Stories Page 4




MY BROTHER ROY IN THE UNDERWORLD

        by Nadine Gallo




My brother had four instruments. He practiced them faithfully,  usually the same few notes until he got them right. I wouldn't  complain because he was bigger and older than I was and I understood  the nature of futility at an early age.

His room door was shut, but the sound came through the walls and the  cracks between the woodwork, the light switches, anywhere that a bug  could crawl through.

It was strange to listen to the first few bars of a Glenn Miller song  over and over. The words to the song repeated themselves in my mind  along with the sounds from Roy's clarinet.

Did you ever see a...

Did you ever see..

Did you ever see a dream..

Did you ever see a dream--walkin?

Well, I did...

The endless cycle of interrupted melodies nearly drove me crazy but  it taught me something. Patience. If you wait long enough, the music  will be concluded and everyone can go home. I, of course, was already  home. I was my brother's prisoner unless I chose to leave my room and  abandon my homework or whatever else I was doing at the time.

Pardon me boys, is that...

Pardon me boys, is that the Pennsylvania Station? Silence. Must be  scratching or blowing his nose. Come on--track twenty-nine. Get on  with it. Quarter to nine. Chattanooga Choo-choo. More silence. I go  into his room. He's on the floor, twitching. I'm the only one home.  What am I supposed to do? I move the clarinet away from his face. If  our mother was home, she would know what to do. She'd put a ruler in  his mouth so he wouldn't bite his tongue. I don't know what to do so  I sing. “Dinner in a diner, nothin’ could be finer than to have your  ham and eggs in Carolina. Pardon me boys, is that the Chattanooga  choo-choo on track twenty-nine?

He starts to open his eyes and get quiet. He gets up.

"You  o.k.?” I ask.

He wonders why he's on the floor, I guess. I help him to get up, even  though I am scared.

I hand him the clarinet. He takes it, a blank look on his face.

"You want a glass of water?" I ask.

"Sure."

I get him a glass of water. He drinks it. Then he touches the sheet  music to make sure it's where it's supposed to be. He doesn't seem to  know what happened.

He finishes the song.


I go back to my room. I listen. I hear oboe sounds. Orpheus in the  Underworld . There are no words to this. I've heard it before. He  plays the solo in his high school orchestra.

Roy in the underworld. He knows all about it.

 

 

Bio: Nadine Gallo writes poetry, short stories, essays and novels.  Greensilkjournal, Wolf Moon Journal, writerseyemagazine, Boston  Literary, Journal of Irreproducible Results, (JIR), have published  her work. Two finished novels are being considered by Random House,  U.K. and an agent in New York City. She also makes quilts.

 

The Bride to Beat

       by Mary Lamphere


As the organ started to play “The Wedding March,” I turned and saw that bitch in taffeta gaining on me. “Argh,” I growled and pushed myself to my last physical level. Breathing through gritted teeth, my hair matted and stringy in a hurricane inspired upsweep, I pumped my arms harder, willing my legs to do the same. After three days of grueling competition, I was not about to yield my lead. Hearing the music, I knew I was in the final stretch of this beastly bridal battle.

 

“Taffeta?” I thought with a smirk, sneaking a glance downward at the dress I’d chosen for competition. It had been a comfortable off-white A-line, tea length satin number, selected for grace, agility and movement. Now it was a tattered mess. I had dressed for the race. A lot of contestants preferred dresses that were “pretty” or flattered their figures -- for the television viewing audience, of course. I had long forgotten about the cameras, the cheering bystanders, and my appearance. I had my eye on the prize, my Dream Wedding. I was so close I could taste it. Or maybe that was just the remnants of icing slicked to the roof of my mouth from the cake frosting portion of the race.


