Who Will Tell Their Story? – Chapter Four – “Irene”

Irene was a recent widow who graced the Battery Park Hotel after she sold the house that she had shared with her husband for almost fifty years. Unlike Eloise, Irene didn’t hate the word “widow.”

She lived on the sixth floor and from the window, could see the house that she had lived in since she married at the age of eighteen.  She and her husband had raised five children in that house and the memories she collected over the years overflowed like a mighty waterfall.

She was a master crocheter and knitter and possessed an imagination that allowed her to literally make something out of nothing.  She could run across a rusted tin can and in her mind, see a beautiful container for a treasure.

She loved to hear dirty jokes and loved to tell them.  One of her favorites was “look down your shirt and spell attic.”  She knew Eloise but never told her that joke, although she mused about how she could say “pull up your shirt and spell attic, instead of look down your shirt and spell attic.”

Blessed with unusually long fingers, she played the piano at the church she had been going to for as long as she could remember.  Also blessed with a remarkable soprano voice, she sang in the choir.  Over time, the dress code had become less rigid but Irene wasn’t one to show up wearing jeans and a t-shirt.  She would dress to the nines and one of her favorite outfits was a bright pink suit with matching shoes.

She had her hair done every week but settled for its natural color of silvery white.  When asked if she’d like a little color added, she would laugh and say “I have earned every single white hair on my head and every single one of them has a name attached to it.”

She no longer drove and relied heavily on her best friend, Lilly, to take her to church, the grocery store and an occasional trip to the mall.  They got along so well, people who didn’t know them thought they were sisters. When Irene fell and broke her arm, she stayed with Lilly, until she was able to fend for herself again.  As Irene put it, “It was like a month-long pajama party.”

Irene had been a beautiful woman in her youth.  She had chestnut brown hair that looked as if it had been kissed by the sun and she had piercing blue eyes that made you think she could see straight through you.  She was taller than average and in her old age, still struck quite a figure.

She loved to watch game shows.  Her favorite was Wheel of Fortune and she could, many times, figure out the word after only one letter had been exposed.

When someone described Irene, they talked about funny and friendly she was, but if you pissed her off, you had better run for the hills.  With the expertise of an accomplished swordsman, she could metaphorically cut you in half before you ever saw the blade.

But Irene had a past.  Due to a tragic accident, she lost a child when she was younger and had suffered a mental breakdown.  She spent a few years in what they called back then, a nervous hospital.  She recovered, as much as could be expected when you lose a child, but if one looked closely, they could see the deep sadness that still showed in her eyes.

She loved holidays and was always the first volunteer when it was time to decorate the lobby.  When she got through, it was often described as a masterpiece of artistry.  She appeared to enjoy her golden years and the camaraderie she found with the other patrons of the Battery Park Hotel seemed to enliven her.

As the fire raged up from floor to floor, Irene decided to cheat death and take her own life.  She made her way up to the top of the Hotel and jumped.  She was wearing her bright pink suit and matching shoes.

 

 

To be continued_______________

 

 

Who Will Tell Their Story? – Chapter Three – “Ray Dean”

Ray Dean aka Raden, was a purveyor of chicanery.  Three life-altering events had taken place in the last few months.  He had turned sixty-five, had just been released from a federal prison after serving a thirty-year sentence for defrauding several unsuspecting elderly people and he had been graciously admitted to the Battery Park Hotel, on the condition that his evil ways had been put behind him.

Born in the hills of North Carolina to uneducated parents who had to scrimp and save every dollar just to make ends meet, he decided at an early age that was not the life he wanted.

With an IQ of 165, his debauchery began at twelve years old.  He started stealing goats and cows from neighbors, tying them to a tree, waiting for a reward to be posted and then returning them to collect the money.  It was a brilliant ploy and the grateful people started calling him “the little Pinkerton.”

But his ruse would come to an end when they began to wise up and realized that he was the one who always seemed to “find” the missing animals.  He got what you would call a good ole whoopin’ from his Papa, and a lecture about right and wrong but his Papa’s speech went the way of the proverbial “in one ear and out the other.”

