Awaiting new hardcopy to proof. Meantime, here is another installment of the forthcoming novel, Alma Lolloon. (Alma has told her knitting group she is writing a book. The book is to be about her five husbands, and the knitters agree to hear Alma reading from her book in installments at their Saturday knitting sits.)
Well, Hattie, I said, but I was talking to all of them again, of all genres, I like fiction most. What a gas! I like novels for their mystery, the dialogue, the atmosphere, the unfolding of the story, like opening a table cloth and when you get it spread out all across the table there’s a wonderful pattern you had not expected to see. There’s that moment when preparing dinner, not sure how it’s going to come out, and it’s time to set the table, and the cloth is unfurled, and the table and the light in the room is clean and soft and hopeful. This is picking up a book. And around the table sit a dozen characters you don’t recognize chatting away, one prim, another slurping, one passing notes under the table, a couple playing footsie no doubt. I like books you don’t have to necessarily understand to enjoy or comprehend. And it doesn’t bother me when writers split your attention. I like a style that breaks or belies or betrays convention, just wants of some fixed eyeballs you want to push rolling. I like when I see something my eye did not expect to see. I like other kinds of reading as well, books on music and the mind, children’s books, comic books, graphic novels. I like talking about things I like more than talking about things I don’t like. I liked each of my five husbands, each in his own way. What did you expect me to say, I loved them? Please. What is love? Perhaps that will be my argument, Hattie.
Speaking of love, Curly said, what about these raspberry scones Starky has buttered up for us?
Love, love, love! Rufa declared.
I’m taking a couple home for Angel.
I come from a long line of circuit riders that ends in the dust bowl years, and we rode as hillbillies and Okies, carnies or enlisted men and women, or kept to the road as musicians and tinkers. My dad was a handyman, a plumber and carpenter and electrician and mechanic, and a sign painter and had a talent with brush painting and wound up out west where he got on with the studios painting backdrops for majestic movie scenes, a kind of scenic artist. He also did sketch portraits. He often spent Sunday afternoons down near the beach on the walkway where he’d set up an easel and for a quarter or fifty cents or a buck would draw character portraits for passing tourists. And of course he was a drunkard and left us early on, came back, and left us again. My mother was one of those wives who seemed like she was just along for the ride while she was really the differential gear. She knew how to do all kinds of things. She could cook, sew, knit, quilt, garden, herbal doctor and nurse, dance, sing, play guitar and piano, work carpentry and plumbing and tinker with cars. I suppose I have kinfolk spread like dandelions and poppies across the countryside and up and down city streets and out in the suburbs and up in the mountains and all around the coastlines, but I don’t know them, or I’m not close to any of them, and I was an only child, my folks are long gone, and I’m pretty much on my own these days but for the three kids left me by my first three husbands, one each, dandelions, all of us. I have grandchildren, and Freddy has a daughter, Marylu, who has a toddler, Molly, and they live nearby and sometimes come over for tea or for me to babysit for a spell and we walk to the park and play in the sun. Freddy was my first child, Mary and Gabriel’s son, my roommate and the boy she met and hooked up with my failed college year.
But so you had five husbands, Annie said, what of it? Life with one husband might make an even more gruesome tale.
She didn’t say gruesome, did she? Curly said.
A life with no husband the one I might have wished for to write about, Rufa said, and we all looked at Hattie.
Oh, sorry, Hattie.
And not for the first time we saw Hattie nonplussed by something Rufa said seemed packed full of meaning but no way out.