What Happens To Dannie in San Francisco?

What happens to Dannie in San Francisco?  It’s September, 2010.  Dannie has $650 (after airfare) left over from working in the summer.  She can stay with her sister (Kate) and Kate’s husband  (Ted)–both art students and very poor–in the city, but only if Dannie is willing to sleep on a cot and in the middle room of a very small three room apartment.  That room is where Kate and Ted paint.

Dannie has grown up as a suburban Chicago, upper middle class girl.  College was supposed to be her path.  She was even in a sorority for one year.  But now suddenly, she has thrown herself out into the world, living with people so poor they never take a bus and always walk where they need to go, if possible. 

When Dannie sees Kate and Ted’s apartment, she thinks–I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto. 

Now what?

32 responses to “What Happens To Dannie in San Francisco?

  1. Yeah, well, so I came here to San Francisco to find myself and figure out what life’s supposed to be all about, but my sister Kate and her flakey husband Ted sure don’t seem like they’ve got any real idea (oh yeah, and she’s not even ‘Kate’ anymore, coz she’s suddenly decided to call herself ‘Kat’ – and like, I’m supposed to remember that every time I open my mouth otherwise she corrects me as if I’m still just a kid).

    And as for the shit-hole apartment where they live (if you could even call it living), it’s disgusting – one pokey little bedroom, a living area with a kitchen space in one corner, and a bathroom you can hardly swing a towel in. And three floors up after already walking up a ridiculous nearly-vertical hill, and no elevator either, although their crappy building’s so old and rundown that even if there was an elevator I wouldn’t risk using it.

    All this, plus they expect me to sleep in the living room on some derelict sofa they probably got from someone dumping it out on the street for rubbish collection, and if that’s not bad enough they get up really early before 8am walking around in their underwear and even one afternoon Ted without anything on at all when Kate was painting his picture for some class she had.

    But most grossest of all is the so-called food they expect me to eat, which is vegetarian and tastes like recycled cardboard with not even any ketchup to put on it, so I’ve had to spend my own money buying pizza and burgers while they’re at the art school during the day.

    As for their friends, spare me. They took me to a ‘party’ on my second night here, which was just a bunch of other art school losers sitting round in someone’s basement apartment even worse than theirs, including not a single guy I’d wanna be seen dead under, and all they did was talk about crap and drink cheap wine outa those box things with taps and without any real music except one girl playing a guitar and sometimes a few of them singing along but no dancing (not that there was room anyway), and frankly I woulda rather stayed back at their place if only they had a TV. Oh yeah, and also I was the only one with enough class to get dressed up for the party too (my black Sass & Bide that everyone says I look so hot in and mostly out of).

    So all up, after two weeks here, I’m on a plane back home to Chicago tomorrow, coz I’ve figured out what life’s about and no way is it this, and if I stay here I’m scared I might wind up like Kate and Ted and their friends thinking there’s something fantastic about not having all the stuff that makes life worth living.

    Mind you, there’s one good thing that’s come outa this, which is that I now realize how Mom’s right when she says the most important thing is to try to marry someone with a good future preferably in medicine or banking, so I guess I’ve matured a lot in just these two weeks from hell. Like they say: if it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you harder.

    • Brilliant. I’ve come to expect nothing less and am so glad you participate here. For my benefit, you see. I learn something about writing every time I read your stuff.

    • Fig:

      We both have shortened the characters names (Danni and Kat).
      Have them living on the 3rd floor.
      Have them in a run down bldg.
      Have them eating vegetarian food.
      Have Dannie spending $$$ on edible food.
      Have the time at two weeks.
      and
      Have Dannie heading home.

      So, you and I either are stuck in a rut, channeling each others’ thoughts, or, great minds think alike? Maybe? You think?

      • Well, that was an abomination of punctuation.

      • @ Figmince and Gullible
        I had the rundown building, vegan relatives and Dannie headed home too. Is there a San Francisco poverty meme?

        Full Disclosure: I did not read your pieces until I wrote and posted mine. I enjoyed both your submissions. I liked the stream of consciousness flow that your piece has Figmince. I enjoyed the detail in your piece Gullible, especially the cost breakdown of Dannie’s expenses… Good Stuff in both.

      • Maybe it’s because we’re both septic-generated, Gully, and bolting towards extreme maturity. The difference between us is, as usual, your take was optimistic at the end, while mine was typically cynical.

        Another masterful write on your part.

    • I very much enjoy your cynical sense of humor. It makes for great reading. I’m not quite so eloquent in my commentary as the others here so I’ll just say Bravo!

