He Spit

30 07 2008


The Widow Murphy leaned over the stroller and smiled. There was a certain kindness in her smile. Maybe it was the dentures. Produced by an old man from Port Elgin. Near the ball park. The Widow’s long black skirt was waving like curtains. Opening night at the Apollo. James Brown and his Band of Renown. The floors were sticky. And the air was blue. And the laughter was infectious. Like a yawn in a subway. And no one could stay out of the way of that beat. And the Widow had been there. Shaking her hair that twisted above her head like a briar. She smiled at all those good times. And Alvin was included. Alvin McGuire did not smile back. He remembered opening night. How could he forget it? The Widow was always reminding him about it. How his head had been so big at his birth that his mother almost died. How they had to take a saw to her bones. Not some ordinary saw. A chain saw. There were pools of blood on the floor. And splatter marks on the wall. Like the Simpson trial. And screams that would have sent a shiv up your spine. How when little Alvin came into this world one of the doctors thought that it might have been the birth of a new universe. Like Mrs. McGuire’s uterus was a wormhole. And who the hell knew what might fly through it’s gates. The Big Bang, the nurses had laughed. That’s what the nursing staff called Alvin’s conception. The Widow reminded little Alvin about that day. Burnt it into his memory. Not because she was fond of Mrs. McGuire. Nor because she disliked children. The widow held onto the peculiar philosophy that one could only become successful in life if one survived a major scar during one’s youth. If one was traumatized. Look at Napoleon, she insisted on pointing out. But no one was sure why. Besides being short and prematurely balding, what horrible event in his childhood had little Napoleon to overcome. Still the Widow held onto those three little words. You are different. And the Widow wanted little Alvin McGuire to be successful in life. Normalcy bred only Swiss Guards and accountants. In the Widow’s eyes, Alvin must be remembered. Alvin did not agree. Not that he had a particularly good argument to offer in response to the Widow’s notion. He was too inexperienced for that. The Widow scared him. And that seemed to offer a cautionary note to his response to the old woman. That and the hanging flesh that swayed under her chin. It sent a chill up Alvin’s spine. The old woman was turning into a lizard. Too long in the sun. Too many days on the planet. If I ever get to look that old, shoot me! he might have thought. When the old woman had pushed her attentions on the young child, Alvin was watching a commercial on the television monitor. Behind Mrs. Murphy. Who was looking at various vitamin pills. Mrs. McGuire was always attempting to find ways to extend conscious life. Her conscious life. And she’d heard about the power of vitamins. If only there weren’t so many of them. The commercial Alvin was watching was about taxes. And how people should hire lawyers to protect them against the government. That’s what smart people did. The government was the enemy. Especially the school board. And trigonometry. Had anyone found any use for it? Alvin didn’t know much about trigonometry. Except cosines of which he had digested a few. His mother often accused him of shitting out tangents. But about smart people. They enjoyed lawyer-client confidentiality. Alvin liked the sound of that. But he didn’t like the idea that he needed a lawyer to protect him. Especially since he hadn’t sent in his income tax form. Since he hadn’t filled out a form. Since he had no income. That wouldn’t have mattered to the government. That’s what folks said. The government seemed determined to squeeze every last nickel out of everyone. And the Widow’s smile? Those weren’t her real teeth. How about her eyes? Were they cameras? Was she secretly an agent for the government? Was this their new tactic? Employ kindly old ladies to harass kids in strollers. And when the old woman reached down with her withered lips to take her accustomed kiss from the small child, Alvin did the only thing he could think of in the circumstances. He spit.

Whispering Hope

30 07 2008

Jo Stafford

Jo Stafford

This poem prose is about Jo Stafford. As you can see she was quite the hot tomali in her time. A lot of female singers were expected to be ornamental as well as have a good voice. And they were also expected to slip into the background. The last thing a bandleader wanted was for his band to play behind the lead singer.

