Packing, Sorting, Tossing and Making Lists

I had the very best outing yesterday. Friends picked me up to take me with them to a local winery. It was reminiscent of the back country road wineries I so often went to in Australia. And like down under, the wine was actually very good. We started with a bubbly champagne of sorts and then moved on to a very good rich red. I even brought a bottle of the latter one home for later. I will definitely go back. If for no other reason than to shake the hand of the vintner. It was such a warm and firm handshake. It felt good after maybe two years of not having that type of contact.

Last week I cruised my new neighborhood to be and someone living there actually waved to me. I can’t remember the last time someone waved to me. Where I live now it is not one with neighbors who would wave because no one sees each other that often. And since Lee has left here, the isolation is even more acutely felt. But things are moving along quite well with the relocating. The bank has approved a loan large enough to get my new house built and I will stay put and continue to clear thing out before putting this house on the market close to moving in day.

It is so odd to see how I have disassociated myself from here since Lee has gone. I will not miss being here. It is work, lots of work and there are no close attachments to those living in this neighborhood. It is a perfect home for someone else who can throw themselves into making memories like those I have of building and making a home to entertain friends and family.

As I go through the house deciding what I want to take with me, I see much more that will not. Amy and Patrick will take most of what is not going with me. They will get movers to take the lot back to a storage unit in their own state to wait for their new places with empty rooms. In the meantime I am to make a list of all that goes into that moving van or the backs of their cars on their trips down to lend a hand.

This morning three very heavy extra garbage bags went with me to the trash. There is such pleasure on early Sunday mornings loading up the back of my SUV and then lifting it out and up over the edge of the tip bin. The sound of it all banging on the bottom (because I wait until the weekly pick up truck has left just before I get there) is very satisfying. There are such interesting discoveries under the cat hair and dust bunnies of my closets….often with the question, “Why am I saving THAT?”

The early morning walks clear my head for what I need to decide to rid myself of that day.

And the only things I bring inside are the bits so beautiful they need to be drawn into my journal.

The large wooden bowl in the center of the dining room table fills with these pieces until I can get to them. Day before yesterday I found some bits from Australia stuck behind the teapot in the cupboard. Half of them are on this page. The other half are waiting to go in next.

I have stitched up more patches for the journal. When I finish with this one I will go get one of the large blank journals I made years ago and work with watercolors illustrating the muddling of my mind as I make decisions…it will be a conversation of sorts.

Lee is pretty much the same. When I called to check the other day he was still able to eat all of his meals, wheel himself around and was busy talking to his cat. The one they gave him that meows back and occasionally scratches itself. It is a very kind place for him.

Friends are coming mid September from St. Louis. They will spend a few days in the studio and their husbands will hike and maybe do some kitchen duty. I think I will make a lasagna for the freezer, make sangria, stock up on shrimp and pasta and sandwich fixings. And maybe lay out some poetry books to read from after dinner.

Speaking of reading, I finished Louise Penny’s latest Inspector Gamache novel today. I like how she can keep a story going. And appreciate the distraction her books give me. But I need to start making the lists as I go from room to room noting what goes with me and what goes off to the kids. I also need to get back to the builder to answer some questions about getting me closer to a different life.

Another short story might get written as I try escaping lists and garbage bags

Til later…..

The Broadcaster’s Wife

 

Emily woke early and without disturbing Jim, headed down to the kitchen.

She wanted to think. Something was going on with her that needed quiet time to work out.

There was no one to talk to about it because frankly everyone she knew was part of the problem. This was the sad reality she faced when alone, having her coffee, and planning her day. But an hour or so later it would be shoved to the back of her mind as she was swept into another day of routines and obligations that defined her. She was Emily, wife to a successful news broadcaster and mother to twin boys now off at college. She filled her time with whatever was expected and suggested by those who knew her value to the community in which they all lived.

After a few weeks of suppressing conflicting thoughts Emily had come to the conclusion that she absolutely hated her life, hated what she had become and hated herself for letting it happen.

