storytime: third time’s a charm

13 Mar

Hiya friends,

I know you all think I am a major tease for spreading these stories out. What can I say? I like to build suspense among the three of you that actually read this blog. (Is it working??)

This next addition to the story time series is my own. A word of warning: it contains a very slight bit of un-lady-like language. If you have extremely delicate sensibilities, I won’t be offended if you decline to read it.  I WILL be offended if you read it and don’t like it.

I joke.

Okie dokie smokie, without further ado, I give you “Mr. Linden’s Library.”

THE MAN COUGHED, MOUTH UNCOVERED, BITS OF SPITTLE SPURTING INTO THE AIR, UNTIL HIS EYEBALLS SHOOK IN THEIR SOCKETS.  THEIR STARE, CEMENTED ON HARRY, SLOWLY LEAKED FROM WHITE TO BRIGHT RED AT THE STRAIN.

THIS UNFORTUNATE EFFORT AT COMMUNICATION ONLY SERVED TO INCREASE THE ANXIETY ALREADY POUNDING INSIDE HARRY’S CHEST.

WITH A FINAL SUMMONING OF STRENGTH AND WILLPOWER THAT WOULD DEFY ANY SANE DOCTOR’S UNDERSTANDING OF THE HUMAN BODY, THE PARAPLEGIC OLD MAN REACHED OUT WITH HIS ONE REMAINING CLAW AND SEIZED HARRY’S LEFT WRIST.  HIS NOW-RED EYES BULGING, THE MAN CREAKED,

“DON’T.

BOOK.

NO,”

(WHICH TO HARRY SOUNDED SOMETHING MORE LIKE, “DON-BU-KO,” A JAPANESE RESTAURANT IN THEIR OLD TOWN FAMOUS FOR THEIR “FLAMING TOWER OF F-ONIONS” POPULAR AMONGST THE OVER-FORTY BIRTHDAY SET AND THEIR TEENAGE CHILDREN’S SPECIAL OCCASION DATES.)

NEVER-THE-LESS. WITH THAT LAST TERRIFYING GESTURE, THE OLD MAN SLIPPED INTO HIS FINAL COMA.

HARRY SCREAMED AS THE NURSE RAN INTO THE HOSPITAL ROOM.

_____________________________

HARRY, HARIETTA FORMALLY, WAS VISITING HER DYING GRANDFATHER WITH HER MOTHER, LUCERNE.  LUCERNE HAD DREAMT OF AN ADVENTUROUS LIFE AND, AT THE RIPE OLD AGE OF TWELVE, WAS UNABLE TO REPRESS HER DREAMS OF BECOMING THE YOUNGEST KNOWN ENTOMOLOGIST RECOGNIZED FOR HER OUTSTANDING FIELDWORK OUTLINING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PIAROA INDIANS OF SOUTHERN VENEZUELA AND VENOMOUS ARTHROPOD MATING CYCLES IN THE INTERNATIONAL UNION FOR THE STUDY OF SOCIAL INSECTS’ “PYRAMID OF HONOR” ANY LONGER.  AFTER SEVERAL FAILED ATTEMPTS AT ACHIEVING HER LIFE-GOAL (ALONG WITH YEARS OF STREET-LIVING AND PRECIOUS MUSEUM ARTIFACT THEIVING – THE LATTER A NATURAL FIT FOR WHICH SHE HAD BEEN APTLY PREPARED BY HER UNWITTING ART HISTORIAN/FILTHY RICH/OF QUESTIONABLE MORAL BACKBONED PARENTS), LUCERNE DISCOVERED THAT SHE WAS NO LONGER WELCOME HOME.  SHE ALSO DISCOVERED THAT SHE WAS PREGNANT WITH WHAT WAS TO BECOME HARRY.

