The Seduction of An Old Woman And Her Walker

27 09 2010

The Seduction of An Old Woman And Her Walker

John Newton was an ugly man. In his body and his temperament. He was thick. His head rose straight out of his shoulders. Like an escarpment from the surrounding landscape. He didn’t appear to have a neck. Clean shaven, hair sprouted out of his nostrils and out of his eyebrows. Like small horned sheep climbing the narrow paths of a cliff side. Broad shouldered, his body dropped straight down to his legs. Skinny legs that sprouted out of his abdomen like eyes from a potato. Buried too long in a damp basement.

John Newton hated people. Unless they were beautiful. And young. And female. Or had something he wanted. Like Mrs. Murphy. She had money. Those he tolerated.

Mrs. Murphy, an old woman who used a walker to make her way around in the world sat across from him. She had a craggy face like a cliff side worn down by wind and rain. Her teeth, though false, were bright and shiny. Like fog headlights.

Newton hated Mrs. Murphy. He fantasized diving over his oak desk, grabbing her wrinkled neck, and twisting it until her tongue hung out of her ear, and her eyes popped out onto the napkins of flesh onto her cheeks.

John Newton was a banker.

Mrs. Murphy had a large bank account in Mr. Newton’s bank. Mr. Murphy, dear Earnest, had been a veterinarian who had speculated wisely on the stock market then died. In middle age. And Mrs. Murphy inherited all his wealth. Though still young, she never remarried. Explaining to people that she couldn’t see much point in men. And that sex thing. What was that all about? She asked. And no one bothered to answer her. And who could fill Earnest’s shoes? Size 12. Besides. Mrs. Murphy had many friends. Mostly other widows. Whose husbands had invested well. And died. Leaving them well taken care for. And nothing suited them. And all of their money was in Mr. Newton’s bank. And all of them listened to Mrs. Murphy when she spoke.

Mrs. Murphy spoke.

“We supported this bank. You were begging for customers. And we came. Mr. Hammer, the first manager, bless his soul, helped in the annual Boy Scout Christmas Sale, and his wife was secretary of the school council. Poor Helen.  A terribly unattractive woman. Features like a goat’s. But very industrious. How could anyone know that she was dieing of TB. Died five years later. Poor Mr. Hammer never recovered. And all of us ached every time we stepped into this bank and saw him sitting alone in his office. His shoulders bent under his cross. His hands… so empty. He was one of us. We supported him. But now… The bank acts like we are strangers. We don’t feel as if you want us anymore.”

Mr. Newton flashed his customary smile.

“I’m sure that isn’t the case, Mrs. Murphy.”

Mrs. Murphy raised her chin.

“You want to close the bank. Move it to the Queensway! Of all places. Where the poor Irish live.”

There was silence. For several moments Mr. Newton stared at Mrs. Murphy.

“That was not my decision,” Mr. Newton said. As if this declaration was sufficient.

Mrs. Murphy waited. As if there must be some elaboration. There was none.

Mrs. Murphy took a deep breath.

“You never asked us.”

Mr. Newton leaned over this desk. As if he had decided that seduction was on the menu. He gathered his voice and spoke. An impression of the great jazz performer, Louis Armstrong.

“We’ll still be able to serve you. My dear.”

Mrs. Murphy softened. Her heart began to melt. There was no denying Mr. Newton’s charms.

“I can’t walk down to the Queensway.”

“We’ll have a bus service twice a day.”

It was the word twice that shook the old woman from her romantic stupor. Cad. That’s what she wanted to say. But did not. Instead she said.

“I’m supposed to schedule my day around your bus service? Listen to yourself, my dear.”

She hadn’t expected the endearment to slip from her lips. The last time she had called anyone dear was Mr. Newton. During his last moments. On this blue orb. But now. She was supposed to be outraged. But anger was not the emotion she felt.

“I think you’re overreacting, my pet.”

The old lady gasped. Mr. Newton placed his hand over his mouth. Hoping the last remark that had entered their ears had not exited from his mouth.

“Excuse me!” Mrs. Murphy cried.

Mr. Newton was not sure he should reply. What if something worse, something more damning were to pop out of his mouth. But he must speak.

“I feel so inadequate,” he said.

Mrs. Murphy smiled. A tear welled up in her eye. She reached over the desk and placed her shaking hand on Mr. Newton’s. Mr. Newton looked down at the old woman’s limb. Light as a feather. Hardly pressing on his skin at all. But the marks on her skin. And the scabs. And the size of the wedding ring. Solid gold. Mr. Newton’s heart began to swell.

