Friday, February 1, 2008
'The Man' Tales - Part Two
Ani Black sat in front of a roaring fire staring into the flames, seeing nothing. The click of the answering machine as it took all incoming calls occasionally punctuated the sound of the wood snapping and sparking. On arriving home, she had moved immediately to the machine, turning off the ringer and lowering the sound. Tonight she wanted to be alone. No bereavement calls or angry voices from the family that had stood without her at the graveside today. There was plenty of time to deal with that later. Tonight she had to deal with the man who lay beneath the crush of soil that covered his casket.
The stillness of the house wrapped itself around her. Like death, Ani thought. This is how quiet death is.
She sat staring into the fire then suddenly reached and poured herself tea from the yellow earthenware teapot that sat like a shock of color in the almost bare room. Steam escaped from the mug as she eagerly clasped it with both hands, seeking to ward off the chills that flashed through her body. Just like death, she thought again. Gulping the hot tea she leaned back and felt it rushing into her stomach, spreading its warmth as it went. She closed her eyes and deliberately recalled the image of her father. Now is finally the time to do it, she thought. Then she forced herself to think back to the beginning. To the first thing she could remember.
* * * * *
Wow! I’m doing it! I’m actually doing it! Sarah thought as she peered at the last words on the screen.
The word processor hummed faintly and its glow seemed surreal against the backdrop of the small room. It sat on an old table that had seen better days before it had succumbed to time and multi layers of paint. Running her hand over its surface suddenly brought back memories of her grandfather. The table had once been his paint table before she had liberally covered the splashes and daubs with her own testimony to change with its top and spindly legs a bright pumpkin orange. How it managed to hold everything on top, she never knew.
Pushed to the back of the table was an old manual typewriter. Beside it pens, pencils and highlighters sprung from an old toothbrush cup. Erasers and a pencil sharpener lay next to the opened dictionary and Thesaurus that was within easy reach of Sarah’s hand. Paper lay scrunched and discarded like some early thought thrown away. Beside the old table a box sat newly opened, the name of the glowing instrument stamped boldly on all sides. The wastebasket overflowed with Styrofoam popcorn and packing tape that had bits of cardboard ripped from the box in haste, still attached.
The soft gray walls and creamy lace curtains and bedspread seemed an odd setting for the rest of the room. Bookcases lined the walls, their contents spilling over the sides; too full to hold anymore. A special hardcover edition of everything Stephen King had published sat like a shrine beneath a picture of King’s house. Some years ago, Sarah’s sister Peoria, had taken a trip east with one of her many husbands, Sarah could not remember which, and they had made the effort to get a picture of the author’s house. They’d had it enlarged and encircled it in an old wood frame and Sarah could never tell her sister how much she cherished it when she had unwrapped it that Christmas, years, and husbands, ago.
The room faded away again as Sarah focused on the screen in front of her. She had always wanted to write. She read everything that she could get her hands on, only spurning romance novels. Her life had been so devoid of any special love that she hated the fairy-tale world portrayed beyond the gorgeous guy and pencil-thin young women always draped across the book’s covers. After graduating from high school, she had gone to university to study English, but had given up under the pressures of real life. A lack of funding and the question of what to do with herself firmly closed the doors to those hallowed halls behind her after her first year. Now she looked back and reflected if that mattered. Had not her experiences taught her more than her Norton Anthology ever did?
Friends and family had always encouraged her to write, so perhaps this was the way to do it. To write a story about someone else who was actually her. Well, almost. What would her family think if they ever got wind of it? There was shame in washing dirty laundry in public, no matter whose laundry that was. She looked at the white Persian cat sleeping on top of a stack of ruled paper and thought of the constant inner torment that hounded her days and chased her endlessly at nights.
No. She could not let her family stop her. She had to exorcise the demons that hunted her constantly. Some she had created herself, and others loomed out of the shadows that chained her to her family and her past.
Frantically she looked about the small room again, desperate to grasp onto something that would help firm her resolve. The jumble of her past and present surrounded her. The picture of her and Peoria as they stood in front of Sarah’s new orange MG Midget rested on top of her dresser. How young and adventurous they looked, posing for the camera before starting on their driving holiday across Canada. There were other pictures too; of best friends, nephews, boyfriends, a special place in the Badlands of Alberta. Her favorite was of a black cat she had called Taboo who had been her constant companion for eight short years.
There were old perfume bottles lined up atop a musty smelling sea chest that had belonged to her grandmother. One bottle captured the essence of orange blossoms from Florida and Sarah couldn’t bear to use any of the precious contents as intended. Instead, she saved the fragrance for those days she desperately needed to escape. She would remove the tiny cork and would suddenly be standing back in the Everglades, the smell of orange blossoms and the glades’ humid night air washing over her.
She smiled briefly at the thought before her eyes finally settled on the row of journals lined up like sentinels beside her bed. Protectors? Yes. They had been her escape and her guardians when she couldn’t bear the agony of her life. She had written her thoughts down; sometimes scattered, sometimes detailed, filling book after book as the years went by. Hidden behind their black hard covers was a truth that revealed itself only in the haunted look she saw in her mirror.
It all mattered.