NOTE: For last week’s SS prompt, “Disconnected,” I disconnected, not of my own choosing, but because the sun blasted and the steamroller rolled. And all that blasting and rolling inspired this mess here that brought back The miracle vignettes women, Rachele, Ruthey, and LeeAnn. It was going to be for SUNY/ESC but it turned out too weird, turned out to be something that more of you might appreciate, and that’s meant, strangely, as a compliment : )
The late spring sun blasted up over the curve of the earth, pierced treetops and skyscrapers with its close, sharp rays, forced its way into all the eastern rooms of buildings, homes. It cut through cobwebbed glass, left swipes of light on eggshell walls, made prisms of bevels of mirrors, and lay down blocks of brilliance on the floors. It was moving fast toward the unbearable inner city summer heat, toward Moss Glen Falls to dry it out for autumn, for hikers and leaf-peepers, and on toward the ruthless winter of the Cascades, toward Mount Baker, that thirty-five hundred foot high money-making machine.
The sun swarms the earth like people do—hard and fast, come hell or high water, living or dying—and it would be no bothersome thing if there were no stories behind the things of it. If the hill hermits could just rise to the sun, all happy in themselves, going about their business of writing and hiding and gardening like gnomes. If the town drunk could just squint one annoyed eye at the damnable thing, the blaring ball of light and heat disturbing his addled sleep, and maybe lift a hand to swat at it before rolling his back to it. If the common man could be common and if the uncommon man could just be that, with no hate or jealously or worldly love attached.
But there’s been a story put to everything, put to every life on the planet, that makes the simple, sweet thing sad, that makes the spirit wilt and the eye weep when the story ends what could be called badly, when objects and living things cared for too much take their leave like the sun leaves everything to the cold of darkness above and beneath the ground. And peering out from the dark, in the moonlit eye of every beholder lies a million different views glinting off a million different silvers of knives and golds of candlesticks, stolen or earned, used for what could be called good or bad, for birthing or living or dying, but always for something, never for nothing, nothing but stories.
I – Rachele
Rachele mindlessly waits for the miracle of a million good luck bucks to be dropped on her from somewhere, she doesn’t care where, and that’s maybe the thing keeping her from it—no sweet faith, only callous expectation and hard luck living, selling sex in a sleazy apartment, her beauty, her bait, her only good luck buck so far—in an indirect sort of way.
She got a bad start in life, left a hell pit of a house at sixteen, with only her irrational, juvenile thinking to guide her, and now she’s stuck in that no-win thinking because she hangs with folks who parallel her way of being. From the ashtray of life, her only view of up is Paramount Pictures, and that’s a big jump up from stuck down.
But something could turn around for her just because anything’s possible, anything at all, and because life’s not static. Lessons advancing the human character and condition are happening all the time. Trouble is, for everything learned, it seems like something else needs to be learned.
Rachele lost her big-money regular to Mary Magdalene a couple of months ago and had to get a roommate, Kat, a veteran sex saleswoman, to help pay the rent. Kat’s fixing to turn thirty, has been in the biz for a long damned time. And although eighteen year-old Rachele is still too young to know she doesn’t know it all, she’s learning a few things despite herself.
Rachele watches Kat like a hawk, like now, she stares at her across the empty booze bottles and PBR cans scattered atop her dinky, flip-down kitchen table, watches how Kat pushes her lips out to blow smoke up toward the grimy ceiling, how it makes her look so cool. She likes Kat.
Trouble is, she just heard the other day that the cops found Mary Magdalene dead in a dumpster and her regular trick wants to come back around, and this time she’ll know better than to screw him over like last time. Now she doesn’t need Kat anymore, wants to kick her out. Trouble is, she’s just too inexperienced to know how to do it so she won’t have to pay hard for it. She just tells her, “Kat, I want you outta here by tomorrow night.”
And Kat, she just blows her smoke upward and drags her eyes lazily from the ceiling to Rachele’s eyes and tells her slow and searing, “That ain’t much time to give a ‘friend’ what done you a big-ass favor when you was cryin’ for fixin’ to be put out on the street by your lan’lord.”
Rachele shies from Kat’s burning brown eyes, sits back in her chair a bit, thinking what to do, what to say. She doesn’t know much else but meeting resistance with resistance and so she stiffens her backbone, gets all indignant-looking and tells Kat, “It’s my place and I gotta do what I gotta do.”
Kat lights another cigarette, blows the smoke at Rachele, and says, “Have it your way, fool.”
Rachele frowns, says, “Fuck you,” because that’s all that’s left to say when you’re wrong and cornered and your ego won’t let you off the hook without the last word.