CONSEQUENTLY, HARRY’S FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH HER GRANDFATHER HAD OCCURRED THE NIGHT BEFORE IN THE COMPANY OF LUCERNE AND THE NIGHT NURSE, A LARGE HAITIAN IMMIGRANT NAMED WANDA.  THIS INTRODUCTION TO HER GRANDFATHER HAD BEEN RELATIVELY BENIGN: UNCONSCIOUS AND GRIMACING IN HIS NEAR-SLEEP, HE RELEASED A TRULY FOULSOME, WALLPAPER-CURLING FART.  FOR HER PART, HARRY WIPED HER GLASSES, READJUSTED THEM ON HER NOSE, AND CLEARED HER THROAT THREE TIMES, A TRICK SHE HAD GOT INTO THE HABIT OF DOING WHEN CALLED UPON IN CLASS.

AT THAT, LUCERNE EXCUSED HERSELF TO HAVE A SMOKE.  WANDA, LOOKING POINTEDLY AT HARRY SAID, “STAY AWAY FROM THIS ONE, CHILD. HE GOT THE BAD SMELL ON HIM.”

SADLY (AND ALSO CONFUSEDLY), WANDA WAS NOT REFERRING TO THE RECENT EXTINGUISH OF METHANE GAS, BUT TO SOMETHING DEEPER, SCARIER, AND LESS KNOWN.  IF ONLY THE ILL-TIMED FART HAD NOT HAPPENED, OR IF WANDA HAD SUCCEEDED IN VANQUISHING THE BAD SMELL OF HER BREATH, HARRY MIGHT HAVE HEEDED HER ADVICE IN THE DAYS AND WEEKS TO COME.

AS IT WAS, HARRY FOUND HERSELF DRAWN MORE AND MORE TO THE IDEA OF HAVING A DYING GRANDFATHER AND WANTED NOTHING MORE THAN TO BE AT THE HOSPITAL BASKING IN THE GLORIOUS SYMPATHY OF THE CANDY AND SODA-GIVING THICK-ANKLED NURSES.

IN FACT, HAD SHE BEEN GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY, HARRY WOULD HAVE DONE QUITE WELL WITH THESE WHITE-CLAD WARRIORS OF DISEASE.  THEY ADORED THE WAY SHE CLASPED HER HANDS OVER HER HEART WHILE ASKING FOR A TISSUE OR MORE JELLO (AKA: AWKWARD, PRE-TEEN BODY ISSUES) AND HOW HER VOICE AND MELONCHOLY EYES ALWAYS SEEMED ON THE VERGE OF UNSTOPPABLE TEARS (ALLERGIES).  HAD GRANDFATHER HELD ON FOR BUT A FEW MORE DAYS, HARRY WOULD HAVE MADE IT INTO THE 4TH FLOOR NURSES’ “GRIEVORS HALL OF FAME,” RIGHT UP THERE WITH THE DEVOTED MOTHER WITH THE CURLY RED HAIR AND THE BLIND, HANDSOME FIANCE OF THE SKINNY BLONDE THING.

BUT ALL THIS WAS NOT TO BE.  GRANDFATHER DIED ON THE EVE OF HIS 71ST BIRTHDAY AND IT WAS HARRIET’S JOB TO CLEAN OUT THE HOUSE.

