11,041 vagabonds plus:
200 shutter speed
self-portrait, Francis Bacon
My crisp sorrowful reflection is an expressionless oil still-life in winter's window shop. Sad not because the display jewelery will collect dust, but seeing the melancholy pale face of the shop girl with the duster. Our eyes meet briefly, those stark magpie slanting eyes cast downwards. She did not get a Christmas bonus. Her name-tag properly affixed reads 'Willow'. I tap my knuckles on the glass and she doesn't see me now.
The door mirror at home is too bulky to tote. The only way I'll prove to myself that I exist like an undiscovered eyeless glob at oceans bottom will be to carry a photo, producing it to strangers passing on the street corner. "Excuse me, sir, you see this"? I will say.
The film store is open, one solitary light is burning, the owner has his head resting on the glass case. Awake now, a blurry labeled whiskey bottle next, his eyelids fluttering at fast shutter speed. I purchase a roll with spare change, and he asks if I want it put in a brown paper bag. No, I reply, I'll hold it snug in my fist. It's a roll of the slowest speed to capture at f/1 my form in all its black and white glory. I will kiss shy Willow slowly as well very soon.
Calling poor vagabonds home
Burdens cast aside
painting: Madonna With the Milk Soup
by Gerard David (1510)
the iceman always rings three times
The Ice Cutters, 1911, Natalia Goncharova
(organ soap opera theme in and under for)
announcer: And now, The Iceman Always Rings Three Times, the story of wind-whistling days in the secret lives and loves of frigid folks in that sleepy-town, Belfontaine.
(theme up and suddenly out with a stinger)
announcer: Today we find the local ice delivery man, Wally, at the back door of Maxine, rich widow in dear old Belfontaine. Maxine is in her living room, alone, sorting out old love letters.
Maxine: (sighs) Oh, that was a good one. The soldier light on his feet at the barn dance in moonlight. (The telephone rings, sounding like an inebriated woodpecker).
Hallo? Who? No, this is NOT the First Federal Farmers Mutual Bank Of Belfontaine. What? No, I don't give out loans, I'm, so sorry. (sound of back door chimes ringing twice). I must hang up now. (sound of phone receiver slamming down. Maxine continues, wistfully) So many letters. Oh, I remember this one. The man with two foreheads. (sound of back door chimes ringing once).
Wally: (speaks from distance) Maxine?
Maxine: (laughs as she continues to shuffle letters) My, this fine gentleman was so kind, but he sounded like a goose. Mother wanted me to marry him. A fine singer with such range (sound of furious pounding on wooden back door).
Wally: (yelling from distance) Open the door!
Maxine: (startled) I wonder who that could be. Did I hear one or two chimes? I better check. (sound of footsteps going to back door, and creaky door opening). Wally!?
Maxine: I had no idea.
Wally: Never mind. I only have a short time to spare this afternoon.
Maxine: Did anyone see or hear you coming.
Wally: I'm not sure. I don't know. I was knocking pretty loud. I think the Holstein stopped chewing and gave me a dirty stare.
Maxine: We agreed on three.
Wally: I lost track after two. It sure is cold today.
(theme up and under for)
announcer: And so Wally and Maxine waste precious moments on the back porch. Will they have to postpone and reschedule? Will Wally learn to ring three bells in succession? Can they bribe the Holstein? And can Wally make Maxine forget about the man with two foreheads that manages the First Federal Farmers Mutual Bank Of Belfontaine? Join us again next time we hear Wally the iceman say...
Wally: It's only normal to wear three layers of pants in my line of work.
announcer: That's next time in the continuing intrigue of the ice escapade of The Iceman Always Rings Three Times.
(theme up briefly and out)
"You all know the basic facts of my abduction and absence for all these many years. I will tell you the rest".
The room fell quiet. There were no cameras, only reporters with shorthand pencil at the blank pad. One stock photo was allowed, a photographer kneeled on one knee, held steady, flash!,the small figure before them at a wooden desk blinking magpie black eyes.
"My parents, long gone, were parked at the oceanfront lookout, it was Sunday, I was in the back seat snug in my blankets asleep. An innocent scene I'm told, people strolling barefoot on the beach, children playing, friendly-like birds within arm's length, all too happy to take free handouts of morsels, vengeful grins mistakened for a light-weighted friendly photo op you'd find in a vacation brochure. Then it was over in a flash as told by my mother to police. The swarm zeroing in, a flock through the open backdoor car windows, and aloft I went on the wings of two, perhaps four giant birds, out of reach of my devastated parents. It is said my folks made no noise, no screams, at the horror of the sight of me fading towards the dazzling white horizon".