  2. Dannie, or Danni as she now spelled her nickname, lay on the cheap folding cot from WalMart. Her new bed was meant for camping and was only six inches off the paint-spattered linoleum in her sister’s art studio

    To Dannie, the studio looked more like a storage closet, but other than Kate and Ted’s bedroom and a tiny kitchen, it was the only place for a cot. There wasn’t even a couch for her to lay out her sleeping bag. Worse, the bathroom was a shared affair two stories down in the old and neglected Victorian in a poor neighborhood near Berkeley.

    She had gotten off the Sky West plane from Chicago with $650 in her pocket. The Bay Porter ride from the airport was $75, the cot $39.97 plus sales tax, and she had loaned Kate $100 so she could pay delinquent electric and water bills to have both utilities turned back on.

    There were no garbage bills, thank goodness, because all six of the tenants in the building smuggled their garbage out in their backpacks and slipped it into their neighbors’ trash cans.

    The rest of the money she’d spent on food after growing tired of Kate and Ted’s soybeans and rice diet, and a few dollars for bus rides to job interviews.

    The neon light from the cheap hotel across the street filtered through the grimy, unshaded window and bathed the room in flickering green and orange alternately.

    Danni kept her eyes closed tightly and the surrounding facial muscles were beginning to object. It wasn’t the neon light she was trying to hide from, but Ted’s latest masterpiece-in-progress—a surrealistic representation of the Oakland Occupy movement that he and Kate attended regularly, hitching rides with friends when they could, or thumbing rides when they couldn’t find a friend going.

    Her first night, two weeks ago, had been a nightmare. Literally. Worried that she had made a big mistake in ditching college and flying to San Francisco while her parents were in London, Danni was awake most of the night, staring at the green then orange then green again walls.

    Ted’s painting drew her eyes, though she tried to avoid looking in that direction. To her, it looked like an even more demented version of Edvard Munch’s “Scream,” and added to her disquiet. Danni thought of the asylum patients in the movie “Snake Pit” every time she saw it.

    Her eyes betrayed her and suddenly she was staring at the painting again. She pulled up part of her sleeping bag, creating a rip-stop nylon and cotton flannel barricade between her face and the frightening painting. Once again Dannie wondered which art school her sister and Ted were attending. They never seemed to leave the apartment except to go to Oakland, or to their part-time jobs that barely paid their rent.

    Green, orange, green. Dannie smelled the oils and acrylics, the stretched canvas, and the hint of weed that Kate and Ted smoked to enhance their artistic visions.

    She flipped through the files of job applications in her mind. Even the owner of a dive diner hadn’t made much effort to conduct an interview after seeing her dreadlocks.

    “My Sore Sissies should see me now,” she whispered, using her pet name for the girls in the sorority she had pledged her freshman year. Danni reached for her backpack and unzipped the inside security pocket. She counted the wrinkled bills and assorted coins, hoping she’d miscounted the last ten times she’d done this.

    It still came to $287.43. She stuffed the money back in the pocket and lay down.

    “Scream” stared back in green, orange, green.

    Danni reached for her cell phone and dialed a number. Needles stabbed her eyes and she knew she was close to tears. She heard a phone being picked up and a hesitant voice saying, “He- hello?”

    “Mom? Mom? Mommmmmmy…..”

