Friday, September 21, 2012

A rapid knock at the door and Bethany pops inside.  Juniper left the door unlocked anticipating her friend’s arrival for their regularly scheduled movie night. 

“Nip, I’m here!”  She shuts the door behind her and makes her way through the living room. 

“I’m in the kitchen!”  Juniper is preparing one of their appetizers of queso dip and chips for the evening. 

Bethany finds her way around the kitchen island and pecks her bestie on the cheek before removing her sunglasses.  “Surprised you could find some time away from you-know-who to spend with me!” 

“Likewise.”  Juniper smiles at her friend and pours the queso into a serving bowl.  “Pour those tortillas on that plate for me, would you.” She takes the pan and begins to wash it out in the kitchen sink.

Bethany obliges and eyes the drummettes on the corner of the kitchen island beautifully adorned with celery and varieties of dippings.  “Ooo, la la.  You’re getting fancy with the food now.  That makes a beautiful presentation.”

“Compliments of a neighbor downstairs.  She’s going to culinary arts school.  She’s the one who did that cake everyone was raving about for Thanksgiving last year.”

“Ooo, that was delish.”  Bethany swirls around with the plate of queso as Juniper places the clean pan on the dish rack and grabs the plate of drummettes.  They retreat to the living room and set the food on the table where a bottle of chardonnay and glasses are already waiting.

Juniper plops down on the couch and tucks her feet underneath her body.  “Work has been crazy this week!  I swear I almost called in today, but I –“  Juniper’s statement is abruptly interrupted at the sight of the latest of black and blue masterpieces painted across the canvas of Bethany’s olive-complexioned face.  

Bethany eases down onto the couch, what isn’t being spoken clearly understood.  Juniper smoothes the hair that Bethany has tried to use to hide the bruises away from her face. 

“What was it this time? You criticized another of those kindergarten scribbles her calls art?  Or he needed a realistic point of reference to paint?”  Her questions are somber and sharply pierce the original lighthearted tone of their gathering.

Bethany tries to replace the hair to cover the bruises.  “I kinda wanted to not have to talk about it tonight, Nip.  Let’s just enjoy the evening –“

“And pretend you aren’t a battered woman?  What?  Pretend that you won’t have to fake being tired and needing to rush home so you won’t be beaten tonight, Beth?”  Tears begin to glaze Juniper’s eyes.  “How long are you going to allow him do this to you?”

“Look, things just really got out of control this time.  I mean, he hasn’t hit me in almost a month.  We just –“

“Did you hear yourself, Beth?  Your idea of improvement is that it’s been almost a month.  I must be the one that needs to get help because I’m literally terrified here that one day I’m gonna get a call my best friend is in the hospital, or worse.”

“He’s tryin’, Nip.  He told me he was gonna-“

“Beth, if he’s not getting in the car and driving somewhere to get some help I don’t care what’s coming out of his mouth.  What? Do you expect him to tell you he’s gonna continue to beat you whenever he feels so inclined?  Are you awaiting a confession, Beth?  I’ll tell you this much, his actions are pretty consistent here.”

Beth tries to lighten the mood.  “Anyway, what are we watching, tonight?”

“Uh, The Burning Bed and a couple others, Beth.  Appropriate for the occasion I think.”

“Maybe I should just go.”  Beth’s tone is full of quiet embarrassment as she stands up and walks toward the door.

“I’m not the one you should be leaving.”  Juniper’s words cause her to pause for a second.  “You don’t have to stay with him, Beth.  I can help you.  There are people who can help you.”

Bethany continues toward the door.  “Some other time, Nip.”  She walks out and eases the door closed.

Juniper releases the cry that was reserved inside for all that her friend has allowed herself to endure at the hands of a man who says he loves her. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Life of Orderly Chaos

“For this recipe we’re gonna use bacon grease rather than oil.  So put your bacon on.  While that’s frying, let’s season our meat with a little smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.”

