Monday, May 2, 2011

at the Lavery's (life gives you lemons pt 3)

Having walked the length of an unlit corridor they come to a staircase. At the bottom a cement floor landing with a drain at its center is illuminated by an uncovered bulb dangling from the cealing. Without missing a beat Sylvia knocks on the thick wooden door. A grated peep hole opens almost immediately.
“What?” A set of eyes demanded.

Sylvia immediately recognizes the voice, and the eyes. “Is that you Patrick? I’m here to see the family.”

They are greeted by a slender man with dark hair that is greased and parted down the middle. He is wearing clothes that are a size too big and he smells like aftershave and whiskey sweat. Extending his arms to her he exclaims, “Sylv! Haven’t seen you in ages it seems!”

Slapping his arm in jest, “Ah, Patrick, you would if you went to Church more often!”
Then winking.
“How long you been working the trap? Thought you was on tending bar last time I was here.”

With a guilty sigh, “I was Sylv, I was! But Joe though it would be best I let folks in instead. Said it saved money on booze as I took two shots for every one I served.”

Sylvia laughing, remembering that Patrick had always been a heavy drinker, then adds, “Where are the rest of the lads, Pat?”

“In the lounge”

Puffing her shoulders and raising her chin and nose to the cealing she mocks in a high pitched tone,“The lounge, eh?”

“Guess it’s been longer than either of us would like to admit, Sylv. Joe and Dan added a lounge on to the place”
Pointing to Anne, “Since so many ladies like her began coming in they thought they ought to have a proper place for ‘em to drink and socialize. ‘Sept I think it was Dan’s way of corralling all the good looking girls for himself, you know Dan Lavery and his ladies!”
As Pat laughs at his own joke, Sylvia suddenly becomes aware of the fact that Anne is growing increasingly uncomfortable. “Well, I suppose we had better say hello then.”

“Joseph ought to be in the lounge making folks laugh like he does, you know Joe. As for Daniel, he should have been here an hour ago. He was supposed to relieve Lyle in the ally way.”

“Well that explains things then. When we came in it seemed Lyle was in one of his moods again. Seemed like he could use a break to collect himself, Pat.”

“Aww Christ…sorry Sylv. You ladies come with me. We’ll find Joe, I know he’d like to see you gals and get this situation with Lyle sorted out.”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

when life gives you apples pt 2

The said meeting was held at the Lavery’s Tavern, which was really an underground Speakeasy where folks gathered to drink.
The small room, no more than 10X20 square feet, had been built in the downstairs corner portion of the Lavery’s Moving company warehouse. Formerly used for storage, and equipment, the working portion of the business was upstairs and had full street access. But downstairs was where all the action was.

Anne had never been to a Speakeasy before; she had had no need, as she was not a drinker.
She followed Sylvia down the main street towards the Lavery’s as they had before, on their trip to Whidbey only this time, instead of entering the building through the main entrance they stopped short of the building and ducked into the ally way which was dark save for a low burning glow from a lamp which hung just above an iron door on the side of the building of the moving company. Beside the door was a tall brutish look man who wore a gray wool coat and hungrily sucked on a lit cigarette, which hung from the side of his mouth. Inhaling and exhaling without bothering to remove it, he kept his hands in his pockets where they were warm.
Sylvia and Anne headed towards the door where the man was waiting.
Removing his right hand from his pocket he clumsily pinched the butt end of the smoke from his mouth revealing what seemed to be a semi permanent jaundice colored indentation on the right side of his lips where his cigarette had been sitting.

“What can I do for you this evening?” He asked using a tone far more high pitched and polite than expected. The closer Anne looked at him the more childlike he seemed in both mind and body.
“We’ve come to see the family.” Sylvia answered.
Upon hearing her voice his eyes lit up with friendly recognition. As he leaped towards her his demeanor change immediately from a thuggish doorman to that of an oversized puppy and he exclaimed, “Sylv! Why Sylvia Breslyn, it is you!”
His excitement revealed him altogether. He was a child in a man’s body.

Hugging him back,” Yes Lyle, it is. Old Sylvia’s come to tear the place apart.”