“Not since the late…” Mrs. Murphy began. And climbed to her feet. Grabbed her walker. She stepped toward the door. Almost seemed to dance toward the door. Though her legs were shaking. They seemed, in this magical moment, to synchronize.

“It’s too early,” Mrs. Murphy said before exiting the room. “I’m still morning the loss of my dearest, Earnest. I hope you won’t be too… disappointed.”





Cyclops

25 09 2010

What is it about a cyclops that is so fascinating? And what did these strange creatures think about? Food, it appeared. I remember going with my friends to see The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and it was the cyclops that caught my eye. And wasn’t that eye, our third eye. The imagination. Later in adolescence another type of cyclops stole my attention. The opposite sex. And weren’t they as strange. And as frightening. And how was the Cyclops destroyed? By plunging a spear into his…. I think we’ll end the parallel there lest I venture into territory too Freudian and metaphoric.





Beverley from Scarborough

23 09 2010

A friend called this collage my Picasso piece. Actually it was partially experimentation. Reminded me of life in Scarborough. Where they built all these subdivisions. Then rationalised afterwards how this was the 21st Century way of life. When what it seemed to me was wall to wall, block on block, of loneliness. I did notice aspects of Picasso when I was working on it. But I think this has more to do with Picasso breaking up his images and reinventing them in a different order. He was dealing with what might be called temporal collage. For me this piece is more like genetic collage. Take a bunch of different poses from different people and make one new person. Voila! Frankenstein. Or Beverley from Scarborough.





A New Fear

20 09 2010

A New Fear

The big man reached over the counter and placed his large hand on the drugstore clerk’s head. Like her head was a doorknob. And opened her up. The head, like the plastic top of a bottle of gas water, twisted right off. Blood. Like carbonated water shot up out of the bottle’s. Neck. The big man had always loved fountains.  Ain’t that pretty?

But of course. That’s not what happened.

The big man’s hand was on the girl’s head. The girl called Josephine. She smiled uncomfortably. What if he sneezes? A spasm might bring about her end. But she was an employee. Of a large pharmaceutical firm and had to smile. Even in death the customer was always right. In this case the large man was left. Handed. Which he released. Which gave some relief to Josephine. Josephine had never had the urge. To be a name on an accident report. Or a sidebar on You Tube.

“Just come back from Nassau.” The big man was called Everest. Which wasn’t his real name. That was Reginald. The third. For a big man Everest had a small voice. Almost childlike in its timber. Like a tiny Flem. Yodeling in the Alps. For his cross star lover in Brugge.

“See the tan on my arms.” Everest flexed his arm. Josephine couldn’t help but notice that one side of Everest’s arm was brown. But the other side was white. Like the moon. Whose face is always on the sun. Like it didn’t trust its solar father. None of this occurred to Josephine. Who was a simple girl with a grade eleven education. Smart in all things. Except trigonometry. What she surmised was, that due Everest’s size there wasn’t enough time in the day for him to tan all of his body.

“You should see my legs.” Everest smiled. He was ready to pull up his pant leg and show the tan on his calves.

“No, thank you, sir.” Josephine said then whispered. “Management takes a dim view of customer’s showing their body parts.”

Everest smiled. Hesitatingly. He leaned over toward the minute cashier. He checked her name on her uniform.

“May. I love that name. May. Spring like. So full of hope.”

It was then that Josephine realized that she had put on May’s uniform. It would have been May’s name on the accident report. May, whose head would be spinning around like a top on the floor. Caught on tape by the store cameras. Bought up for the late night news.  May always wanted to be in show business.

“Did not want to come back to all of this .Last thing I wanted to face was the cold.” Everest said. The big man shivered. Not actually shivered but acted as if he was shivering. And proud of his performance.

Josephine looked behind Everest. There was a large line of customers. Waiting. She was afraid to say anything. Everest was that big.

He placed his purchase, a hemorrhoid ointment, on the counter.

“It’s for my wife,” he added then winked. Everest did not have a wife. He was having some difficulties with hemorrhoids. He did not want to place an image of himself using the ointment in the girl’s mind, so he lied about having a wife. The girl looked so happy. And spring like.

Josephine smiled with relief. She rang up the purchase on the cash register and put the ointment in a small plastic bag. She felt quite gay. Focused. And for the first time in years, confident. Nothing like a brush with death to clear the mind, she thought.

“People are so friendly in Nassau.” Everest continued, his eyes rising to the ceiling as if he was praying. “Pat on the back. A smile. Polite conversation. I’m not sure what it is. Not such a rat race.” And then added, “I suppose.” As if having a firm opinion was impolite.

