Category Archives: prose

Bare Feet.

CHAPTER 42.

Surely he could feel the peeling, dead skin on her heels.

His hands, wide and thick, had never reached for her feet before and, to her, the nearly thirty minutes of gentle massage seemed out of character; generally self absorbed, he would more typically nestle, head in her lap, whenever they would share the couch.

His sofa was leather, and lacking in any spinal support; hers, much cheaper kettlecloth, had the firmest foam rubber money could buy – a lesson from the faux suede Oxford grey which had slept herself and so many from ’86 to ’99, its cushions heavenly soft until morning told the aching tale.

She was surprised the old faux grey had remained, after the divorce. Its presence had become a nagging reminder, not of waking lower back pain but of the curious ritual which would stain it thereafter.

Her mother in law’s visit, while uninvited, had been endured as part of a special delivery; she’d found them the perfect dining room table with six cained chairs and completed the compulsion by dismantling and packing the entire set, piece by piece, into the back of the Isuzu for the nearly eight hour trip from Vermont in time for her son’s birthday. Their inextricable bond was soon confirmed when, hardly twenty minutes after unload and assembly, the two of them settled onto the sofa for what had become a familiar session of mutual foot rubbing. Baring their feet, each took turns providing the other massage, oblivious of the intrusive third party who actually owned the house and all furnishings already found therein.

Decades hence, the old grey’s frame moved to the curb and only a cushion or two salvaged for floor seating in the loft, its Carolinian love seat substitute since replaced by her current, scarlet red she’d learned to recognize ritual behavior. Now, her own feet in the hands of one living out his own subconscious fantasy, she’d felt like an object – not of affection, but of surrogate need. The same one with whom he so vitally had to meet earlier that very day, herself worthy of his deceit, had been described by another, who knew, to enjoy end of day, hour long foot massage; as such, he’d spent the beginning of his first hours of official retirement in search of her company. Only a global viral pandemic could stand between his hands and her feet. The one already exposed would have to serve, instead.

No more romancing, real or imagined, in this house. Self preservation was Job #1.

She was by herself, at home today. Leaning forward on the firm foam rubber, she stood. The house had plenty to say, were walls and hardwood floors to talk. Time for her lone, bare feet to add their prints to the story.

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© 3/26/20     Ruth Ann Scanzillo         All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part or whole or reconstituted alteration, allowed.  Sharing permitted only by permission of the author. Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

The Sweet Thanksgiving.

 

The brisk breezes would stir the “whisker” tree’s fist sized tumbleweeds, scattering them between our feet as we scrambled up the steps and took the path between the rock gardens to the front porch at Mammy’s house. In summer we’d take the lazier, flat wide stone walkway from the drive, parallel the porch, the potted geraniums and succulents snuggled side by side along its railing under the broad, royal blue canvas awning flapping in the wind. From that side path, we could almost look Mammy in the eye, cushioned into her steel porch rocker in the far corner awaiting our appearance, smile alight.

But, come fall, we’d hasten past the battened down and molting toward the warm yellow light framed by the front door, halfway up the porch already hearing Aunt Martha’s belly and Pappy’s booming laugh, rising out of the maelstrom of chattering chaos already testing the outer walls of the entire house. Grasping the round, brass doorknob, and leaning into the glass paneled hardwood, we’d push and burst through, hardly noticed by the throng until one face turned and then Pappy, arms above his head, hands curled from hard work, roared out his raging welcome and everyone except the aunts who never stopped talking turning then to gather yet another of us into their arms.

Kicking the snow from our overshoes onto the multilayered hooked rugs, we’d stack them and take the short diagonal between the twin bookcases past the round oak dining room table and the African violets in the east window through to the kitchen, passing the ceramic cookie jar setting our paperbagged salad fixings carefully on the kitchen-turned- server table next to the apple, mincemeat, pumpkin, and rhubarb pies, where Mammy stood over the stove in her rick rack trimmed cotton apron, stirring a pot of gravy with a wooden spoon, the pressure cooker’s indicator bobbling and sputtering over the back burner like a steam train waiting in the station. All the aunts took their wide hipped turns in the kitchen, two of them diligent about the food and the other two appearing to inspect and taste test, the youngest with a wink toward a niece or nephew as she licked her finger.

Pappy was loud, and three of his four son in laws quiet, each quick with a joke or a witty comeback, Uncle Frank sitting with a closed eyed smile, Dad who was called Uncle Tony with his hands in his belt, napping already in the only scene where he would not command the center of attention, Uncle Bud standing tall near a corner already giggling through a long, spun yarn for the home movie camera, and Uncle George, egging Pappy on with his bright, Irish bell tenor.