Taking in what Sylvia had said for a moment it becomes evident that he doesn’t understand sarcasm. Staring at the brick wall of the ally way, he places one hand on his hip and runs the other through his hair as though he has missed something.
Finally, “You’re not really going to tear the place apart are ya Sylv?”

Realizing that she has upset him she reassures him,“Oh Lyle, No! You know I was kidding!”

Clumsily laughing at himself. “Lyle! No Sylv, I knew you was kidding! I know you wouldn’t tear the place up! You’re funny Sylv! You’re funny!”
He begins rocking back and forth as he laughs and it becomes clear that he seems to have become agitated.

She pulls two cigarettes from her purse and lights them both. Handing one to Lyle to replace the one that has expired over the duration of their exchange.
“Oh Lyle I know I am. I am a funny lady. I was glad to see it was you when we turned the corner, you keep the place safe, I always feel safe knowing your protecting the family.”

"Yeah, I protect the family..."
He takes a few deep inhales to calm himself and sure enough the agitation subsides and the stoic thug demeanor returns as he reaches his arm forward to open the door for the two women.

“Thank you Lyle. Your always such a gentleman.”

As they walk into the building the door closes behind them and Sylvia turns to Anne, “That was Dan and Joe’s cousin Lyle Lavery.”

Anne, wanting to know more, “He doesn’t seem like the kind of man who is...” looking for the right word, “…suited to guard the door of a place like this.”

“Oh he’s suited alright! He once beat a man as near to death as a man could be beat. Did ya see those thick hands? Oh! Just stay on his good side, Anne. ”

“What did he beat the guy for?”

“Lord knows! I hear it was neither a trifling nor a grave matter but all the same to Lyle, once he started on the guy it took five grown men to pull him off.”

“I can’t see why they have him guarding the door.”

“I suppose because it’s something he can do to make an honest living. A place where his size and nature are properly placed.”

“An honest living! You call guarding the door of a speak easy and breaking peoples legs honest?”

Sylvia stops walking and looks at Anne squarely. “Yes, Miss! Down here we do call that honest. Giving a man something to tend to, something to protect and a family to be a part of is the right thing to do. Just because you don’t see that it meets to your standard doesn’t necessarily mean that it is somehow lacking.”

Ready to defend her stance, “Sylvia I didn’t say…”

Not letting her finish, “I know you didn’t say it, Anne…but I also know what you implied and as your friend I am compelled to remind you of where you are.”
Placing her hand on Anne shoulder and speaking kindly, “ I trust you know well enough -to put your ‘do right’ rhetoric away for a spell, and enjoy yourself…for your own sake?"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

When life gives you lemmons pt 1

At his stand Tom made half-hearted offers to passerby’s at five cents an apple. But he knew it didn’t matter if he stood on his head and juggled the fruits, no one was going to buy them.
He shook his head. He had had known all along.
Had it been a month before, he could have sold all 20 crates of apples and made enough money to make it through the winter single handed.

With fall harvest in full swing everyone in Seattle wanted a fair chance to make a few extra dollars and they all lined the streets to sell apples hoping for the same good fortune as Anne, Sylvia and the children. With so many unemployed the supply for “charity apples” far out weighed the demand and the city was left reminded of the fundamental cruelties of capitalism.

By the end of the day, they pooled their money together and had only $ 2.85 between the seven stands. Just shy of selling one of the 20 crates they had, they had barely sold enough to give them reason to go at it the following day.

Earnest as Anne was and as desperate as Sylvia fought being perceived, it was no use…their apples simply did not sell.
Though the girls dressed in their finest dresses their luck was the same as Toms.

Ever hopeful, Sylvia announced “we’ll just have at it again tomorrow and the day after if we have to!”

Tom moaned, “At this rate, we’d be lucky to sell them before they rot!”

In that moment it occurred to Sylvia that they only had a small window of time to sell the apples before they went bad. The thought had never crossed her mind that the apples would not sell... or rot.