  3. Dannie was losing a staring contest with a bowl of runny Guacamole. She called out to her sister Kate, “Can I have a spoon?” Kate responded, “Dannie, go get it yourself, it’s here in the top left drawer of the kitchen counter– please don’t expect me to cater to you like Mom does.” Remembering Dannie’s coddling added an unwanted layer of frustration on top of Kate’s challenging life. “Well it won’t happen here”, Kate thought. Dannie sloughed off the drop-cloth covered day bed in the living-room-slash-artist’s studio and popped into the galley kitchen. On her way she almost tripped over her bother-in-law Ted, as he was applying a white base coat to recycle a large canvas. “Cripes this place is small, and it smells like turpentine” she thought to herself. Dannie pulled open the kitchen drawer and asked “Why do we only have two spoons?” Kate countered “Because we don’t have much of anything, so wash it and put it back when you are done”.
    Kate was surprised at Ted and Kate’s situation. The apartment was less than 500 square feet and decrepit. Her old dorm room was fit for Good House Keeping magazine in comparison. To make matters worse, it seemed like the median income in this neighborhood did not go north of $18,000, with local drug dealers as the exception. Kate and Ted had three locks on the apartment door. They both looked too thin, too stressed and not healthy.
    Kate was shocked at the reception she got when she arrived from the airport in the cab. She envisioned that Kate and Ted would be happy to see her, but all they did was admonish her for taking a cab from the airport. According to Kate, the fifty dollar cab fare would have fed them all for a month. As far as Kate could tell, this was true. They were vegans who shopped the nearby wholesale vegetable markets, buying produce that was just about to turn, not fit to sell to supermarkets. Ted bragged about the box of avocados that he bought yesterday for six dollars. He didn’t care if the bottom layer was already mush. Ted even said that Dannie should have shoplifted a candy bar from the airport newsstand and got caught on purpose, this way the police could have driven her right to the apartment to be released in their custody. He was only half joking. As far as Danniee could tell, they walked everywhere. They reminded her of artist versions of the zombies from AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. They really seemed to be on their last ropes and did not give her much confidence. “As much as I hated school”, thought Kate, “this situation is orders of magnitude worse. I don’t know what I am going to do”.
    Late that first night in her sister’s apartment, Dannie laid on the daybed, her Tumi luggage close by for comfort. She looked up at the peeling cracked ceiling and started playing a variation of a game that she and Kate used to play when they were younger. They would lay on the grass and look up at the clouds and look for familiar objects. She might see the Pillsbury doughboy in a cloud formation, her sister might see the hand of God. Dannie, stared up and started to divine the message in the ceiling cracks. There was not much else to do; Ted and Kate did not have a TV. A long set of parallel cracks formed a neck. As she followed those cracks upward they bowed out in opposite directions, forming a head that culminated with a long beak. A chicken. Yes, it was a chicken. In that instant she realized that she was the chicken.
    Dannie dropped out of college because of Mr. Dorgan, her professor for Journalism 1: The News.
    She let his scathing criticism of her work crush her desire to become a journalist. According to Prof. Dorigan, Dannie lacked the thoughtful awareness and critical analysis skills required for news reporting and probably would not ever develop them. He suggested that she abort her journalism career and find another passion like beach volleyball.
    “I let that grumpy old man steal my dream”, thought Dannie. “I wish I had been brave enough to stand up to his foolish criticism and keep fighting for what I wanted. “
    Dannie resolved to head home in the morning to re-enroll in school. Running away from Dorgan was not the answer. Dannie opened up the front flap of her Tumi suitcase and took out her remaining six hundred dollars, a thin journal and a pen. She put the money in the pocket of the PJs she was wearing. Then she opened her journal, placed pen to paper and started reporting “What happened to me in San Francisco…”

  4. Re-posting to fix up some name slip-ups….

    Dannie was losing a staring contest with a bowl of runny Guacamole. She called out to her sister Kate, “Can I have a spoon?” Kate responded, “Dannie, go get it yourself, it’s here in the top left drawer of the kitchen counter– please don’t expect me to cater to you like Mom does.” Remembering Dannie’s coddling added an unwanted layer of frustration on top of Kate’s challenging life. “Well it won’t happen here”, Kate thought. Dannie sloughed off the drop-cloth covered day bed in the living-room-slash-artist’s studio and popped into the galley kitchen. On her way she almost tripped over her bother-in-law Ted, as he was applying a white base coat to recycle a large canvas. “Cripes this place is small, and it smells like turpentine” she thought to herself. Dannie pulled open the kitchen drawer and asked “Why do we only have two spoons?” Kate countered “Because we don’t have much of anything, so wash it and put it back when you are done”.
    Dannie was concerned about Ted and Kate’s situation. The apartment was less than 500 square feet and decrepit. Her old dorm room was fit for Good House Keeping magazine in comparison. To make matters worse, it seemed like the median income in this neighborhood did not go north of $18,000, with local drug dealers as the exception. Kate and Ted had three locks on the apartment door. They both looked too thin, too stressed and unhealthy.
    Dannie was shocked at the reception she got when she arrived from the airport in the cab. She envisioned that Kate and Ted would be happy to see her, but all they did was admonish her for taking a cab from the airport. According to Kate, the fifty dollar cab fare would have fed them all for a month. As far as Dannie could tell, this was true. They were vegans who shopped the nearby wholesale vegetable markets, buying produce that was just about to turn, not fit to sell to supermarkets. Ted bragged about the box of avocados that he bought yesterday for six dollars. He didn’t care if the bottom layer was already mush. Ted even said that Dannie should have shoplifted a candy bar from the airport newsstand and got caught on purpose, this way the police could have driven her right to the apartment to be released in their custody. He was only half joking. As far as Dannie could tell, they walked everywhere. They reminded her of artist versions of the zombies from AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. They really seemed to be on their last ropes and did not give her much confidence. “As much as I hated school”, thought Kate, “this situation is orders of magnitude worse. I don’t know what I am going to do”.
    Late that first night in her sister’s apartment, Dannie laid on the daybed, her Tumi luggage close by for comfort. She looked up at the peeling cracked ceiling and started playing a variation of a game that she and Kate used to play when they were younger. They would lay on the grass and look up at the clouds and look for familiar objects. She might see the Pillsbury doughboy in a cloud formation, her sister might see the hand of God. Dannie, stared up and started to divine the message in the ceiling cracks. There was not much else to do; Ted and Kate did not have a TV. A long set of parallel cracks formed a neck. As she followed those cracks upward they bowed out in opposite directions, then converged to form a head that culminated with a long beak. A chicken. Yes, it was a chicken. In that instant she realized that she was the chicken.
    Dannie dropped out of college because of Mr. Dorgan, her professor for Journalism 1: The News.
    She let his scathing criticism of her work crush her desire to become a journalist. According to Prof. Dorgan, Dannie lacked the thoughtful awareness and critical analysis skills required for news reporting and probably would not ever develop them. He suggested that she abort her journalism career and find another passion like beach volleyball.
    “I let that grumpy old man steal my dream”, thought Dannie. “I wish I had been brave enough to stand up to his foolish criticism and keep fighting for what I wanted. “
    Dannie resolved to head home in the morning to re-enroll in school. Running away from Dorgan was not the answer. Dannie opened up the front flap of her Tumi suitcase and took out her remaining six hundred dollars, a thin journal and a pen. She put the money in the pocket of the PJs she was wearing. Then she opened her journal, placed pen to paper and started reporting “What happened to me in San Francisco…”

