Friday, April 30, 2010
It Was a Dark and Stormy Morning
Facebook is my grown-up playground where, in the comfort of my home, I meet friends old and new to share information, tell stories about our lives, and generally have a good time. These encounters are, by turn, fun, interesting, and sad; sometimes maddening; often poignant; and on many occasions have made me roar with laughter.
Today I am here to share with you, dear listener, one of my very favorite Facebook experiences. My dear friend Matthew posted a single, simple sentence that elicited a string of exchanges among him, his friend Bill, and me that I believe is worthy of the Bulwer-Lytton award for worst fiction.
It was a dark and stormy morning.
The count stepped from the shadows of the dripping jacaranda bush and softly scratched at the window. “Lucie, let me in,” he murmured. “It’s dark and stormy out here, and I’m workin’ up a powerful thirst ...”
Lucie knew better than to respond. Letting him in would mean tea and sympathy—and not the fun kind, either. That man would drink cup after cup of tea and would spend the better part of the morning enumerating in minute detail all the wrongs the world had inflicted upon him. Then he would make a sloppy, fumbling pass at her, mistaking her boredom for interest. No, she would not be a guest at that pity party again. Slowly, slowly she pulled the curtains shut thinking, “I really must trim the jacaranda once this rain lets up.”
The first twitch of the curtains gave the count hope, but no. He was staring through the misted pane at the wrong side of the gingham print. “English Breakfast!” he cursed under his breath. He thought of the hot life-giving liquid, of her deft handling of pot and cup, and of the way she had silently mopped up beneath his feet when he had become overly excited telling one of his anecdotes about the drainage of the back pasture. Only she understood. She would listen with head in hand, her eyes shifting now and then to the kitchen clock. She would wordlessly refill his cup and fetch crumpets from the toaster. The thought of her crumpets nearly unmanned him. “Lucie,” he choked. Was this self-pity? Well what if it was? If Lucie was denying her sympathy he would go DIY. “Come, Bruno,” he called peremptorily. The count’s pet tapir reluctantly detached himself from his snack and fell in step, stems from the jacaranda leaves protruding from his expressive snout.
The count had scarcely turned away from the now gingham-framed window when the skies opened, thunder rolled, lightning flashed, and water drops the size of English Breakfast tea bags lashed his face. He only had time to wonder why the rolling thunder preceded the lightning flash before he was as waterlogged as one of Noah’s friends who never made it into the ark. He glanced back at the jacaranda bush. He considered taking shelter there again, as he had so many mornings, and evenings, and even noon times and high tea. He had shed many tears under that bush. But then Bruno caught his eye, and something in the tapir’s glance gave him strength. “I will never seek solace beneath those bright purple flowers again,” he said. “Farewell, Lucie. May your charms be loosed on better men.” He set his face toward the road and forced his legs to move. Bruno sighed, shook the water from his coat, and slogged after him.
The jacaranda bush never blossomed so beautifully again, for having kept the count company under its branches those many hours, Bruno’s final leaving was the end of his leavings.
Key: Matthew Bell—Bill Svelmoe—Elizabeth Van Jacob