Anne shot Sylvia a glance and immediately after the young ones were put to bed they convened for a “plan B” meeting.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Apple stands

After what seemed like some well deserved respite out on Whidbey Island, Anne and Sylvia returned to the daily rigorous task to make ends meet back in Seattle.
They returned to the city with a sense of renewal and hope. Having been given 25 crates of Apples from Michael and Christina, they immediately set to the task of organizing a plan for their operation. They had mapped out their positions and borrowed the Lavery pick-up truck for the day to drop off the crates for sale.
The lawn was covered in crates filled generously to overflowing. The young ones quietly pillaged the freshly delivered plunder and gorged themselves on reds, greens and yellows until their jaws ached from chewing the crisp fruit.

The older children like Tom, Maggie and Mary were given the responsibility of having their own stands. Mary and Maggie made the signs and Tom saw to it that the crates were reinforced and sturdy.

There were mixed emotions regarding the plan. Tom was the least enthusiastic and being the eldest his negative sentiments were quickly adopted by some of the younger ones.
Surprisingly Maggie was the most excited to sell the apples. She put on her best dress, polished her shoes and spent the morning repeatedly pinch blushing cheeks and looking in the mirror.
Tom told her she was a fool to put on her best clothes for the endeavor. He insisted that she would be better to dress like a “down and outer” so as to make folks feel bad for her.
To which Maggie replied, “To hell with that, Tom!”
Earning herself a slap on the hand from her mother who frowned upon the children cursing. Maggie continued primping herself in anticipation of the afternoon.

Sylvia knew that it wasn’t the apple selling that Maggie was excited about but rather the fact that she would be a block from the High school. Knowing her daughter, Maggie was more excited about the idea of being seen, even if it she was selling apples.

Mary on the contrary, was terrified. She was seldom apart from Maggie; she had a quiet nature and hated being in front of people. Sitting by the front door a top her crates of apples She had dressed herself in enough layers to feel safe and hidden. She was ready to go long before Maggie, wearing a ‘Let’s get this over with’ look on her face.

Anne took Sara and Molly While Sylvia took Michael and Gabriel. The idea was that the younger ones would have stands near by his or her adult and stay in eye shot for safety. It was better for children to appear to be alone Sylvia had said to Anne. Though she hated to admit it, Anne agreed. People were more sympathetic to the young ones, and Sylvia was going to see to it that her little ones pulled at the heartstrings of the workingman so as to bring in a pretty penny for those free Apples.

So off they went, that motley crew of young ones. Dressed like vagabonds and royalty depending on his or her view of the business venture.
Tom led the way, Windy skipping just behind him annoyingly at his heels. Mary to her doom, Maggie to her glory and the three innocents following like a hopeful parade.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The sun rose the next morning, exposing a world that had gone unnoticed to Anne the night before. Emerging from the tent, she felt surprisingly refreshed.
Daniel had already awoken, she could tell because the fire was going and his blankets were neatly folded and placed at the foot of his bed. A pot of thick black coffee had been brewed and she poured a cup for herself.
Sitting down she surveyed the lay of the land, it seemed a world of organized chaos.
Cars parked on the property were filled to overflowing with supplies. Pots and pans, old mattresses, and blankets, cardboard, and even empty bottles that people couldn’t seem to part with for one reason or another. Everything she saw seemed worn out ten times over and dirty down to its core. Tents were pitched next to cars, which housed entire families of up to nine or ten. There were goats tied up to cars which were kept by the travelers for milk.

Anne Sylvia and Daniel joined the others, picking and prepping apples for shipment into the city. By mid afternoon the sun was high in the sky and the air is hot and heavy.

Sweat and dirt lay on Anne’s brow and mantle, and the moisture gathers dust. Her fine fingers and watchful eyes grazed the boughs as she picks. She was careful and treated each fruit as a delicate jewel. Setting each apple in the sack which she carries. Her movements are methodical and she seems calm as she works.
Although the day is hot and there is plenty of work to be done, she has grown accustomed to far more intense work and the picking is quite a vacation from her duties at home.

Daniel watches her as he carries crates from here to there. He is entranced by her peace as she works. He has been caught several times staring at her, not only by other workers, but by Anne herself. Maybe it was the heat but he didn’t seem to care. He imagined that she would be aghast by the sight of herself, but on the contrary, he found her quite lovely. Her hair was disheveled, windblown and falling around the curves of her face. Her lips slightly pursed with the focus on the task at hand. Skin tawny and glowing from sun, sweat and dirt. If there was one thing that stirred him the most it was her ease. He wanted to know what calmed her so, and kept staring, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mystery behind her peace, which made her so lovely.

