Below is Part 12 of 23 monthly installments for Visitant.
For New Year’s Eve, Agnes Person has dyed the back of her hair black as India ink. She would dissolve in the dead of night, but for her curls, unruly as pie-free blackbirds. At this late hour, she wastes no time. From house to house, rounds of Auld Lang Syne compete for ear-time. Agnes fears Jena’s wellness party for Tim’s partner Tom is winding down.
Agnes raises a sword against the darkness. Truth test! she calls out, and strides the twenty-three paces from curb to front door in full Macedonian dress.
Open Sesame, her stern command.
Tim, rising, blanches as a polished scimitar blade slides down the front jamb.
Agnes Person, a disappointed Jena quickly assures him.
Sam would have preferred a midnight prowler armed to the teeth.
Party crasher, thinks Bea, icing another magnum of champagne. Old acquaintance should be forgot.
Agnes materializes from the outer air. Bea eyes the billowy striped pantaloons, beaded sash, and pointed curved shoes with bells. Lovely costume, she admits to herself, but what’s with the patches of hair held down by staples and paperclips?
Agnes spreads a gift sack of uncut birthstones on the hallway table. Reading Bea’s mind, she declares that, no, she hasn’t had the head fix urged by many, and, yes, she is rerouting her part — a challenge given her ample mop, baled twice a year for Fight Children’s Cancer.
Bea has long forgiven Agnes her antics, even the puppies. TN being a neutered male, the litter was a biological impossibility. And too cute. Why, just look at perky little Roscoe and Jena’s clever Mister Bosco, adorable tonight in matching bows and party hats.
How’s Tom? Agnes asks in a lowered voice as she sorts through Jena’s basket of holiday mail.
Bea signals so-so, and Agnes separates family newsletters and Season’s Greetings from museum gift-shop cards printed in the Netherlands.
Fat Giotto sure had the touch, she remarks, and Fra Angelico’s angel shapes are truly divine against that scrumptious gold background.
The others? asks Bea, favoring office-friendly crossed candy canes, hearth stockings, English holly.
Bactrian, says Agnes, dismissing a big stack. Too many career humps. But what if three dudes and a royal dromedary showed at Day’s Inn looking for a miracle, a cure for AIDS?
Politically Incorrect, Jena interrupts, gathering the cards.
Agreed, but we all wish on stars, don’t we?
Good hostess Jena drops her eyes, hoping for rescue by a guest in need of a spoon.
Everybody, Agnes calls, prancing into the front room. Time for more bubbly.
SquEEak, Pop, Zoom!
The cork whizzes past the enormous pink poinsettia and tray of home-made bresitella, knotted Italian pretzels, gifts from Tim and Tom.
Happy New Year! toasts Agnes, patting the scimitar sheathed at her side.
Hear, hear, the group replies, clinking glasses to Macedonia’s future glory. Darling Roscoe and Mister Bosco make the rounds for cheese bits. Left out, TN scratches at the door.
Just this once, insists Sam, kinder than he lets on. He opens the side door, whistles for TN, tonight carrying a little brandy keg attached to his collar.
For the bends in suburbia, Agnes explains.
More laughter. Tim toasts the medic dog of Macedonia…birthplace of Mother Teresa, Agnes informs the happy party, and spins on her tiptoes in her beautiful attire.
Bea waves her arms in airy angel shapes. Tom hugs Tim. Bea blows confetti. Dogs, large and small, croon like a barbershop quartet minus one. Sam shakes two cups of crushed ice flamenco-style. Jena claps and moves to the beat.
Moments like these, she thinks, you have to love Agnes. In a life game called Tree Line, Agnes is the one who risks altitude, thin air. Odd rhymes and faux pas serve her as Start.
Ready for the New Year, Hon? asks Sam, kissing his tired wife on the forehead.
Is the New Year ready for Agnes? Jena wonders, remembering Bea’s gag: Come End Time, have Agnes drive the bus.
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