The click, click of heels on pavement lulled me into a comfortable rhythm. My mind receded over the past few days. It was hard to believe all I had endured, physically and mentally, in less than 72 hours. “What a great opportunity for you,” I heard my mother’s voice in my head, teased nasal by my mood. “You are such a great competitor,” she continued, “You know your Dad and I would love to pay for your wedding, but well, with Daddy’s gambling debts…” I shook my head to snap off the inner loop.

 

To be fair, I had thought it sounded kind of fun, too. Reality TV for me. Three days in tropical Hawaii, all expenses paid, food, fun, adventure -- all with a wedding theme! And the Grand Prize was a “Dream Wedding”. Seeing as I had been researching (and saving up for) the perfect wedding for closing in on three years, I couldn’t fail! I wouldn’t fail. My mother was right, I am competitive.


I believe my research paid off. After selecting an outfit and shoes, which were to be worn for the duration of the 3 day event, including the mandatory six hour recoup times from 11 pm to 5 am, the first trial was to order flowers for sixty 10-person round tables. There were a variety of breeds and displays available and the top 50% of contestants closest to, but not over, the budget price of $1800 continued onto the next round. At $1794.89, I not only set the tables, I set the bar. Over three hundred women were cut. Those calla lilies will get you every time.


The next test consisted of hand addressing 600 invitations. I did not know I was ambidextrous until envelope 409. We were judged on speed as well as overall legibility, because, it was stressed, “Your guests need to believe that this is a special day for them as well as you”. I was not as ‘first’ as I like to be, but I was far from the bottom forty percent, to whom we said good-bye.


To rest our swollen hands, the next task was “easy”. Or not. In the tradition of wedding pictures, we were all to strike a pose and hold it. That was it. That was hard. I distracted myself with childhood memories and pretended I was playing ‘statue tag‘. I out-stood all but four ladies. And we were down to the final 100 candidates.


This is where it got tricky. Tediously, we had to color coordinate a seating chart for 600 that took into consideration that blues hated reds and yellows had slept with greens in college. I never thought I’d be thankful for having a family full of reds and blues, and honestly, I’m not, but it certainly helped with this task.


Between missions, we were a parade of formally clad gals traipsing from one locale to another. Through fields and meadows, over gravel, pavement and wood chips, all the time heads held high, alternating between showcasing the left hand clad with a garish display of gem and plastic fitted snuggly over thousands of dollars of engagement rings or waving politely to our admirers with a dainty right hand.


Several other tasks came and went, and I survived each one. I am not sure which I detested more, the climbing of 300 stairs in heels, or the descending of 300 stairs in heels. Thankfully the congealing blood from my ruined feet created an effective adhesive.

 

 

Our numbers were dwindling quickly. Having to style our two-day dirty hair with only a pencil and twisty ties was quite a feat. By the time we got to the three-layer cake that was to be frosted with real icing solely using our tongues, I was one of only 20 women left.

 

 

And now, as I dashed “to catch my plane to paradise”, with a 22 lb. carry-on strapped to my back, I realized just how close I was to winning.


A loud crack and piercing expletive-laced scream jolted me from my reverie. I looked back to see my nearest competition sprawled on the blacktop, her foot jutting at an angle foreign to her ankle. It seems Ms. Taffeta will be hobbling down the aisle in her non-dream wedding.


The “Wedding March” continued to play as I approached the tulle decorated Bridal Aisle. I was so tired… bruised, battered, and dirty. And then I saw my fiancé. With a sudden surge of love inspired energy, I crossed the line and collapsed into his waiting arms.


The cameras circled us, the crowd tossed streamers; buzzing with excitement and cheers. The host interrupted our embrace to congratulate me and enthusiastically ask, “You’ve just become America’s Bride to Beat, what are you going to do now?”


With a contented smile I sigh, “Elope.”

 

 

 

Bio: Mary Lamphere suffers from Creative Attention Deficit Disorder. A CADD since toddlerhood, she has dabbled in many media, even occassionally completing an artistic piece before moving on to he next. With the help of a writer's group in her hometown, she is hoping to overcome her disability and write a complete novel.