Below is Part 6 of 23 monthly installments for Visitant.
In the Pink
Bonjour! Her cotton candy coif fluffy as a Marie Antoinette wig, Agnes feels pretty again in chiffon from the Goodwill. Despite the return of bluebirds to City Park, she decides to boycott Bastille Day, locally known as Citizens Annual Art Walk…paint by numbers, follow the dots into the plein air.
Let bureaucrats take a park walk, eat cupcakes, fall off the edge of their Flat Earth.
Agnes hikes up her ball gown, rolls on long yellow latex gloves, and gently pokes her new purchases, two bagged fish, finny color accents. She names the larger one Zenobia for the golden desert queen and the paler one Palmyra for the city of hand-carved columns. Their realms were the envy of the Ancient World and two-bit Caesars, jealous grab-beards.
Glad to be Today’s Woman, Agnes adjusts the bubbler on the side of the aquarium and watches Zen and Pal explore the pile of broken mug handles. The rhythmic pulsation of their brilliant red gills is astounding. Who would have guessed that much oxygen is dissolved in water, ordinary tap water, our own body of mostly water. What else can’t we see?
Knock, knock. Snoopy landlord slips a notice under the door.
No, not pets, Agnes insists. Window Dots, she writes on the paper, to match my socks. Refusing to open the door, she slides the note back to him.
Mister, mister, watch your blister, sings Agnes. Don’t you trip on those nose hairs.
She loves hurling abuse at Fungus Fingers, grinding his rusty teeth (what’s left of them) to let you know he’s out there. Trying to spoil the birthday surprise she’s planned for Bea. Hey, why else would she be wearing a yellow chiffon ball gown?
She ponders the menu. Lemon chiffon cake to match her dress, maybe with pink icing, forty-four pastel candles. Naa, skip the candles. On second thought, skip the cake, too bourgeois. She’ll wow Bea and company with Baked Alaska. Too bad nurse Jena’s on call.
Guests, florist Tom and partner Tim arrive early with a tall bouquet of lavender larkspurs, hairy anthers intact.
Thanks, guys, says Agnes, admiring the floral spikes. She’ll love them.
Tom fusses with the bow and noisy cellophane. Agnes hands him a filled vase, and he pours in the powdered plant food. We should drink this elixir, he jokes.
Agnes notices Tom, always cheerful, is thinner, wan almost as see-through as Palmyra’s tail spot.
What’s with the rockslide? asks Tim, eyeing the floor-to-ceiling heap of stones.
Phon-a-Stone, my cottage industry, replies Agnes. For tax purposes, I have registered an alias, Alice Texas.
So, Tex, where’s your lasso? jokes Tim, impressed with her haul.
Alice, Agnes explains, gleans a museum gift-shop supply house and reworks the culls as body jewelry, birthstones. Just a phone call away.
Thud, thud. They hear Bea coming up the stairs. She’s loudly counting 1 to 44 just in case they have forgotten the occasion.
Agnes signals, and Tom throws open the door.
Surprise, they yell. Happy Birthday Bea! Hugs all around.
Agnes wastes no time fastening Bea’s gift, a stone-studded sash. (Snug, but, whew, fits.)
Bet you guys don’t know birthstones are a Polish tradition, she calls from the kitchenette. No one is listening, but Agnes rehearses the Phon-a-Stone machine message. She slides the Baked Alaska on a tray, anoints the mound with brandy, and strikes a match.
For an instant, flames climb the surface like blue-throated vultures. TN barks. Her guests gasp, then clap with glee and dive in.
Standing back, Agnes sees their laughing faces through the crinkled cellophane. Creases stripe their cheeks. Purple deadens their lips and eyes. Horrified, Agnes pulls the wrapper from the larkspurs. Replacing the bow, she joins the fun.
Bea loves her rock belt, and Agnes explains the stones one by one. Pearls, for happiness, are dewdrops from heaven. The four-fold phases of moonstone harken confidence, balance, passion, joy. Rare alexandrite, chrysoberyl, shares the uncommon green of the Czarina’s eye.
Raising their glasses to happy returns, the four friends toast Bea, each other, and the new window dots.
Outside, tourmaline skies smile over pallid summer airs. Fishbowl bliss. Rule on Zenobia! Prosper Palmyra!
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