Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hogging the Lady, short story

This is the hardest of the stories. This is the story that belongs in its place. This is the story that takes second place. It is the story that follows its master. It is the story that grows old. It is the story for a season, for fall.

Which door did she slip in, in her torn fishnet stockings and faux leather skirt, brown, her mascara falsely applied, her vacant blouse in need of hitching. She was not the usual member of the band, not the girl nextdoor, not next to any door, not a regular housekeeper or woman. She was a ditch digger, a pied, circular piper, a mouse hugger.

I took her to be the last of her generation. She seemed drunk without eating. She seemed ashamed without sin. She seemed cursed without a family. She seemed as though she had planned a porkchop for the boys and girls of Tallahassee. She seemed to believe that she had roped a strong pony. In the first movement her dance looked lonely and lame. Then she got up on the stage and tried to kiss the front man. He didn’t want to kiss her at first, but when he did, something magical happened, something tender.

She got down off the stage and put down her riding crop. She started loving the air. She started singing in her voices. She started dancing. She whistled a bar of Dixie then she sallied north. She swiveled her legs and her arms, looking much like a 44-year-old rodeo worker on the floor at Christopher’s, but she was at the Turfside.

Everyone wanted to dance with her, a face she well knew, but that did not seem to be the reason to dance for her. She danced, it seemed, so that others would dance, too, and they did.

(1999; published in Poetic Inhalation in February 2005.)

Almanac, short story

Marcy called on the abortion day. She had been reading from Source Almanac.

"Wisconsin produces more beer and brandy than any place, and furthermore, Milwaukee is a better city than Minneapolis, in all areas except one thing ... "

"The police force," I said. "Milwaukee police beat people like Philadelphia police beat people and bomb people."

"And of the ten cities with most bars per capita, Wisconsin has six of them."

Then I knew that four years at college, beer with Marcy and everyone we met may not have been normal. It had been a way to meet lonely people who were secretly brilliant and unfit to live how they must in this place.

I said, "Marcy, Source Almanac is a guide for the Apple."

In Moscow there are oxygen tanks on the street because everyone drinks too much, like here, like Wisconsin. Maybe the students can’t move from within.

I thought then of Robert, who was brilliant and spoke pure poetry, of how we met the only time in a bar and I loved him. He said, "Kill or be killed," and he yelled at me because I couldn’t shoot a gun.

I said, "Robert, I thought you were in mathematics."

And he said, "Turnip, you little nothing sassy, kill or be killed."

Then the other guys, who had been to Vietnam, too, said, "Robert, sit down."

(First written in 1985; published in Poetic Inhalation in February 2005.)

Wild Bore Harley

A reader in Michigan landed at my weblog by searching "wild bore harley." Most of my visitors are looking for the real actress, Ann-Margret. When I was five, my grandmother (Hazel Peterson), introduced me to a tall auburn-haired woman who had my same name. She and Laverne were Grandma's cousins, she said. Well, I didn't know an actress had my same name, so I would not have understood that this might be she. If it was she, indeed, then it never was mentioned again. I did like red hair after that and picked for my Barbie doll the red-haired one named Stacy.

Ann-Margret (Olsson)'s people are Swedes from Chicago, and we are Swedes from Minnesota. Her mother was the Folger's coffee lady on television. If we are related, I got my good old legs from her.

Once I walked up our street, Thomas Avenue, to the house at the top of the hill, where I had heard that Bee Bee Shoppe had grown up. Bee Bee Shoppe had been a Miss America. I was five. I asked the mother who answered the door about Bee Bee Shoppe's success. "Margaret Anne," she said, "Margaret Anne," go home. Well, that's not my name, I told her. Another time, I made entrance to their living room, and Mrs. Shoppe and her mother sat with me for a quiet time with our hands folded.

I moved back to Minnesota from Houston on May 24, 1996, ten years ago.

Ode to Coffee

Hyllningsdikt Till Kaffet

Of all the good things that one consumes,
among all the worldly drinks,
the coffee sip is the very best.
It disperses the whims of men,
it fortifies the body and quickens the mind.
One feels it from the head down to the heel.


When fall comes with wind and snow,
when spring begins its rains,
then one becomes bleak and dull.
All one wants to do is to sleep and quibble.
Yes, one's whole body is out of sorts,
but then ... there is health in the coffee cup!


When the wife has lost her beloved husband
and sits alone with the debts,
she bitterly mourns her twofold plight
but puts the coffee pot on the fire.
And when the coffee is clear she leaves the bier
and gets strength in a sip of coffee.


When the latest news be gathered in
from the city's hundred sources,
at a small nice party
one would see one's friends and intimates.
At the coffee table one does the very best
gossiping about the neighbors.


One would suck her lump of sugar with the coffee,
another would love to dip the bread,
meanwhile talking with such force
that the ears ought to be plugged.
Just as the drums roar at an army camp
the tongues clamor at the conference.


Without coffee--oh, heavenly drink,
what would human life be!
All the news not yet in print
stands written in the bottom of the pot:
Because after the last drop is gone
life's riddles are "solved" in the coffee grounds!


From Of Swedish Ways by Lilly Lorenzen, illustrated by Dick Sutphen, Gilbert Publishing Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1964.