Kat just smiles. She knows she can get out of Rachele’s apartment in as long as it takes her to gather up her few clothes and cosmetics. She knows she’s got at least five true friends that’ll put her up gladly because she’s done the same for them. But Kat’s going to stay and make Rachele’s life miserable right up until 11:59pm tomorrow night. It’s her duty.
II – Ruthey
Ruthey had had it all, did all the right things to get it all—honors in high school, honors at Columbia, a smooth ride on the tenure track at NYU—but there was one weak plug in her DNA through which all the right stuff eventually exploded madly, seemingly endlessly, driven by a previously unseen or ignored pressure as water blasts through a dike with the wildness of a hurricane driving it.
She had an idea that the real American dream lay somewhere in the midst of kids and dogs, educating them, and educating people about them, and she was so naively, happily about that business that she didn’t see trouble coming. One man is all it had taken to derail her, to poke a hole in the wimpy membrane barely keeping the plug from popping. One man and the unquestioned belief that went hand in hand with him, that he loved her deliciously, explicitly. And when she found herself in the drearily commonplace position of finding out otherwise in the usually scripted way, she heard a rip and a pop and she was gone as she knew herself.
In the mudslide of losses, of foreclosures and repossessions, she lost her life to city parks, to the bellies of bridges and the bowels of subways. She lost it all to dumpsters and soup kitchens and standing in line for shelter at night. And somewhere further along the line she gained a friend that extended a patient and strong hand, strong enough to pull her up high enough to get an eyeful of all the help she might avail herself of, to see maybe that for everything lost, something is gained.
Years of counseling later, of starting all the way over, she has a dive to live in, a black dog, Mauchunk, to love and feed, and a teaching job at a pit of hell high school in Brooklyn where hopeless hating goes on every day and assaults and shootings happen in its overcrowded halls on a regular basis. But her kids are coming around at a snails pace, in a Freedom Writers kind of way, because after all she’s seen, she genuinely believes in beating all odds and therefore she genuinely believes in them.
III – LeeAnn
On the surface, LeeAnn appeared to be one of the haphazardly lucky ones from the get-go. She was born healthy, not too hard on the eyes, not too brilliant but not too dumb, either, born to good parents in a good geographical location where good schools and good opportunities abounded. This was her instant inheritance. No work required. Lucky girl, one would think, but it seems it’s all relative, this life and everything in it, for LeeAnn was also born a tenuous creature. It was as if God wasn’t quite certain that this prototype would be able to stand completely on its own and so he gave it enough to get by on in case he got hung up suppressing Satan or squashing demons like grapes and wasn’t available to rescue the creature from self-destruction or external assaults. When LeeAnn’s smarts failed her, there were her looks and vice versa depending on the situation and whether she was dealing with males or females.
On the surface, it looked like her whole life was one divine bail-out after another, looked like the whole of her existence was one big miracle. And that part is mostly all true, for someone who existed in a perpetual miracle—like being always in the eye of a hurricane—would likely be unable to see their miracle status, like LeeAnn didn’t see hers. Most all the hardship she ever had was of her own making, as if being comfortable with herself and others was not her deepest desire as she always said it was, as if she needed to make a reason to long for a miracle because she didn’t have a reason.
To her credit, though, LeeAnn did try to stand on her own many times. But always, as with these particularly momentous efforts—as a teen, she suddenly began making all her own decisions, and quickly, too, with no mealy-mouthing around, and as an adult she left a wrong career for a right livelihood—she fell flatly, miserably on her face. And that, to LeeAnn, revealed God’s own weakness in wanting ever to be the big cheese. Co-dependency is what it seemed like, nothing short of unhealthy, but God was more emphatic than her and if that’s the way he wanted it, fine.
Now she lets him lead her through the valleys and up over the hills like the sun blasts up over the curve of the earth and storms it, like a steamroller rolls it, maiming or killing things in its heavy-pressing path, but never ever stopping to look back because it all just is as it is, blasting perpetually forward. To LeeAnn it seems at once appalling and acceptable, appalling when what she calls love is attached and acceptable when no emotion at all is attached, when no story of caring one way or the other is told. And the irony of the question that followed—why humans, who can not keep from putting stories to everything, are put on a callously sun-blasted earth—aimed to stick in LeeAnn’s craw but for the knowing that it’s the Big Cheese’s problem, not hers, so let him worry about it.
The photo “Apollo Sunrise,” was taken in November of 1969 by the Apollo 12 astronauts. The photo and more information on it can be found at http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap960620.html
Missalister’s “The sunshine vignettes,” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#164 – Worry” Click here for more on prompt #164 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.