    • I really enjoyed your richly detailed, optimistic piece, Rich, especially after reading all the posts and getting depressed while everyone else is writing prolifically. I only have Dannie getting off a bus and some poorly written dialogue. But like your Dannie I’ve decided to keep plugging away and hope something will come of my efforts. Thanks for the enjoyable read and indirect pep talk.

      • Hi Lisa, thanks for your kind feedback and encouragement. Please keep going! Keep on writing! This piece took a few re-writes to get it to a point that I wanted to post it. Just remember that we can’t edit and create at the same time. Get it all out on paper or computer screen and then spruce it up, It’s like the directions on the shampoo bottle: lather, rinse, repeat….

    • Great take, Rich. Loved the tussle over the spoon. Sounds just like sisters on different paths. And the journaling at the end–terrific. And, full disclosure, I too did the no peek thing before my first post.

  5. (A little soapy, but then Dorothy is a nice lady.)

    Dorothy hugged Dannie tighter and let her cry until the tears stopped and she started hiccupping.

    “Sweetie, I understand how heart-broken you must feel right now, but phone calls at 3 AM never bring good news. Your mother must have been terrified, thinking you’d been injured or worse. I know her well, Hon, and I’m certain she’s regretting what she said.”

    “I’m (hic) not so sure about that. She was pretty angry. And when she said… When she told me… (hic, hic, hic)..”

    “Easy, Dannie. By the way, is it still ‘Dannie’ with an ‘i’ or an ‘e?’”

    “I think I’ll (hic) stick with ‘i’ for now (hic). I’m really an outcast so I may as well spell my name the way I want.”

    “Danni, if you had called during the day I’m sure your mother would have reacted differently. Remember when your dog disappeared and you worried yourself sick? Then when it came home safe and sound you scolded it for being gone and making you worry. It’s the same thing with your mother.”

    “Yeah, I get that. (hic)” Danni said and then a sly smile crossed her face. “She did treat me like a dog.”

    Dorothy and Danni laughed, and Danni sat up straight. “I should be going, back to “Far Out Land.” The laughter started again and suddenly Danni realized her hiccups were gone. “I’ll have to remember that, the next time I get the hiccups.”

    “Danni, I’ve been thinking. I’ve known you since you were born. You’re like a daughter to me, you know. You’re smart and pretty and have lots of potential. But, you need to learn how to channel all that. Do you mind me talking like this? Like a substitute mother?”

    “Not at all, Dorothy. I think I need it after what I did. I can’t thank you enough for coming to get me when I called. I was really bummed out. I don’t think they say that in California, but I don’t care anymore. I should just go back to Chicago, beg forgiveness, and see if I can get back in school.”