YouTube – Jo Stafford & Gordon MacRae – Whispering Hope


Whispering Hope

July 13, 2008 by Maynard G. Krebbs

A voice from the choir. Filling a crystal glass. Jo Stafford. B.1917. Distantly related to the war hero, Sergeant York. Her voice. Perrrfect peeetch. Should have played for the Yankees. Outside in the rain three sailors were pounding at her door. Not lovers. Making a seee- creee-tive-ran-day-vu. Messenger boys. Delivering Jo. To the USO. Nicknamed GI Jo. Her and Sinatra. Frankie and Jo. Mikes side by side. Cheek to cheek. The horns of Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra. Blazing chaperones. Jo hosted The Chesterfield Supper Club. Radio show. Some singing. Some jokes. A lot of coughing. A paramour. Standing in her closet. Feeling foolish and alone. Silk stockings draped over his shoulder. Peeking through the wooden blinds. Sinatra walked in. Without knocking. She threw an ashtray at him. He laughed. And left her standing there. A face wet with rage. Moments later she died at 90 years of age. In the company of fools and angels. Her big hit was playing. You Belong To Me. There was a letter on the vanity. An old fan. This is such a beautiful song! It was mine and an old boyfriends favorite song. We didn’t get married and he’s dead now. I hear it every time I tear up. Because I never stopped loving him. And Sinatra stood in the hall. Toe tapping. Grinning. Fingers fading away. And old sailors no longer get their pants pressed. And the fleet is in moth balls. The dust has settled. The war was won. And the hospitals. Are run by government men. Dying of lung cancer.

Somewhere In The Distance A Cock Crowed Twice

30 07 2008

Architecture of Romance #3

Architecture of Romance #3



Luiza smiled. As the young couple entered the drug store. Passed the magazine stand. Passed the hand creams and relief from heart burn. Passed her and her friend Madeleine. Luiza and Madeleine. Two Air Cadets. Dressed in blue perky uniforms. Freshly pressed. Into service. Their hair tied up. In a bun. Hot crossed. Or a bob. Tuckled neatly under their caps. With small metal merit badges stapled to the sides. Blood red lipstick. Eyebrows plucked. Fresh pale foreheads. Fashionably young. The young couple stared straight ahead. Hands in their pockets. Pretending that no one was there. Pretending not to see the Air Cadets. What if there is a little Oscar on the way? Doctor’s bills. Hospital bills. All those paper. Diapers. Got to think about paying off that mortgage. Or those teeth. Capped.

“Cheap fuckers,” Luiza swore under her breath. Watching the couple disappear passed the nail polish removers. And family control items.

“This sucks.” Madeleine stepped over to Luiza’s side of the door. “ I knew this drugstore was a mistake. People aren’t in a generous mood when they enter a drugstore. They’re too busy thinking why they came. Too busy wheezing. Rubbing those corns. Aches in your back. That dripping nose. Bile in your stool. There is too much damn purpose. Oh, I wish we’d gone to the liquor store.”

“Why didn’t you say anything then?” Luiza asked.

“I didn’t want to get in any more shit with Cooper.” Luiza smiled. Holding it like it was her breath. As a middle-aged woman stepped up to them.

“You girls look just stunning in those uniforms,” she said and stepped into the drug store without dropping a coin in their box.

“Then why don’t you give us a fucking cuntribution,” Luiza muttered between clenched teeth. Luiza didn’t like swearing. In a drugstore. It was bad karma. She was sure nothing good could come of cursing in God’s house. And surely a drugstore was God’s house since people arrived hoping to buy something to relieve their distress. And wasn’t that the definition of the Supreme Being. The great solution. To pain. If not that then what?

“How’d you get in trouble with Cooper?” Madeleine asked. Taking a moment to check. The cell phone that she kept. Inside the left breast of her Air Cadet vest.

“It was so lame,” Luiza responded. “Hardly worth telling.”

An elderly man stepped up to the girls. Bent over. Looking more like a question mark every day. He looked at each of them and smiled. His teeth were bright. Even if they weren’t his. Then he dropped a five dollar bill in Luiza’s box and walked off.

“Pervert!” Luiza said. She turned to Madeleine. “Did you see that?”

“See what?”

“After he dropped the bill in my box he grazed my breast with the back of his hand.”

“Shit!” Madeleine began to giggle. “Was it good for you?”

Luiza smirked. “I’ve had better.”

