Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mirror, Mirror

I am a stunningly beautiful woman. I am six feet tall, I have natural dark red hair with a blonde streak strategically placed, a perfect complexion, big eyes, long, thick eyelashes that curl up perfectly, high cheekbones, luscious lips, dimples when I smile and a delightful chin. People always notice and comment on my beauty. Yes, every day since I was a stunningly beautiful baby, my mother told me so. I do not need a mirror to reconfirm it, but I do get a kick out the vintage mirror I purchased at an estate sale. It always answers me like the Queen in Snow White’s did. Yes, it tells me that I am the "Fairest in the Land." I carry it in my purse in case I have a bad day.  I promise you, I am not an ego-maniac or narcissist, it is simply the truth, anyone will tell you and the mirror does not lie.
            My friend Bruce wants to take me to a gay bar, he says they have these wonderful shows where men dress up like women. He thinks I will enjoy it and that they will love looking at me the way he does. He says I am a Drag Queen’s dream. Whatever that means. I told him I would go if we could do it tonight. So, now I am dressing up for this show and am inspired to dress in the sexiest outfit I can concoct. If I am going to be a Drag Queen’s dream, I want it to be a good one. First, my leather bustier pushing my boobs up and out as far as possible, topped by my sexy mesh vest worn open in the front. Makeup applied perfectly with big green eyes and red lips. My weave accented hair hanging down to my waist in billowy waves. My leather skirt so tight my perfect ass looks magnificent. The black fishnet stockings add just the right touch and the strappy spike heels lift it all up and show me off for the stunning beauty that I am. Eat your heart out Drag Queens.
            I am stunned at how these men actually look like real women. They have no evidence of a stubble on their faces and no sign of their penis under very tight -tights and skirts as tight as mine. Their make-up is phenomenally perfect, their clothes are amazing and very sexy. It is hard for me to believe that a man can dance around in those spiked heels. I am having so much fun here, some are even singing in lovely womanly voices, although most are lip-syncing. The entertainment value gets an A++ from me. I can see why I would be a dream for them, they probably would all kill to have my looks.
            Now there is one coming out with a veil over her face. Suddenly, I hear a loud cracking explosion in my purse. The audience has erupted with cat calls and whistles as Miss Star Sapphire takes off her veil. OH MY GOD, I suddenly realize why my mirror, now just a pile of glass shards at the bottom of my purse, has shattered. I am no longer the Fairest in the Land.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Date with a Swami

