Jackson and the Fairy Godmothers
Last BS. Mind the date – we’re now 7 months downstream from that distracted Valentine’s Day
Late August 1978 / Alix and Amanda Morisé’s home
Jackson had never been in Alix and Amanda Morisé’s home. Deanna had been a frequent guest, for the obvious reasons. Her parents, even his mom and dad. But not him. For a couple of women with all their money he’d sort of expected the Casbah. A teenage boy’s vision of a flying carpet and hookah laden tart’s palace. What he got was just over four-thousand square feet laid out in a horseshoe around a center courtyard with a small pool, fountain and badass built-in grill. No exotic furniture or fancy Chinese looking vases, though. Spartan was the word he found to describe it. The big dining room table was “mid-century modern impressive.” In the “receiving room” there were tons of pictures of politicians and big shot businessmen and women, some people in academic robes, some scenic vineyards. A larger copy of the Bridge of Sighs picture with Amanda and Alix. Same size and next to it was picture of a big man with a cigar in his teeth and a beer can smothered by his hand who had a little girl in a crooked ball cap sitting on his leg. She looked a lot like a younger tomboy version of the swishy silk pants and blouse tomboy who’d let him in.
The whole place, from what he could see, was spotless. White carpet, marble, oriental rugs, indirect light and some art hanging in just the right places on the walls. Not a lot of knick-knacks. Pretty obvious they didn’t have a big, slobbery dog, or anyone like him making plaster palm prints and buying them Lady and the Tramp salt and pepper shakers for Mother’s Day. Every year.
Amanda let him wander before she ushered him into a large room with a wall length gray brick fireplace, the adjoining wall glass from the ceiling to a foot from the floor and looked into the courtyard. Alix was sitting on her feet in an over-sized tweedy chair off to one side, reading. She set her book down when Amanda moved him into the room with not quite a shove.
“It’s not a library or a museum, Jailbait, we live here. Please, sit anywhere you like.”
He wanted to ask if Alix’s lap was in that option anywhere, checked it. “The fireplace. When it’s cold do you like burn telephone poles in there, or what?”
Alix’s light, musical laugh floated through the room. “You have come as the entertainment most refreshing on a summer’s eve, my love? If such, we find you a most welcome relief.”
“Alix, don’t encourage him.” Amanda poured herself a glass of white wine from a bottle sweating in a sterling ice bucket on the marble topped end table, reloaded the glass Alix extended.
“For your information, we burn smart ass twenty-year old males in that fireplace. They don’t burn bright, or hot, and they smell like burnt hair. But they’re plentiful and disposable and most of them will never be missed. Jailbait, sit.”
He found a spot on the angular white linen L sectional, sat. Amanda leaned over from behind him, her cheek almost next to his, hair brushing his face. The faint scent of her perfume did its pirates and flying carpets number on him, her voice low and from somewhere far away.
“My shaggy young friend, this conversation is between you,” her clear, polished nail tipped index finger rose up from behind him and pointed across the room, “Alix…and me. No one else is here, no one else is listening, nothing leaves this room.” He could almost feel her breath heat up before the panther-ish growl dripped into his ear. “What. The hell. Is going on?”
“Whoa, that’s loaded.” He knew what she wanted, but he had to play her some or she’d think he was an impostor. “Let’s see, I played a pickup gig last weekend at this hooker dive off old 66 out by the lake. Glenn and I played with the girl who’s almost a dentist up in the Tower on Saturday. Good money, expensive food, dull crowd. My day job wrapped with the last brick in the wall on Wednesday. School starts in a couple of —”
“Don’t play with me, Jailbait.” She turned up the growl but not the volume in her panther. “What the hell is going on with Deanna?”
“Oh…That what the hell.” He leaned to the side, turned so they could glare at each other. “You want a run down on all her ‘Look at me I’m Golden’ trips? Or how she can’t listen, or how we have to get so pissed off at each other for her to go do y’all’s fucking presentations that I broke a refrigerator door last time she left? Or about how many hours her highness can take in summer and bust on all of us for not having time to cater her every wish because we have work we have to do? That sort of what the hell is going on?” His eyes followed her around the sectional, watched as she deposited her wine glass on the long marble top coffee table and sat beside him, only on the edge of the seat so she could face him and take up their glaring where they’d left off.
“You know all that shit, Amanda. She’s doing it to you and Alix and Stacey. And Amber and Bev as much as they’re involved. She bitched Bev down with ‘What the fuck is up with no first class’ last week when all she was doing was a turn-around getting her ass kissed at some girl’s boarding school in Connecticut. For being an ‘exemplary young woman’ and a ‘role model’. Those people don’t know her at all and are buying into y’all’s and Stacey’s eight by ten color glossy promo bullshit.”