The girls giggled. A woman in a pink dress. Sashaying toward them. Bobbing her head. Listening to some Cab Calloway in her head phones. Dropped some change in their boxes.

A couple of teenage boys stepped up to the girls. And dropped a quarter in the box.

Luiza smirked.

One of the boys elbowed the other. In the ribs. To get his attention. To remind him of their wager.

“Ask them!”

“I will, man.” The boy unsure of what to do. Undecided moment to moment. Then turned to Luiza. “Do you girls date?”

Luiza looked at Madeleine and back at the boy. Grinned. Flattered.

“I guess,” she said.

The boy turned to his friend and cried. “I told you they were lesbos.”

The two boys bent over laughing. One slapped the other on the back. The other reached into his friend’s pocket. And retrieved his wager.

“Morons.” Madeleine spat out. Took a turn. For the worse.

A middle-aged man wearing a Blue Jay hat. Fumbled a large bill into Luiza’s box. What a blunder. Too embarrassed to ask for it back. A young couple with a baby. Change in the girls’ box. Two nuns. Dressed as waitresses. Arguing. Over husbands. Placed an offering in their basket.

When there was a lull. In the traffic, Madeleine turned to Luiza.

“So what happened that pissed off Cooper?”

Luiza turned to Madeleine. Made her promise not to repeat the tale. To anyone else. Madeleine promised. Falsely.

“Well, you know how Cooper is always dressed so pristine.” Luiza began. Madeleine nodded. “Every little thing must be in its place. It’s like he’s obsessed with order and cleanliness.”

“Ya.” Madeleine nodded. For the second time.

“Well,” Luiza moved closer to Madeleine. “I asked him which side of his trousers he put it on.”
Madeleine looked at Luiza with a puzzled expression on her face. Somewhere in the distance a cock crowed twice.

“I was told,” Luiza leaned closer to Madeleine before continuing, “that when a man gets a suit tailored for him, the tailor cuts a little more material on one side of his trouser legs so that the guy has a place to comfortably put it.”



“By it you mean…”

Luiza nodded.

Madeleine howled with laughter.

“And I said to him,” Luiza continued almost in tears, “Cooper, I think you put it on the wrong side.”

A Profitable Relationship Dances Into Hell

29 07 2008

Architecture of Romance #2

Architecture of Romance #2



Mr. Edwards stepped into Mr. Newton’s office. His flashy brown Oxfords slid smoothly. Across the hand woven tapestry. How happy they were. Mr. Edwards and Mr. Newton. Oh but how dark it was. At the corners of the room. As if they never met. But disappeared into some endless well. Running parallel. Forever. Never touching. Leaving a gap in between. That was equal to the least known irrational number. Except. There’s always an except. From one corner where the back lighting had the effect of highlighting the banker’s profile. Making him look. Sinister. Cruel. Tempting lips Mr. Edwards imagined. Involuntarily. Marauding across the thighs of Mrs. Newton. Where the pink reigned. Down like juice from a sluice. Of watermelon. From a smile hidden in favors received.

Mr. Newton stood up and motioned to the chair. In front of his desk. As if he expected the chair to open its arms. Mr. Edwards surveyed the room. To make sure that there wasn’t someone buried in the shadows. Mr. Edwards took a seat.

“I’m glad we finally have met.” Mr. Newton blinked. A dark voice was crowded in his mouth. And wanted out.

Mr. Edwards wondered if Mr. Newton hadn’t been born. On the shores in the dangerous shadows of the darkened room. Mr. Edwards noticed that the banker seemed to be talking with his mouth full. Like a shark. Too many teeth in his words. Too pearly white. He reminded Mr. Edwards of Marlon Brando. In the Godfather. Offering his condolences. To those about to be deceased.

“I apologize for the darkness of the room,” Mr. Newton said. “I’ve just been to the eye doctor for a new set of glasses. Eyesight isn’t what it once was. All that fine print. And he put some drops in my eyes. Makes them sensitive to light. Not that I’m aware that light has feelings.”

A joke. Who would have thought it. Mr. Edwards smiled. Being polite. Aware that there might be someone around the corner. With a hammer.

