This posting is another part of my current novel, though it’s not necessarily the next to come in the final manuscript. This introduces another character in the story of Samantha Stosur, an 11-year-old American girl in the 3rd Millennium.
“It’s the light. You must always take the side of the light. Resist the dark, Samantha, dear. Don’t let it lure you under.”
That’s Mrs. Marcie Doweel. Two down and one apartment over. At a gazillion plus, she isn’t a fraction taller than I am (considered a “good” height at 5′ 4″ in the fifth grade). Mrs. Doweel seems just as wide as she is tall but that may be the illusion of her narrow front door. Her apartment is always ablaze with lights, even during the day. As her body blocks the entranceway, she has a halo-head of light above her that makes it hard to truly see her face, which is fine because now that she’s past the octo-decade she’s kind of covered with what they call skin tags. My Uncle Ross is sprouting dozens of them, even on his neck and at the point of the “V” of all his t-shirts that are more undershirts and no child should be subjected to seeing the dark outline of his—yes, I’m going to say it—nipples, especially when the hair on them pushes against the meagre cotton and puffs it out. It’s enough to turn a girl sideways.
Anyway, shadow works well on Mrs. Doweel’s face, though I know if she realized a part of her was in darkness she would pop a majority of her pulled-too-tight buttons. Once she asked me in I saw that her apartment was a treasure chest of religious icons. Virgin Marys hang, sit, drape, and loom next to pictures, statues, throw blankets and pillows of Mary and her baby Jesus (who always looks like he has the face of a middle-aged man). Oddly, the grown-up Jesus’ that Mrs. Doweel has around—crucified on the cross repeated half a dozen times along the ivy wallpapered living room or carrying his cross or riding the donkey or having his last meal—is quite good looking in a rugged, manual laborer sort of way.
But, the freakiest of the freaky is the life-sized head wearing a crown of thorns with thick red drips of paint running down his face representing his blood (I re-emphasize that this is life-sized) which is kept pristine under a dome of glass. I had to put down my juice cup of V-8 when I first caught him looking at me; my hand shaking as it tried to find space on the side table with the year-round crèche stable scene (minus you know who). I nearly leapt off the couch, the plastic ripping at my thighs (don’t sit on the couch while wearing shorts in the heat of the summer) and made my excuses.
Mrs. Doweel seemed momentarily flustered. “I thought we were having a lovely visit,” she said.
I calmed down a bit when I looked back from the front door and Jesus was still staring; magic like the Mona Lisa—he’s eyeing everyone. Thank you, Jesus, ’cause I don’t need any religious hooji-booj in my life, though Mrs. D would say it’s a sign that I might want to do a little prayer or two, ’cause her savior is obviously eyeing me for a reason. A dark, evil-eye reason.
The thing is, I like the dark. It feels restful to have all of us hyped-up souls take a time out. It seems to me like people speed through their day like they’re in an all-out sprint. Sometimes this life feels like a whole lot of elbow swinging, the shoulder-height kind, the way basketball players swing after a rebound (elbows up and out) holding tight onto the ball, twisting at the waist right and left to clear out any of the opposing team. Mine, mine, mine. “Looking out for number one,” Uncle Ross would say. “Nothing wrong with that.” But, I’m not so sure. How does number two feel? Hell, what about number twenty-two? They’ve gotta feel like crapola.
The night is stillness, it’s down time. Of course, I know the quieted souls are merely re-energizing so they can do it all again once their alarms start kicking up a fuss, but I feel like I’m getting some respite (vocab list #4), so I can be re-energized to meet them head on.
© 2011 Keeping Sane, and Other Aspirations by Kat Ward