Dan was busy working beneath his cap. Anne was glad to have the job she did. Seeing the boys lifting and loading the way they were reminded her of all the work that awaited her when she arrived home. But for now she would not think on that. Light work like this was something to be grateful for and she allowed herself to melt into the simplicity of the task at hand.
Still, Dan worked, not letting up. He must have been burning, she thought. His shirt was now fully saturated with perspiration. She lowered her eyes as she noticed his form beneath his clinging shirt. He removed his outer layer as if on cue with her thoughts. She could feel herself blushing as she allowed herself to glance at his frame. The motion of his body was evident to her now. He had a strong physique, which bowed and flexed as he worked. Her eyes followed the line from the width of his shoulders, tapering down to his to his waist and below. His black hair was completely unattended to and looked as though it would be soft to the touch. She thought she had caught his dark eyes peering up at her from underneath his heavy brow more than once. She liked his gaze when it met hers and once or twice she let a moment linger between the two of them before she gave a calm smile and looked away, as if forcing decency.
She liked watching him work. It seemed to suit his nature. His hands were strong and large with deep blue veins.

He was handsome and kind. Deep down she enjoyed his wit and the way he teased, it allowed her the opportunity do the same back to him and she enjoyed that.
She wondered what it would be like to be the wife of a man like Daniel. She imagined being driven mad by his taunting and teasing. Wonderful madness that would lead to things that made her blush as she imagined them while she worked.
She felt strange having him near, comforted almost. She could feel-see him moving around her, and watched him from her periphery.
It felt good to entertain these thoughts. She remembered the first night she saw him in the cellar of the conservatory. For a brief moment that night she had thought he was a handsome patron of the society; some rustic outdoorsman with an affinity for things that grew. What a perfect match that would have been! If only he were a botanist, she thought. But, he was not that. All his strength and good looks couldn’t change the fact that he was at best a swarthy, quick witted, passionate, bootlegger.
Into the evening, when the preparation of the meal is finished, the five have gathered back in the kitchen to eat. Joined by the Studeman’s five children, they sit around the table. Drinks are poured and refilled.
Sylvia, Anne and Christina have found their places among one another and are united. Dan, Michael and Joe are pleasantly drunk and settled in, bellies full of good food, there is ease and conversation around the table.
The children are drifting, young ones hanging on Christina she brings them into their bedroom for sleep.

Music is being played around a fire nearby. A boy who plays the harmonica quite proficiently for someone his age joined a banjo player and a guitarist. Improvising a lively tune, a small crowed gathers around them. People clapped along and tapped their feet and let out a hoot of approval when a solo was particularly sent. Sylvia surveyed the scene and wore the expression of a woman who had arrived home.

Anne was trying to picture where they would sleep, and how they would wash. She was not a good cook and wouldn’t know where to begin to know how to cook on an open campfire she was beginning to feel anxious already.
Daniel saw Anne worried expression and began to set up their site immediately. He was in his element, outdoors, and was eager to make provisions to make a comfortable place for the three of them.

At the Apple Orchard

At the Apple Orchard

Daniel was eager to get to the Apple Orchard, he was comfortable at Michael’s and was feeling quite ill at ease and not quite sure why. By now, he decided, he had been around these women long enough and was in need of a stiff drink and a chew to spit.

They arrived late Sunday evening. The sun had already set. The air was warm and dry with a smell of hickory smoke and bacon. Stew was being prepared at a nearby campfire. There were families camping in the open field just off from the main house.
Harvest was in full swing and the boughs on the apple trees hung low, heavy with fruit.
Mingled with the hickory smoke and bacon that hung in the air, was the crisp smell of apples that had fallen to the ground releasing the pungent aroma of their fermenting sweetness into the warm late-summer air.
A man from the porch of the main house let out a loud whistle followed by,
“Danny boy!”
As he sprang to his feet and hopped down to greet his friend. Walking to Dan he took his hand and embraced him with a warm hug the way brothers do.
“Glad you’re here Dan. I was a afraid you may have run into some trouble up north, I expected you a bit earlier.” Glancing at Sylvia and Anne.