“And while I was there,” Mr. Newton continued, “I went to my dentist for a cleaning. He is next door. And what does he do, but pull out a tooth. To add to his pearly necklace. Or maybe he needs to do some work on his cottage. Or pay off a loan shark. So there I was. Drops in my eyes. Cotton baton in my mouth. Doing my imitation of the Godfather. I made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse. Which explains why my words seem muffled. But I can assure you, Mr. Edwards, that there will be no words hidden in that muffle. No small print. No secret code. I’m sure you understand. We both have wives who… how can I put it… have a taste for the better life.”

Mr. Edwards nodded. “Yes, our wives. I have always found it a wise policy not to enter into any discussions regarding my wife. But on that other matter, I too am glad that we finally meet, Mr. Newton. Perhaps we should have met earlier. Business being what it is, we both have been very busy.”

Mr. Newton grunted. What amounted to a fart inside of a smile.

“I sent you a preview of my plans,” Mr. Edwards added. “I hope you’ve had time to look them over.”

Mr. Newton’s face shriveled. Like a vampire giving the finger to a glass of orange juice.

What was that? Mr. Edwards thought. Is his body having uncontrollable reactions to my presence? Perhaps we should not be partners.

“Yes, Mr. Edwards,” Mr. Newton continued, “I had an opportunity to glance through them. I had one of my staff check out the figures you sent us. A trustworthy fellow. The details of the report will not go beyond the three of us. Does that suit you?”

Mr. Edwards nodded.

The two men were silent before Mr. Edwards added. “Of course, Mr. Newton, I cannot stress how important it is to keep this information confidential.”

“Of course, Mr. Edwards. My assistant is aware of your need for privacy. These are delicate matters.”

Mr. Newton opened a box of cigars and offered one to Mr. Edwards.

“No, thank you.”

Mr. Newton took one out, ran it under his nose before lighting it up. “I suppose I shouldn’t either, Mr. Edwards. But I have a weakness for Cubans. Even after I have had dental work done.” Smoke sifted out of Mr. Newton’s smile. “My, what a wonderful gift tobacco has been.”

“Yes,” Mr. Edwards responded. “Unfortunately we can no longer sell them in pharmacies.”

Mr. Newton leaned forward. What is he talking about? Tobacco in a drug store? He took the cigar out of his mouth and placed it in an ashtray. He licked his lips.

“If I could, Mr. Edwards, let me précis your request. You want a loan so that you may renovate the furniture store that you believe will presently become vacant. Apparently Mr. Singh’s arrangement with Mr. G. is coming up for reappraisal. And you need money to make sure that that arrangement is ended. And then you will become the new tenant. Is that the gist of if, Mr. Edwards?”

Mr. Edwards smiled. The man is confident.

“Yes. Mr. Singh has made a valiant effort to make a goal of it in the plaza. But I believe that effort has not been rewarded. Perhaps that is Mr. Singh’s fault. Perhaps it is just bad luck. I believe that a furniture store is not a good fit in the Six Points Plaza, that Mr. Singh would be more successful if he relocated in one of the malls.”

Mr. Newton leaned back in his chair, retrieving his cigar, and taking a puff. He chuckled.

“You would make a formidable enemy, Mr. Edwards. I’m grateful that are ambitions coincide. How did Mr. G. react to your proposal?”

“I did not put my ideas to Mr. G. in the form of a proposal. It was more a loose fitting conversation. And he seemed receptive. Mr. G. is a practical creature. And when I pointed out that the practical served his interests as well as my own, he was eager to listen.”

Mr. Newton stood up and stuck out his hand.

“Well, Mr. Edwards, I guess we’re in business.”

Mr. Edwards shook the banker’s hand as he was led to the door.

“I’ll get my assistant to work out the details.”

“That’s fine, Mr. Newton.”

The banker stopped before they reached the door.

“Can I speak to you on a personal matter, Mr. Edwards?”

“Certainly, Mr. Newton.”

“My wife, a dear woman, has had some health problems of late. She is overwrought. The doctor has warned me that we have to keep an eye on her. Now, she may come to you with a story about her medication. Losing them. Something of that sort. Do not believe her, doctor. My wife can be very persuasive. But on no account, give into her. I am terrified of going home one day and finding a corpse in the house. She has had her stomach pumped twice already.”