    “Well, I have another idea. If you hadn’t decided to find out what life is all about, I never would have had the courage to leave George sitting in his recliner. I’ve been thinking about it for years and never did anything. I have you to thank for that. I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I’d like to offer you a deal.

    “Obviously, you didn’t like college, but there are other ways of pursuing an education. I know you love to cook, don’t you? I remember all the goodies you brought when I was laid up with a bad back and after my parents were….died in that awful accident.”

    “Yes, it’s one of my passions. But soybeans and rice and half-rotten vegetable from the dumpster are not my passion.”

    “San Francisco has a wonderful culinary institute. How about you enroll and I pay the cost? You can live her with me. There’s an extra bedroom.”

    “NO! No, no, no. I mean, gosh. I can’t let you do that. Really, I appreciate the offer, but no, I can’t. I mean, it would be too much…”

    “Danni, listen. It comes with strings. Just before you quit college, I got the final word from the probate court that everything is in order. I have inherited my parents’ estate. Plus, I am now the sole owner of the car dealership. I am, as they say, set for life. I can afford to live in this nice apartment, even at the exorbitant San Francisco rates. I can travel. I can do anything I want. The funny thing is, George now works for me.

    “He thought all along that someday he’d be the owner. You know, quiet little me inheriting a business I couldn’t run and he’d step right in and push me out of the way.”

    “I’m sorry if I did anything to cause your marriage to fail,” said Danni.

    “Honey, that marriage failed a long time ago. Once you quit trying, it’s time to call it quits. I just didn’t have the energy.”

    “Was he… Did he ever…?”

    “Oh, no. George wasn’t a mean man. His sins were those of omission, not commission. I think he was so bored at his job, he became bored with everything, even us.

    “Now, about those strings. I am a volunteer with the Park Service at Alcatraz prison, and I’ll be working until the last tourist boat leaves the island each day. Funny, huh? From one prison to another? This means I’ll be getting home late, cold, and tired. I’d like a hot meal waiting for me. You’ll prepare it. That’s string number one.”

    Danni laughed and nodded her head.

    “String number two. Housework. It’s your responsibility. Picking up after George all these years…. Well, I hate housework.

    Danni nodded again.

    “And number three. I remember all the letters you sent us when you were at summer camps. There’s an internet site that Florence down the street in Chicago told me about. I checked it out and it looks great. I want you to enroll in an online class called “Beginning Writer’s Workshop. On my dime. Let’s see if that spark in the letters translates the way I think it will.”

    “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

    “I’ll take that as a yes.”

    Danni threw her arms around Dorothy and hugged her.

    “One more thing, Danni. How attached are you to your dreadlocks?”

    “At the root,” laughed Danni. “No, seriously, Danni with an ‘i’ doesn’t need dreads. Those were for Dannie with an ‘e.’ I’ll cut them off.”

    “Uhh…. How about we get appointments at that salon down the block? Both of us. My treat. Oh, and from now on, call me ‘Dori’ with an ‘i’.”

  6. (The soap suds are getting deeper.)

    Dorothy, now Dori, waited until Danni went to the grocery store for dinner fixings. Then, she dialed a number she knew by heart.

    “Jean, it’s me. All is well. It worked.”

    “Oh, God. Tell me she doesn’t hate me. I feel so awful about the things I said.”

    “Well, I won’t lie to you, Jean. She was pretty upset. She thinks she’s been disowned. By the time we were through talking, though, she was smiling and I think she’s looking forward to culinary school.”

    “Dorothy, I can’t thank you enough. Both for taking Danni in and keeping her safe, and for what you’re doing for her. I will always owe you a debt of gratitude. You are my dearest friend.”

    “Jean, if my Ellie hadn’t died so young you would have done the same for me in these circumstances. This is a win-win deal for all of us. You know she’d safe and going to school. She’s following a dream she never thought possible. As for me, I have a live-in cook and bottle-washer, and a child I love as my own. I told you last night when you called that I never would have had the gumption to leave George if not for Danni.”

    “Poor George,” said Jean. “I saw him out walking yesterday. He seems shell-shocked. Doesn’t know what hit him.”

    “Poor George, indeed. You saw him out walking? Hmmm. Maybe some good will come of this. I’ve never known George to go for a walk before. He’ll be okay, though. He still has his job. If you can call it a job.”

    “Actually, Al told me he stopped by the dealership to get a service appointment and George was out on the floor, acting like a supervisor.”

    “Huh. Imagine that. I didn’t know he knew the way out of his office. Well, maybe there’s some potential in George, after all.”

