Thursday, September 13, 2007

Friday Snipets 10

This week five more characters are introduced. Among them Briana's mother and grandmother as they join Faye, Wilma and Julia waiting for the arrival of the search party at the gate to Beulah on which five-year-ols Briana was last seen swinging with her rag doll Dollbaby.

Remember, this is nine to ten years previous to last week's scene in which Faye, Wilma, Julia and Inny were tending to Brandy, the infant daughter of Briana. Next week fifteen-year-old Briana will make her very dramatic entrance.

Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes


Faye was pacing that evening, under the jaundiced glow of the sodium vapor lamp that stands guard over the bus stop. Wilma and Julia cast nervous glances her way from the bench, but neither one ventures to reprove her. The three of them have been waiting in tense silence since calling the police, and though there was nothing useful they could do here, no one suggested driving on to the house. Earlier, Faye had been sandwiched between Wilma and Julia on the bench, but the feel of the clammy wood against her legs added to her anxiety and compelled her to get up. She had gone to the gate to peer up the driveway that slithered into the cavernous dark, gravid with threats to small girls. From there she went to the road to peer into the black maw of the highway for the approach of headlights. She repeated this circuit endlessly, as though her anxious peering into the night might materialize Briana out of the fulvous shadows.

Standing before the gate she clutched the foamy body of Dollbaby to her breast, breathing incoherent words that seemed to be both prayer and incantation. "Let her be OK. Let her be alive. Let her be safe… Let her sing for me once more…" Her eyes groped among undulating shadows for the form of a small child agile with joy, dancing with the morning breezes, swinging on ‘Heaven’s Gate’. But instead, the sinuous letters of the word BEULAH grabbed her gaze in a mocking clench. Her fingers tingled with the urge to take hold of the offending name and wrench it out. If she were mistress and not just steward of the estate--a glorified house sitter--she would grasp the wrought-iron letters and making them malleable by the molten heat of her loneliness reweave them to read BARREN--a fitting title for an estate inhabited by the abandoned.

The lights, when they came like sudden ice, froze Faye in place. She stared at the coils of light drawn on the dark until they grided to a stop on the gravel not twenty feet away. She stared at the vaguely ambulance shaped nimbus before her, having time to think Not the police, before it spawned a light bedizened apparition that came to her limbs all akimbo on the night screeching, "My baby. My baby."

Faye stood in feeble-fingered confusion as two arms snake out, encircle Dollbaby and pry her from her grasp.

"Dollbaby!" The voice scolded. "Where is your sister? How could you two worry your mama this way?"

In a sudden flood of scalding light Faye witnessed a Medusa-headed pixie smothering Dollbaby in hugs and kisses. Shading her eyes, Faye discovered the source of the new light. Held aloft by one arm of a gnarl-browed man whose other arm snugged a mini-cam between cheek and shoulder, this light enwombed Fay and the pixie, raising shadows like blisters on every surface within its compass.

A shadow tucked under an elbow of the tree-tall man detached itself and with elfin grace glided into the circle of light, extending its hand to Faye.

"Jerrica Holms, KWMB." The voice held the crisp musicality of wind-chimes nudged by a whimsical breeze.

Faye recognized the call-letters of Westmont College School of Broadcast Journalism’s TV station. The exigencies of manners substituting for thought, she spoke. "Faith Fairchild Gardner." And accepted a firm hand-clasp from the elfin figure.

"And this is Troll." The elf motioned toward the cameraman. "We were supposed to interview Fancy about the Ragdolls."

"The Ragdolls?" Faye forced words past lips numb with bewilderment. She began to wonder if she were dreaming. Or worse yet, if someone had slipped her a Mickey like the one given to her Inny two years ago. If she couldn’t begin to make sense of all this pretty soon she would be babbling in the bed next to Inny at the home.

"A singing duo." Julia joined them in the circle of light. "The Ragdolls won a state high-school talent contest last week."

"Yeah." Fancy added. "Cassie and me, we were jamming in costume--you know, just waiting for Ms. Holms to show--when Breezy come up missing."

"Jammin?" Faye whispered.

