From: FTR <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Monday, 11 April 2011 09:32:19
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Ashley
Hey M ~
Are you devouring this? Are you hearing this? What a great story teller. I guess it must be true what they say, that “suffering builds character.” She’s got character! I’ve got a really funny, maybe kind of bad idea for the song in progress...
I finally confessed to Harry my darkest thoughts from my darkest hours, when I’d go to bed exhausted, fingering the frayed satin hem of the grass-green wool blanket that had gone with my family on every camping trip I could remember; it still had that old-tent smell, which I loved. I’d imagine them when I was gone, eating cold, dry cereal out of dirty dishes for breakfast in their wrinkled, stained, cashmere track suits. I’d imagine Donna saying she missed me, then Sylvia would start blaming me for how dirty things had gotten.
“What! A! Bitch!” Harry said. I didn’t know if he was talking about Sylvia, or me for thinking that, or the incredibly cathartic rant. Either way, we both started laughing hysterically. I had to wipe my face. My eyes were leaking all over the place. (But for the record, I am still a nice lady who doesn’t like to hear that word used about women.)
Sylvia must have figured out I was talking on the phone. I could hear alarm in her voice when she called down the stairway, “What are you doing down there? I need my girdle by five!”
“Speaking of bitches...” Harry kept laughing.
“Yes, Sylvia,” I called politely, resting my hand lightly over the receiver. Then I whispered to Harry. “Ironing a girdle! How pathetic is that?”
“Oh, right! You’re in the laundry room!”
“Yes, didn’t I mention that?”
“Absolute perfection.” And then a long silence.
I remember a strange fleeting sensation of gripping desperation in the silence. Was Sylvia coming? If I had to hang up the phone right now, I could lose this connection, which I now knew I had to keep. My soul needed a friend to survive. “Harry!” I whispered, my voice louder than I intended.
“I’m still here, honey. Not going anywhere, no way. And I know you don’t have much time. So go slide open that closet where the water heater lives, and look way up on that shelf above it and tell me what you see.”
I had worked in that room every afternoon for four years, now. I must have cleaned it, reorganized it, five or ten times. But I had never looked inside that big box on the top shelf. It was old, from a fancy, old-fashioned department store, with big loopy letters on it, “Grimm's,” and tied with a faded red ribbon. I blew a little dust off the top. “An old box,” I said.
“Oh! Thank heavens it’s still there!”
“What is this?” I had to hunch up my shoulder to hold the phone on my ear while I eagerly untied the bow. Inside, under some tissue paper, was vintage silk taffeta with a beautiful pattern: dark purple and blue flowers outlined in black against a background of glossy green leaves. The inside of each flower was bedazzled by a few tiny glass rhinestones in three colors: green, yellow, and black. I lifted the gown by the wide, angled, velvet straps, and a voluminous skirt blossomed into life as it came free of the box. “Oh, my God,” I breathed. I suddenly realized what I as holding: my mother’s prom dress! “I’ve seen this in a photo, Harry!” I couldn’t believe Sylvia had somehow missed it.
“And now you’ve got a gown,” he said. I opened my mouth to say thank you and no, I don’t think so, but instead sputtered and stuttered instead like one of those antique cars starting up. He didn’t notice. I could hear him, on the other end, getting all gushy on me. “Prom night... here you come!”
“But Harry,” I protested, “I can’t go, honest.” He couldn’t possibly understand.
“Please don’t tell me you have too much work to do.”
“Well, obviously I do, but…”
“After that epic bitch session?”
“Doesn’t change the fact of finals,” I said, “and it doesn’t change the fact that….” How could I say this? I struggled for a moment, then finally got my real reason from my brain to my mouth, “I can’t go. I don’t have shoes.”
“Oh, that can’t be too hard,” he said. But Harry had never seen my feet. How could I explain? I had to try.
“Yes, it could be that hard,” I insisted. “You missed my big growth spurt between fifteen and sixteen.”
“It took place entirely below the ankles.”
From: Michael <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, 13 April 2011 03:03:33
Subject: The Big Bitch
your bad idea kept me up all night... the lyrics came together so well i had to stay up all night and knit the patches of music together. strings - really tightly-strung ones... nails on a chalkboard... an energetic melody... call me in the morning, tell me if you like. zzz