The following stories were written, by me, about 8 -88 years ago. I just found them and thought I’d share. I enjoyed rereading them again, maybe you will, maybe you won’t!
Nancy LT Hamilton, March 23, 2017
A story about the fear of sharing our art with the world.
I was accustomed to the envious, lecherous stares. I was used to causing a scene. I was comfortable being the center of attention. But, I had never, ever been ignored. You see, I was a redhead.
My hair would never have been described as ordinary, ho-hum, out of the bottle red. It was not tomato red or Lucille Ball red. I was never called carrot-top. My hair was the RED of raspberry preserves with a volcanic core. It was redder than anger, hotter than lust. It flowed, like molten lava, down my back. “Boom-swish-boom-swish-bang,” it sang as it sashayed across my hips.
Hadn’t Francois praised it, every Saturday, on our weekly rides through the Provencal countryside? Exclaiming that the sun made my hair sparkle like a glass of burgundy licked by light, that it seared his heart with its brilliance? I would toss that luscious, fiery mane of mine and smile: “Oh, really?” My deep red lashes fluttering flirtatiously in the falling Provencal dusk.
Unfortunately, Francois was not at the gallery with me. Alone, for my first show in Paris at a MAJOR, MAJOR gallery and I was going to pass out; fall to the floor in a tangled mess of red and purple – right in front of the “Haute Couture!”
As I entered the gallery, I abandoned tense and nervous, traveled eons past anxiety. I stood alone, ignored and shunned. They hated me. There was no doubt. The orphaned redhead cast adrift in an ocean of dark, dark sharks. Black hair, black clothes, black shoes, black bags. Haute, haute black!
I felt ill. I rushed to the toilette and slipped my vanity to the floor. My hair, now limp and dimmed, cowered as les femmes “tsked, tsked.”
“Who is this woman?” they whispered clearly.
I had to save myself. Miraculously, a tale of bad mushrooms, in the evening’s coq au vin, emerged from my slippery lips. It was a redheaded lie: birthed of passion and terror, of anger and shame.
“It has been decided”, a madame sniffed, “that one cannot be blamed for bad food.” I breathed again.
Returning to the gallery, my hair drained and shy, cowered behind my back. Slowly, they came to me. Holding my fetid breath, I sighed, “Oui, oui, je vais bien.” I am well. My disgraced head bobbing with relief.
I returned to the states on Monday. On Tuesday, I dyed my hair black.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! You’ll never guess what I just did! I got my nose pierced! I mean, it’s just nuts! I’ve got gray hair for Delilah’s sake!”
When I wash dishes, the gray hairs drift down, into the warm, soapy water and disappear without a trace. As my wrinkled, crepey hands dart efficiently among the dishes and cups, I decide to cook only pale, white foods. That way, no one will ever find the silver hairs that are falling, like rain onto their plates. White food and silver hair.
We could feast on mashed potatoes and white, slippery chicken. A salad of skinned cucumbers and pale, damp mushrooms. A glass of milk to drink Breakfast will be egg white omelets and white toast – the crusts removed.
“I can’t believe that you actually did it!” My sister screams with horror when she sees the glint of silver in my nose.
“Why did you do it?” Everyone asks.
“It matches my hair,” I sigh.
Now, that the ring has been part of my face for weeks, I sometimes forget that it is there. I find myself, absentmindedly spinning it around and around, in its tiny hole. It keeps my hands busy. It reminds me to change.
The piercing hurt. I screamed and wailed. I was a wolf ensnared. “Be brave,” I chanted. “Remember, change hurts.”
Recently, I was chosen by NASA to be an astronaut. The headlines screamed: “NASA Sends Gray-Haired Grandmother, with Nose Ring to the Moon!”
While in space, I peel open my silver astronaut suit and climb in. They want me to go outside and float around the ship, look for problems but, what do I know? I am a gray-haired grandmother with a nose ring. I do as I’m told. When the door opens and the air is sucked into the void, several gray and silver hairs follow. I stand, oblivious to my mission and watch as they move into orbit around our ship. Like meteors, they flicker with reflected starlight. I notice, that the light out here, in the black silence of space, is cold and white. It reminds me of white food and gray hair and the dirty dishes in my sink.