“Oh, no!  The only bacon I have is maple flavored.  That isn’t gonna mix with cayenne and smoked paprika.  Damn.”  Alesandra closes the refrigerator door and turns the tutorial off.  “Guess I’ll just fry this bird up the old fashioned way.  Nothing fancy, just good ol’ crisp fried chicken.”  Her cell phone rings and she adjusts the flame on the stove before running to her purse on the kitchen table to dig it out.

“Ugh, Tish.”  The face on the display betrays the intended anonymity of the call.  She pushes the green button and puts the phone up to her ear.  “What do you want now?”  She walks back over to try to decide what to cook with the chicken that’s already unthawed.

“Whatcha cookin’ for dinner?  I know you about to eat somethin’.” 

“I’m only having salad.  I’m on a new diet.”

“As of what?  15 minutes ago?  Girl, tell somebody else that lie.” 

The voice on the other end is equally as irritating as her cynical quips.  If momma hadn’t told her to look out for her sister before she died she would never take another of her phone calls.

“Anyway, you should be practicing cooking something since you’re the ‘aspiring’ chef.  Ooo, if you haven’t started cookin’ yet, why don’t you make that bacon wrapped thing you did last month?  And I’ll gladly volunteer as the official taste tester.  I’ll be over there in about 20 minutes.”

“Yeah, and you just keep on comin’ over here eatin’ my food.  I’ll fatten you up and you’ll be big as I am.”  Alesandra goes back to the fridge and takes out the maple flavored bacon.  “Lloyd won’t want you then after I put about 50 pounds on you.”

“Whatever.  See you in a few.”  Tish disconnects the call and Alesandra puts her phone on the kitchen counter.  She catches her reflection in the mirror and pauses, studying her body.  She and Tish are like night and day.  Tish has always had people showering her with comments.  She’s  light-skinned and thin.  She’s always had the cute clothes and the cute boys.  That isn’t Alesandra’s story.  Being darker complexioned and heavier, she’s always had to work a little harder to get noticed.  Her personality has to make up for what most consider a less attractive physique. 

She turns the stove off.  To spite Tish, she decides to put the bacon and chicken back in the fridge and takes out the lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.  “Oh, yeah.  Tish doesn’t like olives.”  She grabs those too.   

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Life of Orderly Chaos

It’s Saturday morning.  Another morning.  For a moment Geneva wonders why she should even bother getting out of bed.  There’s no job to go to.  Nowhere that her presence is required.  Should she make an unscheduled appearance at the grocery store no one would notice her.   Today would be exactly like yesterday and the day before and tomorrow still another repeat of today.  Each day the same.  Each day void.  Then she remembers PomPom.  Yeah.  There was a reason to get out of bed.  She has to feed PomPom. 

Slowly Geneva swings her 70 year old legs over the edge of the bed.  Her bones make a popping sound with each movement.  My, my, where has the time gone?  Seventy years have passed.  She can still remember on mornings like this her mother calling to her to get up and go get some fresh milk and eggs from the old country store.   She’d hurry and get dressed because going to the store always meant she could ride her shiny silver bicycle that her daddy bought for her.  Those days were long gone.  All that remains are the memories. 

Geneva slides her feet into her slippers and eases out of the bed, handling herself ever so delicately.  “I’m coming, PomPom!”  PomPom looks exactly as he’s named, a big fluffy pompom.  And PomPom is all the company Geneva has, PomPom and her plants.  She never married.  Never had children.   Contact was slowly lost with all her friends as each of them got married and started families of their own.  New families met other families.  Soon there wasn’t much time to spend with others outside of those newly formed social circles.  And after her retirement, well, she gladly lost all contact with those dreadful people that she once worked with.  No one calls.  There’s an occasional wrong number, but nothing other than that.  No one comes by.  Not even looking for another apartment.  For a moment Geneva wonders how long she could stay inside before anyone realizes she hasn’t been out of her apartment.  She makes her way to the kitchen.

