Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pearls and Dirty Deals

At the lodge, the elderly, Susan McDonald sits moving through smiles hugs and kisses, then starts to talk to a young 30 something about life and the concept of stories. Stories are what define people, make them grow, make them skrink, they define essentially who we are, as we all are a culmination of choices and the consequences there of. Susan had a bone to pick with the world, and so it seeped into every conversation she had. Her day to day interactions were only a series of reminders that she must live the rest of her time as an actor locked into a single scene.

Living in the footsteps of her deceased husband meant attending Lodge gatherings every week. The Lodge was simply an abbreviation for a fraternal type of organization for old folks under a layer of secrets and rituals. She could avoid these gathering, there was always that, but in the end it would be a poor decision, equating to certain alienation.

As Susan speaks to her new young friend, she feels the longing stare of an old codger of high notoriety, Leon Smith. He was the grand chancellor, who always wore his well-pressed blues with a red tie and an antique pocket watch. He stereotypically had cigars and a nice, fine single malt scotch on ice. His mannerisms were equivalent to a whirlpool, he spent his time spinning in social circles, while their powerful drums beat upon his heart, pushing him to stoop to suspicious behind the door deals and insider trading. His status as police chief had once led him to turn a cold eye to the exploits of past chancellors, but now his gaze is fixated solely on the lovely, Susan McDonald. As he speaks to his friends laughing about Cowboys football and bad barbecue at Harold's, she became his only exploit and focus; she was the one he never could quite corner.

The story goes that Leon Smith had to retire a bit earlier than planned, all hush hush of course, to avoid certain infamy as the one who may have single handedly ruined the reputation of the Dallas Police force by participating in the blackmail of a certain Colin McDonald. If it had went public, it could have also adversely affected the exploits of his wife, Barbara Smith, who was President of the Ladies for Christ. It was a classy women's group in the Dallas Baptist Church of Holy Mercy. Barbara has long since passed on, having sucuumbed to the pathogenesis of cancer.

The Church of Holy Mercy would later experience its own share of shame, as its pastor was arrested for having his wife killed. His plan was for he and his trophy mistress to live happily ever after. More so, he wanted the young pretty blonde from Los Angeles, California, to be next to his side publicly so that he, Bill Matula, could be recognized as not only the apple of the Lord's eye as pastor of the largest Baptist church in Texas, but also as the hot shot he wished he always was to his elitist congregation.

The Lord, crafty and ever silent, would have none of this, however, as seen by his eventual tragic demise. Bill Matula was also known for his elaborate love triangles among his flock. He and Susan M. cheated on their respective partners for a brief period of time. It was a lasting rumor, leading to many heated affairs between Colin and Susan, as those in power always become a target for suspicion of dirty deeds. In this situation, however, the speculations were warranted, what with the killing of his wife and all. When Pastor Bill Matula was arrested and all that horror was revealed, Susan did not seem to mind much, in the end he had thrown her aside as quickly as he took her to his bedside. He had moved on to a bigger prize, her former best friend, Lucy Deringer.

Deringer was interesting. She had been the Lodge's Thanksgiving Day Queen in the Lake Highlands Parade for three consecutive years, a Church of Holy Mercy record that still stands. Lucy was the wife of Billy Deringer, a blue blood, who's dad left him the family oil business after he died in 1935; it was a fortune which christened his first born a millionaire at the age of 12. She had chosen money in love's stead, as love to her was only a few months of intrigue, whereas money could take her farther, into the arms of suntanned, Italian bodyguards in the baths of Rome. Ultimately, Lucy knew Susan could never win the battle for the Pastor, and so she became another of her lost loves. At the end of the day, Lucy could deal with losing Susan, if it meant never missing an annual vacation to the Swiss Alps in Europe.

Thus, all these men and women experienced hardship representative of life. They changed in the pattern of sine curves, up and down like roller-coasters: simple, predictable, rudimentary. Wedding after wedding and funeral after funeral, the leaves continuously flipped and turned all shades of dark purples and browns preceding the footsteps of the ever stagnant, Susan McDonald.

