Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Snipets 15

You can find links to the rest of this story and to Of Cats and Claws and Curiosities, the story introducing Faye et all here.

And now we conclude...

Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes


Faye wakes to the sound of rain splattering the multi-paned door to the garden. Dawn light muted by clouds suffuses the room. She needs a moment to remember why she is sleeping in the recliner in the music room and when she does she quickly reaches for the swaddled bundle in the crook of her left arm. When Brandy had finally fallen asleep in the wee hours, Faye had been too weary to move and too afraid of waking her if she did, so she had just reached for the lever that reclined the chair. Her hand encounters the still form nestled against her breast and sinks into the soft foam of Dolly. She is instantly wide awake and sitting upright.

"You were sleeping so good." Briana said from the glider-chair next to the softly playing stereo. "Brandy was just stirring when I found you. I figured you could use whatever extra seconds of snooze you could snatch. If I were you I’d be having second thoughts about now. You can’t have any idea what you got yourself into never having no kid of your own." She bends and kisses the temple of her nursing daughter.

Faye remains silent, watching the surrealistic Madonna and child tableau before her. She counts at least three separate sections--each a different length and color--in the hair on the head bent over the babe. Over the left ear it is nearly shaved and snow-white. The top is two or three inches of variegated blue and black molded into the shape of a breaking wave. Faye wonders what it takes to preserve that shape through all that has happened in the last twenty hours--glue? Shellac? The left ear is shrouded in a magenta and purple tapestry, a plethora of colored string and beads and, yes, she does believe that is tinsel, braided into it.

Briana looks up and catches Faye watching her. "I love her so much but there are moments when I’m tempted to trade her for a couple hours of carefree sleep. But then I’m given the chance free gratis and I keep waking up in a panic because she’s not where I can touch her, hear her breathe. Go figure."

"That’s Mother-love for you." Faye said. "The mother-lode of all mysteries."

Briana hummed and swayed gently to the closing riff of the song she was listening to, her motion setting the chair gliding. Faye recognized the song as Fancy’s hit, "Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes." After fifteen years of struggling against the odds, this thirty-year-old grandma might have finally hit the jackpot. And Faye could take a bit of the credit for it. In the years following Briana’s rescue from the tree, Faye had been the voice coach for both mother and daughter and young Cassandra as well. She would have done it for pure joy, but Mae Bea would have none of that so the three girls had worked for her. Mostly caring for the dozens of stray cats that found their way to the estate.

The CD cycled back to the beginning of the track and Faye joined Briana in humming counterpoint to Fancy:

Mama makes a living making rag doll babies
And praying once a week at the church for bingos.
She says the only blessing she asks of heaven
Is a winning number for Wednesday’s lotto.

"My Mama makes a living singing about her Mama." Briana raised her eyebrows at Faye as the music segued into the chorus.

She’s making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And promising the moon a cloudless sky.
She’s making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And laughing like a loon who cannot fly.

"So, Mae Bea makes rag doll babies. Fancy sings about Mae Bea. What will Breezy do?" Faye muses as the chorus repeats.

"Maybe I’ll write about Fancy." Briana snickered. "I half wrote this song after all."

"Faye smiled. "Fancy could take you far in this world. ‘So full of shapes is fancy that it alone is high fantastical.’ That was Bard Shakespeare’s take on it and look how far it took him?"

"Fancy’s full of it, no doubt." Briana said.

"Full of love for you. Never doubt it."

The second verse begins and Briana sings along. After a couple lines Faye joins in.

My Mama for each birthday made me rag doll babies
That looked just like me and every day she dressed us just alike.
She told us ‘Doll Babies, this life is all caprice.
You gotta take what it gives and give what it takes.

By the time they reached the chorus Faye and Briana’s voices were drowning out the stereo. Briana reached over and nudged the volume up.

She’s making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And hasn’t got a clue that I’m alive.
She’s making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And finding life’s a tune she’s sung too high.