His Papa said, “I know you’re smarter than I am, son, but there’s a right way to do things and there’s a wrong way to do things.  You need to do things the right way.”

Raden was smart enough to placate his Papa and showed the proper remorse but all the while, he was planning his next caper.

Feeling that higher education was for chumps, and also believing that he was always the smartest person in the room, he opted to drop out of high school at sixteen and start his own business.

That business took him from state to state, not because he was successful, but because he was outrunning the law.

He would travel around, find depressed houses and use his considerable, smooth-talking charm to entice the owners with promises of repairing roofs, mending broken down fences and replacing leaking pipes for a more than fair price.  All he required was half the money down and then he would begin the project.  Once he got their hard-earned money, he would skip town, live high on the hog for a few weeks and then move on to his next victim.

His turpitude continued for years and not until he met Isobel, did he start to show a bit of conscience.  She was a spit-fire of a woman who could match his intellect and he found her to be quite challenging.

She had just inherited a tidy sum of money from her folks as well as their old farmhouse, which she intended to restore to its original state.  Raden saw an opportunity to make a quick killing, but he found Isobel to be so alluring that he couldn’t take advantage and decided that maybe meeting her was a sign that he should start traveling the straight and narrow path of honesty.

They would meet and he would pretend to know what he was talking about as they looked at the rusty old tin roof and rotten eaves.  He was being pretentious and his only purpose was to spend more time with her, not help fix the house.

The more time he spent with her, the more enamored he became and the more guilt he felt, but his funds were running low and he needed a quick fix.  He fell back into his old ways and took several thousand dollars from her.

They planned to meet the next morning and start working.  Isobel arrived at the house and waited all day but Raden never showed up.  He took her money and left but Isobel was not going to be just another one of his victims.

She hired a private investigator and Raden’s luck ran out when the long arm of the law came knocking on his door.  He was living in a dismal flat, crawling with roaches and rats and littered with empty liquor bottles.  He had made off with her money but as soon as he skipped town, his daddy’s words of doing the right thing began to echo in his ears like the tolling of a death knell.  Instead of cheating people out of money, he started begging people for money.

If he had ever been able to love anyone other than himself, Isobel had been the recipient.  While in prison, Raden became an accomplished artist. His cell housed hundreds of paintings.  Other inmates asked for their likenesses or those of loved ones, but Raden refused.  All of his paintings were of Isobel and when he was released, he took those paintings to the Battery Park Hotel.

He was reclusive and other than an occasional nod to someone in passing, he kept to himself.  It was almost as if he was self-imposed to another prison as a form of further penitence, although in the eyes of the law, he had paid his debt to society.

He never participated on game night and it’s questionable if he ever had the pleasure of meeting Eloise.  He never visited the hairdresser nor did he ever lounge around in the main lobby.

He was found in the hallway with his arms full of melted oil paintings that were not recognizable.  Perhaps in his last moments of life, he finally found peace and a modicum of comfort, knowing that he was going to die…with Isobel.

 

To be continued___________________

 

 

Who Will Tell Their Story? – Chapter Two – “Eloise”

Eloise had been a resident of the Battery Park Hotel since it opened its doors to the elderly.  She was a sixty-seven year old widow who hated the word “widow.”  She showed her annoyance when she tersely said “don’t call me a widow.  That makes me sound like a spider!”

Eloise was a force of nature.  She never wore a brassiere and had no compunction about flashing her ample but sagging breasts when she heard that “hated” word.  She would let out a hearty grunt, raise her shirt and say “do you see a red hourglass on my chest?”

Most women ignored her but others would gasp in horror and show their disgust…but all the men loved Eloise.  A few protests were sent to the manager, a middle-aged, slightly over-weight, balding man, who politely nodded while listening to the sensitivities of the complainants but shook his head and smiled as soon as they walked away.  He loved Eloise, too.

Eloise frequented the hairdresser but blue was the color of her eyes and would never be the color of her hair.  Her choice was a jet black color called Raven and she never let her silver roots show.  She proudly called herself “a Raven beauty.”  It was a clever pun on the word “raving” and Eloise was a master of puns.

