Mrs. Fraser is getting
ready for dinner. A party of twelve. Very special (as always), designed to
impress Mr. Fraser's colleagues and their wives.
A black velvet
dress clings to her slim figure. Diamond earrings and necklace.Silver hair, coiffed in an up-do only her
hairdresser can accomplish. She's almost ready.
From a dresser
drawer, hidden in her silk lingerie, Mrs. Fraser takes out a silver flask and
swallows long and slowly.The liquid
fires up her throat and her nerve.
a lone walker–
cast in shadow
2. The Dinner
English china, Belgian lace. A table set for royalty. Mrs. Fraser longingly
gazes out the window. A summer night cries out for a barbeque, not caviar and
squab; beer not Verve Clicquot.
On her right is
grandson?Precocious is he? Toilet
trained in one week you say? Remarkable! Did you notify The Times?Yes, I'm joking.
Of course I'm joking.
On her left is
Judson Parker. She kicks his creeping foot away from hers.
Yes, I agree. Desperate
hunger in the world. Should all do our part. I'll start now and pack up this dinner for the
Homeless Mission downtown. What's that you say? A joke, yes. Just a joke.
bouquet of roses silky petals
fall with a
Goodnight. Thank you. Lovely to see you. Next week at the Henderson's? Can't wait to
see their infinity pool. A restful view, I'm sure. Perhaps, I'll jump in and
disappear into infinity. Yes. Yes. Another joke.
4. Lights Out
Midnight. The house
locked down. One more successful dinner. One more gold star.
takes out the flask again and places a bottle of pills next to it.She lines up the pills on her dresser. With
slow deliberation her hand moves from pill to mouth to flask, from pill to
mouth to flask, from pill to mouth to flask.
She was a bright student, Phi Beta Kappa.Married before graduation.Has her first child six months later.Three more children follow in rapid
succession.She moves to a New England
Coastal town and writes that she is happy.
She, with husband and children, move to Florence where he
continues his art studies.
She writes that she is happy.
Upon their return she teaches high school English and writes
that she is not happy.
She and the children move to a commune in California where
she grows vegetables, bakes bread, has a lover, changes her name to Sunflower
and writes that she is happy.
An old colonial
house. Ours. Cleaned, painted, polished, scrubbed and repaired. An object on display, a star on stage, ready
for the public. Ready to be someone
We wait, out of
sight and out of hearing. What do they
think, these lookers, these pokers and prodders? Will someone see its charm as
we did 29 years ago? An old lady with a
few idiosyncrasies. The sloping hallway, the creak in the dining room floor,
the leak above the side door when there
is a drenching rain? Will the new family be forgiving and adjust to the old
lady's habits and manners? Another
sweater when winds blow through loose windows, a pot under the leak. This old lady has so much else to offer.
From a bedroom
window, rolling fairways and fastidious greens on the golf course. Lilacs and roses on warm breezes; the maple,
a canopy of gold in autumn and the envy of Midas; the transformation of the
land with fresh snow. Birds, squirrels,
rabbits, raccoons, chipmunks, possums.
Residents and visitors, including the occasional deer and wild turkey.
The walls will soon hear new stories and
absorb new memories. Will they echo with
happy celebrations, crowded with children, grandchildren and friends? And, when
it is time for the owners to move on, will they look back, as I am, and wonder
what has happened to the years?
A rarity, blood
oranges at the market.I buy several and
remember her delight when she found them again decades after leaving her home
in the Sicilian hills.The mottled red
orange skin, the reddish flesh, juicy and sweet.
I add goat
cheese to my cart and remember her stories about buying cheese and milk from
the goat boy every morning.
I remember her
dark eyes and warm smile and her deft way with a cooking spoon.
I arrange the
red orange segments, spiraling them on a plate, toss a few cubes of goat cheese
here and there, squeeze on some of the red juice, sprinkle with olive oil, salt
and a generous shake of freshly ground black pepper.
There is drama
in the opening chords. The piano alone—
six times the same chord, beginning pianissimo, getting louder with each
repetition. Then a sweeping blend of
violins and piano. I listen and forget
the arduous task I’m doing, peddling my exercise bike. The music lifts me beyond the mundane aspects of daily life.
on the windows—
introduction of horns and full orchestra.
The piano, romantic in tone. A
quiet orchestral melody. Hollywood
borrowed the melody for a film years ago.
Everyone of a certain age would know it.
I’m there in the
concert hall. Spotlight on the pianist,
his head bent over the keys, fingers flying. The audience is in shadow. All
still but for the occasional cough or
sneeze. Bike exercise completed, I
remain listening. An increased tempo in
the third movement. Passages of piano
fireworks, each note quick, clear and sharp.
I’ve listened to this so often I can anticipate each phrase, each
note. Then the full orchestra again,
soaring with the melody and finally closing with a strong crescendo.
Today, I begin to remove the holiday decorations. Some have
been part of my holiday celebrations since childhood, ornaments that I inherited
when my parents passed away. Others are from my husband’s family. There are paper
ornaments made by our children and grandchildren. Ornaments from places we visited and from