Chuckling and throat clearing scattered amongst the group of reporters. One man imitated the sound of fluttering wings, another cawed at the back of the hall. The figure at the table raised his head briefly, then fell again. He almost flew away in disgust.
"Yes", his small voice continued,"I was raised by the feather, sharp beaks probing with slimy objects forced into my mouth, naturally taught to take off and return from the flimsy branch of a two hundred foot tall tree in a way I could not teach anyone if I tried. Let me say here it is not true I have never made eye contact with my fellow humans. It just appears that way because you are trying too hard to notice. It is the defect of your large cumbersome brain against the lean brain of a bird. I have looked into distrustful and suspicious eyes. And I have flown towards the rising sun and late setting moon". He stated all this defiantly without taking a breath and found himself lightheaded. Chuckling and murmurs of 'creepy bird' washed around the room. People shook their heads and looked at one another.
It all seemed in slow motion the way the horror began. A slammed fist upon the table, scooting chair sounding like fingernails on a blackboard, overturned desk. He was above them circling, not with winged flight, but with a kind of deep-rooted willpower. They swatted at him with fists and writing pads, but he had the advantage because a person couldn't tell if he was looking at them with those big black eyes and swiveling neck. But they would overtake him eventually, crushing him with broken table legs, then vicious kicks, his wings of spirit broken, silent and motionless.
Oh yes. As an award winning author and director I get letters. Like this one.
Dear Sir, I've always wondered - Do show folks constantly wallow in vanity? I saw one the other day on the street looking at her reflection in a jewelery store window combing her hair and clearing her throat loudly drawing a crowd. How do you put up with them?
Sincerely, Thurber Hobart Sturgeon
Oh yes, People Of The Stage remain buoyant in an ocean of vanity, as it were. But I don't really mind myself if anyone maintains their coiffure in a city street setting. I'm bald and it still makes no difference. But I do say this - I've had it up to my shiny top with these actors and their whining. You see, they all want attention. I once stood before a cast on stage during a rewrite where every confounded one of them wanted a death scene. What is it about death scenes? That was the only way I could convince a Famous Actress to join our troupe was to promise one. During one tour each of them approached me to write one. What am I supposed to do? Kill them all off and then come out on stage at the end and say ‘Ok, folks, show’s over. Go home’? I'd get a tomato splat right in the forehead. Maybe we long to hear the most eloquent and beautiful words from those who are at death’s door. It is said that Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s last words were ‘Let us cross over the river and sit under the shade of the trees.’ That one gets me every time.
Vanity! I tell you, Mr. Sturgeon. One time a famous unnamed mezzo-soprano refused at the last moment to enter stage right for her solo because somewhere along the tour one of her wings was lost. You see, she was a singing bird. Yeah, not original, but she had charisma to make people forget how she appeared before them. I told her to tuck the wing to one side and maybe it'll appear as two. She has a voice! Even an impatient child sliding down their mother’s lap would sit still with open mouth.(Ninth row, fourth from the left. Amazing) I must mention something, Mr. Sturgeon, about the heart of show folk. This same young woman fell ill during the tour. Couldn't sing anymore. A lump in her throat, a cyst or tumor, we didn't know. We took her to a throat specialist. In fact it was a rather large cyst and there was no way to safely operate without complete vocal loss. Weeks passed. She remained on tour, lending a hand, doing whatever she could, the cast trying to keep her spirits aloft, solitary wing notwithstanding. I walked in on her backstage at The Civic Theatre in Bellfontaine, Ohio, once and she was weeping, curled up in a costume trunk. See was horrified to see me standing over her watching, the scarf ripped in agony from her neck. I said, in my finest Cary Grant imitation what come off the late late show, 'Elizabeth, my love, I'll never get that trunk door shut with those big feet of yours.' She has tiny feet. Well, I can't explain it, but she started to laugh. She laughed so hard she was coughing and that cyst just burst. She could sing again. We hugged. I saw that she had both wings from there on.
image: Fallen Angel by digitalbrain
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