Tag Archives: art

The Translucence of Jellies (Repost)

We stood there, mesmerized by the relaxing, almost magical movements of the hundreds of jellyfish in the tank before us. In slow motion her hand left her side and reached toward mine as the translucent creatures swam around in the large tank, and once I realized her hand’s destination I started moving mine toward hers as well without taking my eyes off the glowing ocean dwellers. The tentacles, like little legs, kick off against nothing as one of the jellies swims in our direction, unaware as yet of the glass keeping it at bay, and I reach my free hand up and press it against the glass as if I could share a moment with this creature. Meanwhile, her fingers grasp and wrap around mine and she pulls a little closer to me as the jellyfish continues on course toward my hand, only to bump up against the glass, turn and swim away.

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A Drive-By Crush

Image created by Laura Davies.

Alice was bundled up to stave off the cold. Her long puffy coat went down to her knees, her fingerless gloves had the flaps over her fingers and her wool hat was pulled over her ears to fight off the cold January day.
She approached the bus stop a few minutes early, part of her daily
tradition. The empty little booth called to her and she sat on the
bench only to jump up again as the cold went directly through her coat
and her pants. She laughed to herself and the steam poured
from her mouth. At that moment she focused her attention on the cars
driving by, waiting for the man she recently called a “drive by crush”
to her friend.
Every day, somewhere between 8:15 and 8:22 he drove by in his white
Prius. She couldn’t understand why he chose white; it always looks
dirty no matter how often the car is washed. Alice started to fall for
him one day when he caught her looking and smiled at her. She blushed
and waved gingerly in his direction before looking down at the ground.
In the nicer weather, when his windows were down, she heard the music he listened to, and eventually used her iPhone app to discover the bands he listened to. Mostly indie music. Her favorite one was Belle and Sebastian, and in a vain attempt to catch his attention one dress down Friday at work
she proudly adorned a B&S tee shirt hoping he would notice. He did not
pass her that day.
Now, months later, she knew a little about the music he loved. She
knew his car, that he had a beard, and that the memory of his smile from
that one day warmed her, even in this cold. She saw the car coming
from a few blocks away and leaned against the side of the depot,
ignoring the cold against her shoulder, trying to look nonchalant. As his car halted in the traffic almost directly in front of her, where he usually ended up stopping, she saw his plaid shirt and a dark blue tie that looked to be old, or as her cool coworkers called it, vintage. With the windows up it was
impossible to hear what he listened to, but she assumed it was Belle
and Sebastian because that had become part of him in her mind.
She wanted him to look again. Even though most of her face was hidden
behind a scarf, or maybe because that empowered her a little, she
wanted to see that smile again. Her dream was that he would roll down
the window and ask her to tea, tell her a day and time he would be
there if she wanted to meet him. That he, too, noticed her on his
daily trek to work and had somehow fallen into a drive by crush as
well.
The traffic started moving without even a look, and before Alice knew
it he was gone.
Oh well, she thought. Maybe tomorrow.

A Vaudevillian Moment

As far back as I can remember my grandmother reminisced about her days on stage back in the Vaudeville era.  Her and my grandfather were well known, in New York at least, as performers of music, dance, and probably even more so, comedy.

Grandfather, before he died, swore he’d made up Groucho’s famous “Outside of a book, a dog is a man’s best friend.  Inside a dog it’s too dark to read,” line back then on the stage.  It’s true, Groucho did attend one of their performances with his brothers, but regardless, there’s no way to prove that claim.

When I was little I would spend summers at my grandparents’ home in suburban New York, a small property that working the stage had paid for.  Mother considered it an extended visit, a vacation.  I loved it.  Dad, eternally disliked by my grandmother for pulling my mom out of the spotlight and marrying her, hated every moment.  Using work as an excuse, he would drive up from Philadelphia, our hometown, on weekends.

As I got older, after grandfather died, our visits were really all my grandmother looked forward to.  She would have my room all done up with a frilly pink bedspread (something I pretended to love even after I’d outgrown it) and would serve all of my favorite meals.  She would cater to anything I wanted as if I were her own daughter.  Actually, even mom didn’t have it as good as I did in that old house.

And every summer, like clockwork, she would pull out her old prop umbrella, worn out and missing the knob, and we would do one of the skits she loved so much with me playing the straight man.  She’d put on a funny hat and dress and jump right in.

“There are so many ways to understand what a lady is saying just by how she carries her umbrella!  Like if she holds it like this-”

And I would break in, “It means it’s raining?”

“No, no,” she would correct.  “It means she’s married!  And if she holds it like this-”

“She’s single?” I would ask, giggling.

“No!  It means she’s married and her husband is coming.”

“So you run?”

“Of course not.  Then you nod, like so.”

“So apologize?”

“No, stupid!  It means you want to meet her around the corner!”

“But she’s married!”

“Exactly, so you have to wait for the signal from her.”

“Which is?”

My grandmother would then flirtatiously lift her dress a bit to show some leg, usually with dirty work pants and boots underneath since she was always gardening.  This would have me doubled over in laughter by this point, keeping me from finishing the skit.

She would always chuckle along with me, then sit down in the nearest chair and remember the good old days, working the Vaudeville circuits with my grandfather.

The Shitty Painter

The shitty painter

painted

a shitty painting.

Strangers on a Train

As I sat on the train I noticed the people in the seat directly in front of me. She had a big white knitted hat on as protection from the bitter cold of the early Philadelphia morning. His hat was striped and didn’t look nearly as warm. Her head rested on his shoulder and I could see from my vantage point that she was dead asleep. I wondered how long they had been on the train that her slumber could be so deep. Maybe she was just a good sleeper.

