Maghie had to fill the empty air, the worst thing was continuing the vacuum where boredom grew and grew stronger and begat tension. that was worse than anything, worse than the pain underneath her fingernails, worse than her ripped skirt, there was no more need to keep up appearances here, Algina didn't care about looks with her scraggly hair and filthy jeans, she wanted truth, results.
Maghie: it's my own fault for having a daughter, of course my daughter would take after me and inherit my smarts, and she would surpass me one day, like Picasso teaches about the son artist who kills the father artist with his superior artistry. did i think i could outsmart you or something? too bad you didn't inherit your dad's athleticism, we could have remained strangers forever honestly because i hate sports and would legitimately have nothing to talk about with you.
Algina: what was that? something about hating your family?
Algina cupped her ear in disgust and continued slamming her foot on the back of the seat in front of her, greatly disturbing the bald gentleman trying to take a nap in that seat.
silence. is. not. golden.
this was a tension made more awkward with awkwardness. it was so difficult for Maghie to even start to speak, to respond, to address something, what did she have to say really? nothing of consequence. when the talking diminishes, the breathing gets heavier. Maghie could feel her heart in her throat, because that was the only murmur of sound which broke the pervading silence of it all. Maghie was a ball of fits and starts, she didn't know where to start, what to do, what to do with her hands, something was always not quite right, out of balance, askew, tilted, SOMETHING WAS ALWAYS WRONG, CLICK HERE, RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK
Maghie wanted to ask how her estranged daughter had been, what she had done all this time, who she was with, if the sex was good, what got her interested in books, Maghie had the perfect story to relay about her own moment the book bug bit her, but all of these things seemed plain and ordinary and what a usual mother would ask, like it didn't matter the answers, it was just something to say. Maghie had to prove herself to her daughter, interact at her level, show her that she was a special mom, she was extrordinary, singular, supermom. Maghie reverted back to the old family days but hopefully not the old family ways.
Maghie: we're a philosophizing family...
Algina: were. philosophy is useless. i learned that the hard way. life's a cold bitch.
Maghie: ...i noticed something as i was perusing our old encyclopedias before we donated them. i looked up famous philosophers' articles and looked just at their portraits. look at their foreheads, they're huge! they all have big heads! seriously. it got me thinking as i studied the portrait of Nietzsche and asked myself if he was correct in his thinking after all or crazy. i don't venture to guess that, i don't want to offend anybody...
Algina: you don't want to offend me.
Maghie:...but when you look at Nietzsche's head, his forehead, i think to myself that maybe some individuals are blessed, born with bigger brains than other humans, a bigger capacity to think, think, think large thoughts, thoughts and thought patterns that other humans with smaller brains simply are physically incapable of doing, they don't have a big enough physical brain to process such grand ideas. Nietzsche could expand and expand his thinking in his inner world as his head expanded and expanded in the real physical world. he was able to make pronouncements others could not understand because Nietzsche could crawl inside heretofore unknown spaces in the mind where secrets dwelled. those dwellings didn't exist, they couldn't be accessed, in the rest of the pea-brained human population who then called him crazy and strange because that's what humans do when they're scared of new ideas. different and complicated equals must be something wrong. humans like things simple, explained, streamlined, codified, and packaged into a product for mass consumption: God exists, period.
with that, Maghie took a breath and felt a little confident, a little more sure of herself. she even chuckled at "pea-brained", and it was a sincere chuckle, not a forced one. she took out her ipad mini and gave it to her daughter so she could see the picture of Nietzsche. their hands touched for the first time in a decade.
Algina: maybe. but nothing will ever excuse Nazism and the Holocaust.
how do you respond to that? you can't. Maghie wished she hadn't chuckled before. she stood there face forward, stone-faced forward, and looked slightly down at her torn skirt. Maghie remained silent waiting for this round of silence to pass, to be upended by a fortunate hitting of a pebble on the road by the bus's tire, something, some distraction. never was a flat tire so hoped for.
Algina glanced at the ipad, frittering the time away because she already had her comeback story in place. Algina turned to face her mother, who had her face in her hands, but it was weird, it wasn't the normal head-in-hands, Maghie's face remained straight up and her hands rather hovered by her face, very close to it but not touching her face.
Algina: shit, i remember that, what is that anyway? that ritual with the hands like that? something passed down the generations?
Maghie: just something i always did when i got nervous.
Algina: i do that sometimes do, inexplicably. Weldon worries, thinks i'm spasming.
Maghie: i'm glad you learned something from me.
Algina: my forehead memory concerns you when i was six and sick. remember?
silence. is. not. golden.
Algina: i had the worst fever ever in the known parts. i was close to death. nothing could break the fever, no chicken soup had the right ingredients, until Dad got the right color of purple onion. the doctors apologized for overmedicating me for nothing. i was still wheezing when you came into my room at midnight. you put your hand on my forehead and i felt your warmth on me though you had dragged some of the outside snow with you into the room. you said nothing to me, you were busy talking on the phone as usual with the other hand. the blizzard flew away as quickly as it had come. the ice queen departed. but i do remember that.
bald gentleman: politely stop kicking the back of my seat, witch!
Algina: you don't know your front from your back anymore, gramps.
bald gentleman: i'm bald, not old! and i'm a gentleman.
the gentleman motioned to get up to get ready to fight a woman without qualm nor reservation. that's when the bus suddenly screeched to a stop. Weldon, the bus driver, ever had the keen eye on his passengers through the giant mirror bolted to the inside front of his bus. nothing escaped eagle-eye Weldon. Weldon threw the giant joystick in reverse with his sinew, and all the passengers had whiplash. it was halted. everything was halted: the bus, the trip, the ride, future plans, until a man-to-man was had. Weldon patiently tucked in his uniform shirt and proceeded to leave his driver seat and walk step-by-step in his heavy work boots along the only middle aisle of the bus straight toward the gentleman.