    “Dorothy, if there’s anything I can do….”

    “Actually, there is. I’ve taken a cue from Danni. I now call myself Dori—with an ‘i’. And it’s a good thing you never told your girls that your mother had done the same thing with you when you decided to find out what life is all about. Danni never would have fallen for it, otherwise. Now that I live in San Francisco, it’s time to see if we can do something to help Kate.”

    • I’m enjoying your soapy posts, Gullible. I always look forward to reading your posts. They put a smile on my face.

  7. Hard to compete with a muse-pumped Gully, but I’d already worked this up, so…

    I met her back in September 2010 in the Castro. I was living up in Sanchez Street at the time and was coming home one afternoon from a part-time job I had packing crates in a factory, and she was standing in 18th Street just up from Mission Dolores Park, looking kind of lost and confused, frowning at the houses across the street.

    As I came by, she turned to me and asked if i knew where the blue house was. I looked up and down the street, but couldn’t see a blue house, and told her no, but if she kept on looking she’d probably recognize it by its color.

    Let me tell you, if looks could turn someone to stone, I’d be in a park somewhere right now with pigeon crap on my head. She snarled something about everyone in San Francisco being a dickhead and her not needing auditions from ‘never-gonna-make-it stand-up comedians’.

    That hurt, and close to the bone too – because in fact that morning’s mail had been yet another rejection letter from yet another publisher who hadn’t appreciated the brilliance of my six-hundred-page darkly comic take on post-GFC mortgage defaults.

    But anyway, I apologized and suggested that maybe there might be a blue house further up the hill, and she looked doubtful but walked with me, along the way explaining that the particular blue house she was looking for was from a song called ‘San Francisco’ by some French singer named Maxime Le Forrestier about a commune where he’d lived for a while back in the 1970s somewhere on 18th Street, and how she’d always loved the song (which she sang a few lines of in French) and just wanted to see it out of interest. I suggested that it mightn’t even still be standing after forty years or so and that even if it was it could’ve been painted a different color by now, but she said that would’ve been ‘sacrilege’ and could never have happened.

    When we reached Urban Bread on the corner of Sanchez, she stopped and said she needed food, and suddenly I wasn’t in such a hurry to get back to the apartment and analyze my rejection letters over and over again. I asked her if I could join her for a coffee, and she said okay, and over the next hour or more she told me about how she’d dropped out of college and come to Frisco to live with her sister and brother-in-law, and how after only a week she didn’t think she could handle sleeping in their tiny living room and eating their vegetarian food and pretending to be impressed by their ‘ersatz La Bohème routine’, and how she had to either get out of their lives or get them out of hers even if it meant putting rat poison in their tofu.

    Long afternoon short, by four o’clock we’d decided she should move into my second bedroom, by seven she was back at my apartment with her one bag, and by ten-thirty we’d enthusiastically demonstrated to each other that the second bedroom was going to be superfluous.

    But as these things often go, Fall fell into Winter, our Christmas joy came and went, and by January everything got colder and colder, and one afternoon I came home to yet another rejection letter – this one propped on the kitchen bench like a True Romance cliché, simply saying she’d gone to New York to ‘find out what life’s all about’. And I never heard from her again.

    Here’s the irony: I’d almost got over her, almost got her out of my mind, then one day I was walking up 18th Street as usual, and I noticed a bunch of painters working on a house there. Painting it blue. It turned out that someone had finally identified it as the original blue house from the guy’s song, and now a French company was sponsoring it to be painted back to its earlier colors.

    And I want to tell her that I know where her blue house is – just around the corner from my blue apartment.

    • Dang, Fig. It’s several hours later than my previous comment so I’ve had time to consider. I like your latest take even more. There is so much in that piece, I’ll read it over and over. Really great writing. Passing of the seasons, the rejection things. Wonderful.

      It would fit perfectly in a book I just received, “Heartscapes,” published by Spruce Mountain Press. It’s an anthology of “past loves” stories by various authors. Ahem. I am one of those authors. Published in a real book at last. It also happens to be my favorite piece.

      Isn’t that cool how I worked that in? No $$$–one of those where the authors get a free copy. What the heck. A publishing credit is a credit whether it pays or not. Right?

      By the way, what does “septic-generated” mean in your part of the world? In mine, all I can think of is my sewer system freezing, and that’s pretty hard to happen when it’s 70 degrees. That’s Fahrenheit.

      • You either got the crypticism (like that word?) Gully, or your ’70 degrees’ was a freaky coincidence. I was playing with ‘Septuagenarian’ – evidently too obliquely for anyone’s good.

