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(from Jazz Notes in the Misty Blue: A Mountain Empire Anthology)
“Blink City, New Jersey”
by Jeannette Harris
Missy rolled multi-colored pebbles absentmindedly under the country-toughened soles of her bare feet while Petunia, the softly brown-furred pygmy goat baby, jumped and skipped behind her between irregularly shallow shoreside pools of water scattered along the creek’s narrow beach.
Distracted by a pale-colored bulldog wading and splashing by her side, Petunia baa-ed like a lost lamb when Missy rounded out of sight a leafily sharp corner.
“Petunia! I’m right here. C’omeon,” Missy, turning her head and body back, called.
Petunia, shaking her drooping ears in excitement, bounced eagerly toward the sound.
Missy saw in her mind’s eye again the howling young sheep they’d bought at auction and penned up to butcher last month for grilling and winter storage.
Lyle’s family had raised sheep on their flatland farm while he was a child so he was no stranger to their ways and taste.
Missy’s introduction had been a perfectly mint-roasted leg during a Cape May Chef Gerard Café d’Orleans oceanside date years, and personnas, before the exotic enticements of mountainside living occurred to her or she‘d heard of Blink City‘s simmering micropolis. Sighting the clump finally of wild tangerine polka-dotted daylilies, she pulled a rusted trowel out of the unfinished linen pouch swinging by her slender right hip and secured over that shoulder and bent to loosen a ganglingly generous bunch of crusty rhizome roots for bringing to Tess in town that afternoon while they shared during their weekly ritual of renewed conviviality lightly-spiked juices freshly squeezed and puree’ed from fruits Teresa’s Florida-situated family sent up frequently, along with decorative seashells, for tropical treats.
Petunia nudged the bag along, with her forehead, sending it tumbling over rocks and sand toward the waters’ edge where Missy ran to grab it.
Missy sprayed mineral water from a bottle provided on a nearby covered stand to rub off the soles of her now-burning feet black clots of stuck tar jettisoned from fading ocean liners and hazy yachts speckling translucently opal waves and the oval of a sinking horizon in the distance. The flattened and compacted pale sand around her was littered with the crispy-bright blues and irridescently luminous purples of sun-dried sea creatures, men’o’war, and brittle curling spikes in beige and browns of assorted and abandoned smoothly rose-lined sea homes.
PuddinPie galloped along the waterline, her blacks and grays stretched to finely-muscled contours and lines amidst sprays her pounding paws raised of salts and sands.
“Puddin! No!” Missy yelled as that sleek head faced east and disappeared into an oncoming wave. Puddin turned to paddle easily toward land, accustomed accommodatingly to Missy’s attentive over-protection.
Petunia led the way across the jagged field by the stagnant pond of thickening weeds back to her small barn on the mown rise near the curlingly steep ribbons of worn forest trails to the mountain’s double crest.
With an expectorant groan toward darkening heavens, Missy sank calf-deep into the hidden pond marsh and struggled against muddy goo and clay-like muck toward firm fieldground, waving her arms widely in the air to keep her balance.
“Next time,”she muttered to herself and Petunia,”I’ll remember a walking stick.”
Priscilla Deborah Peterson. You’re next,” the denim-suited announcer called from his booth to the center of the jumbled stage.
Deb pulled in her stomach and stood, fumbling for the papers beside her chair. LaDonna reached over to gather and hold them in the air.
Herbie turned suddenly through Kaleidescope Café’s side street enclave artisan-tiled patio gardenspace, drawn by the muskily oriental fragrance of gardenia incense burning in irregularly shaped and decorated wood and clay pots lining the window sills aside its beaten copper antique doors.
The Café’s legendary mystique, je ne sais quoi, included a slender damask-covered banquet table of imported java, a quicktime roaster, patron-operated grinder and artfully unique implements, traditionally ancient to innovatively post-modern, for boiling and/or perking. A wildly eclectic display of cups and mugs, spoons and stirrer sticks arraigned on a smaller wooden table within easy grabbing distance by organic sweeteners from honey to brown sugars under a boldly hand-lettered sign that read, “NO ARTIFICIAL NUTTIN'.” An Arabian-styled and costumed student clerk stood readily at hand to assist customers puzzled by all the possibilities.
Unfurling her treasured rainbow-tiedyed oversized, ivory-handled umbrella, Sarah left it with some trepidation in the crowded outdoor vestibule box and stepped gratefully out of the crescendoing lightning storm.
(... to be contined....)
As she lifted her right foot and leg to rungs of the black leather-upholstered bar chair, Lyla nodded and smiled toward Paulie in her green lame’overshirt, native beads and tinkling crystal hoop earrings.
“Heard the one about the two old drunks…,” she began.
“Probably,” Paulie interrupted with an eye squinch and a twitch of her long freckled nose.