On game night, Eloise made the rounds, floating fluidly from table to table.  She was a fairly good poker player, although it was discouraged, especially if it involved money.  But Eloise was a rule-maker and a rule-breaker.  “If I want to play poker, I’m going to play poker,” she said.  “If I win your money, don’t cry to me.  You shouldn’t be gambling if you’re going to be a big baby.”

She had never worked a day in her life, as far having an actual paying job, but would quickly remind everyone that looking after a man for forty-some-odd years was one of the hardest jobs a woman could ever have. She didn’t talk much about her late husband but once you got to know her, albeit casually because even though she would bare her breasts, she never completely bared her soul to anyone, you sensed that he was an honorable man who was very good to her.

She still wore a simple gold band on her left hand and always wore a locket on a long chain that seemed to have great sentimental value.  If she still grieved for him, she did it in private or maybe she had reached the point of acceptance and resigned herself to believing the often used words, “until we meet again.”

Eloise didn’t dress like an old woman.  You wouldn’t find any polyester frocks in her closet and stiletto heels were at home on her feet.  She was never seen without make-up and may have singlehandedly kept Max Factor in business for years.

She could be described as flashy, but not trashy.  She could be described as eye-catching, but not gaudy.  She could be described as someone who wasn’t going to let time and age slow her down or resign her to a mundane life of mere existence.

The fact that Eloise loved to flirt did not go unnoticed.  She loved the attention and loved even more that she could get a rise out of an embarrassed old man, whose certain appendage hadn’t stood at attention in possibly many years.

But Eloise was not interested in having a relationship.  She didn’t need a man to take care of, nor did she need a man to take care of her.  She was by no means wealthy, but she was frugal.  She didn’t need a man to pay her bills, nor was she interested in paying his.  She just wanted to live and laugh and spit in the face of age, while defying its onslaught of brittle bones, arthritic hands and the eventual final surrender.

Eloise was found huddled next to the window in her bedroom, clutching a scorched silver picture frame that one could only guess held a picture of her late husband.  The remains of a chair were beside her and she may have been trying in vain to break the reinforced window.  Fused to her finger was the gold band and the locket still hung around her charred neck.

 

 

To be continued________________________

 

 

 

Who Will Tell Their Story? – Chapter One

Standing in the middle of town, was the grand Queen Anne styled Battery Park Hotel.  Its name came from Confederate forces, using the site for batteries of artillery during the Civil War.

As a little girl, I remember looking up at the fourteen story tall building and thinking that it surely must touch the sky and tickle the soft, underbelly of angels who were flying a little too close to the spire.

I had heard that famous people had once sought rest in its grand rooms, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda.  There was a rumor that the fabulous Elvis Presley had stayed there and in a fit of rage, shot the television when he saw Robert Goulet on the screen.

Forty years later, the grand hotel had all but been abandoned in favor of more modern, sterile glass and steel architecture.  It was slated for demolition but special interest groups rallied and petitioned to save the old historic building.

People who had migrated to the suburbs and built or bought one-story cookie-cutter houses, were now flocking back to the city.  They were eyeing the building for lush pent-house style apartments, but the city decided that the grand hotel should be designated for senior citizens, who, living on small fixed incomes, should have a bit of luxury in the winter of their lives.

The age requirement was at least sixty-five and the residents had to have a bit of independence, although there were the required accouterments for wheel chairs and walkers.  Once the remodeling was completed, all two hundred and thirty-eight rooms were occupied within three weeks and a waiting list numbered in the hundreds.

Once again, the Battery Park Hotel had a heartbeat.

There was a laundromat in the basement that boasted ten washing machines, twelve dryers and for fifty cents, a chest of drawers could be filled with fresh, clean clothes.

Once a week, a hairdresser would come to coif and apply just the right tint of blue to old ladies’ hair of another time, who would never dream of venturing outside looking unkempt.  The men could opt for the long ago discarded tradition of a straight-razor shave, if they trusted that the hairdresser had steady hands.

