Friday, April 26, 2013

Episode Three: "A Small Fiction," aka Gloria

Writing fiction allows grown-ups to have imaginary friends.

A pre-dawn revelation.  Maybe I'd been dreaming of a Popsicle and this was written on the stick.  We surely need and are entitled to all the harmless, free fun we can find, a category that before now might have been limited to reading library books or playing with art supplies I already own.  Then Sarah Saunders Ceramics showed us "smack round the face with a wet fish?"  From which came Gloria,  pastry, ocean currents, Noel Coward and, apparently, unspooling episodes. 

My two favorite serials were "Flash Gordon" and "Shadows Over Chinatown," probably neither of which was entirely suitable for a grade school child and I had crazy passion for both.  I somehow convinced kids to play Flash Gordon at recess, guess who directed and starred?  And my paper lantern obsession lingers still, with a scent memory of sandalwood joss sticks.  Dim the house lights, please.

A Small Fiction, part 3

What with the fish and all, Gloria's bills for laundry and dry cleaning, she swore, had given all three of the sturdy, rather scabby Walthers children smiles so straight and bright they could go into the movies.  Orthodontia, skiing vacations for all five of the Waltherses, hiring local help to run the cleaners and laundromat during the vacations and other luxuries the family enjoyed were certainly underwritten in part by Gloria.  Baking, sign making, aesthetics and keeping her wits about her occupied all of Gloria's waking hours.  Washing and ironing the shop's vintage tablecloths, linen napkins, towels, aprons, curtains, not to mention caring for her own spotless wardrobe had to be entrusted to other hands.  Getting a full measure of beauty sleep was another job only she could handle.

For the time being, Mr. Apotienne's courtship, if such it was, took place in the tea room during business hours.  He did not hang about under the climbing roses waiting to walk Gloria home or ask if he might call for her one evening.  He arrived each day, guided by some infallible inner knowing that told him when the shop was quiet, took a not-large corner table near the pastry case and, after placing his "for starters" order, retrieved the volume containing three of Coward's plays from a briefcase-sized pocket in his all-weather coat and began to read wherever he'd left off the day before.  He pitched his voice so that Gloria heard him perfectly, even with some clanking of china and cutlery.  The ordinary bustle of commerce had to flow on.  Had others been nearby, the could have listened - and been amused by the words and Mr. Apotienne's skill as a reader and interpreter - or could easily continue their own conversations undistracted.

She kept a growing, fluxing mental list of what she most enjoyed, admired or was made dizzy by at the hand and voice and other segments of Mr. Apotienne.  In no particular order - or a slightly prejudiced order - she counted that he assumed she had the refinement and humor that Mr. Coward required, he seemed not to have a fish phobia nor the sometimes observed distaste for any sea-borne smells.  His eyes were the blue of chambray that had seen years in the sun and many washings.  He did not appear to be overly hairy.  She wondered if he had tattoos.  If his voice had been a disembodied thing, a box that sat on the table or a sound piped in over a loudspeaker, she had to admit she might have been every bit as enthralled.  Smitten was too frail a word.  If once there had been benevolent gods - powerful yet kind - and if they once spoke to mortals, that was the voice.  For their divine qualities, her pastry, his voice, they were handsomely matched.  Perhaps benevolent gods still played behind the scenes, having their fun, testing the waters.  Gloria's heart, she found, could beat so fast she thought she'd developed a panic disorder.


Erin in Morro Bay said...

A man with chambray blue eyes who reads Coward in a voice like pastry?
Oh Gloria - you fortunate girl!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - Yes. Might as well write our imaginary friends as we, well, imagine them. Thank you, Erin. Pastry on the house any time and the very best table. xo

Lisa H said...

I love a woman who insists on (and GETS) her beauty sleep. I'm going to pretend to sketch whilst hanging on every Coward word......

Marylinn Kelly said...

Lisa - Beauty sleep, or just sleep to keep from turning into an ill-tempered gargoyle. Hum softly. That can make one appear not to be hanging on every word, too. xo