            I loved an invitation to a party at Eric's but had no idea why he was calling it a Darshan.  Eric is a wonderful chef and his parties are nothing less than spectacular. I did not know about Google back then, so there was no way to look up what to expect. The dictionary said "to expound, as a rabbi.  Eric would say nothing other than Swami G would be there. Curiosity and the love of Eric's food set me out on this cold stormy Minnesota winter's night to attend my first Darshan.
Eric made a wonderful table of delicious treats, although everything was cold, even the soup. Chelsea made a comment about the coolness of the food as Eric announced that Swami G was a raw food vegan. I would swear there were some cold meat delicacies on the table but I would have been wrong. Swami G, a short, plump Indian man with an engaging smile on his face was dressed in a long burnt orange robe with a bright orange scarf wrapped around his neck. He filled his plate to brimming and sat on the throne like chair, with pillows stacked for his feet, that Eric arranged for him in the middle of the circle of pillows where the chosen audience to the great one would assemble.
Speaking while he ate, and keeping the smile as he chewed, he thanked us for coming out on this cold night to eat cold food and listen to an old man talk. The crowd smiled but no one laughed, we are very polite here in Minnesota and we didn’t want him to think we were laughing at him. He briefly explained that a Darshan was an audience with a holy man or guru, who was there to answer questions from us and to teach through those answers. He hoped that we would all leave the Darshan more enlightened. I was seated two people to the left of him, thankfully, he said he would answer one question from each of us, starting to the right of him. Breathing a sigh of relief, I listened while forming a question to ask. 
Eric was first and he asked Swami G why there were so many natural disasters and why the number of people dying in them seemed to grow each time there was another one. Swami G giggled and said, “Mother Earth is crying and she needs to call in as many souls as she can so they can be taught to care for her. When they have learned how to save the earth she will reincarnate them. It is Mother Earth’s only hope.” His answers to all of the questions were short and full of the exact explanation to why and how things were going to happen. When he got to me, I asked him about people who rise to high office around the world that appear to have evil and dangerous intentions, like Osama Bin Laden or George Bush. Serious this time with a deeply furrowed brow he said, “We all have free will and when people use it for evil they are pooping on the world, they will return as poop collectors, spending life after life picking up poop until they learn.” I really loved that answer and the images of evildoers picking up poop picked up my spirits.
When the last question was asked, Swami G rose and left the room, bowing and thanking us for the thoughtful questions. I helped Eric clean up and was about to leave when Swami G walked back into the room and put his hand on my shoulder. “The Universe is smiling on you,” he said and handed me a card with his name and phone number. “Call me, I have a message for you that the Universe wants delivered, but this is not the time or place.”
Curious, but somewhat anxious, I waited four days before I called. I started to say my name and he said, “I know who it is my child, the Universe has been waiting to hear from you.” I tried to say something but could not frame the words in my mouth. “You need not speak my child, I will tell you what I have been told to say and you may go your way. Your real mother was a creature of the sea, a Selkie, half seal, half woman. Your father is the one you know, he was on his way home from Germany after the war and stopped in Ireland to visit the seaside village where his mother was born. Despite having a wife back in Minnesota, he fell passionately in love with a beautiful woman named Airmid and she seduced him into making love with her. The result of that union was you. He wrote his wife, the woman you know as your mother, and told her that he was leaving her to be with Airmid. The day that you were born she told him that she must find her skin and return to the sea until you were ready to join her. Then she left and was never seen again.  Some in Ireland choose to believe that Selkies are mythical but they do exist and they live to create babies that are fully human. When they mate with a human and create a child, they are called to return to the sea.”
“Wait Swami G, are you saying that I am a Selkie? That is not possible, I am fifty years old and have no children. I love the ocean but I never wanted to live in it.” I was trying to exercise my Minnesota nice and not tell him he was full of poop. He giggled and said, yes he understood, but there was a reason for that. He said “ your father was so angry when Airmid left him and the villagers told him the story of the Selkie that he swore he would do everything possible to make sure that fate did not happen to you. He took you home to Minnesota, as far from the ocean as he could and when you were twelve years old he paid a doctor to sterilize you so that you would not be able to have children. He felt that it was the birthing that triggered the desire to return to the sea.”
Not believing a word he said and knowing that my father would never do anything like that, I said, “But, you said that the Universe was smiling on me, this is terrible.”
“Not so,” he went on, “You found me and I am here to tell you what you must do to truly live the life you were meant to live.”
“I am supposed to live the rest of my life as a seal, I don’t think so.”
“Not to worry, you can no longer be called to a life in the sea, but you are needed in Ireland. You must return to that seaside village and start an orphanage for Selkie babies, you are an example that will show them that they do not have to make babies and then return to the sea. You can teach them that they have freewill and can choose a different life than the one their mothers whispered in their ears on the day they were born.”
I was starting to feel sick and dizzy and yet I truly did not believe a word he said. I thanked him for his message and hung up the phone. I wanted to call everyone I knew and tell them about this crazy story, yet I could not make myself do it. I called my doctor and asked if there was any way she could tell if I was sterilized. She said that she could order an ultrasound but I would have to pay for it myself since it was not medically necessary. I tried for twenty years with Boyd to have a baby. Boyd died in my late thirties and the desire died with him.
My father, mother and grandparents were all dead. I called my fathers sister and asked if my father brought me back from Ireland after the war. She asked me if I was doing drugs. My mother’s cousin was the only one left in her family, she was eighteen years younger than my mother and told me that she was never told anything about me not being her real baby. I had my birth certificate with her name on it. I called an attorney friend of mine and asked if it was possible that it was wrong. She said that it was possible since it said that I was born at home. My mind was telling me that this was completely crazy but my heart was telling me to go to Ireland.
I have been in Ireland for thirteen years now and none of my orphan babies have returned to the sea. None have given birth yet. I teach them about their heritage and tell them that they have free will.  I cannot tell them not to go or recommend that they be voluntarily sterilized because I long to go myself. Only childbirth can show me the way and I am an old woman now. My sealskin is lost to me in this lifetime but I pray to find it in the next.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I have a Problem