Mr. Edwards nodded.

“And of course,” the banker added, “I can expect your secrecy on this matter.”

“Of course, Mr. Newton.”

Mr. Newton reached for the door and opened it. He padded Mr. Edwards on the shoulder.

“I think we are going to get along famously, Mr. Edwards.”

The light poured over the two newly engaged partners. And stuck to them. Like pitch. Carrying a torch.

Bob’s Cake And Pastry Supplies

29 07 2008

Architecture of Romance 1

Architecture of Romance 1


“Your heart sounds fine,” the doctor said and put away his stethoscope.

Mr. Chambers smiled, almost laughing as he put on his shirt. Mr. Chambers was a grey haired man. Grey hair on his head and his chest. Tall and heavy set with a quick pointed nose. He would have been described, even in his sixties, as a handsome man. A distant cry from the toad like appearance of his younger days. When he was compared to all sorts of low life. No, there had been a flattering evolution in Mr. Chambers’ appearance. Life liked Mr. Chambers. It always had. He was no cream puff. Granite. Truck tough. There were muscles in his face.

“The two little buggers thought I was a goner.” Mr. Chambers shook his head. And smiled. “Out there right now dividing up my garments. Their cheeks filled with chipmunk ambition. Fighting like old women about who was going to replace me. Take my dough. Spend it on broads. Booze. At the track. Leave their wives at home. Ironic thing is that Peggy and Theresa look a bit like the horses they follow. Should hear those two whinny. Nothing I abhor more than a spouse complaining. About their men’s wild ways. Want me to put them in their place. I wasn’t the one that bed them. Don’t ask me to do your work. My sons are head strong. Not that I don’t understand. They’ve got their wild oats. To spread. Had my own. Still up to do a little spilling. Nothing wrong with that. Boys better watch themselves now. I’m back. They ain’t going to get their share. Not yet. Have to wait. I might outlive them both. Just for spite. No, they want to have a time. It won’t be on my sweat. Not on my time. Not with my hard earned cash. You can put that in the bank. And smoke it.”

Mr. Chambers did up each button like it was the period at the end of each one of his sentences. In a stump speech. By a politician who realizes that no one would dare run against him. His jaw set. His chest pumped. Shoulders expanding. Hands in his fists.

“I have only myself to blame. Boys are spoiled. By their mother. I was too busy working. Well, hey. You want kids. You take your chances. Like a lottery ticket. Maybe I should have had daughters. They might have had more balls. Gone for breeders instead of rodents. My poor boys. My sons. Weasels.”

“Shows they care,” the doctor said. He rolled up the blood pressure wrap. Nice and tidy. The doctor’s smile. All is well. His summary. The compendium of things previously stated.

Mr. Chambers shook his head.

“Well, some times even death can be an eye opener. I never thought that the threat of my demise would make things so clear. Mortality has awakened the lion. Clear to me now. Used to walk in the shade. How refreshing is the sunlight. Before I was clouded by sentimentality. I wanted my boys to be like the old man. Now I can leave all those thoughts behind me. Neither one of my sons is prepared to take over the reins. They don’t have the balls. They have the power of the kidneys. But not of the will. Taken me a lifetime to build up my business. You’d think that a man like me would have spun some sons with a backbone. Do you know what I did when my old man died, doc? I laughed. He had a full life and now he was dead. What a joke, eh? No tears for my old man. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It wasn’t avarice on my part. But drive. Now these two marshmallows are fighting over my empire. Like it was carrion.”

Mr. Chambers fell into his own thoughts. What if I started over again. With a new woman. Younger. New sons. I might get lucky. Mr. Chambers turned back to the doctor.

“What do you think it was that gave me the scare?”

“Indigestion,” the doctor offered.

Mr. Chambers laughed.

“I guess that’s why they call it heart burn, eh doc?”

The doctor nodded. “You might think about losing some weight though, Mr. Chambers.”

Mr. Chambers stood up and stepped toward the doctor.

“You think I’m fat?”

The doctor stepped back. He looked down at his clipboard.

