IN JACQUELINE'S SALON
It's been a rainy week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay and the Western edge of the continental United States. When you stand here with your back to the ocean, you essentially face the entire Country, and that has been the situation for the Golden State for over 150 years.
With all of the rain, folks have been keeping indoors. The Pampered Pup has kept all three of its stools occupied from opening to closing, huddled and damp figures hunching over their chili dogs and coffee for ninety minutes and longer. The Old Same Place Bar has hosted a full lineup each night from opening to closing as regulars peer up through the torn and dripping awning at yet another soak from the heavens.
Suzie leafs through her textbook behind the bar between calls, old barflys nursing single beers for as long as the bubbles continue to rise.
Everyone is waiting something to change. Waiting for the end of the terrible Shrubb Administration. Waiting for the end of this incessant rain. Waiting for the end of the Recession, even though its just started or so they say. Waiting for luck to change.
Eugene Gallipagus sits there not talking to anybody, his cap pulled down low and his arms up on the bar, sheltering his beer, not waiting for any thing or anybody. They say he was married once, back when he lived up in Minnesotta many years ago. The ladies at Jacqueline's Salon say that, and maybe that is true, for Jacqueline also hails from Minnesota maybe knew of him back then.
O that was old times, ya, Jacqueline says. A long time tme ago.
O tell me all, do tell me all about it, said Maeve, who hails from Eniskerry in the Old Country.
Well you'll just die when you hear, ya. Well I remember he came down in that old Ford truck, a rattlin' sorta thing he still has with hardly as much paint left on it for all the rust and the years gone by, ya . . . you want a streak of silver in that, ya?
Never mind about the streak; wash quit and don't be dabbling. Roll up your sleeves and loosen yer talktapes. And don't butt me when you bend. Do tell me all about it. I want to hear
Well they say he had a wife and then another or she had one -- not a wife but a lover -- on the side, don't ya know and it was one of them what ya call menage a trois . . . .
O he's such a one! All the men and what they can get in their pants all the time and some women even worse . . . . o mind the suds!
Ah she was a fine specimen with red hair like the daughter of some devil and them carrying on until Pastor Inkwell made a speech in the church about lewd iniquity and they couldn't go about even fetching groceries or getting the hair done in town with the stares, such is the place, little Big Bear Lake up near the border, ya? And the time came they decided to go, she to California and he wanting to go to Florida and wouldn't you know it, they broke up and she went to family in Alabama and now here he is.
Is that the truth now? She was a quare old skeowsha anyhow. And he a quare old buntz.
True as was told to me, ya. Right here in this very chair by Charlene Bunsen.
She of the Wobegon Bunsens?
Sure, ya. The very same. So you know its all true, ya. And you can just imagine the spicier stuff she hinted at all the time, all the patchouli parties and the carrying on. But Eugene came down here and started working for MacMurry Pacific over in The City before setting himself up here as a painting contractor. Thats what he did.
And living alone ever since. He married his markets, cheap by foul. Tsk tsk.
A fella like that gets set in his ways after a while. He's just like them Norwegian bachelor farmers they did a movie all about, ya. They get sorta funny livin' all by themselves and now he just lives for the poodle-huntin' don't ya know.
That was all from Charlene. Aren't you from that part of the country now? And how is it you wound up here yourself?
O, don't let me go on. ("snip! snip!") A short story and common enough. A philanderer and a heavy smoker of bad cigars instead of a husband who wouldn't even stir himself to get the Volvo fixed. And every other day a misery. One day I took the car keys, both daughters, and the shoes and drove away in my old station wagon.
Ever go back now?
Mercy no! There aint nothing back there but a broken down jalopy, a battle with the booze, and the aweful man I left behind with all his ashes. but you know what, Maeve?
What's that, Jackie?
Ya can't take it with you. All that past is gone like the cigar smoke. Pfffft! Just like that. Pfffftt!
The long sound of the throughpassing train as it wended its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Square ululated across the rivering, dimpled waters of the estuary that flowed in the opposite direction past the Port and out into the Bay, and from there rushed impetuously under the bridges and out through the Golden Gate to the Wide Open with a roar. Then, silence and the sound of rain.
What all men. . . .
Can't hear with the waters of . . .
Eugene steps outside the Old Same Place Bar with the last rainwater pouring from the eaves down to a little rivulet that clickered and trickled into a stream plopping down the drain. Someone calling from far off. Flittering bats overhead and the talk of fieldmice in the rustling sedge by the Strand. Are you not yet gone ahome?
What? Malone? 'zat you? Can't hear with the rushing waters of . . .
Ho, talk save us! My feet won't move until the moss grows over them. Talk of bats, chittering bats and sedge and wind.
I feel as old as that oak. A tale told of Jacqueline and smoke?
All her daughters. Dark hawks hear us. Night! Night! My old head falls. Falls and rolls down long echoing halls. I feel as heavy as yonder stone. Tell me of Eugene and Jacqueline. Who were they, the living sons and daughters of?
And Eugene parts from the man he met on the street to drive on home with a photograph on the dashboard reflecting in the shine of each streetlight until he arrives at his place, clicks on the light, gets undressed, clicks off the light and slides into the cool bed with a creak and a rustle. Soon, the sound of the water flowing down the trees outside covers over the heavy breathing of a man asleep and dreaming.
Tell me, tell me, tell me, elm! Night, night! Tell me tale of stem or stone. Beside the rivering waters of, hither and thithering waters of.
That's the way it is on the Island. Sleep well this week.
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