Alice

(1957, Alice is 8)

Alice watches her mother valiantly struggle into the turquoise crinoline-poof uniform she’s been donning six nights a week for the past two years. Noreen inherited her cocktail dress and position at the Plymouth Galaxy Lounge from a twenty-two year old college graduate who’d moved on to bigger and better pusuits. Though the low de-collage and high hemline suggested youth, Noreen, who’d hit forty-eight the previous month, did her best to uphold the ideal the dress implied. One of the Galaxy’s consistent customer favorites she’s earned herself a decent living and pick of shifts. Menopause may have dried her, tired her and left her once voluminous locks sparse, but it has done nothing to dampen her esprit.

Powdered and perfumed, Noreen steps into her pearlized, peep-toe stilettos, checks her matching ivory handbag for bus fare and leather flats, dons the crisp white and turquoise polka dot lined gloves she proudly made herself to match her uniform, and tops it all off with a pearly pink beret. One which perfectly matches her freshly manicured finger tips. A triumph of color, style, and glamour, Noreen’s artfully pulled together ensembles are a confounding wonder to Alice. Unfortunately for her, Noreen’s fashion sense was not an inheritable attribute.

Alice dryly studies her own crumpled, mismatched outfit before noticing her mother’s silhouette hurrying out the door. In her haste, she’d forgotten to give her daughter a goodnight kiss and the umbrella she uses to ward off attackers on her late night trip home.

Clambering over the bed, Alice snatches up the hook waving the epee worthy business end in the air in an attempt to get Noreen’s attention.

Alice reaches the front window just in time to see her mother toss a backward wave in her direction before disappearing onto the half-full city bus. Dejected, Alice lowers the umbrella leaning on it like a cane while peering at her reflection, only abandoning her visage when the clock strikes eight.

Roused from her study, Alice rushes to the kitchenette, and carries her dinner back to the television. May 6th, 1957, I Love Lucy is broadcasting their last episode and Alice doesn’t want to miss a minute of it.

A loud knock at the door rouses Alice. She must have dozed off, her neck stiff from the crimped position. She catches a glimpse of the clock, realizes it is very late and feels her dinner fight its way upward. Another urgent rapping causes her to jump. In her confusion, she tips over the television tray holding her plate and half empty glass of Coke. Panic sets in as Alice searches the apartment for her mother, rushing through all three rooms in the ten seconds before the door comes crashing inward.

Two burly policemen fill the living room already cramped with couch, chair, tray tables and television console. Alice’s eyes widen in fear then dart back and forth between the officers until they come to rest on the umbrella leaning against the door frame. The moment, still frozen in her mind years later, is one of recognition. The implication of their presence blooms between the officers and herself. A cold fusion explodes then obliterates the shadows of the room. White light envelops her as she falls. The men slowly fade back into grey. She is caught on the way down as all sound is muffled.

Alice is placed in the ambulance. The distant voice of the tall dark-haired attendant asks one of the police officers “Does she have any other family?” and Alice’s mind drifts away; she is swimming. Her ears just under the surface of the water.

Uncle Ted’s bellowing is buffered before it reaches her ears. She’d stayed in the pond all morning,  till her mother finally had lunch ready. Now Uncle Ted is ordering her out of the water. Hours later, when Alice still can’t hear, her uncle places drops of peroxide in both ears. She stretches out on the warm dock, and watches the birds fly overhead, tossing her head to and fro to the gurgling, anticipating the pop and relief that comes when the pressure is released.

The doors of the ambulance slam shut. Alice tips her head to look up and out the window, sees the glitter of stars and begins to slowly shake her back back and forth waiting for the pop.

 

 

 

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