“And just whom have you brought with you this fine evening?”
Removing his hat

“Ah yes Michael, these are some very good friends of mine.” Daniel began. “This is Mrs. Sylvia Breslyn.”
Michael takes Sylvia’s hand in both of his and winks at her.

“And this here is Miss Anne Hibbert.”
Michael, raises an eyebrow flashing Daniel a glance as he says, “Well Miss Hibbert, I am pleased to make your acquaintance”.

From behind Michael a woman’s voice calls to him “Michael,is that Dan and Joe Lavery?”

Michael draws his attention up to the porch and calls back, “Yes Christina, The’re here.”

Waving Dan up to the house.
“Dan, come up here, will you? And bring that husband of mine with you so I have something nice to look at while I fix us some dinner!”

Michael raises his eyebrows and pulling on his suspenders gleefully. “My wife Christina…she has a fine appetite indeed!”

Dan and Sylvia chuckle and Anne blushes, but smiles. All four walk up to the house. Upon arriving, Michael opens the door for his guests. He is the last to enter, lowering his suspenders as though becoming less formal.
Dan walks into the kitchen and is met by Christina. She is a shorter woman, and looks at least ten years younger than Michael. Her hair is swept up casually with strands falling around her shoulders. Her skin has a pleasant light olive color to it, which glows in the heat of the evening. She opens her arms to embrace him.
“Dan, welcome. You look well.” Noticing Anne and Sylvia. “Oh well, who have you brought with you?”

Daniel makes the introductions as he did with Michael.

“Wont you have a seat?” Christina offers, pointing to the table and chairs as they enter the kitchen.

As Daniel and Anne sit, Michael pulls five cup from the shelf above the sink. He fills them with something from a barrel in the corner of his kitchen and distributes the cups around the room to each person. Dan immediately takes the glass and sips from it, Anne takes a sip as well.

Sylvia remains standing. As usual she is only comfortable when she is busy and looks around the kitchen for something to do.

While Christina rolls dough for a pie, she looks up at Sylvia and asks intuitively, “Do you know how to make apple pie?”

Sylvia gives her a smile, asking, “Where do you keep your knives?”

Sizing her up, “Second drawer down”

Sylvia goes to the drawer, gets the knife, and immediately begins peeling apples for the pie. Christina continues rolling the dough.

Realizing that Sylvia has joined Christina, Anne suddenly feels awkward.

“How do you like the punch Anne?” Michael asks.

“Is that what this is?” Anne replies as she takes another sip.

“Yeah that’s what it is…and you can drink as much as you like my dear.” He teases, winking at Dan.

Realizing her husband is having a bit of fun at the poor girls expense Christina adds,
“My husband fancies himself for quite the master brewer, Anne. Trouble is he drinks so much of the stuff himself, that there’s seldom enough left for anyone else to give him an honest opinion on its quality.

In his own defense, “I do not drink that much!”

“Michael Studdeman, I am 38 years old, and in perfect health. It’s been four years since our last child during which time you have taken to drinking far more then your share. I happen to find that to be a strange coincidence don’t you? If it’s not the drink sir then what is the cause?”

Sylvia and Daniel are delighted by this display. Daniel points at Michael and bellows, as Sylvia wrinkles her nose and laughs heartily as she slices apples. Christina winks at Anne and gives her a steadying nod.

Although Michaels pride is somewhat hurt, there is simply not enough truth to what she has said to do any real damage, but he plays along anyhow.
“Well I suppose it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that my wife is a wicked shrew of a woman now would it?”
Rising to leave, he pulls up his suspenders. “Well I suppose that, that is all the humiliation I can endure for now. Daniel, would you care to join me outdoors?”

Dan rises as well. He follows Michael calling behind him to the kitchen, “I’ll see that he doesn’t drink too much tonight, Christina!”

“Aw, to hell with him Dan!” Christina calls back. The ladies laugh and continue with their work.