Wednesday, August 13, 2014


the nails started to throb again, the fingers hurt, Maghie knew this was pain that just wouldn't go away, at least not soon. the bus landed on the spot, the mysterious place, the city, her new home, new hometown, she was a stranger in a strange land, knew no one, especially her daughter. actually, she knew of this place, but she always drove by it, like the monastery. she was in it now, down in it.

Maghie made the gesture again, hovering her hands right by her face, covering her face, she was nervous, and this was her silly go-to instinctual defense mechanism. actually, she just didn't want to see outside, maybe if she didn't see her new city through the bus windows it wouldn't exist, wouldn't be made real and final. final destination comes for us all.

the bus halted to a stop loudly and proudly. all the passengers scurried off like mice to their various smelly cheeses out the bus door, so comfortable was everyone with these streets. alone stood the one uncomfortable, sticking out like a sore thumb. Maghie's thumbs hurt especially. the bus driver, who happened to be Maghie's daughter's soon-to-be husband Weldon, extended his hand in Maghie's general direction.

Maghie: thank you, you may take my suitcase.

but actually Weldon was offering his hand to pick up Maghie's daughter Algina from her bus seat to dance with her in the empty bus aisle. the two rubbed shoulders and danced a slow waltz. he rubbed Algina's pregnant belly as he lay cheek-to-cheek with his betrothed, whispering sweet nothings in her ear as Algina whispered about their son that would soon join their family in his ear. this was a level of smarmy cuteness which clearly wouldn't happen in the presence of a full busload of cynical people. Weldon had a badass karate-man reputation to keep. this was a private moment meant to be shared with family. baby bump. Maghie was suddenly thrust into this family now after so many years of estrangement.

after the impromptu planned dance which was so slow it seemed to slow time itself, the two lovebirds disembarked the lonely bus but not before Weldon extended his hand to Maghie.

Maghie: yes, you may have this dance.

Weldon: no, i was just offering to take your suitcase.

never had Maghie's fingers hurt so much from cutting her fingernails too finely. Maghie quickly threw her purse over herself, shoved the suitcase in Weldon's general direction, and scampered off the bus to avoid living in this moment anymore. she entered the cold unknown air of the city as a lost rat.

Weldon had some repairs or some karate to do so he quickly disappeared into the day. Maghie kept walking forward as her mother always taught her to do whenever she found herself in a rut, and soon she and her beautiful daughter Algina were walking side by side toward the bookstore along a beautiful cobblestone street in the heart of downtown. the first half of this walk and talk was decidedly silent. it would be beautifully made symmetrical by a bridge. the two women said not a word to each other until they crossed a bridge overlooking a babbling brook in the middle of the city. that's when they started babbling.

Maghie and Algina simultaneously went to the center of the bridge, then to the edge of the bridge and looked down into the brook. first Maghie saw her reflection in the water, the brook was babbling but still still. then Algina saw her reflection next to her mother's. as the brook started to pick up again, creating waves from banging against the huge rock in the middle, the two reflections became glassy and hard to distinguish, the two reflections merged together as one face, one spot of water, one wave crashing and spitting out white foam, the merged face spoke of generations united, family line, as the water quickly flowed from its ebb and lost its shape, becoming formless again ready to repeat the cycle.


though nothing was said of or about this incident, the conversation which followed surely flowed from this incident. inspiration hit both women like a crashing wave. Maghie was dying to tell her story that she just remembered.

Maghie: Algina, lately i've been noticing that the simple things in life really matter, they feed your soul.

Algina: you're dying to tell me a story, huh mom? we got time, we're halfway there. but please make it better than the greeting cards we sell.

Maghie: one day i was out of orange candy. there was only fruit. i was forced to eat healthy for the first time in my life. i looked around for my orange juice, but there was none. if i wanted orange this day, i had to pick up from the bowl, wash, and peel an orange, an actual orange, the fruit itself, and the only one left in the bowl was a particularly huge misshapen green orange. your dad never knew how to shop for things.

Algina: he gave me a football for Christmas. i've loved soccer ever since.

Maghie: i'm telling you, the experience of peeling that orange was existential.

Algina: as long as it wasn't Deconstructionist.

Maghie: i hadn't peeled an orange by hand in ages. people of the world, throw out your plastic orange peelers, get rid of lifeless machines which disconnect your touch to nature, feel your fruit with your own hand. i felt the slimy skin of the orange. this one would not reliquish its inner core easily, that rind was rough, it was put on there tight as a motherfucker. i pushed in my nails, my fingers, as hard through fast rough as i could, matching the orange's rough, until my hurt fingers caught an opening, an edge, and the first peel of rind came off, exposing the juicy white interior. the poor guy was crying, the juicedrops which came out of the orange were teardrops, the spritz of juice which flew in my face every time i removed another piece of rind made me all sticky. this, when combined with my sweat, made me feel like a farmer after a hard day's work in the beating sun. i earned this orange, i could taste it with pride. i savored it at first, licked it, then examined it in the beating sun with the light from my kitchen window. there was no more orange to this orange, it was a white ball of interior goodness. its white matched the sun's white. i bit into the heart of it feverishly, its juices branched into rivers all over my lips and tongue, washing me away like a steady brook. that was the greatest meat i've ever tasted, it was so good, so refreshing, so rewarding. it was sweet but not, naturally sweet, nature's perfect ration of sweet allowed for each human at each sitting of fruit intake, just enough to tease but never to drown. i gobbled it all up in seconds, but i do think i also relished each bite. glorious, i hadn't eaten an orange in ages...

