Still life in Brown & Blues

Chapter 22

        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.

  "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."