But as the first chorus repeats Briana turns it down again. "Speaking of Mama Mae Bea." she said as she nestled Brandy against her neck to burp. "I dreamed of our house this morning. You know how it is. Every room chockfull of rag doll babies. I’m wandering through it carrying Brandy, singing her a lullaby. Then it is on fire and I head for the door but I see it is not Brandy in my arms but a rag doll. I’m frantic. I hear Brandy cry and I run towards her but every time I think I am picking her up it’s another doll. Fire is everywhere now. I start to cry and that wakes me up. I reached for her and found only Dolly."

As she listened to Briana, Faye’s eye is caught by a fiery leaf performing a spinning dance upon the strong breeze swirling through the garden. She is awed and her heart lifts as though straining to join this exuberant celebration of…life. And when the gust finally plastered it against the multi-paned door she does not feel dismay as she might once have. She can only marvel at its beauty and be grateful for its being--one of nature’s grace notes.

"Wisdom has the use of many and various messengers." Speaking these words aloud as the understanding bloomed in her heart, Faye felt suddenly possessed of her self--and of a careful confidence that this newest charge to mentor a new Mama was immanently doable. With such gifts as dreams and breezes bestow, failure would have to be assiduously sought. And for the first time since childhood’s joy had dissolved in the acid of duty, she felt she could own her first name again--Jubilee.

The need to move was undeniable. She launched herself from her chair and over to the stereo, cranked it, then on the Persian rug in the middle of the room, hands on hips, she began a simple two-step dance.

Briana, who had been busy settling Brandy to the second breast, looked up, shock replacing the usual scornful set to her features. Faye laughed and extended a hand. "Join me." She invited. "This beat simply begs a line-dance."

Briana looked askance at her but came and stood beside her. Hooking one arm through Faye’s elbow and cradling Brandy with the other she let her feet follow Faye’s. Together they danced and sang along with the third and final verse and the choruses that finished it.

I say, "Mama, I’m not another dolly to set on your shelf,
I’m your real live child set on being myself!"
Mama tells me, "Baby! This world’s plum crazy
And you just never know when your card’s gonna win. See,

"I’m making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And promising the moon a cloudless sky,
Cause making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
Is just my way of giving you the sky.

"I’m making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
And promising the moon a cloudless sky,
Cause making rag doll babies and million dollar maybes
Is just my way of teaching you to fly."

They collapsed together, breathless and laughing, on the love-seat facing the garden door. "I’m going to have to learn to dance without watching the floor." Faye pointed at the rug. "The pattern was making me dizzy."

"And I had you pegged for a stodgy old prude." Briana shook her head in wonderment. "Mae Bea plays with her dolls and Fancy plays her music but in all my born days, I never saw either of them get playful like that."

"You-you’ve just forgotten, chi-child." Faye had to puff out the words. "If that rag doll costume your Mama used to prance around the stage wearing wasn’t playful I sure don’t know what would be. And she continued with that routine until you were past six, I’m sure."

"Oh, I do sorta remember that. But I don’t remember it seeming playful. She worked hard at putting on the act whether she felt that way or not. Mostly not. And backstage she let me and whoever else was handy see her true feelings. I learned not to trust her displays of hearty-ha-ha. And when she would come in to wake me up in the mornings--when she was home that is--singing ‘Good Morning Sunshine’ or ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ I wondered where the audience was she thought she was playing to. Because I sure wasn’t buying it."

"Maybe you were the audience." Faye rose to go turn down the stereo.

"Yeah, right!" Briana poured bitter scorn into her voice.

"Breezy Mae Morgan!" Faye planted herself in front of her. "You no longer have the luxury of ambling through adolescent angst. Not if you’re planning to be the Mama of that precious new person you have given life to. Fifteen years from now Brandy will be the one bending someone’s ear with Mama stories. What do you suppose her complaints will be? Your Mama was a year younger than you when you were born and her Mama just your age. Just think on that a bit."

Briana bent her head over Brandy, the beaded and threaded braids veiling her face. Faye gentled her tone. "If you value playfulness so much, consider how you might gift your child with it so that she will not grow up believing that it belongs only to children who don’t know better. You have already shown me the possibility of it, just by being yourself. Why, anyone getting an eyeful of that hair would have to either growl or giggle. I choose giggle."

