Theme Friday: April Showers

April Showers pressed her face inches from the mirror, her generous plum-colored lips flattened to receive the “Friar Friar Your Pants Are on Fire” lipstick. It was her favorite color for performances. Her good-luck color. The first time she’d worn it, a customer had slipped her a fifty. A drag queen her age didn’t get that kind of tip as often as the 20 something, long and leggy, April Showers once did.

Her hair was in a huge Diana Ross afro and she wore the same long sleeved white dress, the one with the plunging neckline, that Ross made famous — the look really more than the dress. Diana Ross was a great fit for April as her body was lithe, nearly free of body fat and boyish even at this age. She looked the part. Ross was her “go to” drag without question.

Tonight she was singing “God Bless the Child,” rather than the more rambunctious and predictable “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” She felt the slower songs demanded more skill and precision than the love anthems. Of course, she dedicated the same time and practice to the easier-to-perform songs as she did the tough stuff. Both types of performances were equally important to her in her assumed role as ambassador to the world. She truly believed she represented all queens to the rest of humankind and she took the job seriously. She spent hours on her outfits and in rehearsals while pulling it all together.

Never did she take the stage without having every word to every verse memorized. No mumbling for her. It all counted. Every lash, every nail — every tuck of the tail — she attended religiously to each and every detail. And it showed. April Showers was big, as big as they get in her world of Kissimmee, Florida. And now, with only moments until showtime, her hand shook with excitement as she drug the lipstick across her luscious lower lip.

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Another call from you; another quiz from me. Why now? Four calls in as many months. In Spring I begged for your attention, hovering around your hard edges, trying to be brilliant.

But Summer came. Hay lay in the fields and hard work makes a good man you said. Maybe you would see me later you said, at the downtown tap. Too often you didn’t.

It took little to warm me and now I wonder why I settled for so little. Anxious for love, perhaps, or even less, flesh. It had been too long.

Only a small piece of pride left to pack, I went. No words. No warmth. Not even a semi-official THIS IS THE END. I had faced the strong curve of your browned back long enough.

And now — through Fall and into Winter — firmly into the dead seasons, you call. What is your hardworking man’s game? And why do you shiver with surprise at the Winter in my voice?

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I am on my deck and there is a storm coming. I sit ready, intrigued by the contradiction between my inner calm and its brewing restlessness. It is close, anxious. I am here, patient.

The wind stirs from corner to corner, confused about the path it wants. The beans, caught between green and gold, summer and fall, move first left then right, toward me and away.

Van Gogh might have painted the sky. Huge cloud chunks of steel blue and gray mingle with angle hair white. Oddly enough they move slowly, as if mocking the unsettled wind.

First drops ping on the eaves. I shiver and turn my face to their origin. Involuntarily I flinch as one, two, then many dapple my skin. Rhythm increases; clouds finally relent. The wind discovers its direction and I find I am wet and laughing.

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Theme Friday: Lilacs/Landlady

By the time she finished with the nailing, her thumbnail was the color of lilacs, the knuckle cut and bleeding. She sat back on her haunches, surveyed the damaged digit and then looked beyond to the finished product. The wainscoting made her proud and like a new mother she forgot her pain.

Briefly she imagined her tiny telephone table crisply outlined by the new white paneling, a vase of daisy mums on top for a surprise of color. Coming back to the present she remembered her tenant would be moving into the house in two days. Fantasy backdrop dissolved, she looked around at the rental house. This project had been on her back for a month and now it was finished except for a little cleaning up and some ice for her thumb. She was tired but glad to finally have all the projects behind her and the rental ready to generate some income.

This landlady business was new to her, but she suspected she was going to like it. The house was completely redone; the tenant was a dream come true; and she was getting $100 more a month than she had estimated was possible early in the venture. This had been a good move. Now what?

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Theme Friday: Please Give (It Up For George Carlin)

Give to the charity of your choice. Give peace a chance. Give a good goddamn. Give a hoot, a guy a break. Give me a break, a dollar, a free car wash with fill up.

Give often and generously. Give it the old college try. Give it a go, a stab, a whirl. Give me the girl.  Give it away. Give it away. Give it away. Now.

Give me shelter. Forget and forgive.

Who gives this woman? What gives you the right? What gives?

Give up. Give in. Give until it hurts. Give the person next to you a hug. Giveaway.

I give and I give and I give . . .

Give me a chance to explain; give me the money you owe; give me the time of day. Give me the strength to go on, a reason to get up in the morning and a drag off your cigarette.

Give your mama a kiss.

Give the right impression, the best you’ve got, your organs and your bus seat to elders. Give the correct change and the man your name. Give it a rest.

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Musings on Black Swans II

With little daylight left in the sky, I decided to find Alex — one way or the other. The sure-fire way, a method I had been mulling over since mid-afternoon, was to take Sadie and Mollie on a walk. Either Alex would come out to confront them and then bugle his perceived success after a brief shallow water tussle . . . or . . . the dogs would find him where he lay.