There was a room designated for clothing that had been outgrown or was no longer wanted, appliances that were no longer needed, magazines that had been read hundreds of times and bits of yarn and fabric that were too small to save.  All of these things could be bought for a mere pittance.

Every Friday night was game night.  The residents could partake in Bridge, Checkers, Gin Rummy, try to coax together a five-thousand piece puzzle, or just sit around and talk about old times, old men and old women.
As they played, they could hear the lonesome, forlonging, yet romantic call of the train that rode along the French Broad River.

The residents consisted of spry, maverick “oldsters,” taking advantage of a new kind of freedom as well as the sad, forgotten ones, tossed away like last weeks’ Sunday newspaper.

Sometimes you could see one of them peering out of a window as if perhaps nostalgically looking for their lost childhood or hoping to see a loved one stroll by.  Surely, whatever they saw was from an entirely different perspective than what they could see from the ground.

Through the years, residents came and went.  Some had to go to assisted care living.  Some died and went to their final resting place, be it to a cemetery with an elaborate tombstone, or to the neglected Potters’ field.

Old people who should be treasured for their wealth of knowledge and the stories they can tell are more often than not, considered to be nothing more than relics.  They are frail and wrinkled and some of them smell like dusty furniture.  Their eyes are cloudy and their hearing has gone the way of their youth.

Some of them are still full of life.  They don’t care how they smell, and it doesn’t matter if they can still see or hear.  They’re just happy to be alive. But there are those who are so lonely, their tears could water the nearby flowers and they silently wish for a visit from the angel of death, whose soft underbelly may have been tickled by the spire.

Centuries of memories crept along the corridors and settled into the crevices of the Battery Park Hotel.  It would be an idealistic notion that traces of everyone who had entered the front door, walked the halls, and lounged on the comfortable, overstuffed furniture in the lobby had left an indelible mark, but who would tell their story?

If those walls could only talk…but on a cold December day, the walls were silenced forever. That was the day the grand Battery Park Hotel burned to the ground and took every living soul with it.

 

 

To be continued__________________

 

 

 

 

A Christmas To Remember

Christmas was coming!  There was a nip in the air, frost on the ground and little girl excitement abounded.  Even though she was an old woman now, she remembered how it had been in the before time.

This year, she took a picture of her house and had it mounted on a special card.  She sent it to all of her children with an invitation to come visit and enjoy the wonderful memories of their youth.

“Come spend the holidays with me and relive the days when you were knee-high to a grasshopper.  There’s lots of room and you can choose from the pink room, the green room, the blue room, the yellow room or the white room.  All will be adorned with decorations and the spirit of Christmas!  There will be presents to open, apple cider to sip and dinner to feast upon.  I’ll be expecting you around noon.  Love, Mom.”

Day after day she lugged bins filled with ornaments into the house.  Most of the trees were in cumbersome boxes and were three or four feet taller than she, but with her rickety old step-ladder, she could conquer even the tallest.  Often, she would stop and laugh as she said to herself, “oh, land.  My blood pressure.  What was I thinking?”

She tried to ignore the nagging thought that maybe she was getting too old to do this sort of thing but she had missed it terribly.  It had been so long since the before time and this year, she felt like she could decorate again.

Every room had a tree with a different theme and the ornaments matched the color of the room.  Stockings hung from every mantle and Steinbach nutcrackers stood guard over them.  There were hand-knitted stockings that her mama had made for the children, silk stockings that she had purchased, cross-stitched stockings that she had made, and old, felt stockings rescued from her mama and daddy’s attic, that still bore the faint smell of her daddy’s cigarette smoke.

Her finest handmade quilts covered holiday-themed flannel sheets on each bed and soft feather pillows beckoned a weary traveler with the promise of a wonderful night’s rest.  Balsam scented candles filled each room with ambient lighting and that fresh-cut Christmas tree smell.

Hand-cut paper snowflakes, strung together with fishing line, served as temporary curtains in all the bedrooms and each room had its own “Elf On The Shelf,” moved to a different place every night.

Characters who held candles in arms that moved back and forth had been with her since the children were little.  There was Mr. and Mrs. Clause, who for thirty years had stood on the main fireplace.  There was Mr. Scrooge, the Lamplighter, four elves and several carolers.  There was a little girl with blonde, curly hair who wore a red checked dress and reminded her of her daughters.

