Still life in Brown & Blues
How strange and wonderful to see a place, a place not familiar,
in a whole new light of a whole new day.
Celia was no longer riding around in that strange fog of polite
but impenetrable austerity. All the mystery was just tossed out like
an old ugly love seat from the last tenant.
The folks who ran Torado’s were now, exactly what they
seemed. Babby was a monument to the scene she escaped. Penny’s
civility could only have been forged in the belly of incivility.
Who else? The list was long and ponderous.
Miles. Whoah. Miles didn’t make any sense at all. Man’s like a
platypus. A duck-billed egg laying venomous mammal. A life
made from spare parts and no assembly instructions. Once you got
through the smoke and mirrors, any educated person would know
Miles had an IQ through the roof, a capacity for organization
second to none and all wrapped up in the personal hygiene of a
dung beetle. U-huh, Miles, check.
Butch who runs the filling station, u-huh. That nice skinny
woman who runs the record/antique store, u-huh. The nice Mr.
Franz who teaches the half dozen or so children before they ship
out to middle school in the next more populous town.
A very strange thing was overwhelming Celia now. Instead of
playing in a brilliantly crafted fiction, she was living in a
brilliantly crafted fiction. And playing. And authoring since her
decisions or, her assigned role in this affair could bring the
production to an abrupt termination.
There was one watering hole in Ardensville. A V.F.W. on the
very edge of town and Celia had a package for the proprietor;
Morris Balstalambo. Celia had been in the V.F.W. once before one
morning. The door was open and no one there so she left some
letters on the bar, all addressed to Morris. Celia really loved that
bar in the quiet vacant moment she found it .
There were no vulgar beer banners or advertising of any sort.
There was a smallish pool table in good repair. The bar was orderly
and the old ornate cash register shined brightly. The juke box
shined and the windows shined and everything else pretty much
was wood. The few windows were high on the walls and on the
bar there were kitch figurines of Chaplain, Laurel and
Hardy and Fields as Micawber. A little saw dust on the floor and the smell of beer was tamed by the soft embrace of polished cedar.
This is where Falstaff might have come to refresh with Hal or
Balzac with everyone. Place just had soul, deep as the ocean.
On this day, late in the day, there were cars and trucks parked
around and the juke box and the clacking of pool balls could be
heard as Celia approached with her last delivery of the day.
Morris stood behind the bar and his presence and being was the
soul of the V.F.W. She knew immediately he was not local. He was
from another place, time and quite a few other lives no doubt.
Whoah, you betcha.
Celia put the box down on the bar in front of Morris. He didn’t
really move and somehow turned to address her.
“You must be Celia”
“No, I’m Morris, you must be Celia” Celia replied ever more
uncomfortable when confronting how she was common knowledge
to people she had not even met.
“Awe lighten up. It’s a small town. I’m Morris” and he reached
out to shake hands with a woman. Celia took that hand like she
was being lifted on to the deck of a boat.
Morris must have been cute as a young man and now, he sort of
drooped. That which had been muscle had returned to being skin
and it hung loosely on to bone, generally. Morris had a lot of
scars. Some looked like stitching and some looked like cuts that
didn’t get stitched. All kinds of scars wherever his t-shirt revealed
flesh. There were the scars that Celia recognized as tattoos that
had been removed, removed cruelly one might add.
There was a great serenity that inhabited Morris’s eyes while
there was a great gravity that occupied everything else. Celia
imagined a charging bull would make a sharp left were he to look
into eyes of this sphinx.
“Are you done for the day, IF you don’t mind me asking?”
Celia lightened up. “Yep, you’re my last drop.”
“Well then I think a beverage is in order, on the house”. Morris
seemed to have his hand on a bottle of Beam before the words
passed Celia’s lips. As Morris put coaster and glass on the bar
before Celia, their attentions were grabbed by raised and
contentious voices coming from the opposite corner of the
establishment. Who was yelling was irrelevant as they appeared
in every way identical and what they were yelling about was
equally irrelevant as they both enjoyed identical speech
impediment, tooth decay and finite vocabulary.
Morris smiled with a little exhale and said “Please drink up, I’ll
be right back.”
The two men in overalls, denim shirts and brimmed caps didn’t
notice Morris's approach but they knew he was there when the
vice that clamped upon their shoulders close to the neck caused
there mouths to become paralyzed.
“Hunk, Jefferson, how you boys doing tonight?” Since Hunk and
Jefferson could neither speak nor move, they both blinked a
positive response to Morris’s inquiry. From not to great a distance,
Celia could not make out what Morris was saying. She only heard
the low rumble of a voice that possessed unimpeachable authority.
“Now you know I wouldn’t mind the cussing but, we happen to
have a lady in the bar. What I have to object to though is that you
guys, you guys are disturbing the serenity of this establishment.”
Morris looked at both parties to be sure his thought was effectively
expressed. Hunk and Jefferson blinked much while there limbs
swung limply like damp clothes on a line.
“ Now if I couldn’t maintain a peaceful serene environment,
I bet two ole’ buddies like yourselves would not seek out this
establishment for refreshment and a game of 8-ball, and I value
your business too much to let that happen”. Hunk and Jefferson
blinked like the dickens.
“Have you finished your rack, your beers?” More blinking.
“Than I think you need to remind each other how good a good
friend is. How much that means.” Morris released his grip.
With their semi functional arms they replaced the pool cues to
the rack, picked up their half drained beers and left them on the
bar on the way out. Hunk stopped, turned, and removed his cap.
“Good night Morris, good night Mam. How’s it goin for ya at
Irma’s. Irma’s good people ya know.”
“Good night Hunk” Morris poured Celia another Beam.