Below is an introduction to the serialized novella, The Jill Hill by Charlotte M. Porter in 16 monthly installments for Visitant beginning Thursday, September 5th.
The Jill Hill
In 1963, I, Dot Motley, then an adolescent, boarded an overnight train for New York City and, the next day, stood in line at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view the Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting of La Gioconda. Wearing ugly patent-leather flats, I stood in line over two hours to view the portrait for, whoosh, fifteen seconds before armed guards pushed me along. The picture, I realized, is veneer, foreground smiling in your face. We the People—gawkers, groupies, and art experts—are the middle ground, outside the picture. Plump La Gioconda cannot turn around and view the dreamy green background behind her—a terrain of eroded cliffs and valleys inside Leonardo’s brain.
These days, I’m still in line, slightly smiling like Mona and waiting for The U. S. Constitution to kick in. Pursuing happiness, I’ve had to settle for the Declaration of Independence. And, yes, I’m often nudged, jostled, pushed along. Patience does not keep pace with age. I cope with little helpers—task-specific polka dots, periwigs, and eye glasses in frames sturdy as masonry arches. Recently, I wallpapered the area around my kitchen sink with The Bill of Rights, food for thought on rainy days.
Queues are my career. In my world, the night sky has two slipper moons, one for each tired foot. In botanical company, I can pass for a cactus or rubber plant, but water presents a challenge. Like nursery rhyme Jill, I spill the pail as I tumble down the hill. Bear with me. Verse helps me rebalance.
Okay, I, Dot Motley, also bluff. Beside bruised fanny, my memento mori, reminder of death, is not a skull, but a skull-catcher, a hat I wear as weathervane. Too chicken for shortcuts to nowhere, I’m in line, noising off. Hear me out.
► First Installment | Brainwash: Well-Water Primer