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(from Jazz Notes in the Misty Blue: A Mountain Empire Anthology)
"Houdini Falls, New York"
by Jeannette Harris
“Violet-flowering Chive, daisies of Chamomile and Feverfew, lavenders of Pennyroyal and Lavender, explosions and extrusions of Nastursium, blues of Rosemary and Rue, golden Tansy, purple drops of Thyme, Basil indigo, Bee Balm spikes of star-rose, Tuberosa tangerines, bells of Comfrey, Lobelia flames flickering ‘round dot-lemons of Saint John’s Wort, fragrant hues of Lovage and Lemongrass -- I call on all of you and the Heavens Resounding to save and heal now our sweet Drew,”
Neahdra The White Witch chanted in tune to chimes pealing softly from a folk-painted wind-up box resting on the flannel tartan skirts of her lap while she dropped stems and petals into a large steaming copper kettlepot of teas and honey by the bedside of her little sneezing and sniffling nephew nearly hidden under quickly thrown layers of handmade comforters and quilts and afghans. Drew burrowed his pulsing head under fluffy down pillows, scrunched and curled his muscle-straining aches and ligament pains into a crescent he held at his knees and rocked, moaningly, on its side.
"Hum, Drew!" Aunt Nea directed. "Hum you a lullaby."
"That's my baby, my brave man,"she soothed.
"Are you and I okay?"
"Yes." Jenny turned toward the kitchen again. "Have you been avoiding me on purpose because of all this?"
"I didn't want to talk about it, didn't want it to come up."
She poured herself some more juice and opened another beer for Darla before reentering the livingroom. "I want you to come over to the house this weekend. I'll fix supper for us all, invite some other people. And I'll tell Kevin to leave you alone."
"Oh, I couldn't. Will he?"
"Yes, you can." She handed Darla her beer and sat down again. "And if I tell him to, he will. You're my best friend and that's what I want you to be."
Darla sniffled. "I wish we'd had this talk a few months ago."
"That's all right," Jenny said, comfortingly. "You weren't ready yet."
"No, I wasn't," Darla agreed. "I was too confused by everything that happened and too heartbroken."
"Do you think Steve will show up again?"
"I don't know. Truthfully, he disappeared once before when he was really jealous angry, remember? But he didn't stay gone this long."
"Wait it out," Jenny advised. "You love him. And he loves you."
"I do. I'm not interested in anyone else."
"Meantime," Jenny counselled, "take care of yourself and get well. I think he just might turn up one of these days."
"I hope you're right."
"I'm right," Jennifer assured her. She was older and knew more about men. And she knew Steve. She might even try to contact him herself, straighten out the mess that Kevin had caused between them. A warning light gleamed inside her, then. She knew she had better leave it alone for Darla and Steve to work out together when they were ready. He'd be back, she felt sure, when his wounds had healed.
She never stepped on a crack.
Reassured the world is squared,
And all at right angles.
Near-sighted to every smoothed
Crevice and fractuous blur at the edges.
And the ledges lured her
To the panic of their frenzy,
To the fiery hurtle off the plain.
They would never be the same. Fracked.
Adele bent to roll a small sizzling log back into the stone-lined fireplace with the black metal poker her grandfather had used similarly during the years she played and grew in his four-storied Victorian home with its cozily comforting echoes from each corner and vestibule of energetic lives and ebullient personnas in settled generations prior to them bustling with purposeful productivity.
The Watsons who’d purchased it at a bargain used those savings to modernize and reconfigure every room with contemporary style and convenience so that Adele barely recognized what had been cooking, studio or wash rooms. The old library had become a marble-floored grand bar with a guest-sized jacuzzi hot tub in the corner where her secretary-desk had been. Adele demurred for years from event invitations she experienced as discomfitingly disorienting, although Kayla Watson effused with genuinely warm welcoming on every occasion, inadvertent and formal, as did her teenage son Davey. The old back porch morphed into a tile-inlaid art deco patio for outdoor private festivities. All the once-sparkling chandeliers had been replaced by clean lines of practical low-watt and eco-friendly recessed lighting.
“The ghosts don’t know where to go or sit,” Adele’s sister Hattie complained. “Uncle Patrick had an awkward fit that you walled up the opening from his study to the living room!”
“Did he bump his head?” Kayla inquired sympathetically.
“Absolutely. You know how his temper gets,” she noted to Adele. “It was an ugly moment.”
“Does he mutter and stutter in a high voice when he’s angry?” Davey broke in excitedly. Adele and Hattie nodded their identically red-haired heads nearly in unison.
“He lets me have it some nights when I’m trying to go to sleep.”
“Yes, you’re in his room, one of them,” Adele explained.
“Do you sleep under the window?” Hattie asked solicitously. Davey nodded in reluctant affirmation.
“He wants to get back on his day-bed.”
“I’m in his way,” Davey summarized his apprehension of the distressingly uncivil situation.
Great-grandpa Dedrick leaned over Adele’s left shoulder to whisper about the small burning coal that had rolled out during her Watson reverie onto the woven carpet of the compact home she’d built on five hilly acres they’d retained from the spreading original estate orchard.
“Thanks, Dee,” her body exhaled into the spirits embracing her.
“Hattie, you can bring the steaks. The coals are just about right now.”
Her sister appeared with a foil-wrapped buttered corncob in each hand to throw into the embers scattered in the cooking pit under their antique iron grill.
“Dee’s been here, hasn’t he?” she demanded inquisitively. “I can smell the tobacco in his pipe,” Hattie shared with her sister intuit.
“Mmmm-m. Hawaian Clove Mangrove Extra-Deluxe,”Adele agreed, inhaling with lusty sensuality. “I’d recognize it anywhere.”
“He was sporting his racing tweeds, wasn’t he? I can feel the threads against my arm. And smell the mothballs too!” Hattie scrunched her small sun-freckled nose into olfactory distaste.
“Grandma Frannie was wearing that wide pheasant-feathered hat with the huge rainbow-colored lace ribbons. Remember that?”
“She musta figured out how to unlock the attic chest,” Hattie noted with surprise. “I hid the key under my sapphire and amethyst family jewelry.”
“She’da known to look there,” Adele reminded her sister of Fran’s genetically legendary extrasensories.
The remaining Pattel sisters unwound their dual sensitivities down gracefully into the thickly-piled leopard faux-fur diagonals before their supper cooking in the fireplace to await patiently their traditional birthday celebratory repast.