“I think you could lose a little weight, Mr. Chambers. Hard on the heart carrying around extra pounds.”

Mr. Chambers laughed as he shook his head.

“You really think I’m fat. You don’t know a real man when you see one, doc.”

“I wasn’t trying to upset you, Mr. Chambers.”

“Is that right?” Mr. Chambers responded. “I’m not fat, doc. I can do the work of two men any day of the week.”

“I’m sure you can.”

“What the fuck is this all about then?” Mr. Chambers moved toward the doctor.

The doctor put out his hand to stop Mr. Chambers approach.

“Telling me I’m fat!” Mr. Chambers continued. “I think you’re stupid. Do you like that?”

“I think we’ve had enough of this conversation, Mr. Chambers.” The doctor holding his clipboard in one hand, crossed his arms in front of him. Waiting. For what he was not sure. Except that it was sure to be unpleasant.

“Can’t take it when it’s tossed your way, eh doc? I swallow guys like you every day, then spit them out.” Mr. Chambers chuckled.

The doctor sighed.

“You’re a bully, Mr. Chambers.”

Mr. Chambers leaned threateningly forward, clenching his chin like a fist.

“You’re calling me a what?” he cried.

“A bully, sir.” The doctor held his ground.

Mr. Chambers stared at the doctor for a moment. Then he stepped back. He laughed. He reached out and slapped the doctor affectionately on the arm.

“You’re alright, doc,” he said. “I was just having a little fun. You’ve got to lighten up.”

Mr. Chambers stepped past the doctor and out of the room.

Outside in the office his two grown sons waited. Terry, the youngest stood up when he saw his father.

“So what’s the verdict, dad?”

Mr. Chambers laughed. He put on his jacket.

“I’ll outlive both you bastards,” Mr. Chambers replied.

The doctor followed behind Mr. Chambers. The boys looked at the doctor.

“Your father is as strong as an ox,” the doctor said.

Both boys looked dismayed. Mr. Chambers grabbed both of his boys by the necks and pushed them out the door. He followed behind. Bob’s Pastry and Cake Supplies. Written across his back.

The Grand Tour Of My Tumour

27 07 2008

The Grand Tour Of My Tumour

July 14, 2008 by Maynard G. Krebs

“Every country tells their citizens what they want them to believe. So you’ll buy what they’re selling. Like slavery. Do you really think they put black folks in chains? Make them work for nothing? Sell them like they were automobiles? People can’t believe that about America. If slavery had really happened, how could anyone be proud of being American? It would be like Germans being proud of the Nazis. School tells you there was slavery. Ya, right. It’s like negative reinforcement. I learned that in school too. Except it was about smoking. Causing cancer. Made me want to go right out and buy a pack… My shrink says that all of this rambling on is my tumour speaking. This grand tour of every idea, jumping trains of thought, fishing for rationality in a world that is so obviously godless. That’s my shrink’s problem. He’s angry at God. Like a spurned lover. Hear those tinkling piano keys. I can’t keep my toes from tapping through my leather sandals. Be sure it’s true when you say “I love you”. It’s a sin to tell a lie. Millions of heart have been broken. Just because these words were spoken. I think my shrink’s fallen in love with my tumour. He’d like to rip it right out of my head. Says that I must have the operation. He says that without the operation I won’t be able to retain any more information. I tell him, I’ve got a three minute attention span. Why would you need anymore?”

A Polite Proposal

26 07 2008



The kind of rhythm I have used in many of these stories and in particular in A Polite Proposal comes from these big bands in the swing era. If you listen to this piece below then read the text you get an idea what I was aiming at.



When she was a baby, Sandra Hall was a great beauty. When she rose out of her mother’s womb. The nurses sighed, ahhh!. And the doctor couldn’t knock off that smile. The one that said. Who did that? It was I. So beautiful. They put Sandra in a special room. A room by herself. And when folks arrived. To have a view. The nurse would point to the first room. Those are the babies. Ain’t they swell? But then point to the second room. But this here little girl. She is an angel.

Word got out. The Daily Star put Sandra’s face on the front page. Next to the picture of the Pope.

The headline read. In Algerian type.