Somewhere along this road to self-discovery she missed some telltale signs of anxiety. Like how her hands on the steering wheel of the latest car Jim thought she would look good in, had moved from the left hand loosely on the steering wheel while the right adjusted the rear view mirror to see herself, to the traditionally cautious two hands on the wheel at ten and two o’clock positions with her body leaning forward. She hated that car and the messages it sent – rich, superior, well maintained.

Lately she preferred to use “the family car”, the one she drove the boys to ball practice with and then delivered them to college in. She missed them and felt closer to them using this car. Well that was what she told Jim when he wanted to know why the Miata was now parked in the garage. Her hands had now moved to eleven and one o’clock.

She also wasn’t conscious of how often she was using paper napkins instead of linen. And how she was making excuses to miss out on the workshops offered to members of the country club. Did it really matter whose Ikebana arrangement was judged superior to another when sooner than later the pedals would drop off and the perfectly placed leaf would curl up and ruin everything. Every single one of those arrangements of forced control was going to be defeated by the very Nature they were presenting. How she spent her days was not making much sense to her anymore.

And she began coming up with excuses for not playing tennis with Donna on Wednesday mornings and mahjong with Maureen on Thursday afternoons. What used to be fun with the ones she had considered to be friends was becoming predictable, then boring and finally tedious.

Emily wanted out of those friendships, out of the club and truth be told, out of her marriage.

She had fallen hard for Jim twenty-five years ago. He was handsome (still was), came from a “good” family, or so her father told her, and was hell-bent on getting Emily to marry him. And it worked. She helped him advance his career in broadcasting by keeping herself as attractive as possible in a community where everything was about appearances. She gave him two healthy boys to brag about, kept a perfect house for him to come home to, performed admirably and smiled along the way. The benefits of all that effort was being appreciated and well-cared for….maintained in the manner to which Emily had become accustomed. And it was all good for many years.

That is until Jim made his way to the top of the heap in conservative cable news. The way he could look his audience in the eye through a camera and spew vitriolic commentary was surpassed by none. This was his game and his to lose if he could not do it convincingly. He was good. This was his calling.

Those closest to him were sure it was an act, a live performance of theatrics. It was part of the job and no one bothered to question the integrity of what he was saying. No one seemed to grasp that he was talking to an audience that was becoming more and more unwilling to seek out opposing points of view. If the ratings were up, it meant more viewers. More viewers meant more job security. It was the perfect connection for Jim’s arrogance and his audience’s ignorance.

And of course with the club they belonged to being predominantly conservative with the built in biases of any closed, members-only community, Jim was quite the man to be admired. After all he was saying things out loud that most of them previously had the good sense to keep to themselves.

Emily and the boys went along with it, privately believing it was all an act. And a very good one. Of course they could believe whatever they wanted in the protected bubble they all lived in. No one could possibly be in disagreement with what Jim and his news network were doing if you stayed inside that circle or others like it.

But that all changed when the boys went off to college. Here there were so many points of view to be tossed about, discussed, and conclusions come to. Education is exposure to knowledge that is just sitting there waiting to be absorbed by open minds. Then put to use in ways that deepen understandings of how things are, were, and could be. The boys took to this learning opportunity like they had been wanting it without even knowing it existed.

The result: fewer trips home to try and get their father to understand how many people his words affected. But they were unsuccessful in getting this through to him. Jim was the classic example of, if you say it enough then it becomes true. His sons were dumbfounded by the way their father had lost all rational reasoning, all interest in seeing how much he manipulated people into closing off any discourse. They saw how their father had managed to get the very people who put him in this position of power to either become believers or simply be replaced.

He was someone they no longer admired. Frankly, they saw him as an asshole, pure and simple. If he wanted to cut the funding for their college education when they told them how they felt, then go ahead, they’d just go public with what they thought of him. Jim’s ego and arrogance could not take a blow like that coming from his own children so he set up accounts for them to finish their education and after that as far as Jim was concerned, he was done with them. It was a solution each could live with. Unfortunately their mother was still residing in the bubble she helped create from the day their parents married. The boys accepted the fact that it would likely remain that way.