He collected for a few, pointed to the shelf that ran along the top of the fireplace to an 8×10 framed picture of Deanna and Amanda at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. “Deanna’s an ex daring young feminist who doesn’t give a damn anymore. She’d rather be partying with politician’s aides and scuba instructors and antique perv ski jocks than being who she started out to be. So don’t ask me what the hell is up with Deanna. Ask her.”
“I have. She gives me the same ‘Oh, nothing Amanda,’ she always does. I thought you might be able to enlighten us since she sleeps with you every night.”
“That’s on the jive side of nowhere. She’s useless as a girlfriend anymore. Last week I kicked her out the door with her laundry basket, told her not to bother. I can watch TV and eat stale pies and ice cream without a silent, dead fish shadow.”
“And?” Amanda didn’t sip or slurp or slam wine but she made a half glass disappear without taking her eyes off him.
“She’s sitting on my couch the next afternoon like nothing happened. Hasn’t got anything to say when I ask her what’s up. She says we’ll get back into “talking” for her presentation in early October, I tell her that’s not what we need to talk about and she clams up tighter. She doesn’t care about anything but as many credit hours as she can cram into a semester. I’ll get her through the next presentation when it’s due, but I have some personal shit to figure. Shit I need to have figured by next spring, that she won’t talk about.”
Amanda’s wine glass silently returned to the marble. “What I see is a steady decline in desire for the project. She’s no longer motivated to be an instigator of change. She was doing a spectacular job, and she’s still doing well. But it’s as if she wants to see how close she can come to blowing it, and then smug that she pulled it off.”
“You guys don’t see it? Damn, Amanda, four years ago when I came to see you in the sleet at ‘Beard’s, she was scared of her own shadow and pissed off. The four high school presentations she did and the first one her freshman year were about how pissed off she was. For herself, and for you. I think back in cheerleader and jock time maybe one of those guys really raped her and she just buried it like she does everything, and these debate presentation doo-dahs were her way of getting rid of it. When you and Alix and Stacey tried to get her to ‘widen her vision to include all women’ it diluted her. When she stopped everything after last Christmas and you guys had to start writing for her? Fuck that. Stage mommin’ that has been as much fun as playing twister with a colorblind nun.”
“You seriously believe she became intoxicated with her success based on her own experience, essentially exploiting herself, and me, and when we attempted to change course she lost interest? Because she was no longer personally invested?”
“That’s my guess, but I have no idea who she is anymore. I take her abuse for her presentations, feed her, do her laundry, put gas in her car. Because she’d starve, fuck up and turn all of our clothes pink and run out of gas on the interstate if I didn’t. When she was Deanna it was okay. Because she’s addictively smart, doesn’t know she’s stop and stare hot, she’s sexy as hell when nobody’s looking, and she had a sideways eye about things that was a gas. I mean she’s perfect when she’s herself, even if she’ll never get me or what I do. I’ve learned a lot from her and I loved the girl that’s gone and no shit really hated the Morisé monster she became. And whoever she is now in this mopey, dopey silent movie of herself she’s throwing down is beyond useless for anything but a high GPA on a hundred and fifty percent load.”
The “Hmm” was way back in Amanda’s throat and nearly silent.
Catlike, Alix unwound from her chair, collected Amanda’s wineglass, hinted acknowledgment of the picture window and the gathering clouds. “For the Little Jewel of Morisé we wish to know such as we may know of the weather, oui? Predictions, I think, most impossible. The heat of summer oppresses, as she feels. Cool breezes, cleansing rain, the colors of spring…Seasons away. As such a return of the Little Jewel.” She sniffed as lightly as she had hinted at the window. “Ten minutes, my loves.”
Amanda waited, let the room settle while they both watched Alix vanish down the hall.
“Tell me, did you ever learn to drink wine when you were the early evening fern bar piano player of choice around here?”
“Yeah, white. Unless it’s sweet or face sucking dry. I can drink a beer with almost anything, if you’ve got one.”
“We have white wine, that is neither sweet or dry. And beer. Beer, however, is a plebeian choice in the face of Alix’s leftovers. Cold lamb and dill sauce, reheated French green beans with bacon, possibly re-roasted rosemary potatoes and a small salad. Always the small salad.” She stood, offered him her hand. “Join us. Tell us who you want to be in all of this, what your problems are that need to be addressed by spring. Tell us more about Deanna’s secrecy. Tell us how you feel about all of it. And relax. You’ve been sitting like you’re in church.”
“I was an altar boy in grade school. I can sit like this for over an hour. And cold lamb, dill sauce? Jeez, Amanda, I’m not —”
“Oh for Christ’s sake, Jailbait. Pretend you’re an adult for an evening, we won’t tell anyone. You can go back to hand food tomorrow.”