“Looks like it might rain this morning, PomPom,” she announces as she opens up her kitchen window.  “Which will do my plants some good.  I’d better put them out there on the fire escape.”  She moves the plants gently from their resting place to the ledge near the fire escape.  There are about 8 of them.  Different kinds.  She’d never be able to pronounce most of their names.  They’re just vines and leafy bushels.   After a few moments, she’s managed to move them all.  “There we go.  Plenty of fresh air and some moisture.”  She eases the window down slightly and turns.  “Now then, let’s get you something to eat.”

Geneva slides her feet over the stained linoleum and takes out some cat food from the pantry.  She’s entirely too stiff and weak to clean like she once could.  Some things go undone.  She thought about hiring one of those cleaning services, but for what they charge she’d have to go without eating for a month.  She’s one of those that’s caught between systems.  Too much income to qualify for anything without enough of an income to make ends meet.  All those years she worked for Mr. Pritchard she didn’t know then that getting paid cash left her with nothing saved up in social security.  And hardly anything available from the welfare.  Had it not been for that part time job she had kept, she wouldn’t be getting the few pennies she gets now.  As she peels the top off of one of those easy open cat food containers she walks over to PomPom’s bowl.  “Oh, PomPom.  Look.  You didn’t eat your food from yesterday.  And…this has gone bad.  You can’t keep wasting money like this.  Did you get into that garbage outside again?”  She turns to dump the old food from the bowl into the trash and replaces it with the freshly opened cat food.  “Why you would want to go out and dig in that trash when there’s good food here for you to eat is beyond anything I can understand, PomPom.”  She turns around and puts the bowl back in its place.  “Here you go.”  Geneva eases over to the chair where PomPom is resting and strokes him.  “I reckon we’ll go make groceries next week.  You got about a few cans in the pantry.”  Geneva smiles at PomPom and goes into the living room.  PomPom’s been fed.  She wonders what else there is to do.  What possible purpose could a day like today have for an old woman like her?  She decides to sit and wait to see if anyone will call.  Or maybe someone will get lost and knock on the door looking for someone else.  There must be some reason why she keeps waking up every morning.  Just have to wait and find out what the reason is.  She sits and starts gliding back and forth in her rocking chair, staring out the window at the rain.

There are many like Geneva.  Not necessarily tenants of Millford Estates, but throughout the city.  Elderly people that have worked their entire lives only to find themselves forgotten in their golden years and misplaced among the continuous quest for progress.  What plans could there be for people like Geneva?  Let’s take a look at local government and find out…

“Good morning, Councilman Ford.”

“Yes, Contessa.  How are you this morning?”

“Not nearly as good as you’ll be once I give you the news.”

“Good news this early in the morning.  That’s a good sign.”

“Those plans for the demolition of Millford Estates have finally found their way to Mayor Yancy’s desk, and we have someone interested in bidding on the property.”

“Oh, well now that is good news.  Any idea how soon before we can serve notice?”

“Once Mayor Yancy approves and signs, notices can officially be given.”

“Excellent.  Progress.  Cities thrive on growth and progress.”  Councilman Ford stops short of entering his office and turns toward the secretary.  “What interest does the bidder have in developing the property?”

“That I don’t know for sure, but someone mentioned a hotel.  I believe one of the other councilmen was talking with him about saving the structure since the building has a good foundation and is in the downtown area.  That seemed the most feasible idea.”

“Yes, tourism.  Great.  Thank you, Contessa.”  Councilman Ford enters the threshold of his office.

“Oh, and don’t forget about your 9:30 conference call with Mr. Trudeaux.”

People who don’t regularly attend (or tune in where available) nor participate in their local city government are kept in the dark about the plans that are being made right under their noses.  The tenants of Millford Estates will find out on the tail end that their building is being scoped to become part of the city’s urban renewal project to bring those that fled during the urban sprawl back from the suburbs.