The big man’s smile melted into consternation.

Josephine’s skin began to crawl. A new fear tickled her funny bone.

“Not like Canadians.” Everest looked down at Josephine with a scowl. “We are a cold lot. A stark and stern people. Parochial in our imagination. You can always tell when an immigrant becomes truly Canadian. They stop paying attention. To mother nature.”

With this mention of mother nature a small cloud was released from the giant’s bowels. People behind Everest began to gag. An old woman had to sit down in her walker.

The girl looked around hoping to see another clerk. She had no idea where this conversation was going. And she remembered the stories related by the other girls who worked at the drug store, stories about strange men who leered, ogled, drooled.  The girl looked up at the large man, thought for a moment, then responded.

“I think you should move on.”

“Hurry up, mister,” a voice from behind several people at the back of the line now curling down one aisle and up a second.

Everest turned around. A small boy, about six or seven years of age, stood in front of his father. The two looked like two versions of the same person. They were dressed identically, blue jeans, t-shirt, leather jackets, and white running shoes. They smiled the same. The father was clean shaven. The boy had a tattoo on his forearm. Of an anchor. The father blushed and squeezed the boy’s shoulder.

“That’s no way to speak to people,” the father said looking down at his son. The boy looked up at his father, grinning.

“You’re upside down.” The boy laughed.

Everest looked at the father. He raised his hand and pointed his finger at him.

“I recognize that accent. Where are you from?”

“Brampton,” the father responded.

“Originally,” Everest added.

“Nassau,” the man said.

“Nassau, eh?” Everest nodded. “I thought I recognized that accent. Just came back from Nassau, myself. Lovely people. How long have you been here?”

“Three years,” the father said.

“My father is a copper,” the boy said proudly. “And if you’re not careful, he could put you down in three shakes. Ain’t that right, father?”

The boy looked up at his father. The father looked down at his son. They nodded. Other people in the line muttered amongst themselves.

Everest put his hand on the boy’s head to rustle his hair. The boy swung at the man’s hand. Everest laughed but did not remove his hand. The boy swung again.

“Leave my head alone you big ox!” the boy cried.

Everest continued to laugh. Everest liked kids. Most kids liked Everest. They liked his size. And his gentleness. And his laugh. Not this kid. And it did something to Everest. He felt like twisting. Like flipping this kid’s head. Off. Maybe the father detected this change.

“Maybe you should take your hand away,” the father suggested.

Everest smiled. “Kids like their hair rustled.”

The father reached out and grabbed Everest’s wrist.

“Please!” the father said.

There was a moment of silence. Everest pulled his hand away. He looked at the clerk who smiled uncomfortably.

“How much do I owe?” he asked. There were tears streaming down his cheeks.

“Two thirty five,” Josephine said.

Everest reached into his pocket and took out some change. After he had paid and the clerk handed his small plastic bag to him, Everest turned back to the father.

“People’s feelings can get hurt, you know.” And turned. And ran out of the drug store. On his tip toes.





Antwerp Train Station

18 09 2010

Without a doubt one of the most beautiful train stations in Europe. They completely redid the building to bring it back to the way it looked when it was built. And what’s more, anything can happen there. I, for example, was with my wife.





Louis Prima and Angelina

14 09 2010

I created this illustration as a result of listening to one of my favourite songs. Angelina by Louis Prima. This particular version is not my favourite. But I remember seeing Louis doing the song on television and the song is just fun. As are the lyrics. Which are a terrific example of populist poetry.





And Then Something Happened

10 09 2010

And Then Something Happened

Josephine Baker was the prettiest girl on Prennan Avenue. According to her father. She just needed to lose a little weight. Put on a little make-up. Spend that little smile more freely. But, oh how lonely she felt standing in front of the bathroom mirror. A teenager. How strange this new world was to her. Making her feel awkward and ugly and so full of hope. Hope that sometimes made her feel like she wanted to die. Nothing ever seemed to happen fast enough for Josephine Baker.

Most of Josephine’s friends described her as sweet. Josephine did not have enemies. No one got to know her that well. Sometimes she hated herself. Why was she always so very agreeable? Listening closely to any discussion to make sure that her viewpoint did not contradict anyone else’s opinion. Never arguing. Backing down from any conflict. Why did Josephine feel that she could not afford to lose any potential friends? And as a result, she had few friends. People described her as two faced, not because she was malicious or talked behind people’s backs, but because her opinions changed depending upon the company she kept. She was a chameleon. Disappearing into the background. If only they knew.