Algina smiled.

Maghie: your turn.

Algina: i've got it. i've got you beat. i love sandwiches, rich, hearty sandwiches like they make at The Store across from our bookshop. the more layers, the better: meat, cheese, olives, cucumbers, more cheese, smelly cheese, peppers, lettuce, tomato, olive spread, juices, juices like rivers, and of course kicked up by various healthy slatherings of sauces: mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, chipotle, red-pepper mayonnaise, thousand-island dressing. i love the particular way Gus makes my sandwiches every lunch break, he knows what i want, knows what to do, knows i'm in a time crunch, does it fast. i love watching his hands attack the bread and meat and toppings. like cards, he shuffles the focaccia and the meat together masterfully, sprinkling in salt and pepper to taste, my taste, a few sides, and plants that sucker in the oven. when it comes out of the oven, the aroma is overpowering, delicious, it whets my taste buds and i can't wait. stack upon stack, layer upon layer of food, until the damn sandwich is as tall as the ceiling. my favorite part is when he smashes all the layers down into a smushed rectangle with those strong fingers, i can see my sandwich, all the tiny hidden layers in it, the red and green and yellow lines pinched together like a fossil waiting to be discovered. i've already orgasmed at the making of the sandwich, the actual eating of it is afterplay.

Algina smiled at her mother again.

Algina: okay, you win.

Maghie: i was gonna say. are you sure you don't want to marry Gus instead?

Algina: Weldon can chop my sandwiches in two without a knife. Gus needs a knife.

Maghie: i look at the food channels on tv and am aghast. what is with this trend of making Frankenfood? humans are trying to come up with the craziest combinations of foods, we are desperate to try something new. we humans are so bored, there's nothing left for us to discover, so we force newness and originality by smushing old things together like a sandwich. i'm sorry, but i don't need to try hot beer, that drink that's a mixture of coffee and tea, or bacon-ice-cream scoops on top of pepperoni pizza. classics are classics for a reason, nature will never let us down, we must all see and feel the simplicity of peeling and eating an orange. what's old is new again.

the two women arrived at the front entrance to the book store, a giant sheet of glass divided into a big glass door and glass windows. Algina rummaged around for her keys and opened the door and let her mother into her home. also in that rummaging she took out two nameplates, one which read:


and the other which read:


Algina handed the nameplate to her mother, showing Maghie where to pin it on the blouse part of Maghie's ripped dress.

Algina: ready for your first day of work, rookie?

Maghie: no, but it's okay, i'll figure it out myself. i know you're busy.

the next couple of days did not make things easier. Maghie was smart but she found it hard to keep up with the system of cataloguing books Algina had created. on Tuesday, Algina's soon-to-be husband found a day off from his bus to come visit his bride. Maghie distinctly saw Weldon make Maghie's hands-covering-the-face gesture while in conversation with Algina. Algina smiled and looked at Maghie, then looked at Weldon who looked at Maghie and smiled and looked back to Algina, who was looking at Maghie again and smiling.

the weekend came. Algina spotted Maghie working the shelves on Saturday, or was it Sunday?

Algina: mom, are you okay here alone today?

Maghie: yes, thank you, i've discovered that if i put some of the books in my purse as i stack them, it makes the job easier, it saves time, i get done sooner.

Maghie looked at the pile of books she needed to organize and stack up and place on the shelves. it was up to the ceiling, a huge, towering pile cluster made up of smaller piles, a mountain with branches slithering down like a snake, filling up every corner of the bookshop, forking out, rivers of books stacked, smushed together into pile upon pile upon pile. at the mountaintop peak was the book The Little Prince. this would take all day. Maghie's fingers throbbed at the prospect, her nailbed areas trembled in pain. Maghie is in pain, she doesn't know what to do or say next.

Maghie: have fun at your wedding.



Thevisionarybutterfly said...

Hi there! Good writing

the late phoenix said...

thevisionarybutterfly: thank you! I appreciate it :)

Jules said...

This is a mixed bag here, sweet Phoenix, but aren't they always *)

The physical pain from her fingers every time she feels or says something awkward or that makes her feel vulnerable. Like biting nails from nervousness; a physical manifestation of her pain. is it that she can't or dare not touch it properly or be in touch with her emotions? When she tries it's like she's being burnt? I like Maghie, I like her awkwardness.

I love the merging of the two in the water. Becoming one because they are one. The reflection.

The orange and the sarnie: The orange and it's tough outer shell, protecting itself because its inner is so delicate and sensitive and full of pain; then the sandwich composed of so many layers. So much to peel back to get to the real truth and flavour. Both hiding. Both afraid. Like Mother like daughter.

Barnes and Noble?

The little Prince. The book on the top. Are they both feeling the importance because time was lost? Are they seeing properly with the heart?

It's a strange world.

Very deep and beautifully written. *)

the late phoenix said...

juli: thank you as always mah dahlin.

The Little Prince: Algina's baby on the way

i deliberately left the (orange) core reason for the estrangement a mystery, i like when stories don't spell out every last detail and instead leave it to the reader's imagination to connect the dots.

if this is exactly right this minute now, it's probably not a Borders Books....on second thought, yes, this is in fact the last Borders on Earth *)