We started out with what had become our regular routine. Gannondorf got her dog biscuit and we headed across the orchard. As always, Sadie and Mollie ran like they had been locked in a small dark room for days. In reality, they had been on a hard, hour-long traverse less than 24 hours ago. Their excitement regarding their temporary freedom to run is predictable and catching, thus I usually return from an outing with a little smile inside. The world is a little shinier afterwards.

Down over the hill we went toward the other pond. Up ahead, the horses, Magic and Tattoo, grazed lazily in that instinctual head to tail stance so as to avail each other of a tail for swishing flies. Graze, swoosh, graze, swoosh, graze . . . they were a postcard. I snapped a quick photo and then turned to get one of the house from that distance and angle. Beautiful. Turning back, I caught sight of Sadie and Mollie, as usual, busily attending to something in the underbrush. They bolted away when I called to them but returned to it immediately. Of course, then I knew.

Slowly I approached and, like a scene from a movie, I encountered one, two, three separate piles of delicate underfeathers, the down, where a struggle had undoubtedly occurred. Each delicate feather held the early evening dew.

Readying my mind, I turned and followed the path to the final scene. The kill was bloodless and beautiful and I couldn’t look away. Alex lay at my feet, fully intact except a missing left wing. The fox, the suspected perpetrator, had left Alex’s head, unlike after his previous kill months ago, Emma, mate to Alex. Bobby found her near the same area toward the lower pond. She was headless and a mess.

Looking on Alex and the stillness of death, I was relieved to see him. Relieved to know what had happened to him, relieved that he was intact and not obscenely torn apart, relieved that he was dead.

Alex had smacked me on the cheek with a wing weeks ago, unprovoked. It left a mark. But death’s easy repose so naturally draped over Alex meant more to me.

Bobby lay trying to die in the house on the hill. His repose, edgy, desperate and exhausted, looked miles away from Alex’s beautiful black peaceful body. On the hill, Bobby was fighting for every breath, the gasping rattle haunting every nearby heart. Alex lay at my feet in the meadow by the water, quiet, a still life of feathers and fight. The wind kicks up suddenly and rushes through the trees and waist high grasses, making a lovely swishing sound.

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Musings on Black Swans

I awoke to another beautiful morning at Fair Acres, the Fairley’s homestead, my sister’s place. The geese were lined up on the knoll, preening and sporadically flapping their wings; the two gray stallions stood just over the rim of the pond’s dam, and, in all his majesty, Alex, the black Australian swan glided, apparently propelled from beyond, across the glassy surface. Reflected perfectly was the half-moon fencing that protects the wildflower meadow — a natural garden Bobby sowed and irrigated until he had his meadow.

Peach pink was breaking across robin’s egg blue skies; yes, that pale blue that looks like it came out of a can it’s so perfectly mixed. Here and there wisps of gossamer clouds were mere suggestions on the morning’s horizon. I couldn’t see the pig, Gannondorf, but I suspected she was waiting for the morning rays to warm her little piggy part of the world. The dogs, Sadie and Molly, looked languidly from their shed door. The world was not in a hurry to move forward.

Neither was I.

Fresh coffee from my stove top espresso maker brewed atop my sister’s enormous French blue gas stove, steamed into my face on the first sip. Nothing is better, unless it’s the second sip, an affirmation of the first. And, heaven! nearly a full mug remaining and nowhere I had to be. Such have been many of my mornings during my Midwest Sojourn.

The geese were taking their time and some of them had even tucked their beaks into their wings to catch last minute morning shut-eye, so I trained my gaze on Alex. This was a powerful fowl. He has bitten nearly everyone in the family, including a friend or two, but his wing was the weapon he chose for me. He came out of nowhere and I had not yet gathered the sense to keep one eye on him at all times.

It happened at the pump where I was intent on my job, cleaning the mud off myself after splashing around the acreage with Sadie and Molly. I had kenneled them and intended to clean up before heading for a drive to the lake. The long day was winding down. I was tired and I hadn’t been back in town long, but I still don’t know why Alex was able to sneak attack me like he did. From a position of 2 o’clock he managed to charge and connect wing bone to cheekbone in a flurry of feathers and ruffled quiet. The connection was perplexing: solid yet merely bones and feathers; dead on yet already past me. That was the last time I relaxed in his presence and the last time I was nailed. From that moment on, I didn’t leave the garage without a “swan stick” unless I was headed for my car. And I had to use that stick plenty of times! I never hit Alex; the stick was to keep distance between him and me . . . and to give him something to bite so he could “kill it” and then fully extend his gloriously muscular neck into the air to trumpet his triumph.

This morning, his mind was on other things. There were the geese to manage and keep separated, the dogs to torment, and the horses to keep one eye on. And the garage! Daily a constant stream of people came and went through the garage so much so that, after the initial peaceful pace of the mornings, Alex’s days got quite busy. But then, so did mine. When he wanted a break from his Barney Fife patrol, he headed, sumo-wrestler like, to the lower pond or into the tall grasses of the main pond. That’s why nobody had a second thought when Alex laid low. He always came back, black webbed feet barely clearing the ground before slapping down to carry his weight. His weird gait gave the appearance he was in a constant forward stumble.

Today, though, Alex was gone for hours. And hours. In fact, he hadn’t come back at dusk.

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