I could hear the pages turning in something he read; it sounded more like a book than a newspaper. They have a much louder sound and longer page-turning time. He seemed so relaxed and content on his morning commute. I assumed they knew each other; people need a certain comfort level to rest their head on another’s shoulder. Or maybe that’s just me. Who knows.

My single-ness was a bit painful after seeing two people so comfortable with each other, so relaxed and close. It ate away at me as I looked down at my boots, toes awkwardly pointed inward just the slightest bit, my tights keeping my legs warm and the gray sweater dress that I painstakingly chose this morning in the hope of seeing that guy I have a secret crush on; I can’t help it, I have a thing for sweater vests, what can I say.

I wonder about these two people in front of me. They seem like nice, kind people, a couple I would love to hang out with. They’re about my age, maybe twenty-four or twenty-five at the oldest. While I am dressed for office work, they look like they could be on vacation or possibly going to work in some new trendy company that not only allows jeans, but expects them. I would love to work in a place like that.

The speaker crackles and someone announces Suburban Station, next stop, Suburban Station and he nudges her gently with his shoulder; she looks up. Lines from his coat mark her face and she smiles as her hand wipes the sleep from her eyes. The train hisses and slows, he smiles at her. She gets up, fixes her soft yellow coat, and kisses him on the cheek.

“See you tonight,” he says with a smile. She smiles back and nods, then turns and exits the train.

Artwork by the always lovely and talented Nadia Lavard.

Kissing Clauses

The holiday season had clearly taken hold of Philadelphia, and Martha was forced to swerved between more people than she had ever seen on South Street before. She passed Repo Records and finally swerved left to get off of the main street and head down to Bainbridge for a while. The relief allowed her to slow her pace and take in the sights of a road less traveled during her usual holiday shopping routine.

She passed a junk store she’d never seen before and out of the corner of her eye spotted something that made her stop dead on the sidewalk, leading a homeless man to bump into her. He excused himself and continued around her as she turned to look in the giant window filled with vintage holiday objects. She scanned the display, past a plastic wreath that had seen better days, ignoring a small set of Rudolph salt and pepper shakers to a shelf that was eye level. There they stood, and she instantly flashed back to childhood at her grandparents’ home in the suburbs. Santa Claus, hands behind his back, leaning in for a kiss. Mrs. Claus, hands also withdrawn, leaning in for the same kiss, standing on a little pedestal that Martha knew would make Santa’s wife spin and play a cute little holiday song similar to those that came from children’s jewelry boxes. Martha turned and entered the store, opening the door a little too boisterously, causing the bell attached to the top to ring with more violence than it should.

She could practically hear her grandmother tell her to be careful as she reached for one of the statues. The man at the counter, old and frail beyond his years, looked up at her over his wire-rim reading glasses. He smiled and approached her, fixing his aged suspenders as he walked.

“Interested in the kissing Santa and Mrs. Claus, young lady?” She nodded and put a hand out to take the statue of Mrs. Claus.

“Careful now,” the elderly man warned her. “Those are hand painted and from the 1970s. Do you know the set?”

She thought back to Christmases past and could practically smell the spaghetti sauce cooking in her grandmother’s kitchen. She could see the chestnuts roasting in the fireplace, her grandfather worriedly checking them every few minutes. Even the old marble table where the two statues sat year after year came into view for Martha.

And then she remembered what happened to the set. Her little sister was playing with them, winding up Mrs. Claus, when the tragic event took place. A stumble, a fumble and Mrs. Claus’ severed head rolled up to Martha’s left foot. A frantic aunt sneaking the statue away and quickly playing doctor with quick dry rubber cement, and it was almost like it never happened. But Martha could tell; she could spot the spider web crack in the statue’s neck in an instant, maybe just because she knew it was there.

“Young lady, are you okay?” the man asked her, waking her up from the memory. She shook her head.

“I’m fine. I would love to purchase this.” As she turned the statue, examining Mrs. Claus’ white apron, her green dress and the puckered lips, she noticed a tiny crack in the neck.

Thanksgiving Abroad

Rebecca stared at the empty post card, unsure of how to apologize for missing her parents’ fiftieth anniversary party. Her cousin would surely be there, and she just couldn’t deal with seeing him again after their encounter. It would be too painful. He would get that look of excitement on his face, she would see his smile, and they would end up down the same path that she’d already put an end to more than once.

She bought a Thanksgiving post card to combine both excuses in one shot; he would be going to that as well. She thought back to the first day when they were hiking to the top of the small Mount Glade to watch the famous sunset. Time was running out because she wasn’t in as good of shape as she’d thought and they needed to rush to make it. He beat her to the top and as she climbed the final rocks saw him with myriad colors in the background, holding out his hand to her, and she accepted it. Her hand stayed in his without either of them noticing until it was too late.

Thanksgiving was a enormous loss for her. Some of her best childhood memories were those of her father giving thanks before they all dug in. He always named each of his children on that list, and the rare attention from the patriarch always made her heart skip a beat. Of course, he was always thankful for the roof over their head, meals, and baseball games, but she sat anticipating hearing her name come from his lips. And now she would miss it.

As she started to scribble the kindest words she could muster for her parents, they flowed rather smoothly. She finished and looked at it, rereading every word and wondering why her hands were shaking. It was horrible to avoid her family because of a few mistakes, but she had no choice; seeing him again would start it all back up and it was all wrong. She read the letter once more and realized that it sounded more friendly than loving, but she had to send it as is. Thanksgiving was in two days and it she didn’t have time to go out and buy another card.