“I have a problem. I wonder if you could tell me the best way to go about solving it?” I sound so sincere, even though by now I’ve used that line hundreds of times when returning something. People always seem willing to work on the solution.
            Today it was an ugly mark on a dress I just bought. Yesterday it was a worn spot on a pair of shoes I wore for a year.  The day before I just didn’t like the color of my new Microwave, it wasn’t the same color as the rest of the kitchen.  Once I returned a new leather purse with a grease stain on it from a chocolate chip cookie my three-year-old put there. The store where it was purchased was uncooperative, the stain wasn’t caused by a defect in the leather, so I went to a small shop that specialized in that brand of leather goods. They gave me a new purse and all they asked was that I buy my next one from them.   Technology like bar codes and computerized inventory controls only make it more challenging for me. I’ve thought about writing a book, “Returning Things For Dummies.”
            The thing I don’t understand is; why doesn’t my family act like the people in retail. If I could only convince myself that all the world is a gigantic shopping mall and everyone a clerk. Then, I would only have to utter those words, ““I have a problem. I wonder if you could tell me the best way to go about solving it?” No, it will never work.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Quarterly Review

They met like this for dinner and drinks at the bistro, on the second Thursday of the month for the last eight years.  Sara would tell you that they only missed sixteen times since they made the vow, at Dusty’s wedding. The bistro was charming with a luscious smell of herbs and spices that hit you when you walked in the door.  One whiff could bring them back to days of shared hopes and dreams as well as their favorite meal, Quail stuffed with roasted garlic and rosemary.  Memories abounded for both, of two single girls starting out life in Chicago after four years of college in a tiny Iowa town. They shared an apartment that was twelve flights above the bistro and eaten so many meals there that all the waiters knew them by name. Alex was their favorite, he seemed to be able to tell when they needed a little tender loving care and would occasionally provide, on the house, their favorite dessert a crunchy-coated crème caramel.  The wine selection was excellent and the prices were affordable even if they did stretch their budgets a little in the early years.  They always reserved the same table near the fireplace because it was always glowing and they felt like they were in a cozy cabin in the woods. After her marriage, Dusty moved to Winnetka to a mansion on Lake Michigan. Sara still lived in the building, moving up to the fortieth floor to a luxurious apartment with a view of the lake. 
Sara was excited to see Dusty this particular Thursday. They had something to celebrate.
            “Congratulations, I ordered a bottle of champagne. I heard that your C.D. release party was a smash.  Imagine, finishing your album and getting a contract for a video all in the same week. I’m so happy for you,” said Sara, almost as bubbly as the champagne.
            “Celebrate and commiserate is more like it,” Dusty replied.
            The tear stains on her make-up said more than the smile on her face.
            “Why so sad? I thought you would be floating on a cloud,” said Sara.
            “He gave me my notice today,” Dusty said looking down at her hands.
            “Notice, what notice? Who’s giving notice” Sara replied.
            “Mac,” Dusty was sobbing now and blowing her nose into a huge, damp handkerchief.
“I don’t understand what you mean. Have a drink. Try to calm down and start over,” she said as she filled Dusty’s glass and took out a tissue from her purse. "Take one of these, they are full of Aloe and Vitamin E.  They won’t make your nose so red.”
“Always the little nursemaid,” said Dusty as she forced a smile “worried about my nose.”
Dusty gulped down the glass of champagne and did the same with a second glass before she tried to dry her tears and start over.
“I’ve never told anyone this before, but ever since I’ve known Mac he has sent me a letter every three months, telling me how I’m doing. First as a prospective wife, then as a wife. Like a performance review, you know, like at your job.”
