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(from Jazz Notes in the Misty Blue: A Mountain Empire Anthology)
“Bay Bedazzle, North Carolina”
by Jeannette Harris
“Where did Pauly go?“ Nadine opened her eyes slowly and pulled up to a sitting stance on the oversized towel.
“She’s swingin on that tire Greg strung up down by the water’s edge,” Carla assured her.
“By herself?”Aunt Nadine felt her stomach knot a notch.
“Bobby took her down there. So, no. I don’t think so.”
Dina pulled herself together and upright. Babysitting was not her favorite gig, she reflected again, but she knew little sis Tania needed freetime desperately before she started conversing in unknown tongues with the lawn mower again.
Carey loped alongside Nadine on the dirt track through their expanding meadowland backyard.
“One more killer storm,” she commented, shading her eyes and looking southeast, “We’ll likely lose those few trees left and have a clear view to Bobby’s digs. And his sunbathing,” she added wide-eyed, lifting her eyebrows high.
“Been there, done that. Lost the tee.” Dina commented flatly.
“Ya gotta roll with it, doll-baby.”
“Uh-huh.” Carla couldn’t determine what that meant on an action front.
The object of Dina’s apparent disaffection came into view over the grassy rise along the sand-ringed lake. Pauline stumbled quickly behind Robert as they stepped into the dirt path and closer toward their hostesses.
“Hey, Pauly,” Nadine called out. “Didja have a good time?”
“Yes, ma’am.” the towheaded toddler answered loudly.
“What’s my name?” Nadine demanded as the girl reached her knee.
“Dina dina-dina. Dina-dina-dina,”she answered, with her little head to one side, in a singsong tone.
Nadine glared at her. “Dina Layton. What town is this?”
“D-dazzle,” Pauly stumbled.
“Bedazzle. Be. Dazzle.”
“Be. Be. Dina-dina,”she stamped her feet.
“Okay. What state is this?”
North or South?”
“Layton.” Pauly spread her legs to a cowgirl stance.
Dina reached down to tickle her underarms and scooped the child onto and against her generously middle-aged stomach. Pauline shifted her weight and slid down toward Dina’s shoes.
Undeterred, Nadine repeated, “North or south?”
“Be. Dazzle,” Dina smiled and stooped to hug her. “Be. Dazzle.”
“Ugh!”she exclaimed. “You’re all gritty with sand. C’mon, let’s get a bath. Dry clothes on. Your mom and dad will be here real soon.”
“Be. Dazzle,” Pauly offered as her wet clothes fell to the floor and Dina lifted the girl into warm sudsy water.
“Let’s turn off there,” Jodie suggested pointing her hand out the window toward a one-lane paved road swerving from the Parkway toward the base of the thickly-forested mountain.
Val checked the gauges and, finding the tank nearly full of gas, hit the signal switch and turned the wheel of the Honda with a lurch of surprise in that direction.
They’d enjoyed together the thrills and excitements of unknown trails, whether by driving or hiking, since meeting as teens at Saint Joan‘s Prep for Girls.
Having reconnected through cyber-sleuthing last year, they’d caught up fairly well on sometimes intense and slightly disorienting, personal post-graduation histories. Jodie’s bounteously-sized family had all moved scattered points North of their shared starting spot. Val‘s siblings had more or less stayed put, as had she, sliding from local community college studies into the town‘s one university to major in Sports Administration and worked now as a coach and guidance couselor with detailed and woe-full tales of high school interactional employment travails. Jodie had college-hopped to an advanced degree in Molecular Biology and found outstanding R&D employment with a foreign OTC naturals manufacturer USA-headquartered in Raleigh.
“Do you keep in touch with Isaac?” Jodie wondered about Val’s last husband.
“Have to because of Petie.”
“The English Sheepdog we raised. We have joint custody.”
“Okay. Does Isaac live close by?”
“Pretty close. Next city east. We have park lunches together, the three of us, about once a month.”
“That’s cute. Endearing, these days.”
“Yeah, we have fun. It helps to be out in the fresh air with others around.”
“Keeps you from haggling.” Jodie surmised.
“Pretty much. Keeps the volume down,”Val agreed.
“There’s a cute little store,” Jodie indicated a small peeling clapboard to their left and pulled up to its wood-floored and railed porch. “I‘m thirsty. Aren‘t you?”
In agreement, Val opened her door and stepped inquisitively onto the porch and toward its amply-sized maroon-red cooler.
“Ah,”she sighed contentedly, “Barrel-made local root beer!”
Jodie pointed to a window sign. “There’s a country deli inside. Bet it’s good!”
“I could do that: be hungry,” Val responded enthusiastically.
Jodie disappeared into the cluttered interior to push open the screen door and announce, “They have homemade kraut and bratwurst! It’s a little authentic Heinie place! Come see. Some of the signs are in German script and engraving.”
Val peered around and over Jodie’s compact body. “We lucked out on this one,” she agreed.
A few earlier forays in other places had yielded considerably less delightfully appetizing relaxations.
“Those brats are huge,” Val noted.”Wanna split one?”
Jodie nodded and headed toward the angular apron-fronted woman behind the deli display.