Josephine graduated from high school with honors and entered college. Studying science. Headed for a career in medicine. It was thought how wonderful it would be if she was the first female to become the county coroner. Josephine took a summer job at the local drug store. Her father, who was a police officer, had connections with Mr. Edwards, one of the owners. Josephine loved working as a cashier. So much so that she considered quitting college and working full time. Her father forbade Josephine from making this decision. Anyone with your I.Q. should not be working in a drug store the rest of your life.

And then something happened. There was a boy. Paul McGregor smiled at Josephine the first day she worked in the drug store. The first moment she walked through the front sliding doors. The first time she walked out of the Ladies’ room wearing her blue and ruby uniform. Josephine had been blind sided, struck by Cupid’s arrow. Working at her cash register, she would glance down the aisle hoping to see Paul. Working. Merely walking by.

I’m mad about the boy. A gay appeal that makes me feel that there is something sad about the boy.

On her breaks Josephine would sneak out to the back of the drug store where Paul went to smoke. She wouldn’t speak to him. Would stand there like she was out for a break of fresh air. Like she was lost in thought. One day Paul offered her a cigarette and she took it. Smoked like she’d be born to it.

Chained her to the cigarette. And the boy.

Occasionally Paul would come up and talk to her and May when business was slow. Paul was a mysterious figure to Josephine. He smoked. He shaved his head. Though it was obvious his hair was red. Like a Russian. His eyes were dark. Like some count. In the court of Catherine. And he liked to read books. The only person Josephine ever met who read Moby Dick for pleasure. And he wanted to be a writer.

If only I could employ some magic that would finally destroy this dream that chains me to this boy.

Josephine wrote as well. Mostly poetry. About romance. And unspeakable crimes against loneliness. Unmentionable acts against decency. She submitted her work to several magazines. And was published. More than once. The publisher encouraged her to write more. And she did. But she kept all this quiet. Her father did not approve of such frivolous activities as poetry. Won’t pay the rent! was his usual refrain to any activity he didn’t agree with. Nor did she tell her mother. The content of her poems would have scandalized her mother, a religious and rather prudish woman.

One day when Josephine caught Paul writing in a small book he always seemed to keep on him, Josephine mentioned that she wrote. Paul encouraged her to bring in some work so  he could read it. She did. When Paul finished reading three of her pieces he just stared at her, his mouth hanging open.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” she finally asked.

“They’re very… adult.” He smiled awkwardly.

“You think I’m a pervert?” Josephine asked. “I’m taking an introductory course in psychology at college and I have all the symptoms.”

“Is perversion an illness?” Paul asked.

Josephine nodded. “I believe so. It’s in the genes. My father is a police officer, you know. He has all these unresolved conflicts between good and evil. And my mother is quite the prude even though she was a hot number when she was young.  I was born out of wedlock. Conceived in the back seat of a ‘57 chev. Custom built. I have this image of my mother’s left foot dangling out the car window. All of these conflicted traits get handed down in the genes. I’m a mess.”

Paul laughed. “You really know how to sell yourself.”

Josephine looked hurt.

“You are interesting.” Paul added.

“Do you think so?”

“No doubt about it,” Paul responded.

Josephine glared at Paul. “Is that good?”

“It can cause problems.” Paul replied.

“Do you think I have talent?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” Paul responded. “Do you think it’s going to rain this afternoon? I didn’t wear a jacket.”

“You lost me.” Josephine threw her cigarette to the ground.

“I’m trying to become a writer myself,” Paul explained, “so it’s not like my opinion means anything.”

Smoke slithered out of Josephine’s lips. He doesn’t like them. She took the poems from Paul and placed them back in the brown envelope that she kept them in.

Paul watched her.

“But I keep writing,” he said. “I go to a writer’s workshop once a month. We read each other’s work and offer criticism. Would you like to come?”

Josephine’s face lit up. She nodded. Then sadness turned her mouth down.

“Would I have to read my stuff?”

Paul shook his head.

“I didn’t even talk the first few times I went to the workshop. Eventually though you get over it. First time I read stuff I kept apologizing. Nothing sounded as good when I read it as when it was written.”

Paul looked at Josephine for a moment.

“What?” Josephine asked.

“You tricked me.”

Josephine reacted with an unsettled smile on her lips.

Paul was angry.

“This is one of your stories.”

She laughed.

“I’m sure, I don’t know what you mean.”

“This,” Paul said raising his hand. There was a knife where there had been a cigarette.

Josephine stepped back. But not quickly enough. The next moment she stared down at her chest. A knife stuck out between two ribs.

“Why?” Paul cried.