolled off….the accent was still too strong…at least to greet someone she didn’t know at her own door. But she faked it off with her smile.

The woman standing on her threshold smiled shyly. “You are Barbara, yes?” she said in perfect Hungarian.

She never let her surprise show. Or, at least, she tried not to.

“Yes, That’s my name.”

The woman with the pale green eyes held out her hand, smiling like she’d just found a long lost friend. “My name is Anna. I know I may be intruding, but…” her smile faded slightly.

“No. No no no. Not at all. Please, Anna, come in!” she said, her natural graciousness returning to her as she opened the door fully, waving her guest in. She glanced around and her shoulders hitched high, realizing that her little flat was not fit for company. Especially of the sort who wore a beautifully dyed forest green silk dress under a very heavy wool coat.

“Ah…ergh…sorry!” she said, snatching up a pink dress with florid bits of blue and purple here, part of a maroon coat dashed with elements of magenta and fuchsia there (peacocks, remember) , trying to make the place presentable.

Anna watched this for a moment, in shock at the change from the calm, charming, beautiful if slightly sad-eyed woman she’d met at the door suddenly turning whirlwind rendering her speechless. But only for a moment.

“Wait! Wait Stop! Barbara! Barbara! Stop!” Her hands were held out and her stance was such as she was trying to stop of a herd of crazed cats running past her.

Barbara stopped mid-twirl between snagging a shifty piece of red chiffon for a dress for Mrs. Abernathy on 75th and length of lace (procured from a friend at extra expense that she wouldn’t pass on) for Mrs.Parker (who lived on Park Ave, of course), balancing on her right foot unsteadily, the whirl and twirl of fabric flying, floating everywhere, until it finally slowly settled around her.

Her left leg, was, of course, still kicked up high from the dervishing she’d been interrupted from.

Gravity was, of course, kicking in.

Anna’s eyes widened as the woman she’d heard was perfect in her craft, the woman who could make the dress that she’d wanted all her life from the time she was a little girl,  the woman who could make her the Belle of the Ball and the Love of her Life look up from his music, started tipping over.

“Shit.” Barbara said, as physics took hold.

She was used to hitting the ground immediately upon stumbling. From the time she could first remember falling, her body was like a rock thrown into the ground when it happened. A slight sense of weightlessness then *BAM*,  it was just that sudden.

Pain would thenceforth announce itself, like the guest you’d never  invited to the party you didn’t want to throw in the first place, and she’d lay there for a bit, looking up as the sparks and crackles from the parts that she’d abused let loose the dogs of war on her. She didn’t expect to be in a bright *floompf* of fabric as arms from nowhere caught her, nor did she expect the landing to be as gentle as it was.

She lay there a moment, as a corner of the chiffon the color of blood (Mrs. Abernathy was…”interesting”…) landed across her nose and mouth. She cricked an eyebrow in annoyance and deep deep embarrassment at the whole bloody situation.

 

A deep breath.

A great “Awhooooffff” gusted out of her..

The fabric floated from where it lay, masking her, gently onto her shoulder. She was rather hoping it would drag her down the three floors from her flat into the basement where she could retire from this life in peace, and not have to face…

“Where are you from?” Anna asked, upside down, her chin resting lightly on her hand, and her frown…no…smile….?

“Tokaj.”

The frown…no…smile…think woman!….grew wider.

“Pest. Nice to meet you.”

 

Author’s note on two pronunciations:
1. “Tokaj” is pronounced “Toe – Coy”, with a slight lilt on both the “toe” and the “coy” that’s…actually hard to describe. So, think the wiggly-bits at the end of your foot plus either a way of acting towards someone, or a really goddamn big Japanese Goldfish (spelled Coi).
2. “Pest” is not actually pronounced “pest”, with thehard “P”,  hissing “S” and hard “T”, like you’re talking about a rodent or a particularly annoying colleague. It’s pronounced “Pesht”, all of the consonants soft. Like a whisper.  And it’s the flatland part over the river from Buda.

 

 

Interlude – Snowflake

She was sitting on the stoop when the first crystal landed on the arm of her thin woolen coat, charcoal shot through with wan bits of baby blue and grass green, and a single strand of bright, forthright red that somehow, magically, made the the other earthen colors POP and fused all four hues together to make something beautiful, delicately wrought out of the cheap fabric and thread she used for herself. She made the heaviness become lighter as a whole with a simple stitch.

She was magic that way.

“Hello little one, ” she said, eyeing the thick snowflake. She didn’t know about Fractals (in truth, no one did back then). But she could see that there was a symmetry to it. A symmetry like the symmetry she used to see when she, laying on her back…after yet another argument with her mother that never really ended, just went dormant for a bit like a cancer…looked up through the green and brown cross-stitched grapevines to the sky. Or even more, when she’d stare out the window of her bedroom during the winter at the great old tree outside, shorn of all leaves and life, all craggly-scraggly but with branches that branched and continued to branch…THICK to THIN to thick to thin to thinner and thinner and thinner to delicate to threadbare……in a set pattern…a set pattern…and every spring, no matter how harsh the winter, the tips of each branch in the pattern would bud green, then bloom.

She used the symmetry she’d seen, remembered, and could still see now when she allowed herself to, and embroidered nature into clothes when her customers paid enough for the extra bits, the extraneous bits, the bits that didn’t need to be but were because they needed to peacock, show off, show the world that Yes, They Were Something.

They…They were Nothing. This, she knew on instinct, on experience, on her own Judgment. They came to her because she’d gotten a reputation as one…perhaps the only one…of The Women Who Sewed that could do justice to The Ladies Who Lunched. After all, only six-and-a-half blocks separated them. But those blocks in those days were lifetimes and life-cycles away.

She did what she did because it was all she could do.