I wanted to drop the baby weight. I sipped my darjeeling and passed the small pound cakes to Mags. She reached out a delicate porcelain hand.
“Pass it around you skinny bitch,” I said.
Mags suck out her tongue. “It’s not my fault you’re a breeder.” Cramming a whole cake in her mouth, Mags batted one of the balloons leftover from Abigail’s birthday party.
“Mags how’s your brother doing? I saw him over at Tiffany’s in Chestnut Hill,” Wren said. She passed the cakes to her left. “Has he been working out or something?”
Wren twirled her curly blonde hair absently. I noticed her throat was flushed pink.
“He’s going Paleo to get field ready for his next half inch,” Mags said around another madeleine.
“You’ve been birddogging that cat since we were all boosting bubblegum the corner stores. Quit it already,” her twin sister Robin said with a snort. The sisters play-slapped at each other nearly upsetting the china teapot.
Trudy the strong silent type rolled her eyes in disgust. She bit into a madeleine and gave a small moan of ecstasy. We all chuckled.
“I love love. Think how cute your babies would be,” Lill said clapping in excitement. “Adorable little safecrackers.”
Sparks beamed at her wife and patted Lill’s freckled knee. I stretched in the sunshine of my backyard. Bert had taken the baby to the park and the afternoon luxuriate before me. Casting my eye around my table of good friends, trusted associates, I was proud of what Mags and I had put together. The Forty Elephants had matured from a handful of pickpockets fleecing tourists in Times Square into a well oiled thieving syndicate. We rotated crews of shoplifters and cat burglars up and down the Northeast. Yes, I was proud of what we had built and I was willing to do what it took to protect what’s ours.
“Status of little Moscow crew,” I said to Sparks.
Her lovely plump cheeked face grew stormy. “Not good Diamond. Reports that their crews are encroaching into Paramus and Princeton.”
The table went still. Mags and I talked with a glance. Next I looked at Trudy and tossed her a blood red handkerchief. With a curt nod, Trudy retrieved the fabric and tossed Mags the last petite pound cake. Lightning fast, I snatched it out the air. Mags pouted. Smiling I took a greedy bite.
Read your post this morning The one about that thing you like Gave you a smiley face holding a heart to show you I care because no one gets you like I do me just me
Even shared your post on my feed Though you never share mine I saw you gave Viv’s meme a thumbs up must be nice I follow you on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on the ‘Gram Follow you to the moon and back you see my likes I know you do we’re only friends on Facebook but I feel your fingers on your keyboard soft tips pressing slowly now faster as your spooled thoughts uncoil zip down your arms through those hands to my eyes I drink you in bright white letters on jet you, luxuriate on a mound of pillows laptop perched on sprawling legs on your bed, reaching out to me just me
be my follower bookmark my blog let a laugh rumble in your chest caused by something I wrote make the slightest moan in your throat agreeing with one of my viewpoints scroll through me over and over and let my blue light pierce your circadian rhythm keep you awake deep into the night with me just me
It started with a goldfish. Well not one goldfish but a bag of goldfish, feeder fish. Ginny had saved five whole dollars to buy her own pet, something just for her. That day in Polly’s Crackers Pet Shop Ginny learned five dollars doesn’t go very far and some pets were raised to be eaten by other pets. She went home with a bag of fish and a globe tank the owner threw in for free. Al, the pet store clerk, taught her how to care for them but also told her not to be too sad if they die because things just die on you.
As she was cleaning one of the big tropical fish tanks in her and Vin’s family room, she thought about Al’s words and her first five fish. Her bright purple net dipped in and out in delicate loops. A school of black ruby barbs flitted past her net while a lemon striped angelfish waited to rub her fingertips. Their family room, their living room, and one wall of their dining room all featured large aquariums. Someday she would own her own pet store.
Upstairs heavy bass rumbled from behind Bethany’s closed bedroom door. Vin, Jr. wouldn’t be home till late if he came home at all. Ginny continued cleaning her tanks, from freshwater to saltwater. Flashing silver, loaches wiggled their bellies for her. The side door slammed as Ginny was feeding the red cap orandas. Ginny was careful to feed only a few granules at a time so the fish wouldn’t gorge themselves or damage their fins gobbling greedily.
