Thursday, October 28, 2010

Livin' on Silver -- Part Four

The old woman who lived next door was an angel . . . her house sat below my windows and I could see into all her windows through the veil of yellowed curtains. I imagined her to be the widow of the light house keeper who held the post before me. She was 90 year old and weird as it may seem, her name was Mabel--she shared my grandmother’s name-- it was comforting to have Mabel nearby. I would watch her at night. I pressed my face to the cold glass of my windows, the wind coming up off the cliffs, and there she would be, sitting in her living room, in the blue light of her TV or wandering back toward her kitchen. I closed my eyes and saw her tending sheep, the wind whipping her skirts, her hair neatly braided. She spent her days spinning wool from her fat sheep, to craft sweaters for her husband who stood on the rocks looking through binoculars all day, signaling ships. They never had a child . . . and this made her ache, but the sheep were her little children, with their black faces and their wiry wool coats and their little tails that switched when a gale was coming. And now, he was gone, and she haunted the western side of the island, occasionally she would come to tea and she would tell me stories about the storms that had come to the island, of sunken ships, and her long gone husband's heroism. I could never aspire to be as fine a light house keeper as him . . .

There was a Thanksgiving that came so suddenly I made no plans. Pyro went home to Raleigh and I decided to stay on Silver. Kimmie said she wasn’t going home either, she hated her mother, her mother called her FAT. We decided to make a huge dinner. I would roast the turkey in my little gas stove, I wasn’t sure if a turkey would even fit in there, but I would give it a try. I had never cooked a turkey. Kimmie was going to make sweet potato pie and there would be peas and onions just like my grandmother made. It would be me and her and the cats.

But I went down to Tate Street the night before Thanksgiving because I had a craving for Amelia’s Macrobiotic soup, and while I’m sitting in the Hong Kong House, the door swings open and in walks J. It was raining and he looked cold and miserable. He slid into the booth next to me and hung his arm over the back. His coke bottle glasses had steamed up in the warmth of the Chinese restaurant that so many of us called our second home. He smiled a crooked smile at me and I was struck by what a big lanky animal he was, "Hey Wolfy! What 'er you still doin' in town? Seems like you'd be back in Connecticut by now, for the Holidays and all."
"Nope, not this year J. I'm staying put. Kimmie and I are going to make dinner with all the trimmings though."
"Ah, you and Kimmie. Bravin' it alone. How is Kimmie?" This was what you call a Loaded question. I knew J. held a torch for Kimmie. There were alot of guys down on Tate Street who had the same affliction. Kimmie was zaftig, maternal, sweet, earthy as all get out . . . and she was often alone. She was honey to the Bee Men . . . she looked like a woman who needed a man to take care of her and yet, she looked like the kinda girl who would Mother any man. But what a lot of her admirers didn't know was she was a mess of a girl. She was bipolar, leaning heavily to the downward side and less to the manic side. She holed up in that apartment for days on end, crying to her mirror, baking cookies and pies, gorging herself and then disgorging herself. She wore the same powder pink bathrobe for days at a time and tossed that ball for Pussums over and over and over. Her saving grace was a few of us girls who would bang on her door and barge in on her. And she loved books. Kimmie was a voracious reader--I brought her books from the library and she devoured them and left them in neat piles by my door, asking me to bring her more.

So I answered J.'s question with Kimmie's desire for solitude in mind, but somehow it didn't come out right.
"Well, J. she's doin' just fine.What are your plans for Day of the Turkey?"
"I'm on my own Wolfy . . ."
"You don't say . . ."
"Yep, looks like I'll be eatin' take out." And with that a voice came from the kitchen, it was Amelia, "Oh no J. we're gonna be closed! Nobody comes in on Thanksgiving, so this year I'm taking the the day off!"
J. threw his head back and sighed, and then he put one eye on me and I knew what was about to happen, "Say, you girls wouldn't mind a guest would you?"
"Well, J., I mean I guess I'd be fine, but Kimmie's not here."
"Oh c'mon Wolfy! I'll give you guys Cable!"

J. had been a speed addict -- “I don’t speed ball anymore, nope, nope, that stuff makes you CRAZY” -- but he was still crazy. Now he was a Cable Guy. He drove around in a truck all day installing cablevision in people’s houses. AND he gave cable to all his friends. He’d be over for supper or just to hang out and he’d say, “Hey, do y’all have cable?” And when the answer was no, he’d run out of the house open up his van and get his equipment. He’d bring you a little cable box and then he’d climb the pole outside your house and there we’d be at the window, late at night watching Jay give us cable! He’d string it all up, and come back in the house and we’d all be drinking beer and he’d futz with the TV, maybe drill a hole or two in the walls, and then voila! He’d turn on the set and you’d have 50 channels! For Free. He was the Johnny Appleseed of Cablevision. He wanted everyone to have cable and not have to pay for it.

"You did WHAT?" Kimmie put Pussums down on the floor and the cat picked up her little ball with the bell in it and pawed at Kimmie . . . throw the ball, throw the ball, throw the ball.
"I invited J. for Thanksgiving dinner. . . he sorta well,  hoodwinked me."
"I suppose he told you he would give us Cable!"
"Yeah . . . don't you want Cable?"
"Wolfy, I don't even have a TV and last I looked, neither do you!"
"I know, I know. It just happened so fast."
"He's totally crazy you know."
"Well, its not like a date, I mean you and I can stick together!"
"He doesn't drink and we like to drink Wolfy. He's going to preach all night."
"Nah, it won't be that bad . . . we'll give him a plate of turkey and send him on his way."

Thanksgiving morning came and Kimmie and I started cooking. We decided we were going to be old fashioned and serve Supper, which meant everything on the table by 2 pm, just like our grandmother's used to do. J. wouldn't arrive til 1:30 or so, this gave us plenty of time to cook and start drinking, Round noon, we had the whole meal under control -- The Joy of Cooking had spoken on the finer details of cooking a turkey and I listened, and I was so pleased with myself, with the help of cheap red wine, that I was ready to invite half of Silver Avenue, but Kimmie was already burned that we had one guest coming.

But she wasn't that burned . . . ever the woman, ever the flirt, Kimmie disappears into her apartment round noon, leaves me with the turkey and to peel pearl onions, and when she returns an hour later, she is transformed. She's prettier than I've ever seen her, in a lavender dress, that she's kinda busting out of all over, but in all the right places, and that long deep brown hair of hers is curled and cascading, and she's got makeup on! Lipstick and eye shadow and she smells like House of Chanel. I'm standing there holding a turkey baster in a black t-shirt, blue jeans, my black low-top Chuck Taylor sneakers and my hair only an inch long . . . i looked like a roadie for the Eurythmics and she looked like The Breck Girl!
"Kimmie!"
"What? Its Thanksgiving! Somebody has to dress up around here."
"J.'s not going to know what hit him." I put the turkey baster down and pour another glass of wine. "I'll be damned if I'm going to get dressed for dinner."
"Well of course you're going to stay like that. YOUR boyfriend is out of town, you don't have to look good."
"Kimmie . . . what are you up to?"
"I dunno. Now I'm kind of excited that a man is coming to dinner."
I was right, J. never saw it coming. He thought he was going to shimmie up our telephone pole, give us Cable and in return get a free turkey dinner and maybe, just maybe a chance to snuggle up to Kimmie. What he got instead was a wife. They were married six months later.

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