IT HADN’T BEEN ENTIRELY HER JOB, AT LEAST NOT AT FIRST.  LUCERNE HAD MADE A BRAVE EFFORT AT SORTING THROUGH THE NEGLECTED PILES OF HER DEAD PARENT’S TRASH.  FOR THE FIRST FEW HOURS, SHE HAD WORKED LIKE A MANIAC, SEPARATING THE ARTWORK THAT WOULD BE LEGAL TO SELL FROM THE STUFF THAT WOULD HAVE TO GO ON THE BLACKMARKET, TESTING HER MOTHER’S JEWELRY FOR AUTHENTICITY (HER FATHER HAD BEEN NOTORIOUSLY CHEAP REGARDING HER MOTHER), DOING HER BEST TO FIND ANY ITEM OF WORTH THAT THEY COULD TRADE FOR COLD, HARD C.A.S.H.  IT WASN’T UNTIL SHE GOT TO HER OWN CHILDHOOD BEDROOM, UP THE MAIN STAIRS, PAST THE UPPER LIBRARY, THE THREE SPARE GUEST BEDROOMS AND THE LINEN CLOSET, THAT SHE GAVE UP AND SUGGESTED THEY SIMPLY TORCH THE PLACE FOR THE INSURANCE MONEY.  HARRY, RECOGNIZING THE IRRESPONSIBLE GLEAM IN HER MOTHER’S EYES, DIVERTED HER BY SAYING, “YES LUCERNE, AN EXCELLENT IDEA. WHY DON’T YOU GO DOWN TO THE BAR TO CELEBRATE WHILE I TAKE A LAST PEAK AROUND?”  THIS TREND CONTINUED MORE OR LESS THE SAME WAY EVERY DAY FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS: LUCERNE WOULD FIND ANOTHER POTENTIAL INVALUABLE PIECE OF ART OR HISTORICAL PAPER OR BIT OF NOSTALGIC AMERICANA, WOULD EVENTUALLY WANDER INTO THE BEDROOM WHERE SHE SPENT SO MUCH OF HER REPRESSED CHILDHOOD, AND THEN DISSOLVE INTO TEARS AND MAKE PLANS TO BURN THE HOUSE DOWN.  THE GIN AND TONICS SHE LATER SWALLOWED HAD THE AMAZING EFFECT OF WIPING THE DAILY ROUTINE FROM HER MEMORY SO THAT EACH TIME, THE GRIEF SHE FELT UPON MEETING HER OLD DEMONS SURFACED AS FRESH AND BITING AS AT THE FIRST.

IT WAS A WONDERFUL ENVIRONMENT FOR HARRY.

SHE WAS ABSOLUTELY FREE FROM ABOUT 11:30 EVERY MORNING UNTIL MIDNIGHT, WHEN HER MOTHER WOULD COME STUMBLING HOME. IN SUCH A HOUSE – BALLROOM! LIBRARY! COLONEL MUSTARD IN THE STUDY WITH THE CANDLESTICK!- THERE WAS AN UNENDING SUPPLY OF INTRIGUE TO DISCOVER.  LAMENTABLY, MOST OF IT WAS CRUMBLING AND COVERED WITH A LAYER OF GRIME AND/OR ROTTING TAKEOUT CONTAINERS. HOWEVER, AS IT WAS ALL A PART OF THE ADVENTURE OF EXPLORING THE MANSION, IT DIDN’T BOTHER HARRY IN THE LEAST.

EACH MORNING, WHILE LUCERNE WAS STILL SEMI-LUCID AND STINKING OF HANGOVER, HARRY WOULD SHOW HER MOTHER THE TREASURE SHE UNCOVERED THE DAY BEFORE: A BROKEN GOLD (?) NECKLACE FOUND IN THE BOTTOM OF GRANDFATHER’S SHAVING CUP, A FOUR FOOT LONG TAXIDERMIED SHARK WITH HALF IT’S TEETH MISSING, THE LIQUEFIED REMAINS OF WHAT HARRY HOPED WAS NOT A FORGOTTEN FAMILY PET.  IT WAS ALL VERY EXCITING.

AROUND WEEK TWO, HARRY HAD FOUND A TRULY UNIQUE AND FABULOUS PRIZE TO SHOW HER MOTHER:

HER GRANDFATHER’S DIARY.

