Life is a laugh and a romp because Matilda keeps decrepitude off her heels. She simply avoids all reflection. Matilda refuses to allow the pile up of years to mock her from the other side of a mirror. She knows better than to look at faces and places overly long, and with a squint of the eye and her hard-as-granite melon tilted just right, everything looks soft and pliable. Matilda does, however, catch odd phrases on the wind like, "That insufferable woman just encases herself in a leathery rind of denial." Such is the nature of the odd phrase. Words can mean all sorts of things. Matilda lives with myopia and a rudder hard to starboard, and is happiest when she uses these gifts to blast convention out of the water.
The face in the mirror bewildered Mildred. She was young and lissome only yesterday. It was just yesterday honeysuckle perfumed the air, and Mildred picked peaches for a cobbler. She promised Jack Montgomery she'd bring her cobbler to the Friday Nite Pot Luck at the Grange Hall. His band was to play afterward. There'd be dancing. Yesterday she finished the hem on her new blue dress. It was only yesterday. Mildred, hat in hand and trench coat buttoned up to her chin, stood and stared at the hallway mirror. There was somewhere she needed to be, but she couldn't turn away from the sight. The reflection was familiar, and yet she did not know the woman in the gilt frame. Brown eyes clouded and moist, dark skin marred by a mottle of furrows and ashy patches. Mildred wondered if the deadened expression on the face ever changed; if the intruder had ever been beautiful. The air was heavy with honeysuckle, and a question and a promise rolled around and around in Mildred's mind. She heard the first few bars of "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" and slowly unbuttoned her coat.
It is not a deformity.
No disability, this.
My limbs are invisible.
I have a spine!
A breadbasket, too.
It was a crutch.
A poor excuse.
A needy maw that wanted more.
Greedy thing had to be fed constantly.
I am better off without my head.
All that gray matter got in the way, anyway.
There is ample topography on my torso to consider.
And no small amount of flounce.
Nelson collected dark tinted brown, green, and blue receptacles because he boiled up and bottled things like Eschscholtzia Californica, Chamaemelum nobile, Hypericum perforatum, and Humulus lupulus. It was a classic case of Mind vs. Body in a war of wills, and Nelson brewed all sorts of curatives in hopes that the two factions would call a truce long enough for him to earn his daily bread as a tow truck driver. When it came to labor, Nelson's best efforts, and nearly all his physical exertion (which his doctor told him to get more of), occurred during REM sleep.
During these voyages to Nod, Nelson did not laze about. He had codes to crack, while tutu-attired lemurs hurled fruit from the bois d'arc at his melon, before timers on bombs wound down to zero. He also had souls to save, like the family of seven, plus their black giant schnauzer, which he pulled from a submerged RAV4 that jumped the Jersey barrier after a poorly negotiated cloverleaf and splashed down in a storm-bloated retention pond. That was a tough assignment, for sure, and Nelson woke up soaked and breathless. His shoulders ached from the weight of eight heads he struggled to keep above water. Essentially, there was no amount of tincture that helped Nelson get his brain, and all his other bits, to work as a cohesive whole.
He didn't do it.
Bill's big yellow backhoe cut into utility lines and knocked out an entire subdivision's fiber-dependent essentials. There went the Internet. Favorite cable show kaput. Woe betide the guy who made the recipe on Mrs. Shockley's screen disappear as her pot full of lentils boiled away, unseasoned and underdone. Mrs. Shockley had to dash out in front of her house to pick up reception on her not-so-smart phone to get the directions on how to save the evening's soup. It does not do to be careless when one opens up the earth.
Jo often walked along the tracks of an abandoned railway tunnel, its silence and dank darkness helped to put in order Jo's jumbled thoughts. One day, which had started out like so many other hazy beige days, Jo saw someone ahead of her on the tracks. She'd never been confronted with company before, so she approached with caution. As she got closer, Jo realized the person was a woman in layers of crinoline and lace. The lady leapt and pirouetted, oblivious to her audience of one. Then, after a polite curtsey to a rusted railroad spike, the mysterious dancer took off like a shot down the tunnel. Jo called after her:
"Where are you off to in such a rush?" The caw of a crow answered as Jo felt a tap-tap-tap on her shoulder. She nearly lost her balance as she spun around. The crinoline-clad woman stood with arms akimbo and looked Jo square in the eye.
"To the big silver orb in the sky. The train is due to pull out soon. There still may be room aboard if you are so inclined." Jo smiled, shrugged, and shook her head as the woman held out her hand. "Maybe next time?"
"Maybe, if there is a next time. Oh, and you're a really good dancer, by the way."
"How kind of you to say! I've only just begun lessons. My dream is to dance on stage someday. But don't you go and worry about time. It's always the right hour, once you've found a portal."
"Have I found one?"
"You have found the portal, my dear. I'm off, but we'll meet again. Ta!"
Jo had been in one blue funk before she stumbled upon her big discovery. It was right there in front of her and she never even noticed. She'd wandered up and down the line for so long, maybe the time was right for a change. Jo quickened her pace through the tunnel while the crow's cry intensified. Jo was distracted by the tumble and churn of the day's events. Not even the bright light that sliced the dark in two could break her concentration.