“So I guess there is nothing for dinner again,” Vin called out from the kitchen. The last three nights she had made dinner and eaten it alone. “There are some nice leftovers,” Ginny called back. She listened to Vin open the milk and down it in front of the open fridge door. She waited with a tin of fish food in her hand. “I can scramble some eggs,” Ginny said. Her voice was a little too high. She slowed her breathing. Vin didn’t like it when she got too emotional. He didn’t like Ginny angry or sarcastic or sad. He called her tears manipulation.
“Why would I expect a hot dinner after working all day?” Vin said into the refrigerator.
“Well I work the same hours as you,” Ginny said to her lion head who was pushing the other fancy goldfish around look for food. To Vin, she said, “I could go out and pick up your fav—“
“Forget it, hon, sorry to bite your head off. Just have a wicked headache. I’m taking some Tylenol and heading straight to bed.” Vin was in the doorway to the family room. Pain pinched his face and his large hand rubbed the back of his neck. Leaning against the doorway, Ginny remembered how he looked in high school. How they looked together, before babies and marriage and bills and house payments, Vin was her person, her one and only. They were Vincent + Virginia in curlicue letters surrounded by hearts and daisies. Without realizing it she stepped towards him. Vin shied away from her. Then she remembered Vin didn’t like it when she got too emotional or too close. Ginny turned back to one of her tanks, the cloudy one with the Siamese flying fox fish. Vin headed the stairs.
“If you came straight home you would feel better,” she said to the tank. “What?” Vin called from the second floor. “Feel better, sweetheart.”
Kissing up and down the furry glass, the emerald striped fish were doing a good job of clearing this aquarium of algae. Ginny put down the goldfish food and picked up an old tin of chemical algae cleaner labeled poison. Vin’s heavy unsteady footsteps walked overhead. She tossed the nearly empty can of Algae Destroyer into the kitchen trash. Ginny tried not to be too emotional as she tied the bag shut and set it on the back steps for Vin, Jr. to take to the driveway’s end.
It was a very nice office, respectable, Carlo thought, shuffling envelopes in his hands. The new office in Boston was a little small but neat as a pin. His desk was sturdy and well-polished with only a few scars in the corners. Carlo leaned back in his chair the green leather welcoming his push. His thoughts ran home. His mother had been a diamond of the first water, still a fine lady even when the family fell on hard times. When Carlo went to university his top drawer tastes matches his wealthy school friends and left him with no money and no degree. But in American he knew things would be different. Smiling up at the sunny ceiling, Carlo leaned back further and balanced his slicked head on his folded arms. He remembered how the cobblestone streets felt strange when he landed in Boston. Sure Carlo had gambled away the last of his family’s money onboard ship but he still had his quick mind and rock steady drive. He learnt good English bent over a hot restaurant sink. Adventure was around every corner. Settling his tidy dress shoes on his shiny desk, Carlo stretched back to his chair’s limit. After a few misunderstanding over tips at the restaurant Carlo left the adventurous corners of Boston for Quebec. A jaunty tune he used to sing as a boy came to his mind and Carlo began to whistle. The problem was Carlo has too many ideas to be a waiter but his life as a banker fit his imagination. Sure there had been a forged check or two and a few years away, but Carlo had found himself in Canada. In the quiet of his jail cell Carlo realized he was the unsquashable dream of the new world. In Italian, French, and his new good English Carlo could share his dream of big and better and never beaten with his fellow immigrants. Ventures rose and fell, but Carlo glittered under pressure. He was a good guy. The kind of man who would give the shirt off his back. Spinning in his office chair, he broke off into song. He heard a soft step of his Rose Maria at his office door. “Carlo Pietro Giovanni Gugliemo Tebaldo Ponzi are you up here daydreaming?” Whirling around to greet his beloved, Carlo waved an envelope at her. Pale pink with deep blue and green lines the international response coupon fluttered to the ground. He picked on the slip of paper for return postage. It was worth pennies in the US but in Italy so many liras especially now. A sketch of a thought, a money making idea, maybe not a hundred percent legal but definitely promising money making idea, sparked. As the office door opened, Carlo was fanning his face with the slip of arbitrage. He knew this time everything would be different. Carlo beamed at his wife and motioned her to come to his lap. Attempting an attitude of stern reproach, Rose Maria scowled. Carlo threw open his arms. “Sweetheart I’m not daydreaming I’m empire building,” Charles Ponzi said.
