Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Snippets 6

This is the second part of an eleven part story in which the parts alternate between events on two fall days separated by about nine years. 

The story began last week on a day several weeks after the events depicted in Of Cats and Claws and Curiosities and will pick up next week in the moments following its rather abrupt ending.  Today and in all future even numbered segments, our POV character Faye is remembering the events of this day nearly a decade before.

For further orientation in this story world see the opening paragraphs of Friday Snippet 5 from last week.

 

Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes

2

Faye was waiting for the bus that morning--near ten years gone now. Having just walked the mile of gravel road from the house, she is grateful for the bus-stop bench, hard as it is. Behind her, a few yards off the road is the gate to Beulah, the estate where she has lived as resident steward since being forced to leave the sweet little cottage she and her Inny had once shared. She is on her way to visit Inny right now, and as she listens for the sound of the bus shifting gears, she is absorbed by thoughts of him--as he was, as he is now--and by the grief of losing him to this limbo, this un-death that has torn from her his companionship but not his body. There are no coffins to contain companionship for quick and decent burial, no ceremony to ritualize its loss.

Fay was so immersed in an inner world of grief, sights and sounds were muted as if reaching her through leagues of water. Then out of nowhere a voice, like a meteor landing in a lake and sloshing the water out, strips Faye of her insulation and she sees and hears with a clarity akin to curiosity--a child singing.

The child comes into view. She drags by its arm a rag doll that is nearly as big as she and dressed exactly like her, in red denim overalls and plaid flannel shirt. She appears much too young to be about unaccompanied. And much too young to have a voice so emotive and capable of such force, such control. Faye recognizes the song ‘Tomorrow’ from Annie. When the girl sees Faye she stops in mid-step and mid-note, leaving Faye’s heart aching with loss.

"Hi." said the child. Faye nods silently, taken aback by the fearlessness of the greeting.

"Well, aren’t you gonna say ‘Hi’ back, or ‘Hello’ or something?"

"Hi back or hello or something." Faye smiled a bit abashedly and the child giggled.

 "My name is Briana Morgan. What’s yours?" She climbed onto the bench beside Faye and stood facing her.

 "My name is Faith Gardner. And I’m very pleased to meet you, Briana Morgan." Faye held out her right hand and Briana took it.

"Likewise, Miss Gardner. Does that mean you grow gardens?" Briana tilted her head to the side and squeezed frown lines into her brow.

"No, child. Why don’t you just call me Miss Faye."

"OK, Miss Faye. This here is Dollbaby." She lifted the rag doll up. "Say howdya do to the lady Dollbaby." she commanded.

"Well, Dollbaby," Faye took a cloth hand into her own. "I’m very pleased to meet you. I must say, someone has taught you some very fine manners."

"Oh, yes mam. My mama says fine manners are real important. And most especially for us as we are to live in a mansion and have servants and fine dinner parties with eversomany important guests even movie stars and…" she inflated her lungs with a gasp and went on, "…and our own swimming pool and a garden as big as a jungle and a play yard with eversomany swings and slides and bars and such…"

"Whoa child." Faye reined in Briana’s runaway fantasy. "And just where is this mansion? I never heard tell of such a place around about Westmont."

 "Oh, but there is. Mama Mae Bea told me she was even there when she was little like me. It’s way up on that bluff there and from the front porch you can see Trojan and from the back porch you can se Mount St. Helens. An old old lady lives there, with about a hundred cats and nobody can remember her name so they call her Mama Cat."

"And just where is this Mama Cat and her hundred children gonna go when you and your Mama move in?" Faye held her laughter constrained by a raised brow--tenuous leash at best.

"Oh!" Briana shrieked her laughter. "We’re not gonna live in that mansion. Mama’s record is gonna sell a million copies someday and Mama Mae Bea’s lottery ticket is gonna win us a million dollars just any day now. And then we’re to build our own."

Briana giggled and jumped down. She landed on the run, swinging Dollbaby in an arc over her head. She let go on the up-swing and as the doll rose above her cradled by sunbeams and breezes, she spun in a dizzying circle arms upraised, laughing into the sun. The doll returned to her grasp as though handed to her by the gently gusting breezes. She clutched the doll to her chest in an ecstasy of joy as a halo of luminous dust motes embraced her small form for the brief instant between gusts. A breeze-borne leaf, the same tarnished-flame color of the girl’s hair, kissed her cheek. Briana squealed her delight and gratitude to the open generosity of the sky and ran toward the gate of Faye’s estate calling: "Dollbaby wants to swing on Heaven’s gate."

"Heaven’s gate?" Faye laughed, startled and amused to hear her own gate given such a lofty name.

"You know. Like in the song." Briana explained cryptically and in response to Faye’s puzzled look sang. "Jesus loves me. He who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide." The child’s voice rang upon the arch of sky, pure counterpoint to the clarity of the morning air.

"I see." said Faye, not seeing at all.

Briana wasn’t fooled. "I never did see a wider gate in all my born days!" she exclaimed with theatrical exasperation. "So, don’t you see, it must be Heaven’s gate or it’s twin."

"Ah. How logical." Faye conceded.

With a flounce of bronze braids, Briana turned, grasped a wrought-iron bar and swung herself and Dollbaby onto the gate. Over their heads Gothic curlicues of black iron spelled out BEULAH. As ludicrous of a misnomer as the child’s. Faye thought. Briana pushed off with one foot and the gate swung inwards--a smooth, oiled glide until it reached its ultimate position at right angles to the fence, whereupon it stopped with a jarring wrench that almost bucked Briana off and did cause her to drop Dollbaby.

She jumped down to rescue the doll, dusted it off with brisk pats and remounted the gate. This time she hung Dollbaby by her overall straps on the fretwork of the gate. Then she took a bar in each hand, planted her feet wide apart on the bottom rung and leaned her body out, tilted her head back until her braids almost drug the ground. This acrobatic position caused the gate to begin a slow swing back to base. It gathered momentum, speeding past the closed position, swinging outward ever faster until, once again, reaching its apogee it jolted to a halt.

Briana flew off to land in a tangle of arms, legs and braids, in the tall grass and weeds along the fence. She leapt up and ran at the gate like a football lineman making a tackle. She was on her third or forth swing-by when Faye’s bus snorted and wheezed to a stop. Faye climbed aboard a bit stiffly after her long sit, marveling at the agility and resilience of the young body--more than a little wistful at the memories of her own childhood conjured by Briana’s antics.

7 tell me a story:

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