Handing one wrapped half to Val, she asked, “Ready to roll?” and, later, at the intersection, “Eenie-meenie. Right or left?”
Studying the signs, Val chose Route 863East. “Left,”she answered assuredly, not wanting to return to the mountains quite yet.
Right Reverend Preach Patricia The Beloved stretched out over the shinily slick parqueted floor for her weathered and stained sassafras walking stick balanced against a brown metal folding chair near her golf cart‘s aluminum steering wheel. Poking the rubber-tipped end securely into a groove, Patty raised her woven and worn bulk from the fawnskin-upholstered bucket-seat to step cautiously toward her congregation’s settlement-dated pulpit to address its mottled and muddled remains.
“Buds,” she began in her familar low tone. “We have just shared an extraordinarily long year of untenably strung-out days in interminable weeks of tedious months. But to whine to an hourglass is a satanic devil dance we must leave behind in faith and exalted calling through thoughtful prayer. Let us bow together with whatever we have left.”
In signal, Pat lowered her chins to her pallidly bared bosom and her cherished followers followed in divine squinch-eyed salute as Mistress Jacobina pulled her bow carefully over the strings.
“Dear God and Jesus et al (Heavenly Host) -- Please save and deliver us from these self-aggrandizingly murderous and phony ‘Christian’ thieves of jobs, loves, lives, businesses, investments, savings, health, homes, identities, truth, justice, guarantees of security and safety.....Yours truly, Patricia Bea Flanastein and Etcetera, USA, Earth, Milky Way, Your Universe”
Hippity and Hop pulled themselves up Kevin’s flannel shirt by their kitten claws to sit one each on a shoulder.
“Just like they‘re posing deliberately,“ Chad noted, while taking a photograph as required.
“How do you tell which is which?
“Hippity has black stripes on white. Hop’s are white on black. See?”
Yeah. I’d have named them Zee and Bra.”
“Okay. Next litter.”
“No, really. Hop has a black freckle or beauty mark under her right eye. Hippity has none.”
“Are they weaned yet?”
“Yeah. Naomi just walked out the door a few days ago and refused to come back inside since.”
“Yup. That’s weaned. Tough love, cat-style.”
“You did something similar with Janet and Robin, didn’t you?”
Chad remembered the New Mexico job on dusty arid flatlands that was meant to last three weeks and stretched into five oxygen-deprived, dry torturous months.
“Yeah, it worked out that way. They did okay.”
“Where are they now?”
“Robin’s bumping tables at a dive called Huxdee’s outside Cleveland. Taking sociology classes at night and on weekends. Lives with a whichaway dudette named Grand Teton or something who does fairs around there.”
“Janet’s here still -- studying art history and techniques over in Black Mountain. She loves it.
“Do you like her artwork?”
“Usually. Some I just don’t get what she’s conveying or playing with.”
“I’d love to see some.”
“She has a show in Asheville next week.”
“Wow. That’s the Big Time.”
“Yeah, it’s a funny little side street place I never heard of.”
“Still, it’s the Mountain City -- heart and soul and leading edge of it.”
“The opening reception’s this Thursday night.”
“Absolutely. You wanna bop alongside?”
“Leavin around four.”
“I’ll be there.”
Chad stood and walked toward the Bay to open the sliding door onto the porch.
“Hey, we oughta be out here. It’s gorgeous,” she said into a soft breeze waving through tulip trees to transport the fragrance of nearby flowers.
“Don’t let Hippity and Hop out,” Kevin yelled in warning.
Chad turned to close the door behind her.
“The Last Ride,”Danny said, “will be on a souped-up dayglo bike through a dayglo sky, flying between pea-sized stars colored in tiedyed dreams deployed around a seamlessly opaque asteroid chute between galaxies of the fifty-fourth dimension of seraphim.”
“Then what will we do?”Sue inquired with concern. “Ask for directions?”
“Hell, no. We‘ll find a wave in a pleasantly harmonic key to follow. If we get lost, we‘ll just chord it into the next dimension.”
“God, I love it when you talk dirty to me.”
“Damn. I lost my train of angels on that one. Shut up, Sue. Where were we going?”
“When we hit the highest, time stops.”
“But we don’t know it because knowledge requires a space of continuum.”
“The stoppage of time is a no-thing, not even a blot, no spot to stop on.”
“Yes, I can see that.”
“Do you see a restaurant coming up? You know how hungry this stuff makes me.”
“It says seven miles off the right. Will pink silk pantaloons be okay to wear?”
“Perfect,” he answered thoughtfully, adding, “but on orange-striped longitudes within lavendar altitudes they may tear.”
Sue reconsidered. “Maybe I’d better just do homespun cotton culottes. And ribboned braids for my hair. What about you?”
“Real men don’t wear clothes in the universe. It’s rude.”
“Ohmmmmmmmmm. How long will we be there?”
“As long as it takes to get to Time Stopping,” Danny answered impatiently.
“What do you expect your last sentence ever to be?” he inquired with curiosity.
“’Julienned granaries throb empirical gelatins’ or ‘Tiny zipped steamers chuckle dabbled curdles of edelweiss,’” Susie answered promptly.