In front of the window at the top of the stairs, a tree was heavy laden with speaking ornaments from the movie, “A Christmas Story.”  On a table beside it, was a full-sized famous Leg Lamp, the bunny slippers, a porcelain replica of the house, a bobble headed Ralphie and of course, “the old man.”  It was one of her favorites.

Lighted garland wound its way around the banisters of the stairs, intermittently boasting a large red bow.  Old world Santas that she had collected over the years, stood on the each corner of the twenty steps.

All of the artwork on the walls had been replaced with smiling pictures of Santa, and a basket overflowing with a collection of “The Night Before Christmas” books sat in the foyer.   A large old world Santa stood beside a sleigh, filled with antique toys and represented a step back into her time as a little girl.

The outside of her house had wreaths with red bows on all thirty-eight windows and a large twig snowman, complete with carrot nose and top hat, held a welcome sign on the front porch.  Sleigh bells on a leather strap, hung from the doorknob.

In the living room, her handmade Twelve Days Of Christmas quilt was draped over the sofa and in the chair was her hand embroidered pillow that said “The Bell Still Rings For Me.”  Cinnamon pine cones lent an aromatic smell to the room while an old, scratched 45 record of White Christmas strained to play on her childhood phonograph.

In the kitchen, stood a replica of the famous tinsel trees of the fifties, complete with the color-wheel that cast several different hues.  It was full of red and white candy canes, red glass balls, ornaments shaped like peppermints and miniature retro appliances.

Even the bathrooms had their own trees, each decorated with a different theme.  One had miniature purses, high-topped boots, pointed high-heeled shoes and feathered hats.  Another had hand crocheted snowflakes, coupled with silver balls.  The third had firefighter ornaments and village fire houses stood proudly around the base as if ready to answer a call.

Her finest china and crystal graced the dining room table and beside each place setting, was a special gift.  Over sized Santa hats covered the tops of each chair and The Polar Express Train encircled the base of the large tree that stood in the corner.

A six-foot tall dancing Santa, who let out a boisterous “ho-ho-ho” when someone walked by, was poised next to the fireplace.  He had gotten old as well during the last thirty years, and sometimes needed a slight tap to make him wake up and start moving.

Christmas day arrived and she was up at the crack of dawn.  By noon, a turkey was warming in the oven, buttered rolls were in a special basket and a freshly baked chocolate cake with white mountain icing waited under a special covered plate.  Her famous macaroni and cheese, a favorite of her children, rested in a dish for them to devour and fill their bellies.

She sat and sipped the freshly made warm apple cider while she waited for her children to arrive.  She listened to Christmas songs being chimed from the church bells and thought about how beautiful they sounded.

Having made certain that everything was perfect, she closed her eyes and smiled as she reminisced about Christmases of long ago.  She remembered her children’s squeals of delight as they opened their presents and once again, thought of how very much she missed those days.

When nighttime fell, she carefully put the china and crystal back into the hutch and gathered up the unopened gifts.

No one came.
©

 

Ipari.

The Night Before Christmas

“Tis the night before Christmas and nothing has changed,

No merriment wishes or visits arranged.

Alone in the dark, with one candle lit,

Curled up in a chair, is where I will sit.

No tree in the foyer, no tree in the den,

But ah, I remember the time way back when.

Stockings were hanging from bright, shiny hooks,

For children awaiting their very first looks.

No sleepy-eyed young ones awaking at dawn,

At least not in my house, for those days are gone.

Festivities happen at some other home,

No knock on my door, no ring on my phone.

There’ll be no fond wishes, no mournful goodbye,

No hope that just maybe, eight reindeer can fly.

No wrapping paper pieces, to pick up and toss,

No bows or empty boxes or tags to come across.

No soccer balls, or Barbie dolls or any kind of games,

No pics of smiling faces, which later would be framed.

There’ll be no roasting turkey, no yams or cherry pie,

There’ll be no macaroni or fresh cooked marble rye.