“And you still married him. I can't see you taking that kind of treatment. You've always been so confident and in control," said Sara excitedly.
“I loved him and those were his terms, like the prenuptial agreement. I was upset at first thinking that he thought I loved him for his money.  I realized that he has lived with this kind of paranoia all his life and I wanted him to know that I loved him for who he is. He still believes his first wife married him for the money.”
"He's an idiot making you jump through hoops for him. He doesn't deserve a woman like you,” anger was creeping into Sara's voice.
“It was kind of fun at first, I was doing so well and the few suggestions he made were so insignificant compared to the praise, I guess I loved seeing the praise in print,” said Dusty.
“Did you ever talk about these reviews?” asked Sara “ask him some questions or give him a few suggestions of your own for his improvement?” What about his children, the ones you raised for the last eight years, has he told them yet?”
“No,” Dusty answered “we never talked about the reviews and he hasn’t told his children yet. You and his lawyers are the only ones who know. I have six months to “get my life together” as he says and until then he’s not telling the kids. He’s still sleeping in my room occasionally so they won’t suspect. No sex though, I drew the line on that one.”
Did he give you any hints in his last few performance reviews?"
“No, no hints that I noticed, a few small things, like usual,” said Dusty.
“Thank god you told me now, we still have time to devise a plan,” said Sara who believed that a good plan could solve anything.
“The hardest part is that he won’t talk about it.  He says the notice is final.  He wants me to live in the house, entertain his family and friends like nothing happened. Then poof, I’m gone.”
“What reasons did he give in this so called notice?”
“Nothing I would call grounds for divorce. No, it was the spreadsheet. He made a spreadsheet on me and my spending habits. He said he extrapolated the rate of growth of my spending over the last eight years, a full cycle he called it, and that if I continued at that rate I would put a serious dent in his children’s legacy. That I wasn’t taking my stewardship of his family’s fortune seriously,” Dusty said as she motioned the waiter over for another bottle of champagne.
“How dare he. A full cycle indeed. He’s got enough money to keep several future generations living the good life. What are you, one of his investments like his stocks or those crummy money losing ventures he gets hooked into.” Sara was livid.  "Why just last year he hired me to look at that real estate venture in Barbados. He would have lost millions if I hadn't figured out his buddies down there were con artists. We’ve got to have a plan. We’re getting you the best lawyer money can buy. He can’t do this to us.  To you, I mean.”
“It's not that easy,” Dusty said “I have to stay there. Besides I love him. Maybe I can prove that I can curb my spending.  I’ve got six months to convince him to keep me.”
“Keep you! My god, he’s lucky to have you. You’re a beautiful, talented, sweet and loving woman. You just wrote, produced and performed your first record album. I'm sure your video will be on MTV in no time. No, it can’t be the money. I bet he’s jealous or maybe he’s afraid you won’t need him anymore now that you’re living your dreams."
“I’m sorry Sara, I can’t. I’ve got to take the chance, play by his rules. I just have to learn to be better somehow, quit spending money, there has to be something I can do to win him back.”
“But Dusty, you’ve got to have a plan. I’ll help you. You could move in with me for a while. Think of all the fun we could have.” Sara's plan was starting to form.
“Sara,” Dusty said coldly, “you don’t understand, I do have a plan. If I moved in with you it would confirm his suspicions. That would only make things worse."
Sara never before witnessed the hardness that suddenly formed on Dusty’s face. She never before felt the sting of words like the ones that were coming out of her mouth. She could not believe it was her best friend.
"Suspicions!" Sara uttered in disbelief.
 Suddenly Sara could feel the force of her own tears about to break forth. She grabbed her purse and ran out of the restaurant. She did not look back.
Sara and Dusty never had another Thursday night out. Sara missed her best friend but she was working on a plan.

