Bensonhurt west

chapter 21

Had Celia not known exactly where the Torado abode was, 

  she would not have found it in twilight's light. Its exterior was a

  very dingy affair. Compared to the pedigree façade of Irma’s, the

  home she was pulling up to now was a junk yard dog. From the

  road it vanished into the scenery, the flat brown scenery. 

       There were no cars in front of the house so she correctly

  assumed the thing to do was park, like the others, behind the 

  house and yes, the cars were parked back there.

        As she cut the engine she noticed a sliver of light coming 

  from a window who’s curtain had been minimally pulled aside 

  to accommodate a watchful eye. And then it was dark again. 

                        “A regular welcome wagon.”

      Phil met Celia at the door, happy to see her and Phil was a 

  man who one might suspect, assigned sacred duty to be 

  always a flawless host. 

      The scene inside was as diametrically opposite to everything 

  else in Ardensville as one could never imagine. Once again, had 

  she awoke in this home, she might be  convinced she was in

  Bensonhurst or Howard Beach or North Jersey. 

      Everyone was drinking and smoking, except that small bird like

  man from the market who sat somewhat off to the side and only

  drank though he did chew celery sticks with urgency. The boys

  smoked cigars and the girls smoked cigarettes. Introductions were

  made and Celia could not remember when the drink showed up in

  her hand.

       “You know Mary and Mike over there. That’s Rose on the 

  couch with Vincent. Jimmy waitin' to play cards and Lina and

  Barbara in the kitchen.”  Lina and Barbara waved from the open


      “Who is that distinguished gentleman in the corner?” Celia

  asked, her curiosity peeked.

     “Oh, yeah, ’at’s my cousin Lou. He’s always been a lil’ loopy 

  but he’s one of us so we brought’m and he help’s in the store. 

  He’s harmless. My aunt Giselle devoted her life to him.” Phil

  crossed himself.

      “Did we come to play cards or should I deal solitaire ova heah?”

   barked an impatient Jimmy, clearly, not a charm school graduate.

      Silently, with stealth and then some, an austere and elegant man,

  perfectly attired though entirely distinct and in-homogeneous to 

  the group glided into the room, seemingly from no where.

     “Aye, Celia, this is Hank but he’d like it if ya called him Henry.

  Ain’t that right Henry. Hank is our “liaison” to the Feds and the

  world. He brings the good cigars and booze.”

    “How’s bout a case of Manhattan Specials fa chris sake Hank?”

  was Mary’s 2 cents while putting the sandwiches on the card table.

     “How do you do Celia. I am special agent Henry Durrant. Mary

  informed me about you and your visit to Ardensville. Welcome to

  our fair city.”

      “I didn’t inform, I mentioned it, I mentioned it fa chris sake.

  Fuggin’ feds.” Mary went to but also did not graduate charm


      “You must possess highly developed investigative and social

  skills” continued Agent Durrant, “to have realized, infiltrated and

  survived our little enclave here. I applaud you Celia. Really, I do.”

      “Okay, c’mon”, announced Phil, “Are we playin’ cards here

  or What’s My Line?”

     The assembled men, excluding Lou, and Hank who parked

  himself on a strategically placed stool, adjourned to the card 

  area with it’s grand casino style card table, dramatic lighting 

  and everything. The wives stayed where they were and all was

  regular except for the new and unusual woman who was now in 

  the game with no apparent culture shock. In fact, she even 

  grabbed a Cuban and in impersonation of the men around her

  ritually prepared it, lit it and it hung from the corner her mouth 

  to the awe and great respect of the boys. And Hank. 

     The game was going on an hour or better now. The better part of 

  a fresh bottle of tequila was gone and Celia was up. A lot. As she

  re-ordered the just dealt hand, she began to hum. For most of the

  men this meant another hand they’d better fold on but Phil realized

  something else and Phil started to hum with Celia.

     “Aye, I know dat” Phil rejoiced. “Wus dat tune?”

     Hank was delighted and amused. He seemed to sense what was

  going to happen, clearly.

     “It’s Verdi, Para Migi Caro, last act of Traviata” Celia answered

  not sure if she had said or hummed something wrong while laying

  down 3 jacks and a pair of sevens.

      “Yeah, yeah, Para migi caro,” and Phil was singing in a rich 

  full tenor. The cigar departed from Celia’s lips and she began 

  to sing.  Para migi is a romantic and tragic duet. The men put their

  cards down and the whole table and Hank were bathed in the light

  of operatic content.

    “ Ohh!!, just fuggin great. Who invited Maria Callas ova heah. 

  Aye Hank, what they run outta Dusty Spingfields back home?

  Maybe ya gotta a Tina Turner sittin’roun’ not doing anything.”

  Mary, and the girls were out the door with a bottle of Cinzano and

  a new found appreciation of the night sky.

     Glasses were full, cheeks were red and the men and Celia 

  swayed as one. The women were probably not far enough from 

  the house to know how wonderfully the group sang the drinking


     Hours later, very tired, somewhat drunk and a little bit hoarse, 

  Celia was holding up the wall at the bottom of the stairs that led

  to her apartment and bed. The method she employed was to fall

  forward up the stairs while still leaning on the wall. If she could 

   get to the top step and then maybe crawl the rest, that would be

  good. Or maybe just take a short nap on the landing.

     Half way up Celia caught her shoulder on one of those picture

  nails left in the wall by Irma’s ancestors and added to the falling 

  up the stairs momentum, she felt a tug and heard a rip. 

    The victim of this chance meeting was Celia’s precious jacket.

  The Penny jacket. Suddenly sober, Celia charged upstairs to 

  assess the damage to her holy vestment.

     Upon examination, yet again, Celia came to discover what Penny

  failed to remember or confess on the porch. 

     Beneath the beautiful patchwork quilt work lied the truth about

  Penny’s past from which she was now a refugee in the present. 

     She found patches, the sort of patches one would attach to a

  football jersey.  These were not those patches, not exactly. Instead

  of Smithtown Bulldogs, one patch said S.D.S. Another now

  exposed patch did not say Uniondale Lady Lions. It said simply,

  “Authority?” Another displayed “SNCC”

     “Well hello Miss Penny!”

     The haze of tequila lifted. The dust on the road settled and Celia

 saw the landscape and the horizon in the cleansing light of, 

“U-huh, what it is, what it is, what it is.”

  "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."