LUCERNE SNATCHED THE DIARY UP FASTER THAN A TOAD CAN KNOCK BACK A SHOT OF FLY-HOOCH AND CLUTCHED IT TO HER FRECKLED CHEST.  WITH A WICKED SMILE UPON HER FACE, SHE MUTTERED SOMETHING ABOUT “FINALLY GETTING EVEN WITH THE OLD SHIT,” AND, INSTEAD OF HEADING TO THE BAR (IT WAS GETTING ON TEN IN THE MORNING AFTER ALL), SHE MARCHED UP TO HER OLD BEDROOM AND SLAMMED THE DOOR SHUT.  THROUGHOUT THE DAY, SHE WOULD THROW THE DOOR OPEN AND SHRIEK HER ORDERS TO HARRY. “MAKE SURE YOU DISASSEMBLE THE PLUMBING IN THE BLUE BATHROOM.  MOTHER ALWAYS THREW HER PEARLS DOWN THE TOILET WHEN SHE WAS CONSTIPATED,” OR “DID YOU FIND OUT WHAT THAT SMELL COMING FROM THE HOLE IN THE BASEMENT IS YET??”

HARRY HAD UNCHARACTERISTICALLY BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING TO KNOW THE OLD MAN BEHIND THE SPIDERY HANDWRITING.  THIS DISAPPOINTMENT, COUPLED WITH THE NOW EVER-PRESENT, GRATING COMPANY OF HER MOTHER, THREW HARRY INTO A TYPE OF REBELLIOUS DESPAIR UNEQUALLED BY ANY OF HER PREVIOUS EXPERIENCES.  SADLY, SHE COULD NOT TAKE SOLACE AT THE BAR HER MOTHER RECENTLY VACATED (THOUGH SHE DID TRY, TWICE, ONCE IN A BAD DISGUISE) AND SO SHE HAD TO RESIGN HERSELF TO THE COMFORT SHE GOT FROM BURNING SMALL PIECES OF ANTIQUE FURNITURE (A TRAIT OBVIOUSLY INHERITED FROM HER MATERNAL SIDE) AND BY TRYING ON THE FORGOTTEN COSTUMES OF HER ANCESTORS.  AFTER A FEW DAYS OF “DEAD PEOPLE DRESS-ME-UP,” HER MOTHER STARTED TO SHARE BITS AND SNATCHES OF THE DIARY WHICH SHE WOULD HOOT DOWN TO HARRY FROM HER RECLUSIVE BEDROOM PERCH:

“SEPTEMBER 21ST, MARLENA CAME TO ME IN MY DREAMS.  IT WAS A DAZZLING DISPLAY OF FECUNDITY.  I COULD NOT SHAKE THE IMAGE OF HER FROM MY MIND ALL DAY;”

“OCTOBER 5TH, MARLENA AGAIN.  THE THINGS SHE DOES TO ME ARE UNSPEAKABLE;”

OCTOBER 30TH: MARLENA, MARLENA, MARLENA. I CANNOT ESCAPE HER. IS SHE MY GIFT OR MY CURSE?”

AFTER EACH PUBLIC READING, LUCERNE WOULD INEVITABLY RANT ABOUT HER FATHER, HIS GENERAL STATE OF BEING EITHER A “BASTARD,” A “DIRTY BASTARD,” OR A “DIRTY OLD BASTARD-SON-OF-A-BITCH-I-HATE-HIM,” WHICH THEN ENDED IN A CACOPHONY OF SCREAMING, SOBS, AND/OR BROKEN OBJECTS.  AS HARRY WAS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN TO ENTER HER MOTHER’S BEDROOM LAIR, SHE COULD ONLY GUESS AT WHAT HER MOTHER WAS ACTUALLY DESTROYING. SHE LIKED TO IMAGINE LUCERNE WAS HURTLING ANCIENT RUSTY TROWELS AND HANDPICKS AT A RARE COLLECTION OF DELICATE SPUN GLASS INSECTS.