"You know. Practicing?" Fancy continued, "Well, Mae called the police right off. In a panic, you know?"

"So." Jerrica cut in. "When we arrived for the interview the Ragdolls were already being interviewed by the police. We’ve been with Fancy all day. Troll heard over our scanner just now a car being dispatched to this location to ‘See the lady regarding missing child.’ Are you the lady in question?"

"Actually, I was the one who made the call." Julia said. "But Faye is the one who may have seen the child. This morning. Right here while she waited for the bus. Apparently the child--Briana is it?--was swinging on the gate as Faye’s bus pulled away."

"Where was the doll found?" Jerrica asked.

"Still hanging on the gate where Briana put her this morning." Faye finally found her voice. "Heaven’s Gate." her voice broke.

"Heaven’s what?" Jerrica raised a mike towards Faye.

Faye found herself relating her morning encounter. Becoming more animated as she spoke, she began to pantomime and gesture as she elaborated. At Jerrica’s suggestion, Julia mounted the gate and put Dollbaby back where Briana had left her. Troll trained camera and spotlight on it and they all stood there gazing, their silence broken only by the whisper of breezes in the tree tops.

Then from behind Faye came a sound part chuckle, part sob. She turned and recognized Mae Bea Morgan by her head full of riotous curls held in check by a scarf knotted straight atop her head. Mae Bea spoke through lips thin and motionless with the habit of holding a line of straight pins at the ready. "If you didn’t know better, you might think that was the babe herself hanging there." Beside her another figure, near twin to Fancy, shivered and clutched her arms to her chest in response to Mae Bea’s remark. Mae Bea noticed this and reached her arm around the girl.

"Now don’t go getting spooky on me Cassie." She scolded. "Your ole dream was nothing more than a bit of indigestion. When your Mama named you Cassandra she gave no thought to Euripides or Trojan princesses with prophetic powers."

But it was so real." Cassie murmured. "The man all in black. The helmet. He looked right at me. I couldn’t see his eyes through the faceplate but he was looking right at me when he tipped the motorcycle over and spilled Breezy into the snow bank."

"There! You see? There’s no snow around here."

"There would be on St. Helen’s." Cassie chewed on her lower lip as if chagrined at her audacity in arguing with an adult.

"No sense in borrowing trouble." Mae Bea said. "Soon as Brick Travis gets here with Snoopy we’ll have Breezy back safe as pennies in a wishing well before you can say ‘Agamemnon beware Clytemnestra.’ Nothing bad can befall us Morgan girls. We lead charmed lives."

Cassie ducked her head in apparent acquiescence but Faye saw her shoulders squirm under the insistent weight of Mae Bea’s arm. "Mae Bea’s right." Fancy came and added her arm to her mother’s across Cassie’s shoulder. "This is like the time Mae lost me in Freddy’s. She went into a dressing room to try on a swimsuit and when she came out to model it for me, I was nowhere in sight. She ran up and down aisles in every department but grocery, still wearing that swimsuit, mind you." Fancy succumbed to a fit of giggles that set her yarn pigtails to quivering.

"And I was headed into grocery too when I saw one of the clerks waving your Babydoll over her head as she requested a price check over the intercom. I almost gave some poor ole Gramma type a heart attack when I rushed over screaming, ‘My baby, my baby’ and grabbed Babydoll from the clerk. I think they were about to call the men in white jackets before they got a coherent explanation from me. Ole Gramma took us all over to the toy department where she’d found Babydoll and there Fancy was all curled up on the stuffed toy shelf, fast asleep between Orphan Annie and Mrs. Beasley. It was uncanny how much she looked as though she belonged there. Anyway, when Granny found out I’d made Babydoll myself she commissioned me to make another and that’s how Ragdoll Babies got started."

"Yeah." Fancy said as with a little leap she flipped Dollbaby off the gate to bring it tumbling into her arms. "And where would we be without Ragdoll Babies?’

"The proverbial silver lining." Faye allowed a smile, tentative as the hope she now felt, to lift her lips.

"More like plain dumb luck." Julia scoffed. "But there’s a lot to be said for dumb luck. Some people do seem to have an abundance of it. It’s enough to make you believe in guardian angels."