Madame Kat

     It was the first time I attended the art fair in three years, the first time I ventured anywhere to have some fun since Franklin died. I missed the feeling of adventure when we went anywhere together and wondered if I would ever find it alone. I found a parking place at least a mile away from the festivities and began to walk past block after block of gas stations and fast food restaurants. Then I found my self on Bavaria Avenue. On the corner was a balloon boutique with several 'smiley-face' helium balloons tied to the mailbox. Like little dancing babies they bounced to the rhythm of the music blaring out of the used record shop next door. 'Used' is what the rest of the block had an abundance of; used books, used clothes, an antique emporium, a take-out restaurant called "Old World Deli", and finally a Victorian style house painted powder blue. It was set apart from the rest of the block by a navy blue picket fence with an oversized brass latch. A royal blue sign, almost as big as a billboard, rested on the porch between two white pillars. In shiny silver letters, it beckoned me like a siren song.


     The idea of psychic readings has always fascinated me. I never indulged in one because Franklin felt so strongly that fortunetellers are charlatans that prey on the weak. Despite echoing his warning, I felt compelled to approach Madam Katrina's studio. Perhaps for a moment, I hoped Madam Katrina could and would change my life. I felt my heart beating faster and a jumbled mass of queasiness growing in my stomach as I undid the brass latch. As I walked up the stairs and crossed the porch, I boldly challenged myself not to turn and run. It was in that moment that I chose to knock. In the next moment, I was hoping she wasn't home or was doing a reading for someone else and could not come to the door.
The door opened and there stood an olive skinned girl in a black sleeveless summer dress. "Is Madam Katrina available for a reading?" I asked the girl whom I thought was probably her daughter. "I am Madam Katrina" she said in the deep, heavily accented voice of a much older woman. As she looked up at me, I noticed that she had the most beautiful green eyes I have ever seen. For one fleeting instant I thought that her pupils formed a long narrow band that tapered at the top and bottom of her lids. She had long black hair that fell in layers over her shoulders and half way down her back. She shook her head and her wavy locks seemed to glisten in the small stream of sunlight that fell upon her head and neck. I stared in awe at her graceful beauty. "Come in" she said softly. "I can see your discontent. I can help you break the curse that has been with you for years. It is true, is it not? You have an aura of sadness that hangs over you like a veil."
     "I didn't realize it until you spoke but maybe, yes, I am a little sad. I wouldn't call it a curse." I told myself that I did not want to tell her everything. I wanted to test her, to hear what she would say without giving her too many clues. I entered a room that was barren of all but a café style table with a black lace drape and two chairs. On top of the table was a crystal ball the size of a grapefruit, a large deck of Tarot cards, and a tiny pink lamp made of etched glass in the shape of a cat. The glow from the lamp was the only light in the room except for a thin stream of sunlight that fell from a transom window above the door.
"I see. Sit and I will read your palm," she nodded and licked the tips of her fingers. Then she began to arch her back and stretch out her arms in an oddly feline manner. In my imagination I saw a fluffy tail wagging behind her. In reality she had picked a feather boa off the floor and draped it over the chair where she sat facing me.
     I looked into her eyes one more time and saw fully dilated pupils with just a slight halo of bright green surrounding them. She took my hand in hers and turned it over to read my palm. It was then that I notice her fingernails. They were painted a dark blood color and she had filed them into sharp points as they arched over her fingertips. I gasped. "You like my nails, yes? They are natural but for the paint. They are a gift to me, exactly like those of my mother and grandmother." Several silent minutes passed until she said with a smile, "Your palm tells me that you are lucky with money and have learned how to use it for happiness, both for yourself and others. It also tells me of the curse that holds you back."
She handed me the deck of cards. "Hold these tightly and let your spirit live in them."
When she took them back she spread them, picture side up, in a circular pattern. She began to speak as if in a trance. "You have loved deeply. A love that is now lost to you. A love that calls to you to say goodbye. His spirit wishes for rest but feels it must stay to watch over you. You must break the curse that binds you to him before it is too late. I am right. I see it on your face. I feel the aura from your heart." She placed her hand just an inch away from my chest. "You must do what I say if we are to free you both."
     “Free us both? I don’t understand.” I started to feel my stomach lurch and churn. I felt a fear I had never felt before. My amazement at her insight coupled with my desire to know how she would help me kept me seated as she darted out of the room. My growing image of her as a dark, sleek cat brought back old fears. My mother taught me to hate and fear cats at an early age. I knew it was ridiculous but my mother's mantra began to play in my head, "Cats are evil. They are the instruments of the devil. They will kill you in your sleep."
     She returned carrying a tray that held a bottle of red liquid, a clear pouch of red crystals and a small wax figurine of a woman. "You must buy three red apples on your way home. Each night for three nights you must take a bath with the apples, the wax woman icon, one third of the red liquid and one third of the crystals. Please write this down. It must be done exactly as I say." She gave me a piece of paper and a red pencil.
     "How did you know? What is this curse? What will happen to me if I don't break it?" These questions I asked but many more were bubbling in my mind.
She did not answer, instead she made a noise that sounded like a hiss.
"Keep writing," she said. "You must take the apples from your bath each night and place one at the head of your bed, one at the foot of your bed and one next to you near your heart. The icon shall stay guarding your bath until the three nights are passed. On the day after the third night you will wrap the apples in a sweater or jacket that your lover used to wear. You have one. I know you do."
"Yes I do." It was all I could say.
She hissed again.
     "You must make a list of all the things you loved about him and place it in the sweater with the apples. Also, put in something you love, a gem or a favorite piece of jewelry, and on top of it all lay the icon. Wrap it into a tight bundle. Then go to the river and find a place where you feel peaceful. Stand on the shore and repeat these words three times. Be sure you write them down exactly. They must be exact," she began to make a soft, vibrant sound in the back of her throat and slowly spoke these words. "You may go my love. Rest peacefully for me. I can find my way now. I am no longer lost.”
I listened to her chant this refrain three times and struggled to write it down exactly."When you have finished you must throw the bundle in the river as far into the current as you can. Go and do as I say, exactly as I say. I can do this for you only once. It is up to you to do it right. You must start now or you will lose the chance forever." she moved gracefully to the door and opened it, "leave your money under the table, whatever you wish to give the spirits, it must not touch the table. Remember, you must tell no one or the curse will return. I placed ninety dollars, all of the bills I had in my purse, under the table and left.
     As the bright light of day hit me I felt I was awakening from a drug induced sleep. No longer interested in attending the art fair I turned back the way I had come. My feet seemed so light that I imagined myself gliding effortlessly. My heartbeat was regular and steady and my stomach roared from hunger. I stopped at the Old World Deli for something to eat. As I opened the door, a longhaired black cat ran out the door. A withered old woman with an ornately decorated purple scarf tied around her head stood behind the counter. I ordered a brisket of beef sandwich and listened to her hum a sweet little tune while she sliced the beef and prepared the sandwich. As I approached the cash register I noticed a basket sitting there that held three red apples. "I would like these apples. Would you put them in a separate bag from the sandwich?" She winked at me and said, "Yes, I understand. The apples are free. I have been saving them for you."

