Blake’s ladybug

Photo “on the fence” © kate elizabeth

The breeze of a nervous sort slipped across my elbow and I looked up from my tofu salad.  A generic man-boy in business casual had left me in his uptight wake and I felt my eyes whirl in his bluster to the bar.  My mind swayed with his circling as he sniffed out a seat and brushed it off before he sat.  I watched him uncurl his newspaper and adjust his everyman’s glasses.  He ordered ice water with a lemon slice and fidgeted with his straw and newspaper.

A calmer breeze warmed the air and I watched a fair woman in a smart skirt drift toward the man-boy’s anxious back.  As she moved around him to sit, she touched his shoulder and sent him to the moon.  Man-boy and straw and paper jumped and landed askew.  Concern and amusement took turns in Smart-skirt’s eyes and she laughed an apology.  Recovery of self was no small thing for one with so much of it to gather back up, and Man-boy struggled with just an amenable nod.

Smart-skirt made it easy with words that whistled and went tra-la-la and Man-boy got back up on top.  He affected a smile and thanked her for meeting him there in the midst of her tropical storm of a day.  She countered with niceties and they broke out portfolios and Man-boy talked big at the helm.

Soon it was apparent that Smart-skirt was missing, was lost in her finger-tracings of the wood grain on the bar.  Man-boy asked her the cause of her distraction and Smart-skirt said, “Huh, what?”  He repeated his question and she turned her light on again, and here’s where I leaned my ear hard their way.

“Sorry,” Smart-skirt said.  “I was thinking of the ladybug I rescued last night.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, I had a pet for an hour,” she said, then laughed.  “A ladybug was drowning in my dishwater last night and I lifted it out, put it on a Tupperware lid with a little piece of lettuce.  I have no idea what ladybugs eat…”

Man-boy just stared at her.

“No, it was great!”  Smart-skirt grinned.  “The ladybug stayed there for quite some time.  I thought it an eternity.  But really, it had only been an hour before it flew up to make love to a ceiling light.”  Then she laughed and shrugged.

My fork clattered to the floor.  Man-boy and Smart-skirt whipped around to look.  I stared back at them, defenseless.  Smart-skirt’s shrug had shook me loose and I was snagged in the remembrance of a dream: I’d been suspended in the words of “Auguries of Innocence” being read to me, soft and thoughtful, by a man with hands of love and work.

I looked at Smart-skirt and said aloud, “To see a world in a grain of sand; And a heaven in a wild flower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand; And eternity in an hour.”

Smart-skirt smiled and Man-boy rolled his eyes.  I shrugged and they turned away, and we all got back about our same business as slightly different people.


It all starts with a bar napkin…

Windjammer002.jpg picture by pemerytx

See more napkin fiction at Esquire Magazine here.

William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence” in its entirety can be found here.

14 responses to “Blake’s ladybug

  1. MissA mystical can be added to the endless list of adjectives that still fail to do justice to your limitless talents. Squeeze that lemon now.

    • Mr. Godwin, you are lovely to pop by! Thank you : ) As for me, I’m still reeling from this kick-ass line of yours, “Only when she started moving did he see that what she was wearing was not a skirt but someone else’s skin”! Lord have mercy!

  2. Don’t sop that napkin; send it on to the Sarah Lawrence archivists. They’ll have a nifty acid-free Hollinger folder at the ready.

    This one has all the nifty touches of classic Duchess: smart smart (yes, both) participant observation, attribution by wardrobe, lovely warble of eavesdropping, loud clatter of forky annunciation, and then Ms Saucy puts down her own guns and lets show her own vulnerability: “by a man with hands of love and work” is a beauty to match the smart crack and whip of the Hepburn and Tracy up till that point.


    • Paschal, you’re wonderful, always have been. Sarah Lawrence, I wish. Your voice is revered here. Your wit is a food that’s not fattening, a drug that won’t hurt me. And best of all is your Cheeaw : )

  3. Aww :)
    It’s so delicious – “words that whistled and went tra-la-la”. I’ve been entertained by tiny creatures that become pets for a bit.

    • Heh. The ladybug didn’t seem to be interested in the lettuce at all, just recovered until it could go about its ceiling light mission! Maybe it continued on to Tanzania from there. I have no idea… Good to see you here, Ms. Mood : )

  4. Where else should a bar tale begin than on a bar napkin! Was there bourbon involved?!! I can totally see Man-boy in his over-eager awkward determination! I love the Bahama-mama breeze of Smart-skirt trying to ease some of that tension. Why is it those ladybugs always seem to show up indoors in the winter time? Doing their dirty-dancing hip grinds on pseudo-solar incandescent bulbs? I love how our narrator gets sucked into the scene with the fork drop (I can hear that commercial in the background…”wanna get away?”). And dropping that prophetic little verse on them. Haha! That was fun!

    • Hey music man! So glad you stopped by with your words that click sweet in my head: Bahama-mama breeze, the Wanna get away? commercial! (so hilarious), and yeah, why do ladybugs show up in winter and do their dirty dancing?! You know what tra-la-la words work on me. Certainly, I realize I’ve been writing some weird shit lately… Today’s the first day I felt semi-productive, writing-wise. I revised the itty bitty ditty coming up on Full of Crow’s MiCrow mag (theme is “Half”), due out 2/1 I think. Really, though, even that piece is weird, hallucinogenic, and I guess I just need to be slapped serious ; ) Mercy!

  5. business casual and ice water with lemon?? Should have known he wouldn’t get ladybugs and poetry. He wouldn’t see the world if it was in a boulder that rolled over his ass. I love how this starts with a breeze too cool for your tofu salad young up and coming crowd and ends up with William Blake and a dropped fork. A man with hands of love and work….that’s like uh, cheesecake and chocolate and the perfect purse.

    • Who’s got time for neurotic dudes like that, eh?

      I’m just happy something in that mess got one of your cheesecake ratings. And the perfect purse… Oh, yeah.

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