Briana looked up with an impish grin. Faye sat back down beside her and took her free hand. "The best of Mamas make mistakes. But if they’re good enough the child will have learned the art of forgiveness along with the skills to make their own way. I know being raised up by Mae Bea and Fancy did not give you the consistency that youngsters set such store by. Maybe they didn’t fill every one of your expectations exactly on cue. But so what? Mamas are people too. And if you can shift your gaze for one moment off their mistakes and onto them you might see what it is they have gifted you with. If you can follow in your Mama’s footsteps the same way she followed in Mae Bea’s, you will do well by your self and Brandy. They’ve each turned a passion into a means of support for their selves and their daughters. A rare and laudable accomplishment. Now, if you don’t want your daily work to be drudgery, you must ask yourself, do you have a passion or only complaints?

As if on cue, there is a plaintive cry and they both instinctively look at Brandy. But she is contentedly nursing. The cry comes again. Their eyes track the room. Then they both spot it. In the bottom pane of the garden door is the tiny face of a drenched kitten. It meows again and Briana cries out with sympathy and alarm, "Poor baby!" She jumps up, disengaging Brandy from her breast without ceremony. She thrusts the squalling baby into Faye’s arms and rushes for the door. She returns with the soaked and shivering kitten and wraps it in one of Brandy’s receiving blankets, gently rubbing it.

"I bet that’s the kitten that was sleeping on my lap when Cassie was here last evening." Faye said. "Brandy’s cries startled her and she ran out into the garden. She must have been trapped out there all night, poor little dickens."

Brandy flails her fists and feet and keeps up a steady pulsating screech. Faye tries several positions but nothing soothes her. "Ai! You’re a feisty one, you are. Like your Mama you are. Like an Irish Rose." She turns to Briana. "This young kitten will be all right. She’s got fight in her. And that’s a good thing for a young one to have. A good thing for anyone to have. But see how she pummels the air with fists and feet? How she squenches shut her eyes and howls. She’s as likely to fend off help as harm that-a-way. Wiser heads must teach her how to direct that feeble flailing where it will do the most good. How to open her eyes and look the feared thing in the face. How to stifle the howl and listen for the music that comforts the heart. There is more to the singing of a lullaby than the momentary soothing of an infant."

Briana sets the bundled kitten beside Faye and takes Brandy back. "I don’t think it’s any feared thing she is howling about right now." she said as Brandy found what she was howling for.

Faye laughs and takes up the kitten and continues massaging it with the blanket. In the sudden silence they can hear the rain on the windows and Fancy’s softly playing song. Brandy begins to murmur and smack. Briana to hum and the kitten to purr. Faye leans back with a sigh. The kitten pokes its head out to touch noses with her.

"You seem to be making a habit of rescuing kittens out of dire straits." she said. "You suppose there’s a passion lurking in there somewhere?"

"If there is, I can’t see a way for it to pay for itself let alone support two people."

"You just never know." Faye chuckles. "Chances are even you could find a way if you open your heart to possibilities."

The two of them turn at the sound of the hall door opening. Inny sticks his head in. "Is it well with thee? Is it well with the child?" he asks. His gaze traverses the room, taking in the evidence of contentment. The nursing infant. The humming Mama. The purring kitten. The rain falling on the garden. He meets Faye’s eyes and they exchange smiles. He nods and she sighs.

"It is well." They say in unison.

4 tell me a story:

Anonymous,  10/19/2007 5:44 PM  

JoyRenee, I liked this story. It has some grand characters!

IanT 10/20/2007 2:36 AM  

I agree with Cheryl - great characters and mannerisms of speech.

A couple of minor things:
- This passage mixes past and present tense quite a bit, changing from paragraph to paragraph. Is that intentional?
- If this is the end, what happened to Brandon and that revelation?

Joely Sue Burkhart 10/20/2007 5:35 PM  

Oh, what a wonderful ending. So many heartfelt lines about Mamas, possibilities, hope, faith... Wonderful story!

Ann 10/20/2007 8:19 PM  

Wonderful story. Nice ending too, although I have to agree with Ian, what about Brandon and the revelations?

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