 

So now here she is, sipping her coffee in the silence of early morning, wondering when to leave and how to create some damage in the process. His arrogance would have to be his undoing. His genuine belief that he was infallible, that his words were all that mattered and his audience would remain as gullible as he counted on them to be. Without the blind stupidity of others her husband was nothing. How pathetic that thought struck Emily.

She hated being the wife that stood by him all the way to this. And hated more the thought of looking like those loutish politicians’ wives, medicated just enough to stand close through their husbands’ public apologies.  No, Emily was not going to be any part of Jim’s attempt to salvage the image he had created. He’d be standing alone in that final attempt to manipulate an audience. But how to make that moment happen?

 

And then it struck her! She would write a book! A book that could be directed to the tastes of Jim’s audience. A confessional of sorts with the promise of redemption. Yes, that’s it! It would have to be a slow careful delivery of words to have it sink in. There could be no nuanced meaning, nothing open to interpretation, simple words telling a story of how a person can suffer under the influence and control of another. How easy it is to be the victim of one’s own desire to feel that they are a part of something.

Keeping it simple. Keeping it slow. With constant repetition of the salient points. The only difference in the delivery of her written message and Jim’s spoken words would be that she would give her audience the opportunity to pause, reflect, and read again….maybe even to a neighbor or family member.

And if it took the form of a confessional diary? Believers would follow. Diaries are secrets exposed. Diaries bear witness to truth. And diaries lend themselves to a slow paced-out delivery that creates anticipation in the growing followers. Yes, this would take him down and get her free.

A few weeks later Emily had confirmed with a lawyer that slander was unlikely if her writing took the form of serial fiction under a pseudonym. She could describe Jim in many ways but not use his name. And even if Jim might want to file suit after seeing himself in Emily’s writings, his ego would prevent him from taking an action that would most certainly identify him as the character in her fictional diaries.

So what was the best way to reach the public?

Considering what Jim’s audience was most likely to read besides the one liners on their cell phone feeds, Emily came to only one conclusion. It had to be a magazine that was right in front of them as they stood in line at the grocery store, a popular weekly magazine with a concentration on society news….what celebrities were up to in their private lives.

An appointment was made by Emily and her lawyer to discuss the proposal. The editors quickly agreed to the terms of anonymity and looked forward to Emily’s first installment of “Diary of a Broadcaster’s Wife”.

“………and our dinner must be perfect. The salmon cooked the way he likes it, sitting on a bed of romaine with mango chutney. A nicely chilled chardonnay. Everything the way he likes it, the way he expects it. I take a sip from my glass and wait for him to arrive, telling me again tonight how grateful he is that people no longer read but wait to be told…….”

 

The end

Many Days Later

I am taking cautious steps into the changes coming up. My morning walks, good friends and family have helped me get it all sorted in my mind. New places and new adventures are ahead and all I have to do is keep clearing out my space here.

These two pictures are from the Riverwalk the last couple of days. It is shorter to get to and because of meetings and phone calls I have not made it to the dam for awhile. Tomorrow for sure.

And the drawing continues! We used to have several people come for Christmas dinner and the adults usually got a small travel bottle of liquor acting as a place card setting. I found Lee’s and mine in a cupboard that needs packing and decided to draw some. Next I intend to drink them all up!

And then this from a friend I have lunch with occasionally. She gave me this perfect gift of probably the most beautiful leaf I have ever seen.

It took a few hours to draw but was so much fun to do. And this morning…

These are Japanese combs that I have bought over the years from Wafu Works near Hobart, Tasmania. It is one of my most favorite places to have a look. The good thing is that almost everything in the shop tucks in nicely.

The last few days I have also been finishing up another short story. It should be posted on my website under “short stories” within a day or so.

Many of us are followers of the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny and the latest one arrived yesterday. Once I start it is hard to put down. I always hope that the old poet, Ruth, makes several appearances. I so relate to that character and her duck that expresses the poet’s opinion with a single word.