IT WAS A SATISFYING VISION.  AND IT BECAME ALL THE MORE SATISFYING THE MORE UPSET LUCERNE BECAME.  NOT THAT HARRY HATED HER MOTHER – FOR A LITTLE GIRL WHO KNEW SHE HAD BEEN UNPLANNED AND UNWANTED, AND HAD BEEN IN CHARGE OF HER OWN UPBRINGING SINCE THE AGE OF, WELL, SINCE THE TIME SHE COULD CHANGE HER OWN DIAPERS, HARRY AND LUCERNE HAD A REMARKABLY STABLE RELATIONSHIP.  IT WAS JUST THAT THE FREAK-OUTS AND THE CRYING AND THE BREAKING OF THINGS WAS SUCH A CATHARTIC RELEASE IN GENERAL THAT HARRY COULDN’T HELP BUT FEEL A LITTLE BIT BETTER HERSELF.

AFTER LUCERNE’S LATEST DIARY-INDUCED RAMPAGE, HARRY DECIDED THAT SHE SHOULD HAVE A BIT OF HER OWN FUN.  AS SHE WANDERED ABOUT THE HOUSE, SEARCHING FOR A SUITABLE (BURNABLE) OBJECT, SHE FOUND HERSELF IN THE CONSERVATORY, AMONGST THE DEAD SKELETONS OF PLANTS LONG-NEGLECTED AND ROWS OF BROKEN POTS AND PLANTERS.  LOOKING AROUND, SHE COULD FEEL HOW SWEET IT WOULD BE TO SMASH SOME LARGE THING INTO SMITHEREENS (BUT YET NOT TOO VALUABLE SO AS NOT TO BE SCOLDED).  SHE SETTLED UPON A HIDEOUS OLD POT WITH AN UGLY BUT STILL HALF-ALIVE SPIKY TREE INSIDE.

KNOWING THAT LUCERNE WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO DISCERN ONE MOUND OF POTSHARDS FROM ANOTHER, HARRY STARTED TO SCOOP OUT THE OFFENSIVE LITTLE PLANT FROM THE CONTAINER WHEN SUDDENLY, SHE FELT A STABBING PAIN.  ONE OF THE PLANT’S LEAVES HAD GOUGED A SIZEABLE HOLE IN HER HAND AND THE BLOOD WAS POURING FROM THE WOUND.  IN A PANIC, HARRY SEARCHED AROUND FOR SOMETHING TO STEM THE GUSH OF BLOOD AND STUMBLED INTO A SMALL, PREVIOUSLY HIDDEN BATHROOM CLOSET AT THE BACK OF THE HOUSE. FRENZYING THROUGH THE MEDICINE CABINET, SHE FOUND A FEW FOSSILIZED BOTTLES OF QUESTIONABLE ORANGE-Y FLUID, BUT NOTHING THAT SEEMED LIKE IT WOULD HELP THE INCREASINGLY PAINFUL CUT.  THOUGH SHE MAY HAVE BEEN HALLUCINATING FROM THE LACK OF BLOOD, HARRY SWORE THAT THE CUT WAS STARTING TO OPEN AND CLOSE LIKE A FISH SEEKING AIR AND WAS OOZING A STINKY WHITE-ISH PUSS.  JUST AS SHE BEGAN TO PANIC AND WAS ABOUT TO CALL HER MOTHER FOR HELP -A RARITY INDEED-  HARRY SPOTTED AN OLD LEATHERY LOOKING BOOK WEDGED BETWEEN THE WALL AND THE BACK OF THE TOILET.  IT APPEARED AS IF THE BOOK HAD WORMED ITS WAY INTO THE ROOM FROM THE CRACK IN THE WALL BEHIND THE TOILET’S PLUMBING.  EITHER THAT, OR IT HAD BEEN SHOVED THERE BY A SUPERHUMANLY STRONG EXERTION.