When I return from space, I am a local hero. My image is on the cover of Time and spread across the face of every tabloid.
After all the excitement, I go home. I am tired and there are dishes to wash. I look, hopefully, into the bright, soapy water- searching for my future. The bubbles remind me of meteorites and stardust. I think about getting a tattoo.
Dolores Hernandez slaps a scorched, black pancake over her open wound. Blood colors its charred skin, a deep magenta. “Damn, I’ve gotten clumsy.” Dolores chides herself.
Tiffany enters the kitchen and seeing the mess, barks: “Jesus Christ mother! What have you done now? Have you lost your mind?”
“Tiffany, it’s nothing. Don’t worry. It’s a small cut. I’ll be fine.”
“Whatever, mother! When is breakfast going to be ready?”
“As soon as I clean up this blood.”
“Forget about it. I don’t have time for this!”
“I’m sorry Tiff.” Dolores intones, to the place where her daughter last stood.
“Well, let’s take a look at this little booboo.” Dolores clucks to the pancake on her leg. She peels back the magenta dough and gasps when she sees the extent of her wound. Suddenly, she’s queasy and weak-kneed. She grasps the edge of the granite countertop but, it doesn’t stop her fall. She and the pancakes, spill to the floor.
Scott enters the kitchen. Reaching over his mother’s prone body, he grabs the three remaining pancakes from the plate and races from the room. “See you later mom,” he says to the woman that he assumes is standing there.
Ralph, Dolores’s husband of twenty years, walks by the kitchen and bellows: I’ll be home late; hold dinner for me.” Dolores moans and then passes out.
She wakes and begins to sop up the blood from the floor, with the pancakes, that are scattered like crop circles around her. Thoughtfully, she picks up the now rosy pancakes, places them on an ovenproof dish and carefully, tucks the tinfoil around the rim. Dolores then places the plate in the oven and turns it on. She stumbles to the red formica breakfast table and sighs as she sinks, heavily, onto the cracked wooden chair.
Night comes and the house is dark. Scotty returns home first: “Mom, I’m home. I’ll be in my room.”
Next comes Tiffany: “Mom, I’m home. Don’t forget: I need dinner by eight.”
Hours later, Ralph returns: “Dolores, bring me my dinner in the den; I’ve got work to do.”
An hour passes. Scott is starving: “Mom, it’s nine o’clock. Are we ever going to eat? Mom?” “Hey Dad,” Scott screams down the hall. “Where’s mom?”
“I just talked to her, five minutes ago.” Ralph yells back. “She’s here somewhere.”
“I talked to her too.” Tiffany adds.
“Well, she isn’t answering me and there’s no dinner.” Scott challenges. Scott flips on the kitchen light.
Tiffany charges down the stairs. “Oh great! Now what am I going to do? I’ll be late!”
“We’ll order pizza.” Ralph announces.
“I found mom.” Scott points to the motionless woman, seated at the kitchen table.
“Dolores, what the hell are you doing? Are you nuts? Get up and fix these kids some dinner.” Ralph commands.
Dolores rises, for the first time in twelve hours. She limps past her red-faced family, opens the back door and turns to face them: “Your dinner is in the oven.”
The back door clicks quiety shut behind her.
My husband, Wilbur, has decided, in that masculine, my way or the highway, black or white, type of male reasoning, that I have misplaced my sense of humor. He even had the audacity to suggest, that I might have also mislaid my mind. I explained to him, very rationally and sanely (I thought), that my seemingly incoherent babbling and increased use of run-on sentences were due to the fact that I lived with two men. If occaisionally, I consulted with invisible people or rested my head in the dishwasher, so what?
Wilbur, not being overly impressed with my explanation, suggested that I needed to: “Get my ass to a shrink”. He also announced, in his proud father – we men stick together kind of voice – that Spike, our darling twelve year old son, thought the same thing.