Since I am down in the studio while the cleaning lady works upstairs I will go out and pick a bunch of rosemary for those lovely cocktails I have on the group calls. Tonight we all catch up with one another.

I am back to wearing my mask to the stores because so many in the rural south will not get the vaccine. Our single hospital for the area is full and dealing with the ignorance and selfishness of the area. I hope the health providers can continue until this comes to an end, and not leave in disgust. No mask mandate in the schools will keep the virus affecting everyone. When you live in a Republican leaning community you can expect the least amount of effort put into caring for the population as a whole. Integrity has dwindled to a new low in that political party.

Til later….

Illusion

This is a short story that I wrote a few yeas ago based on a prompt from my writing instructor.

She handed out papers that were not to be turned over until every student had one. Then face to face with these cropped portrait images from magazines, we were to list positive qualities of the person we saw and negative qualities. This person was totally foreign to me but unlike some of the students, I was not going to trade him in. We were given a short time to list qualities and then write a short story, very short.

Here is Tony.

And the story that came from from our brief time together….

Illusion

 

Tony was combing his hair in the practiced sweeping motions he used on his older clientele. Just enough product to keep it in place and just enough styling to create an illusion. Tony was all about illusion, not even he knew if there actually was anyone inside those tight black jeans, T shirts and body-hugging black leather jacket.

God, he loved seeing himself in that jacket with all those shiny silver zippers. Pulling those hanging little tabs up and down, back and forth just to hear that sound. He loved that jacket and how it made him feel – pretty but tough. And that was how Tony saw himself – it was all he saw.

One more bit of lifting in the back and he was ready to go. Putting the comb down on the edge of the sink, he noticed the grey hairs. There weren’t that many but enough. Enough that he reached for the phone and dialed Flo.

“Can you open for me this morning? I will be just a bit later getting into town. Something I need to take care of here before I come in.”

“Sure honey. Take all the time you need. It’s a slow morning for me and your first appointment isn’t until 11:30. Everything alright?”

“Yeah, just some personal maintenance that’s easier to do here than at the shop. You know how I like to look my best.”

“It’s what drew us to this business, honey. See you when you get in.”

 

Flo hung up the phone and reached for the small bag inside her purse. With Tony not coming in for a while, there was time. Not only time for her to have a small hit, but come down from it as well. She was going to stop doing this. She knew she was. Just not today. Today she needed to get herself calmed down and ready for what was coming tonight. She promised herself that today was the last. She promised herself as if there was going to be some kind of difference between one day and the next.

There was never a problem laying out the strip of cocaine – not in a salon that had hand mirrors on every surface. Even the blade for scraping it into a straight line was easy to find here. She pulled out the short straw and placed one end on the line and the other up her nose.

One deep sniff, one deliciously deep inhale of pure peace of mind.

Flo wiped her nostrils with the thumb and forefinger of her right hand and with the dampness picked up whatever cocaine was left on the mirror. This she rubbed inside her mouth on the lower gum and smiled. Her mind raced again to the simple solution of just getting home tonight before Fred got there, and pack her things. She would be gone and she could start over. She could start over anywhere. She had the money saved and hidden away. She had plenty of reason to go. Sure she would miss her job. Even miss Tony and miss her customers. But it was time. It was past time. She sat down, hard, and closed her eyes.

 

It was not quite 10:30 when Tony parked and chained his Honda in the alley by the back door.  It was unlocked so Flo was already here. Good. The coffee would be on. He headed into the little alcove kitchen to pour himself a cup before going into the salon.

And that’s where he found her. At first he thought she was taking a quick nap before opening.

“Hi Honey, thanks for getting in early.”

“Flo?”

He reached out to touch her, held back a moment and then laid his hand on her cheek.

“Flo, honey. No.”

He took the mirror from her lap and laid it next to her bag. He straightened her skirt and reached for the comb. It will only take a minute, he thought. And found the hair color to touch up her roots before making the call.

 

the end