We grandchildren were fifteen in all, the firstborn Alan, a brilliant artist and pianist, rarely able to come home anymore being married in Michigan, his four other siblings Philip, Lydia, Lois and Frannie often present, living only two doors down, the elder girls wearing their engagement rings dressed in wool sweaters and straight skirts and pointed pumps, Frannie in keeping with her other, younger counterparts in winter wear warm enough for playing outside if there were enough snow later. Then, cousin Bonnie and half brothers Butch and David from Lawrence Park because Uncle Bud worked at GE, and me and my two brothers, Nathan and Paul, having walked from around the corner and across the street and, finally, our four cousins from Ohio, Becky, Beth, Timmy and Kathy, the latter two with flaming red hair. Being either the first or last to arrive, once all were in house the card table would come out, and the floral painted linens, we among the smallest cousins relegated to the workroom where the rugs were braided and the clothes sewn and the toybox waited and, while the piano took turns being played and songs chosen for singing, the family like a choir from an old country church, Pappy the only tone deaf voice among them, the potatoes were mashed, the boiled bacon drippings poured over the salad, the parsnips and rutabaga and peas and Lima beans and corn ladeled into their divided serving dishes, the silver plated forks knives and spoons set on each soft, embossed linen napkin, tomato juice poured into the slender tulip glasses and set at the center of each China plate, head lettuce leaves placed on each smaller one for salad, fruit filled Jello squares lifted onto each leaf, one half teaspoon of Hellmann’s to dot each center, the gravy poured into the boat, the butter set in its silver dish, the roast carved and, finally, the Parker House rolls, ready and hot, in the round, linen lined bowl basket to table.

Pappy could be heard from any room in the house, but usually Aunt Dora Mae or Aunt Betty would call all to the dinner table. Aunt Dora Mae was hands down the better cook among them, Mammy’s eldest, but Mum’s voice was the most penetrating on account of her hearing loss and Aunt Frances was likely in earnest discussion with another of equal intellectual bent and Aunt Martha busy, laughing in a far corner, her nephews gathered around her ready audience testing their latest comedic mettle.

But, the food drew us all, to the oak table round circled by both Dora Mae and Betty as they’d labored the delivery of their firstborn, to the card table in the living room where Risk, Monopoly, Probe, and Life were won and lost, to the child’s table and chairs that Pappy made in the workroom just beyond the pantry and we, the Sweet family, sat our chaos down to the warmth of hot, family style Thanksgiving dinner and bowed our heads while Pappy thanked the God who brought him all the way across the Commonwealth to build cranes at BuCyrus-Erie, to the street corners to preach, to the City Mission and the Gospel Assembly Hall to settle his family in the east side neighborhood at 923 East 29th.

Then, everyone filled their faces, still all talking at once, Mammy finally sitting down at the kitchen end of the table, laughing with her mouth full, Pappy hunched over his plate, gumming his food with his teeth out, the aunts and uncles and cousins all tasting the same food with their own unique manifestations of the family DNA, all together, the whisker trees’ tumbleweeds flying about outside the east windows, as remnants of the feast wafted throughout the house to leave behind its everlasting aroma in the wallpaper, the white silken window curtains, the ceiling plaster, the floor underfoot, and the dark wood framing each room in the house, the collective spirit of nourishment sustaining life on one small, thankful speck of the planet as the world spun around once more.

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© 11/27/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line.

From the heart of Sweet gratitude: Happy Thanksgiving! from littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Gather Ye Red Flags.

 

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

The girl was some blonde.

Looking at him, smirking, thinking the whole scene too amusing.

The fact that he’d called the blonde his “cousin”?  Two bright red flags, a-whipping in the wind.

But, she had not set face into the wind.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

Next came the ones who, calling out his name in greeting, emerging from the restroom at Target or while walking up the street to the arena, she and he a date. Who does that, to somebody’s date?  Two, at once, seemed everywhere.

Always the point, a back story, from him. Tale of yet another he had seen for just a “couple months.” Red flag, number three.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

Then, the burner phones, near the kitchen tray, some excuse about retrieving dog pix.

The dishes for two, stacking in the sink.

His wandering eyes, the ones that twinkled.

Six flags. Amusement park of fair warning.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

Then the foghorn, in the bathroom drawer. Set for 6:20 a.m., alarming on his one day off. She’d never seen a clock in that drawer, and she’d seen everything in that drawer. She’d seen the sleeve of false eyelashes appear in that drawer. But, the clock, never in that drawer, not before that morning.

Gather ye red flags while ye may, lest they smother ye at once.

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© 10/9/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All rights those of the author, the stooge, the beard. Steal at your own risk. He’s everywhere.

littlebarefeetblog.com