(Photo of William C. Blome)
THE TWO WOMEN
This paunchy woman (and I know it wasnÕt her bunched up clothing, I know she had a true and lovely bulging midsection) who I think would have been perfect for me to warm my hands within-and-around on a cold February day fell out of a taxicab as she tried to decide whether or not to stay inside the just-pulled-over vehicle, and I feel to this day she was lucky the cab hadnÕt begun speeding off to another fare. But before I was able to amble over, help her to her feet, and brush away the grit and gravel from her skirt and jumper, I married the lady who often stands out there near the interstate crossing at Annapolis Junction selling little juniper trees to men and women who pull over in a shiny blue coupe. In fact, I first made my wifeÕs acquaintance about two years back when I stopped alongside her crowd of small, bucketed trees in my yellow sedan, and she barked at me right away, in no uncertain terms, ŅYou need not apply, lad, you need not apply. No junipers for your jaundiced ass!Ó, though obviously, in time we came to set aside details like the model, color, and condition of my car—yes, weÕve now separated chaff from grain completely and sewn up important things tight between us, and weÕve voiced our respective vows to one another (and all assembled) more than once during spectacular nuptials.
FAUX FABLE: YOUR YOUNGISH WASHER
When I first saw her, I imagined she had tons of black hair against lots of black skin, and I thought she was in a pale red dress as she slowly moved along the sidewalk and came down the hill. It was cold outside, and there were piles of snow to her right (with the open road at her left).
Because the hill is so very large and her pace was so, so slow, she stayed in view for a long time and only gradually got bigger. All this steam around me can often be dense enough to obscure or distort everything: you see, IÕm a bottle washer, I wear a tee shirt and thin puffy pants, and my hands will stay hot, wet, and red as they grasp, shake, and clean one blue bottle after another for hours at a clip.
But I wanted to be noticed as she finally drew near (the sidewalk passes directly in front of the scullery, on the other side of the road), so I smeared extra-clear a big space on the window and started to tap-tap-tap to get her attention, which happened unexpectedly soon, at the very outset of when she loomed full size. In a moment of frolic, I held up one of the blue bottles and pretended to guzzle and guzzle. Then I feigned inebriation, I feigned blind staggers, and all the while IÕm flashing a full-face sickly grin. Oh I was your jack oÕlantern with a body, a rosy man with nothing orange to show.
She halted and began to sign to me: ŅHowÕre you doinÕ, howÕre things goinÕ, and howÕs that future of yours hanginÕ between your legs, youngish washer? My nameÕs Simba, and near the top of the hill up there, I lost my elephant over an hour ago. She was wearing a gray blanket with purple stripes on the side straps and a couple of bells sewn at each corner. You havenÕt seen or heard her have you, youngish washer?Ó
Well, I knew I hadnÕt seen or heard SimbaÕs elephant, so obviously, the animal had strayed from her and gone out of sight near the top of the hill as she said, and I pictured it wandering off from there. I guessed Simba didnÕt want to hear that, but hey, truth is truth, so I signed my summary and confirmation of these facts to her. To help assuage the pain and increase the comfort, I told her IÕd bring her out a clean bottle of hot water.
She signed back that sheÕd love that, so I slipped my heavy coat on and took her a bottle of hot water. First she pressed the blue glass with both hands against her face, and then she gulped and gulped, and then she touched and thanked your youngish washer profusely. But I had to gallop back to my job inside; there I smeared clear a new space on the window, and I watched dark Simba swilling away and constantly gesturing behind herself toward the top of the hill.
Yet just as I resumed my work, I beheld the crash of glass around me and witnessed the broken window and saw the blue bottle Simba had hurled against it. She wasnÕt signing anymore when she screamed, ŅScrew you and your fucking truth, youngish washer. Now I have to move my big ass back up the hill, Mr. Worthless, just so I can give chase to a useless elephant. I hope youÕre happy, Ōhope youÕre happy.Ó Thus her invective rang out and likely echoed across the wintry landscape. However, things were quickly getting very cold in my workplace, and the window was going to have to be replaced or boarded up sooner rather than later, so I had to rule out even the thought of helping Simba any further in her search for the lost elephant.
Moral: Work gets done and can continue, and comfortÕs achieved and can continue, only if all about do their share.
The old woman still has on her one great basketball ass, and my corroborating thought is her voice also gets defended as outright sexy when she murmurs over and over, ŅSure you can, sure you can,Ó though I know Andrew disagrees with me here; he wants to hear more from her (additional words and more sophisticated words) before he himself can issue any kind of corroboration. But as I told my wife this morning (as the two of us worked like beavers Phillips-heading screws through orange-painted slats and into cottonwood fence posts), ŅYou have to bear in mind AndrewÕs a man who believes (without affectation or long-winded discussion) many flowers in various parts of the world and throughout our prairie here have a sweet, distinct voice, while heÕs noted more than once that some creatures (the fat and crusty alligator, for one) are born completely minus a voice box.Ó
Despite your occasional interference, IÕve collected me one humongous lot of cotton balls over these many, many months; IÕve been tossing them in my garage, and today and tomorrow is the time IÕm choosing to move the mothers inside and jam them all in my hallway closet so then I can finally invite my great-hipped neighbor and all her bulbous parts over for a cabernet-and-cheddar gorge, after which IÕll spray her down with Florida Water and coax her/shove her/stuff her into the cushiony home IÕve fashioned in our hallway, and, you see, IÕll have her stay in there awhile, IÕll have her remain there very willingly and with none of that goddamn coercion everyone complains about, and sheÕll be in the closet long enough for outside events to occur (like the Reds defeating the Marlins, or the Mariners tying the Bears). Then IÕll see that she carefully exits the closet, gets herself dressed in the pretty jumper I asked her to bring along, and arm-in-arm, why, weÕll go parading through the alley and strutting north a tad till weÕre slouched against the stone turret of the community well, and I just know sheÕll reel the bucket down and draw up gulps of cold, cold water for her and me to sip and get refreshed.
Now I canÕt promise that on the night this happens, the skies will be clear enough for us to recognize any stars overhead, but you can bet IÕll be sure my giggling honey and I return safely to her own hearth—that she puts her key in her own front door—and IÕll establish that IÕm permitted to leisurely finish licking the Florida Water smell off her earlobes and then give her a nighty-night kiss. But I imagine youÕve easily guessed the important thing will be that from here on out, IÕll as much as have my neighbor living here with us and dwelling in my cotton closet. SheÕll be so beautifully imprinted and cast there, and so nicely, nicely essenced, and sheÕll be completely minus those pain-in-the-ass necessities of life that practically all the rest of us—I know of no exceptions, do you?—are stuck with having around us all the time.
© William C. Blome
Bio: William C. Blome writes short fiction and poetry. He lives wedged between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and he is a MasterÕs degree graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His work has previously seen the light of day in such fine little mags as Eskimo Pie, PRISM International, Fiction Southeast, Roanoke Review, and The California Quarterly.