My boyfriend dumped me. So Goldie, my cousin, got me a house sitting gig. For a hot minute, I had some breathing space.
It got worse.
Spent the better part of my time in toxic negotiations. Absurd things like who owns the Ikea bookshelf. Not that I have a place for it now. He got the rent-controlled apartment. But even Big-Bad-Ex admitted the books are mine. Anyway, he doesn’t need a bookshelf. He’s barely literate. Not even housebroken.
I’m about to explode. Despite training in enhanced mindfulness techniques, there’s a tension in my thighs and my toes itch. I’m leaving suspended relaxation. From the ceiling viewing screen, I see we haven’t left the atmosphere.
Hibernating in self-contained pods, we hope to make it to Mars in a self-driving ship. Some billionaire’s idea. What a bad time for insomnia since success depends on no one eating for six months.
This is my sister’s idea of togetherness. She’s a long time yogi. I’m not. Though I’d like the company, I hope no one else wakes up. I need to relax.
His father told him good things come in multiples of three. Then, he left his third son at the crossroads. Taking a contemplative path into mountains and mists, the youth finds an ox, a horse and a royal ring. Riding the horse, leading the ox and wearing the ring, he’s stopped by a bailiff. The man’s skin and bones poverty cries out for help. The youth hands the man the ox’s rope.
Giving the horse its head, he arrives at a castle where the glint of the ring summons the queen. Three well solved quests later, she makes him king.
An elderly lady, squeezing tomatoes in a pre-pandemic way, pulls her mask down. “You’re almost out of the woods.”
Whatever does she mean? “I’m healthy.”
“Yes, my darling, but stifled.”
Your father, reading Lang’s red collection with a Grimm smile, would say, “Poppycock.”
Imagining him in the library, a hole in one stocking, propping his feet on a worn stool sets something tingly-strange a-move.
Dozing later, you dream of the tomato woman, who waves her wand and turns you into the fairy tale of your choice. In a surprise move, you choose Into the Woods. Four stories, one price, music included.
Magic was in the air the day Maureen’s father retired. A charmed life was how he told it. From that first rabbit he’d pulled out of a hat, he had an itch to travel. He took to the road, bringing his family along from one carnival to another.
Perhaps that’s why Maureen stayed anchored. “When will you settle?” Maureen lit a seven decade birthday candle.
“Oh, someday, maybe.” He pulled a quarter from behind his grandson’s ear and handed it to him.
At eighty, he moved into care, where he roamed the halls doing card tricks. He never grew old.
All of this is true. I wore a forty
year old skirt I’d made when I was fifteen. I’d lost some weight. I
brought my teenagers to the party. While eating appetizers, the
hostess gushed and I blushed. Rhyme intended. All I could think about
at dinner was how much I wanted to be sitting with the teens, talking
about horror flicks. I have no interest in expensive wine.
Segue to the kid’s table. I’m patched in. The one upping seems more honest, until it seems more pointed. “You sew. How retro.” The daughter glibly changes the subject to France.
Heels, flashing at silver speed, step to the beat of a brassy swing band. It seems effortless. A shoulder shrug here, a dip of the hips as she circles in a tight twirl, sliding under her partner’s arm. She vamps, he poses. Their faces are flushed with exertion. The music, a seductive lover, gets what it wants. He smiles and smirks and waves his glad hand in a shimmy. She moves away and rounds back, moves away and rounds back. They say nothing. There’s no need. Everything is there in the rhythm, in the moves, in the love of dance.
It’s an old chair. A well used chair. One that has seated its share of guests and heard its quota of secrets and meted out a good measure of comfort. The chair sat in the nursery for decades, making a cushy seat for the nursemaid when she wasn’t walking the floor with a colicky baby. After the nursery became a study, the chair had a grand refurbishing in burgundy velvet. It sat under a bright lamp, digesting scholarly papers while its occupant snored. In the attic now, a mouse has made a nest in the seat. Time to reclaim it.
In grade school, we played out of boredom, shooting spitballs at the ceiling from straws. A sodden mess, the glop hit tables, never lights. I was the tallest.
I’m a long sip now, a Margarita. Tall as most college guys. My superpower is passing. As in basketball scholarship. Now that I’ve learned chess, nerds get nervous. I trot out opening gambits, spiking pieces across the board at lightening speed. Checkmate.
They call me “Show-off.” I say, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did backwards, wearing high heels. She didn’t make as much, though.”