    • I love this wistful piece of lost love. I wish I could’ve written it. I agree with Gullible. I think this is one of my favorites.

    • I meant to footnote the above with the fact that the blue house element is based on a true happening. You can see more at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss6J7p502gQ

    • What Happened to Dannie:

      It seemed simple enough. Apply for a job. Get an apartment. Okay. And luck was with her.

      Dannie landed a job in the downtown department store, helping prepare for the Christmas season by hauling out decorations, setting up the Santa Claus area, wrapping presents that the little kids could take home if their mom bought a photo with Santa. Apparently one year of college had been enough. Then the guy who lived beneath her sister’s apartment moved out, and Dannie had enough money for the security deposit and the first month’s rent. Then with her first paycheck Dannie bought a midsized motorcycle and helmet from one of her sister’s friends. So far the dream was intact. She was on her own in a great city with a motorcycle.

      The only bad part was, well, everything. Oh working was fine. There was a really handsome man in Furniture who returned her smiles sometimes. Okay, he was at least 35, but who cared. Even the ride home from work on the cable car was cool. But then…what? Her mailbox never had mail unless it was the three bills she got per month—electric, water, gas. Junk mail barely even knew she existed.

      Dannie walked into her kitchen, kicked off her shoes, and sat on her one kitchen chair, a loan from her sister who was already worrying about her. She rubbed her feet. Her only table so far was a cardboard packing box she’d kept. Her two foot wide white enamel stove and small refrigerator stared her down. She was hungry, but scrambled eggs with hot dogs and parmesan cheese again? She blinked back tears and pretended she was fine. She examined the multicolored polka dots, the size of grapefruits, the last tenant had added to the brown paint on the wooden floor.

      She should take a motorcycle ride. Yes, that would be very cool. She could change out of her clothes, put on some jeans, doff her grey and red helmet, and ride all over the city, cranking the throttle up as she accelerated to make some cool noise. Just one problem: She was scared of her bike. She’d only ridden a couple of rented 90cc bikes back in college, and that had been on flat ground. San Francisco was full of hills. She had already stalled once at a stoplight going up a hill. Thank god the electric starter had worked. The bike was not that big—150ccs, an old discontinued model Honda–but it was heavy enough that she would lose control if she started rolling backwards. Shit. And sometimes the electric starter didn’t work when she turned the key and climbed on while the bike sat at the curb. That time she had gone back inside, hoping no one had seen her.

      Laundry? (Stomping on clothes in the bathtub.) Grocery shopping? (All night grocery where she’d realized she didn’t know what to buy beyond milk, bread, hot dogs, fake parmesan, eggs.) Writing letters to people who thought she was so amazing to quit school and head out on her own? (“I have a motorcycle now.”) She had no radio, no Internet (too pricey), no TV. Oh she had a laptop, but she didn’t even have a printer. She had a cell phone, but apparently it didn’t work out here—wrong service area or something. It was November 2; she had to save money for her airfare home at Christmas where everyone would want to hear her great stories of adventure. After the rent and the motorcycle, she had around $200.

      On the bus ride from the airport, she had seen the city of San Francisco lit up at sunset, and it had looked like the promise of every novel she’d ever read. What had she thought–that she would conquer the city like some feisty, attractive heroine who would automatically meet really interesting people who would think she was quite wonderful? That very cool heroine would not be keeping company with polka dots painted on a floor, eating off a cardboard box, and sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag in an empty room.

      There were girls in her department at the store who were nice. But most of them didn’t even have their high school diplomas. One was from Mexico, one was Chinese, and one used terrible grammar. Actually she was the nicest. Patty was her name. She wore gunky makeup and had some sort of Tammy Wynette hairdo, but she and her boy friend had stopped by on his motorcycle after work one day when Dannie had mentioned that she couldn’t get her bike to start. So embarrassing. Roy had shown her where the gas tank reserve switch was. In college, Dannie had been friends with girls in her sorority–girls like her, girls with plans, money, and pretty clothes. Apparently, when you came out into the world, you just made friends with whoever you worked with.

      Maybe tomorrow, she would sneak down to the Furniture Department and hope that man would notice her.

      • Hmmmm. Ann adds another dimension. Ann the biker lady.

      • I love this, Ann. Very entertaining. Made me think of myself twenty five years ago when I eloped and headed to Georgia. But no motorcycle or internet. I should have tried those. Oh well.

      • You are certainly in dire straits when Junk Mail doesn’t know you exist, still, there is hope for our little gal. I adore your writing.

