For me every story begins with one sentence. No matter what happens to that sentence later, I never write anything without that one sentence. In the blog a portion of that sentence might become the header. In a novel it might one day become the tag line.
For inspiration, I began to write a list of sentences that would capture the essence, the soul of the story.
I did this because I intend to keep my promise to wax comic with new characters. However, I cannot promise you will ever know what happens to any of them.
I never did tell you what happens to the rebellious Viola or her discontented mother, Lucille. Was there a future for Viola beyond South Bradley Street, or would she be trapped like her parents on the wrong side of the tracks?
And in the four years I have done the blog I never told Antoinette’s entire story. I might have tortured my poor hapless Gail with fumbling blind dates, but I never told you about the one … that one and only one she finally met.
Do you know if any or all of them had a happy ending?
Alas, they are what they are … a snippet … a tease … a temptation … and another beginning with no end.
Life in Reverse …
Whoever designed the automobile to go faster when it shifts into reverse must have known Aggie.
She stretched out her short legs trying to make the bridge between the chair and the ottoman and like each time, her heels slipped, her body lurched and she spilled coffee in her lap.
“Maybe you should keep a change of clothes with you, the way we did when the kids were babies.” I handed her a paper towel. “And if you put the damn ottoman closer to you before you plop on the chair, your heels wouldn’t slip off.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She handed me a folder. “Here, look at my new business plan.”
“What is it this time?”
“You wrote a business plan to sell Mason jars?” The folder contained dozens of pictures of Mason jars in dozens of colors.
“It’s the latest craze. Girls call it shabby chic. You buy cheap ass jars, spray paint them and then you sand them, put a bit of raffia around the rim and sell them for ten bucks a pop.”
“I don’t want to spray paint anything.”
“Ah common, Eva, it’ll be fun.”
“No it won’t be fun. No more than a basement crammed with Amway products it took us two years to unload was fun.”
She huffed. “You still upset over that?”
“Yes. And the damn stuff made me itch.”
She gathered up the papers and stuffed them back into her folder. “Okay, then why don’t you come up with something for a change?”
Living with Aggie was like hitting the pedal too hard backing out of the garage; terrible things can happen.
Agatha “Aggie” Boyle was my best friend since second grade. In second grade she had flaming red braids and resembled the fictional character of Pippi Longstocking. Long, light lashes feathered over her translucent blue eyes.
Looking at her today, I saw a woman who aged well, her flaming red braids replaced by short wisps of white and silver, her eyes, a deeper blue.
“My idea is that we don’t do anything for a while.”
She waved her hand in dismissal. “That was your idea the last time.”
“Oh, the last time … like right before you thought we should do parties and sell sex paraphernalia?”
I was Eva Marie Franco, named for a famous actress no one remembered. I was a-typical of my heritage, dark hair and eyes, tawny skin, shapely rounds strategically placed to drive men wild.
I pushed gray waves off my face and looked south. South where all my rounds settled around my knees. The real tragedy for us was simple. we were invisible to the opposite sex.
“How about we reopen the travel agency,” she asked. “People are flying again.”
In the ten years since we became widows, we had gone through a dozen small business ideas that mostly flopped and lost money. The one time we did make money, Aggie, who was keeping the books, forgot to pay the taxes and we went belly-up with fines and late fees.
My scalp rippled remembering the defunct travel agency we opened two months before 9-11.
“Why can’t we be two old geezers and do lunch, join book clubs and attend card parties like all the other old geezers our age?”
“We’ve never been like other girls our age, why start now?
Her parents moved into the house next to ours one week before school started.
We grew up on the same block in Brooklyn in connected row houses located half-way up a hill on the edge of a blue collar world. Our living room was connected to their downstairs hall. Our upstairs bath, connected to their second bedroom.
Our house was one of two houses on the block that was semi-detached which gave me enormous status with all the neighborhood kids. My dad was a professional man, a CPA, a man with narrow glasses that remained fixed to the tip of his nose from the moment he woke until he went to bed.
My mom was a stay at home, bake cookies and clean all three floors until they shined kind of woman. We were the national average. I was an only child for five years until my brother, James Anthony Franco showed up.
Both of our houses had the same square feet of space. However, while everyone in my family had separate domains, and for several years a third floor tenant to pay our mortgage, the Boyle’s filled every single space with people and stuff. Aggie lived with her parents, five siblings, both her paternal and maternal grandparents, her crazy Aunt Cloe, her old maid cousin Bitsy, and her perpetually unemployed Uncle Pat.
To make life more interesting for Mrs. Boyle, her husband’s sister-in-law ran off with a plumber and his brother, unable to cope, dropped his four kids off for the weekend and didn’t come back for ten years.
Nobody paid them rent. Few if any of them worked. My conservative dad with his navy blue suspenders concluded that Mr. Boyle was in the Irish mafia. “How else can he afford to feed them all?”
Aggie became a fixture in our house and like one of my mom’s favorite stained glass lamps she was cherished by all of us.
It doesn’t matter how we went from there to here. All the stops and starts between second grade and hanging on the brink of destruction at fifty-nine, brought us full circle back to our connected row houses.
We remain one of their strangest of strange soul mates.
Where to go from here …
Ideas are all around us. They are the stolen moments, the unguarded smile, the silent disapproval. How could you know what someone like me might do to these ladies next … or if I’ll be taken in by another strange idea. I haven’t a clue.
I might give you another wanna-be funny opening.
Tell me how you begin?
And what do you do when you get there?
fOIS In The City