I spent the following thirty minutes thrashing and generally abusing the kitchen floor with a scrub brush. By the time I was done scrubbing – the linoleum beginning to peel up in the corners and the color abraded from its surface, I had made a decision: I’d go see a therapist.
My new therapist would be a woman named Judith. She would nod and “um, ah ha, I see” in syncopated sympathy when I told her about my family. Judith would, undoubtedly, agree that Wilbur and Spike were indeed horrible to live with.
I called the first therapist, I could find, named Judith. My appointment was on Wednesday morning.
When I arrived, I settled, prone, onto her soft couch, placed my head on a downy pillow and neatly crossed my feet. I had all of my questions, neatly ordered and ready to go. I was excited to begin.
I was going to ask: Judith, am I nuts because I chant “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her son forty whacks and when she saw what she had done, she gave her husband forty-one” over and over again with the words running into each other like bumper cars driven by maniacal twelve year old boys or an out of control, runaway train (toot toot) that is moments from derailing and tumbling into Bad Grammar Gorge? Is it possible that my “supposed” lunacy results from cohabitation with a prepubescent slob-child that roams through the house depositing debris, like a boat throws off a wake, or a husband who can’t be bothered to answer my questions or to realise that the stench in the refrigerator is from eighteen day old stew that no one but me realizes, has developed a crust on it, as thick as the one that covers the molten lava core of our earth? Can a person develop schizophrenia because there are sixteen, half empty bowls of cereal, which are strewn like chicken feed, atop the coffee table, wherein the milk has dried to form Elmer’s glue which, the child should know, because once, when he was little, we actually made glue from milk and used it to stick tissue paper and glitter to cardboard – back in the days when I actually did those things with The Child?
Can lunacy be discovered in the eighty seven dirty dishes and sixty two dirty glasses which lounge atop the empty and waiting-to-be-filled dishwasher – surrounded by orange rinds, empty boxes and wilted lettuce or is insanity neatly folded in the six foot high mound of dirty laundry that lounges, oh so casually, on the floor, next to, close by, on top of and draped over anything but, the laundry basket?
Is it possible to to go nuts because The Child has taken thirty two hours and sixty eight reminders to clean his room and it still isn’t clean because under the bed – where tumbleweed tumbles, lint whirls, lone socks mourn, pen-tops ache, dirty underwear and sheets darken all merging with the cat fur, belly button lint, twine, tissues, baseball cards, dirty dishes and comic books, ebbing and flowing, birthing a murky, fetid stew of the lost and unremembered.
Will daftness be located behind the couch and might it be jammed tightly between the cushions, next to the gum wrappers and the remote that he NEVER touched and the shoe that was lost last month – and never found – and the toothbrush (???) that disappeared into thin air with the homework and near the eaten and discarded pudding cups, that still have the spoons in them because they were too heavy to carry into the kitchen?
Is my madness found in the knowledge that The Child and its six best friends will be running through the house soon, filling mammoth bowels with popcorn and cereal and Top Ramen, which is never finished and in the eating of all the Pop Tarts and all the cookies, on the same day that I buy them, the remains of which are left neglected and forgotten on the piano or on top of the television or shoved under the bed and in the understanding that they will be leaving soggy cups of not-quite-drained slurpees, that lay – on their sides – oozing sticky pink, yellow and blue ant food onto the tops of the unnecessary, unasked for $800 dollar tables, that my husband so, laboriously created while neglecting his family and allowing our yard to turn into a jungle where Elsa the lion would, could and probably was, stalking me at this very moment?
“So Judith”, I would ask her – based of course, on clinical evidence and years of study – am I certifiably: schizoid, looney, touched, daft, insane, demented, deranged, wacky, crazed, warped, out-of-touch, dancing to a different drummer, lost, not all there, loca, a lunatic, mad, unbalanced, cuckoo, psycho, barmy, delirious, mad as a hatter or just plain NUTS?