Born in a fine red brick house in the right part of town her father’s hands still rough from hard labor Behind the lace curtains of his bow front windows her father’s hands folded in a well tailored suit She learned to be a good daughter
a leading light in all of the colored ladies clubs his smooth hand grazed hers at the restaurant Swept away by feckless glances shopworn cliches brand new in her own hands She learned to be a good wife
Encased in stiff linen and whalebone her hands rested on her growing belly pressed against her father’s pride, bound tight to her husband’s IOUs She covered her eyes two gun shots and one of the kitchen chairs tumbled backwards
their fine house full of people and accusations her little sister’s scream hang like smoke a gilt edged diary torn wide open she took her hands down, lifting up her head that was the only lesson she ever needed to learn
“Have you heard about what happened to Vi?” Ilse’s said in a stage whisper that carried over the chatter of china and din of the usual afternoon crowd at the Inn at Blue Rock. Renate stiffened. She had her back to Ilse’s table. Without turning Renate could picture Ilse’s table precisely. Snowy cap of sleek hair and a face like a wizened hawk, Ilse’s was at the head of the table regardless of its shape. On the right hand of Ilse, like the good sheep that she was sat the ever patient Dorothea who Renata was sure was worrying her napkins and looking about anxiously. To Ilse’s left, Margit and Harmke, who Renate always called the Mayhem sisters. A crackle lit up Renate’s spine. That could only be Hildegard, Ilse’s oldest friend slash rival, sitting directly across from Ilse. It was the monthly meeting of the George Gardens committee. Renate leaned back to capture every word. “Don’t tell me she’s married that child! Vi is old enough to be his grandmother,” Harmke said joining in Hildegard’s laughter. “My girl heard it from Viola’s housekeeper. You stole my dirt, you bitch,” Hildegard said with another head shattering laugh. “I was there, Hildy meine liebste. The little jump up had arranged the whole thing after one of their dreadful salons. Albrecht made the announcement. They had the license and Pinky performed the ceremony. Good thing I had a tray of Manhattans to brace me or I would have fainted onto the Steinway,” Ilse said with a mouthful of something. “Well pardon my French but that boy is a light in the loafers,” Margit said. “He makes a lovely soufflé but honestly if you ask me that’s a step too far for crème patisserie.” “Light, he’s helium,” Hildegard said drily and downed a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Ilse added, “Well there is no fool like an old fool. When it goes badly—and it will go badly—it will just be what she deserves.” There was knowing laughter and agreeing sounds. Quietly Dorothea mumbled into her salad something about Vi being so lonely after Frank and the high price of feeling wanted but no one paid attention. Renate leaned forward. She thought of Vi, so brilliant, creative, and strong, a formidable academic and hostess. Viola was a proud woman. Then she pictured Albrecht, the handsome, young intern. At the Junior League Gala, Renate had run across him. Witty and erudite, the bow tied young man sparkled under the crystal chandeliers. Albrecht was dazzling her with his tales of his war stories in Iraqi and his knowledge of Persian history. Renate carelessly has corrected his confusion on the Parthian and Sassanid dynasties. His pretty face cracked into rage. Renate remembered backing away in fear. Renate could see through the lies of his facade. She could taste his danger. Renate remembered how the pleasant face shuttered down and Albrecht walked away from her hitting her shoulder hard as he passed. “Earth to Gran, earth to Gran, come in Grandmother.” Steffi’s lovely face smiled up at her. “You were a million miles away.” “Sorry, I was thinking of an old friend.” Renate hugged herself. Laughter clanged around her shoulders as she watched her granddaughter eat lunch.
Burning ring of fire Hunka hunka of burning love great balls of fire in songs love is a flame me, I’m just a straw man easy to knock down, no brains, flammable
My girl, the prettiest thing in the only bar in town She never gave me the time of day but late one night Guns ’n’ Roses was playing the air smelled of beer and having to get up early in the morning through the stale cigarette smoke her eyes lit on me
Sparks flew hardly any money nothing much in the sack I had nothing for her but my heart I gave her all I had
Her daddy was a backhanded slap Her ex was a note left on the kitchen table Her son, trouble with the law When she wanted a barn burner we lit that match Painted the Accomack County sky in ashes
Our love was 66 fires over five months our love was a flame in winter but even in prison grays I still smother I got a rocket in my pocket and the fuse is lit she was on fire and I was breathing gasoline My girl is red hot