Rhinestone Harley Girl

She drives a classic model metallic-opal Fat Boy Harley enhanced with chrome spill guards, the pegs were embedded with rhinestones to match those edging the license plate and the seat. She rode low to the ground in her black leather bustier and fringed chaps that coordinated with the tassels hanging from the ends of the handlebar grips. The overall effect as she  roared down the street, her golden hair flying behind like sparks, was like a shiny, mother of pearl gem on a platinum rocket. She wanted to cruise the old neighborhood where she used to cruise in her dilapidated old Yamaha. Most of her friends had moved to jobs in other cities.  The few that remained had husbands who don’t seem to want the mother of their children to be driving a “death-trap”. The changes, which years away from this place, had brought were only on the surface. The white clapboard house she grew up in was painted a garish shade of purple. A half life-sized plaster elephant adorned with ornate scroll like cloths made her feel as though the circus had moved in on her past. The convenience store her father used to own, where she worked during her teens, was converted to coffee shop.
That’s where she saw Jimmy, as she slowed for the stop sign, standing there leaning on a shiny red mustang looking as cool in his black aviator sunglasses as he had when he was the hottest male in high school. They dated once, back then, a date that failed by her unwillingness to do something she wasn’t willing to do in the front seat of another mustang. To her surprise he recognized her and waved her over. Three failed marriages hadn’t wiped the little boy smirk from his face. He still looked up to no good, his jeans slung low around his hips, tattoos of coiled serpents adorning his muscular upper arms, a heart with half an arrow through it emblazoned his bare hairy chest. Time seemed to stop as they checked each other out, wondering whether that date would turn out differently if it happened right now. She could do it now, what he wanted then. He smiled at her like he could tell that she knew the kind of love-making he still craved. The heat from his stare burned her eyes. Sexual vibrations rose from his body like the vapor off a pot of boiling water.  She looked away, revved her engine and was gone before the thunder reached his ears.  