The truth though, is that I don’t care what Judith thinks. What I have yet to tell my, wise and caring therapist, is that I’m fully aware that I’m insane. In fact, I have grown quite fond of my insanity: so what if I discuss the importance of rubberized chicken corn flakes wiglets with the dog. This is, after all, MY insanity. It can’t be taken, lost, neglected, wasted, annihilated, consumed, killed, ravaged, stained, destroyed, abandoned, stuck in the couch, shoved under the bed, left in the yard, dropped, broken, shattered, stolen or eaten.
Now excuse me, I must go. I’m having lunch with my friend Allison. Alison is a garden gnome who lives in our shed. We are very close. The dog will be joining us too.
A New Hampshire tale.
She had a one horse, two german shepherd farm. Callin’ it a farm was kind of a little joke between us locals. All I know, is that it wasn’t a dairy farm like ours! Who ever heard of a farm with only two dogs and a horse? Those people from downeast were odd ones. Hippies and the like. No clue about how hard it is to live up here. They learned or they left.
Abbey lived in a “Dutch-styled” house (so she called it) that she built mostly by herself. She plopped it down in the middle of some tree stumps and a bunch of boulders, that were left behind when the glaciers passed through, a long, long time ago. She was going to build a barn too.
Abbey was married to this guy, with a ponytail, named Killer who, was great at killing flies (I hear). She wouldn’t marry him until he learned how to brush his teeth! I mean, he knew how to do that but, he didn’t do it often enough for her. He finally learned and they got married.
She was educated; had a degree, of some sorts, that she earned from a GOOD school downeast and she had enough money to make us greedy and maybe want some of it too.
I’d reckon, that by now, she’d have a cow or two – not one she’d eat – Abbey didn’t allow killin’. Besides, her best friend was a vegetarian and Abbey was a liberal. You know the kind.
Us town folk thought she was odd at first: she had straight, white teeth and never worked at any kind of real work. She didn’t come deer hunting with us, at night, with the car headlights turned on high and a case of Rolling Rock bottles, rolling around in the back of the truck, on that abandoned farm – just up the way. She didn’t drink beer either. But, she was okay because she stayed and she tried hard and she froze with us.
Once, before Abbey came along, Killer tried to hunt a bear. He found that bear alright – right in the tree next to him. Well, when they saw each other, him and that bear, they both jumped out of their trees and ran off in the opposite directions. Funnier’en hell. Suppose Abbey liked men like that.
She had a baby eventually (or so I heard) maybe two, by now. Could have a few chickens – probably just for the eggs. Those chickens’ll probably die of old age or freeze to death – when the first snows come ’cause, they’re too stupid to find the barn and she’s never gonna eat ’em! In the spring, those dogs of hers, will sniff out those defrosting dead chickens and have themselves a little snack. They’ll smear that yard with feathers and bones and someday, a long, long time from now, those chicken parts and the muck and the black flies and Killer’s toothbrush probably and maybe even the dogs, will all be gone and no one will remember ’em.
But, ya never know, years from now, somebody might come scratchin’ around and figure out that there was a farm here once. They might decide that maybe, there were two dogs and one horse and maybe a cow and a smattering of chickens – that might of froze to death, in the winter, and that they were eaten by those dogs – that all lived on this land together. They might also find a rusty truck or two and the remains of old, wooden house.
‘Course, they’ll never know that the woman who built the place, married a man named Killer (’cause, he was so good at killing flies) and that he was afraid of bears. They’ll probably never have an inklin’ that he never brushed his teeth regular like – until he met his wife, Abbey, And they for sure won’t know that she had more money than me or you and got a degree, of some sort, from a GOOD college downeast and that she had a baby or two, on that farm.
Ain’t been back in a while – moved to where it’s warm and my bones don’t ache. Guess I’m just guessing here, about how things turned out. I hope she found a way to survive there, in that cold and hard place and that her babies live in that house with her and that there’s always someone to love. Yep, I do.