As time passed, she became more and more aware that she was the single entity that remained in a time capsule. After her husband passed, it was as if she was placed in a repressive yet spacious container, where she now remained, living yet buried six feet under with her husband at the Willowbend Funeral and Burial Home.

She, locked away there and held against her will, was asking him every morning as she hit the snooze bar and looked over at her empty bed, "Why?" Did she not love him enough, did she not cook the meals to their proper texture, or hold him up in public as the beacon of her day to day? Every Sunday, like a mass or ritual, the lovely Susan would cook his favorite meal, watch Sunday Media Roundtable Delta Force, and return to Willowbend with the paper. She would sit at Colin McDonald's tombstone in a little, red chair she had, and read the paper aloud. Since he had decided to be a force of love in her life whether she liked it or not, she decided she would submit and honor his proclamation.

Alexander Beverage, husband of the fair woman Susan is speaking to, Blair Beverage, waves and moves past them. Blair returns his looks and holds his gaze, smiles, then returns to Susan.

"Why couldn't you ever remarry?"

Susan laughs, "Oh, if I told you, you'd probably leave me right now!"

"No, I wouldn't. It can't be that bad, can it?"

"Oh, it's a story I have no answer to really. It's one that has left me here to interpret it many ways, even by how I am feeling on any day! If I am lonely at home, watching re-runs on the cable TV, oh, it becomes that Colin wanted to keep me forever, even from the grave and afterlife. But, if the day is nice out and the cool December air is moving across my face near the lake down the street, then the story is he wanted me to always think of him and cherish the peace after the storm we had with our marriage. I think he did what he did because ultimatiely he wanted me to decide, 'Do I value money over love?' It's as if he wanted me to validate that Love was greater, more powerful and relevant than money. I was always something of a problem for him when it came to money."”

"I see."

"Love was and is important, but I am not at an age to make a new life. So I have boyfriends, all my age, who dream of dying with a soft spoken, caring wife, that decide to leave after they learn of my little 'arrangement.' It happens around 6 months."

"Susan, what on earth did he do?"

"He put a statute in his will that if I remarry, I would lose all his millions."

Blair was pretty much stunned. Susan had spent a decade living as a revolving door of love and loss, all for the millions of her dead husband, when their kids probably could have taken care of her!

But Blair caught herself, "Who am I?" she asked herself.

She knew that at some point eating and having a roof over her head may have been more important than any ceremony or the comfort of companionship. What did marriage mean when one reaches a certain point, a desperation point???

These are complicated problems with no real solutions. We have entered an age of dancing voyeur's. We all spend time staring through glass panes at the perils and miseries of this evolving universe and species bent on pushing the boundaries of their limits. We peer into it, we get off on the experience of life changing before our eyes, good or bad. How can this world continue to exist, when it seems we have become plastic flimsy shells of what we used to be in the days of FDR and Hitler? In those days, the lines between good and evil were quite clear, but on a grander scale, not like our microcosm of terrorist factions and the spinning of sound bytes. Our wars in the 21st century pale in comparison, resembling little brush fires planted here and there, whose emergent, collective property is a chaos of raging forest fires. There is not a clearly defined side to follow.

So we, the voyeur's, move from starlet to starlet from sports star to sports star, and there sits old, Susan McDonald who still witnesses a black and white innocence while watching Turner Movie Classics. These are not movies but photographs rough around the ages that capture an honest time, not the complicated turmoil of our homogenenous metropolis. On many occasions, she will watches these movies for what seems like eternity in the quiet of her study, often until the sun peaks from behind the top of the large maple tree at the bottom of her backyard hill. Even today it hangs over Forest Lane shielding her gaze from on coming traffic.

Susan whispers something into Blair's ear, they laugh, and she whisks away from the table, down the vacuumous tunnel of social standing. Hi, bye, thank you, see you, will you, then you, but you, past the big brown doors, and out to the parking lot. The crowd watches as Susan exits the lodge to her old, well groomed Mercedes. She immediately flips on her favorite Opera about the tragedy of two lovers. She rolls down the window, and sings at the top of her lungs.

As she putters down the street, the leaves move away behind her like the memories of Colin and the kids and the house and, definitely, the American Dream.