Lyla laughed. “… this old drunk teetered into a cemetery late one autumn night, tripped and fell headfirst into a deep freshly-dug open grave. He clawed on the sides to get out but kept sliding back to the bottom. Finally, he began yelling out, ‘Help! Help!’ As the wee hours of the morning came around, he screamed up again, ‘Help! Help me please, somebody! I’m cold! I’m cold! I’m cold!…’”
“….Just then, another old drunk stumbled by, and looked down into the open grave, and said….” Paulie interjected.
“… ‘Of course you are. You kicked off all your dirt!’” Paulie and Lyla said in unison, and chortled together contentedly.
“How’s the a-hole quotient tonight?” Lyla queried solicitously.
“Pretty low. Thankfully,” Paulie offered, skimming the evening mentally in her mind and sliding the glass tip bowl in Lyla’s direction for confirmation.
“Ooooh, I see a wild mushroom pizza in the leaves,” her roommate divined, peering down at loosely crumpled bills and large coins.
“Do you see a few Black Russians too?” Paulie wondered aloud.
“Yep. Dancing Cossacks coming into view,” Lyla assured her happily.
Paulie hip-hopped toward the door end of the marble counter.
“Let’s do it,” she directed. “Grab the loot and run!”
“Where are you hens hustling off to?” Matt demanded as Lyla pushed bills into her coat pockets.
“A higher class dive,” Paulie shot back.
Matt feigned spitting tobacco juice onto the floor by his checkout stand.
“Ain’t none in this ‘ere grind,” he advised.
“You keep thinking that, John-boy. Stay home with ma. That‘s a good child,” Lyla teased.
“Mama been sweet to me,” Matt pouted dramatically. “Give me all that I want and need.”
Paulie shrugged. “If you say so….” She slid a blousestrap in his direction over her left shoulder down toward her elbow and her right hand onto a prominently protruded rounded hip.
“We can deal,” he announced spontaneously.
“Your dive or mine?” Paulie asked in an enthusiastic burst of curiosity focused on the multi-colored sickle tattoo wrapped onto his right bicep.
Matt laughed aloud. “Git on out to the street where you two belong now. Scoot.” He reached around to pat Lyla‘s generous, velvet-ensconsed caboose as it waved cheerily by him.
Jerry had taken a wrong turn off the expressway and now faced a jammed one-way traffic pileup entering a hamlet he’d no interest in visiting. A Kinky Kween donut shop with a near-empty parking lot to his right offered an inviting layover respite. His stomach rumbled agreement. Martha giggled at the sound and rubbed her own anticipatory little tummy in sympathy. “I want hash browns and grape juice,” she demanded, leaning her ponytailed blonde head against the window to read the sign on her side of the minivan.
Jerry neared the ordering window and turned toward the back seat. “Stephen?” he asked his assistant. “What’s your pleasure or poison this morning?”
“Bacon biscuit," Steve called forward eagerly. “Mocha coffee.”
“Onion rings,” he added at the spur of the moment. “And a kiddie cheeseburger. I’m near to starving.” he realized.
Jerry let down his windows and repeated all his sun-seared grogginess recalled to the white-capped clerk who called it all back toward piled shiny metal armature of the franchise kitchen.
“Small burger,” Steve yelled out. “Rings. Bacon biscuit. Large mocha caffeine.”
Kevin heard the banjo playing from the corner street light and followed the tune into O‘Mallory‘s Delicatessen.
Tuesday evening‘s casual group had formed, as usual, in the side room by the disordered stacks of local newspapers and regional magazines spread over the floor. He slid onto the maple bench at the old upright by the back door, nodded and bowed to familiar faces gathered to play or listen, and hit a few chords in a compatible key before settling in to add or blend in that instrument's musical ingredients to whatever he picked up on.
Tina hummed along while she leafed through a brightly-colored architectural design catalogue of glossy possibilities for the parcel on the edge of town she’d bought last week “for a song,” she joked to Kevin a little later after they‘d ordered and picked up their metal plates of piled-high "homemade" fresh salami and swiss rolls, sauerkraut and sweet potato chips.
“It’s got water and sewer hooked up and I can have a camper pulled in anytime,” she explained between sips from her tall glass of sweetened tea.
As the group dispersed and went their separate ways, Kevin and Tina pushed overgrown and tangled branches of wisteria aside along the walkway from the back porch to make their way through to Sonia’s cottage for their weekly evening private class.
On the second beat, Kevin held out his left arm. Tina reached up to grasp that open hand and swirl, skirt flaring, rhythmically over the wooden floor into his chest. Toe to toe in complicatedly complementary step, they swayed decoratively in severely focused concentration while the melody played on. As the thumping chorus began, Tina whispered her legendarily fateful line into his ear audibly and leaned back to laugh with him as they separated on cue to complete their spirited march around the room’s periphery.
Sonia clapped enthusiastically from her sofa chair. “Perfect!” she pronounced with a grin. “Don’t change a thing,” she added, referring to the sold-out revival opening scheduled that weekend for the town’s heritage stage with its ornate box seat upholstered balconies and recessed brass-railed mini-orchestra “pit,” usually completed with outstanding student musician scholars from nearby Patriot's College Minute Militia Academy Preparatory School.