Wheel of Life

Broken Flower went to visit the wise crone, known as Grey Mare, to ask for guidance on how to mend her heart after the death of Mighty Oak her beloved mate. Grey Mare said “You must call upon your sacred animal guides and ask them how you should prepare to visit Spiderwoman the life weaver. If Spiderwoman feels you are ready she will spin you a web on her Wheel of Karma.”
“But what if she says I am not ready?” Broken Flower began to feel the tears leeching from her eyes.
“Never fear, little one, you are a good pupil and your guides will show you the way,” Grey Mare turned and walked slowly away.
First Broken Flower called on Boar who told her a secret about herself and asked her to go into the forest and write a song for him. This she did with great delight. Next she called Hawk who gave her a pouch and asked her to gather shells from the sea and bring them to him when the new day dawned. This was harder for Broken Flower since she had to stoop many times to find the perfect shells that she thought would please Hawk. Then she went to Eagle who picked her up in his talons and brought her up as close to the sun as he could without getting burned by its heat. He then taught her the art of plunging, at just the right moment, into the lake of the heart. Finally she called upon Otter, who flipped his tail at her and told her to join him in the river where he would teach her how to play and how to catch the salmon, the biggest prize the river has to offer.
Broken Flower finally felt prepared for her visit to Spider Woman, who welcomed her with a smile. Spiderwoman removed the web she had just finished spinning and attached it to Broken Flowers head. “Go my child. You now have all you need to be who you are.”

Heavy Starch

He should have said something by now. I can’t believe he didn’t notice. His neck was getting red the last time he walked by my desk. I know he knows, he didn’t ask me to make his tea this morning. He made it himself. That’s it, he thinks I love making his damn tea and he’s punishing me. I can’t concentrate on anything until I know what he’s going to say. He’s called everyone else in there this morning but me. That’s my punishment, I’m being banned from his inner circle. That’s the only thing he knows will get to me. If I’m not in the inner circle I might as well quit. I’d have no power. The others will find a new link to the top. He can’t ignore me forever. He needs me to prepare for that big meeting tomorrow. Is he asking her to do my work? She would jump at the chance to cut me off, steal my job. Then I would be the office flunky, everybody’s errand girl instead of just his. Its nearly noon and he hasn’t asked me to confirm his lunch meeting yet. He’s trying to show he doesn’t need me. He’s leaving for lunch without a word. Why did I do it? It was such a stupid prank and I’m the only one who could have done it. I was sick of taking his shirts to the laundry. I’m supposed to be his assistant not his wife. He would never ask her to do it, she might get her fingernails chipped. I know he’s allergic to starch. I thought he might think the laundry made a mistake, but heavy starch, maybe that was too obvious. Did he call the laundry? Did they tell him I requested it? I can’t believe I did such a petty, mean thing. Just a little revenge, that’s all I wanted. I thought he might yell at me and make me take them back, but the silence is worse. I’ve already imagined what he might say, but I never imagined he would not say anything. I thought we would talk about it, I would say I was sorry, promise to talk to him before acting out of anger. He walked by again and the rash is spreading up his neck. He hasn’t even loosened his collar. He’s got his briefcase. He’s putting on his coat. He can’t leave without telling me what he needs for that meeting. I’ve got to stop him, confess and beg forgiveness. It’s too late. He’s gone. Maybe tomorrow.