Tomorrow’s nothing special, it hasn’t been for years,

But there will be no sadness, and there will be no tears.

The memories abound of those Christmases long past,

When high were beliefs that families would last.

When fate flips a coin, we win or we lose,

But sometimes we’re given no option to choose.

The winner takes all, the loser retreats,

Accepting a world of reclusive defeat.

But when you’ve got nothing, you’ve nothing to lose,

When choices aren’t given, you’ve nothing to choose.

On Christmas day I’ll make a toast, to days of yesteryear,

When happiness was being close, to those I held so dear.

I’ve come to embrace the way things are now,

I no longer question the why or the how.

One day, like those before me, my time here will be done,

My life will be a memory and my race will have been run.

Will anyone remember, or not, I sometimes fear,

That once I had a family, and yes, once I was here.

©

 

To those of you who matter, I have these words to say,

Here’s hoping all of you will have a Merry Christmas Day.

 

The Sunshine Blogger Award


The Sunshine Blogger Award come to me from the fabulous Robert Goldstein.

The rules are:

Thank the blogger who nominated you for the award.

Many (belated) thanks to Robert Goldstein for the nomination!

List the rules and include the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post.

Done.

Answer the 11 questions asked of you.

1.  Why do you blog?

I think I started blogging because I found it to be cathartic.

2.  What most frustrates you about blogging?

a) WordPress keeps fiddling around with the format and it drives me crazy.
b) Trolls (although I do have fun “playing with them.”)

3.  What do you enjoy most about blogging?

The wonderful people I have met and befriended and so important…the support I have found.

4.  How do you define success?

Having no regrets.

5.  What is the one thing you want from your followers?

Money.  (Just kidding.)  Understanding, maybe.

6.  What is the one thing you want to give the people you follow?

Support, hope and understanding.

7.  How do you define the difference between positive and negative criticism?

Positive criticism is helpful and appreciated.  Negative criticism is caustic and unwelcome.  You can disagree with someone’s opinion and you can tell them their writing sucks but you don’t have to be an ass about it.  I’ve had readers comment that they couldn’t “like” what I posted because it was too sad…and that’s fine.  I’ve had readers say they didn’t like the way I ended a story…and that’s fine, too.  My stories have never been “warm and fuzzy.”  They are most likely going to be “dark and twisty.”

8.  How do you deal with moments when a blogger you like posts something you don’t like?

Reading something that I don’t like doesn’t ruffle my feathers, unless someone is blatantly attacking race, religion, sexual orientation or mental illness, in which case, I hit “unfollow” with lightning speed.  We all have our likes, dislikes, opinions and thoughts but I have no tolerance for that kind of bullshit.

9.  Is your blog a journal, a literary experiment, performance art or none of those?

My blog started out as a sort of journal.  It’s always a literary experiment because I have never considered myself to be a real writer.  It’s certainly not art.  I think I’d call it “piddling around.”

10.  What is success as a blogger? 

I think that depends on your definition of success.  For some, it may be an insane amount of followers.  For some, it may be a step toward having something published.  For me, I’m just glad someone reads my stuff.

11.  By your definition, do you consider yourself successful?

*See #4.  Probably not.  I have too many regrets.

My 11 questions:

1.  What is your favorite holiday and why?

2.  If you could re-live one moment in your life, what would it be and why?

3.  What is your belief?  Evolution or Divine Creation?

4.  If you could suddenly have any talent, what would it be and why?

5.  If a homeless person asked you for money, would you give it to them?

6.  When was the last time your cursed and why?

7.  If you were exiled to a deserted island and could only take one thing, what would it be?

8.  What is one thing that makes you so mad, you could spit?

9.  What is your favorite sound?

10. Do your dream in color?

11. If you come to a fork in the road, do you go right or left?

So many bloggers are “award free,” so it’s difficult to come up with nominations, so if that is your case, my apologies.

Darnell Cureton ( a new follower)

Swanyriver (just do it!)

Ogden Fahey

Snakesinthegrass (I want to hear your answers, Marty)

7monica7

*Robert…I’d like to hear your answers, too.)*