Pontif Dies.

And right underneath. In lovely Edwardian.

But look at who appeared at General Hospital.

To accommodate the crowds. The hospital administration insisted that each party take a number. And patiently the tourists waited. They were so well behaved. It was noted. Making small talk. Some knitted. Little booties. Some brought a lunch. Spread out a blanket and ate right on the floor. There wasn’t much sun, but it never rained.

It was like an undertow. All the way through school. Sandra was simply adored. In every Christmas pageant she was Mary. After a while teachers forgot her real name. Simply called her Mary. In every telling of Romeo and Juliet, she was Juliet. No one remembered who Romeo was. But the whole audience read his lines. Together. Out loud.

Tall, blonde, athletic, Sandra looked nothing like her parents. Her father was dark, with thick black hair. Eyebrows that fell over his eyes like doormats. And a moustache, prickly and bushy like a briar. Her mother was short. Some said portly. (Out of kindness to Sandra.) The mother was in the mayor’s words, built like a potbelly stove. With a very high forehead. Some would say she was balding. The family trees of both families retreated back into generations of look-alikes. All looked like turnips or wire-bristled brushes. Sandra was an abnominally. No such word? Then a freak in the family tree. A miracle. The beautiful flower that grew through the crack in the sidewalk.

For years Mrs. Hall resisted. She would not put Sandra into beauty contests. That’s how Mrs. Hall had been brought up. She had never become preoccupied with her own looks. And for good reason. So she saw no reason that her daughter should become preoccupied with hers. She wanted Sandra to put more emphasis on her mind. Learn those skills. Learn those drills. Under pressure from her husband’s family. A group of bankers who knew how a buck could be turned. Over a new leaf. Sandra was put in the Miss Toronto contest. Sandra was 16. No one remembered who came in second. No one remembered who had won the year before. Sandra’s picture was placed on the front pages of all three city papers. The Telegram titled her. A refreshing break from the present government. The Globe was sure. The economy will rebound. How can it help itself? The Star was speechless. Circulation boomed. For all 3 papers. Several men died of cardiacs. Happily. Young boys read the front page. Before the sports section. Their older brothers took the news. Well. Into the privacy of their washrooms.

At college Sandra was every boy’s pin-up girl. Though she only had one date. With her fellow freshmen. Her calendar was filled with seniors. And college professors. Who for the most part, she found dull. They hardly open their mouths. She complained. And when they do, it’s to drool.

When she was 19 she went to a Leonard Cohen concert. And met the handsome troubadour backstage. And did not go home that evening. Or the next. But Leonard proved to be unreliable. He kept falling asleep over his Cheerios. In bed. And Sandra grew tired of sheets. That were always wet.

Through all those years, Sandra hardly said a word. What was the point? No one was listening. Until one weekend. In the mountains near Huntsville. At a retreat for recovering rich alcoholics. She met the universally handsome James Edwards. Waiting on tables. And the whims of middle-aged women. Putting himself through pharmaceutical college. Working weekends.

It could have been otherwise. The stars could not have been so aligned. Sandra had been hired by a rich recovering alcoholic. His name was Bruce. He was a well known man about town. Seen with every beautiful woman. Actresses were grafted to his arm. And the paparazzi loved to take his photograph. And so goes Sandra. Her arm inside Bruce’s. Except. There was no romantic link. Bruce was the city’s most eligible bachelor. He was also a closet homosexual. Terrified that someone might find out something. And he’d lose his glam.

One star down. How about two ? Sandra was afraid of being poor. She liked expensive restaurants, expensive clothes, distant vacation spots. And she realized that she had absolutely no skills. No talent for anything. Except being. Here or there. Looking good. Better than anyone deserved. And it paid well. If you could find the right sucker. And maybe James Edwards was a sucker too. Who cares when you’re in love? Was she too beautiful? James was not dismayed. He knew he was going to be rich. He could offer Sandra the life style, she had come to expect. And deserved. And while he placed a glass of water in front of her. He winked at Bruce. Then bent over. Discreetly whispered in Sandra’s ear. Nicely. Politely. Don’t touch the soup. And you will be the next Mrs. Edwards.