THOUGHTS OF HER PAINFUL HAND ASIDE (OR WAS HER HAND NO LONGER BLEEDING AND PAINFUL?), HARRY YANKED THE BOOK FROM ITS POSITION WITH THE HELP OF A SMALL HAMMER AND CHISEL SHE FOUND (HAD THEY BEEN THERE BEFORE?) LYING NEXT TO THE TOILET’S BASE.  CAREFULLY WIPING THE DUST FROM IT’S FLAKING COVERS SHE READ THE TITLE ALOUD:

GARDENING FOR LIFE

LAUGHING AT HER SILLINESS AS SHE REALIZED HOW UNNECESSARILY SCARED SHE HAD BEEN, HARRY BROUGHT THE BOOK ALONG AS SHE SKIPPED TOWARDS THE KITCHEN TO HEAT UP HER DAILY, NUTRITIOUS, LUNCH OF TINNED VIENNA SAUSAGES AND E-Z CHEESE.  IT WASN’T UNTIL LATER THAT EVENING WHEN HER MOTHER, SPOTTING HER SLIGHTLY CUT HAND, ASKED IF SHE WAS OK THAT HARRY RECALLED HER EARLIER INCIDENT IN THE BATHROOM.

“OH, THAT?” SAID HARRY, “IT’S JUST A LITTLE SCRAPE.  NO BIG DEAL.”

THAT NIGHT, AS SHE CRAWLED INTO BED IN THE DETERIORATING OLD HOUSE OF HER DEAD GRANDPARENTS, HER MOTHER SOBBING AND DESTROYING IN THE ROOM BELOW, HARRY READ THE INSCRIPTION INSIDE THE GARDENING BOOK, WRITTEN IN HER GRANDMOTHER’S BEAUTIFUL CURSIVE:

“TO MY HUSBAND, PHILIP ON HIS 70TH BIRTHDAY.  FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE GIVEN TO ME OVER THE YEARS. MAY YOUR THUMB BE ESPECIALLY GREEN.”

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HER LIFE, THE IDEA OF LIVING SUDDENLY SEEMED EASIER TO HARRY.

SHE WAS COMFORTED BY A FEELING OF ABUNDANT LOVE RADIATING THROUGH THE WALLS OF THE HOUSE, ENCIRCLING HARRY LIKE A FAST GROWING VINE.  NO MATTER HOW THEY HAD TREATED THEIR DAUGHTER, HER GRANDPARENTS HAD AT LEAST LOVED EACH OTHER.  SHE KNEW (FROM EAVESDROPPING ON ONE OF LUCERNE’S PARENT-HATING RANTS) THAT HER GRANDMOTHER HAD SUCCUMBED TO A LONG-STANDING ILLNESS THE EVENING OF HER GRANDFATHER’S 70TH BIRTHDAY. YET SHE HAD STILL MADE THE EFFORT IN THE ANGUISH OF HER SICKNESS TO GIVE HIM A WELL-CONSIDERED GIFT WITH A LOVING MESSAGE.

MAYBE COMING BACK TO THIS PLACE WOULD BE A GOOD THING FOR HER MOTHER.  EVEN THE “MARLENA” THAT LUCERNE KEPT SCREAMING ABOUT COULD TURN OUT TO BE NOTHING MORE THAN A REFERENCE TO CHAPTER TWO OF THE GARDENING BOOK, ENTITLED, “HOW TO A GROW A MARLENA TREE.”

HUGGING THE BOOK TO HER CHEST, SHE CLOSED HER EYES, UNTROUBLED.  THE WIND BLEW THROUGH THE TREETOPS OUTSIDE HER WINDOW AS VISIONS OF ABUNDANT FOLIAGE AND PREGNANT FRUIT WASHED WAVES OF SLEEP OVER HER.

SHE FORGOT THE SPIKY PLANT ENTIRELY.  THE PAGES OF THE VENERABLE BOOK FLUTTERED IN THE WAKE OF HER HOT BREATH AS IF BEING STIRRED TO LIFE.

HE HAD WARNED HER ABOUT THE BOOK. NOW IT WAS TOO LATE.

He had warned her about the book. Now it was too late.

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2 Responses to “storytime: third time’s a charm”

  1. Dagny Helems April 3, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Some genuinely quality blog posts on this web site , saved to fav.

    • ferrellandfarrell April 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      Thanks Dagny. I’m pretty bad about adding posts in a timely manner but will try harder! 🙂

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