"Must you subject us to your inane amphigories?" Wilma snapped.

"Oh, figgeries, chiggeries. You and your lame sniggeries." Julia taunted.

"Girls!" Faye shamed them both and to her amazement, they both hushed.

No one spoke and no one seemed about to. The silencing of their voices left a vacuum of sound that sucked in the night-music until it filled Faye’s ears with its symphony. The susurrus of grass and leaves in the river-breezes, the distant whoosh of cars on the freeway accompanied by the occasional bass rumble of the big trucks provided background for the sleepy fluting of birds and the oboe-soloing of an owl. There was no sound that did not seem to belong to the musical arrangement, not even the sniffs, sighs and coughs from the group intruded, nor the skritching of Fancy’s shoes in the gravel as she swayed with Dollbaby in her arms.

The child had a good sense of rhythm. It was as though she too heard the night-music, and when she began to hum a mournful lullaby to Dollbaby Faye was sure of it. As if cognizant of Faye’s scrutiny, Fancy looked up and twin rainbow tear-tracks glinted on her rag doll cheeks. Then, although Fancy had altered it, Faye recognized the melody of a pop song: "Tears of a Clown." Startled Faye met her eyes and saw irony and self-scorn blooming in them. These were no more the eyes of a child than were her own. Faye knew herself to be witnessing a cataclysmic event taking place in this girl’s soul. She had managed to conceive, bear and raise a child to nearly five years of age while never relinquishing her own claims to childhood; but tonight with the threat of that child’s loss, she was laying claim to motherhood.

When the night-songs were cut off just then by the arrival of the search party, Faye was caught in a moment that seemed to stretch into infinity--a time-slip that held all possible outcomes within its grasp. Briana was out there somewhere and like Schrodinger’s cat she was both alive and dead, both harmed and unharmed. The intense wait was over, the hectic search about to begin, they would either find her or not--meanwhile both the grief of her loss and the joy of her recovery were caught in a dynamic dance in the hearts of those who loved her.

8 tell me a story:

IanT 9/14/2007 3:02 AM  

I have to confess to being totally lost!

I haven't kept up with these as I should, and can't get a handle on what's going on at all. I'll go back and reread the others then try to comment more usefully (it's been a long night...)

Joely Sue Burkhart 9/14/2007 5:32 AM  

Oh, dear, I just realized I named the estate in my new project Beulah Land, gate and all. I might have osmosis-ed Beulah from this! Ack! So I'll make a note and see about changing that.

Anonymous,  9/14/2007 2:17 PM  

I like the characters' ways of speaking, although it's the first snippet I've read of yours so I'm not entirely sure what's going on.

Susan Bischoff 9/14/2007 3:26 PM  

Briana was out there somewhere and like Schrodinger’s cat she was both alive and dead, both harmed and unharmed. The intense wait was over, the hectic search about to begin, they would either find her or not--meanwhile both the grief of her loss and the joy of her recovery were caught in a dynamic dance in the hearts of those who loved her.

I thought the way you expressed that was really interesting.

I also liked the part about the change in the child's mother. She had managed to conceive, bear and raise a child to nearly five years of age while never relinquishing her own claims to childhood;

That was very well done.

Bri 9/14/2007 7:10 PM  

"The man all in black. The helmet. He looked right at me. I couldn’t see his eyes through the faceplate but he was looking right at me when he tipped the motorcycle over"

I loved the description of this - so much - it was so eerie. :) I also loved the description of the "night-music."

Anonymous,  9/14/2007 7:51 PM  

You have a gift for description. I also liked the Schrodinger analogy, and the description of a child bearing a child.

Ann 9/14/2007 7:51 PM  

Awesome snippet. Definitely ratcheting the tension. Well done. :)

Gabriele Campbell 9/15/2007 9:51 AM  

I'm with Ian, I was a bit lost, too. These new characters just pop in and I couldn't sort out who Fancy, Mae Bea and Cassie were.

But your description is very nice and the whole scene with that interview and the troll and all had a surrealistic feel to it. A bit like a Picasso painting. :)

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