Weldon: sir, i'm right here, i'm not going anywhere, and neither are these folks. my hands are up in the air, it's time to throw hands, i'm exposing my six-pack, punch me in the stomach and let's get this settled. save that punch you were gonna use on my lady and instead use it on me. the first shot is free. this is happening, this is real, a man is nothing without honor.
the gentleman quickly without pause started swinging on Weldon, such was his rage transferred like a light switch turned on.
Maghie: man, old dude must not have had his oatmeal this morning.
Algina smiled at Maghie. Maghie dropped her hand visor from her face and looked anew at the world post-smile.
Weldon made quick work of the gentleman, flipping him out the bus doors without harming a hair on his bald head.
Weldon: simple martial arts. use your opponent's charging force against him. a quick grab of his punching fist and i transferred his kinetic energy and momentum through the potential-energy chi in my body, making it my kinetic energy and momentum as i tossed him on his keister. ain't that right, babe?
Weldon rubbed Algina's belly and Algina smiled.
Maghie: oh, she smiles at everyone. i'm not special.
a lot of the work was withering away as Algina and Weldon embraced in front of Maghie and Maghie felt isolated again being physically right next to her family. this was her family after all. strangers don't care about you, your family has to, they have to notice you at least, acknowledge you, that you are in fact a member of the family.
as the bus ride resumed, Algina took to Maghie's ipad furiously, it was now Algina's ipad. Algina looked up this and that, no porn, which was strange, but that would be the usual thing, so not so strange. she seemed to be looking up street locations.
at various points along the city path, the bus would stop and Algina would dump large cardboard boxes of unspecified but clearly heavy stuff from the compartment at the bottom of the bus to the nearby sidewalk curb. Weldon loyally helped her. the operation was clean and concise and well-planned, not a second wasted, in and out without anyone noticing.
Algina: we make a good team, huh?, though i do all the heavy lifting.
Maghie: what's in your box?
Algina: that's what he said. just stuff i don't want the cops finding out about.
oh no. here it comes finally. it couldn't be a fairy tale forever, it spills out now, Maghie's years of neglect had transformed her bright child who had the potential to be Hillary Clinton into a common thief who wasn't loved enough by her mother. Maghie was the mother. Maghie damned her existence and cried internally, no real tears came out in the real physical world, perhaps too much time had passed. Maghie's daughter was a methhead, she was a lab worker, and not the cure-cancer science kind.
the thing is, though, Maghie felt she didn't have a leg to stand on, she couldn't just inquire more naggingly like a normal mother would, or even discipline her adult child as a normal mother would. it was too late, it was all too late, and it was all her fault, so who was she to judge? all she could do was wish her daughter well.
Maghie: i wish you the best. Weldon seems like he'll be a good husband, you do work together like one person, which is what marriage is.
Algina: we're not married yet. Sunday. you're not invited...
Algina: ...unless you want to come?
Maghie: no that's okay. i mean, yes, i want to come. of course i want to come. i have nothing else to do in my new hometwon, so i'll be there. i mean, i'm your mother, i want to walk you down the aisle. i'm mommy, i love you.
whatever just happened, words came out before Maghie stopped talking, and an agreement was reached. somehow. yes. so that happened. Maghie was going to the wedding, that was something, that was progress. but what was she gonna wear? all of Maghie's clothes were ripped.
the bus made a stop for refueling next to a food court. the passengers disembarked. Maghie stayed on the bus as the lone survivor, staring out into space. eventually she got hungry and wandered into the food court. Algina and Weldon were at the far other end of the mall chomping down on a shared pizza slice. Maghie took the closest empty table in front of her so as not to disturb anyone. it was filthy and slathered in pizza grease and peppers. Algina noticed her mother from afar from the corner of her eye as she lifted her head occasionally from the screen of her ipad. she noticed Maghie, but looked back down to that exciting information and those colorful images on the screen. Maghie wasn't eating. Algina looked at her mother again, sighed, excused herself from her strong man, touched his muscle, and sauntered over to her mom.
Algina: my turn. one thing i've always noticed, let's see, got it. you know when you're looking up something online, say on wikipedia for the episode descriptions of a tv show you remember from the '80s, like Punky Brewster?
well, when i looked up Punky
on wiki, the Punky
theme song immediately pops up in my mind, starts up in my brain, and i'm silently singing the theme song constantly, i can't get it out of my head. then when i look up Bleach
, the theme song to that anime replaces the Punky
song and becomes the current earworm in my head. i wish adult swim would play the Bleach
intro song again, it sucks that they stopped. does this happen to you?
Maghie ate one of the peppers.
Algina: this is the part where you relate to me your story of earworms so we can connect more.
Maghie: sure, sure, except i'm looking up Downton Abbey
and Nietzsche. Nietszche doesn't have a theme song...................................................uh, y'know, but then i look up Welcome Back, Kotter
and of course everyone in the library knows that classic tune so well they might as well be singing it out loud with me as we lock shoulders and sway back and forth. and the library building itself starts to sway.
Algina: i like that you still go to libraries. libraries are dying but you're not, you're still here as a symbol of my ever-blessed and enduring life. you're gonna love your new job. bibliophiles unite!
Algina winked her left eye and punched her fist in the air and smiled at Maghie again. i guess this was as close to a hug as Maghie was gonna get. kiss was never happening again.
Weldon: let's go, ladies. break over. no more food, you've had enough. on the bus. your new life awaits.
more progress. Weldon addressed Algina and Maghie together as a group, as if they belonged in a group together. but what new life was he addressing? Maghie's or his and Algina's new life together with baby on the way? both? family?
TO BE CONCLUDED...