  8. Aw, what a romantic. Love this take. I’m not so Muse-pumped. More like I can find a dozen excuses every half hour why I should stop the wretched chore I’m doing and go do something else for a bit.

    And the more I think of it, I think this is my favorite what-happened story. My favorite line is being turned to stone. Writing this on an iPad and tired of switching keyboards for punctuation, so forgive, please.

    • Come on, Lisa. You can do it, And probably add something great to the mix.

    • Gully, actually, I know exactly what happened to Dannie. She just made her flight from Chicago because traffic was as slow as Forest Gump in a Calculus class. She was seated next to an exuberant, middle aged woman named BonnieSue, who was headed to an Amway Convention to receive her “Salesman of the Year” award. Even before all the passengers were on board, BonnieSue told Dannie all about her excellent “People Skills” and the fact that she finished first in her class at Toastmasters. Dannie dreaded the next few hours, but she was solid in her decision to “see what life was all about.” Little did she know that her quest would start with a dissertation on The Wonders of Amway from a plump zealot who lived in Gary Indiana.
      About 45 minutes into the flight, the pilot informed the passengers that their flight was being diverted to Parsons Kansas due to foul weather.
      “Kansas, we can’t be going to Kansas. This just can’t be happening to me. After all I’ve been through….I can’t believe this…I’m going mad…I can’t take this, I just can’t!”
      Dannie had no other choice but to slap BonnieSue back to her senses. But the slap didn’t exactly work, on the contrary, it brought out the beast in B-Sue. She clobbered Dannie up-side the head and stamped on her toes to boot.
      Dannie retaliated by slamming BS with her laptop, it was an off brand and Dannie wanted to upgrade to a Dell anyway.
      The fisticuffs caught the attention of the Stewardess Boy, Justin and he alerted the pilot that there was a Stage Two Situation taking place in economy class. The Pilot alerted Parsons Airport, who alerted the Pentagon, who sent out a mess of F-15’s to escort the SouthWest flight to St. Louis.
      Dannie and BonnieSue are now doing 5 to 10 in Danbury Minimum Security Prison; they have become surprisingly close friends.

  9. Thanks, Rich, Gully, for your encouragement. I’ve finally finished. Not so hilarious or masterful but I’m tires of editing so here goes.

    Dannie knew Mom and Dad would be making their weekly call tomorrow and wasn’t sure what to tell them. She pulled the thread bare sheet around her reflecting on the last twenty four hours. Kate and Ted were great and seemed happy with what little they had but Dannie wasn’t sure it was the life for her. When Kate said they lived in an artist colony she thought it consisted of more than a dilapidated apartment building with five of their artist friends and a few easels.

    Leaving school seemed like a good idea at the time but as she arrived at the Greyhound station on Fulsom she lost some of the bravado she had felt in the comforts of her dorm room. The bus had screeched and stuttered to a stop. She awoke to see Mickey and Minnie skid across the walkway. When she got off the bus and retrieved her Disney-themed luggage the driver had actually asked for a tip. So she told him not to piss off passengers by flinging their luggage around. She studied the local bus routes and determined it would take her two hours to travel the twenty miles to Kate’s apartment. Though being on your own was not living up to her expectations, public transportation was exactly what she had envisioned. She made the most of the situation and pulled out her sketch book.

    Dannie stood in front of Kate’s apartment building and stared at the signage. It should’ve read “Fletcher Towers Apartments” but due to missing letters and one upside down it actually read “Fl tcher To ers Apartmeuts”. She inventoried her new surroundings – lack of foliage, brown chipped paint, chain link fencing, a few stray cats and dogs and from the looks of it some humans too. Frowning, she could hear her parents’ voices, “A good education and hard work are important. You don’t want to end up like Kate.” She had learned a few things about being on her own since setting out to San Francisco but this is not the type of education her parents had imagined.

    When she entered the apartment she immediately grasped the scarcity of Ted and Kate’s living situation. She took in the sheets for makeshift curtains, the crates that substituted for shelves and drawers, and a smattering of furniture that probably escaped a trip to the dump. She could smell the musty, sweaty odors of unwashed clothes and bodies – or maybe just one body. She looked down and noticed Ted. His gangly mass of pasty white flesh lounged, eyes closed, mouth agape on a bean bag chair. Apparently he had pulled another all-nighter in the studio. As she gazed around the apartment she thought you pull all-nighters for this. But when she glimpsed the artwork she was captivated. Ted and Kate worked together using vivid hues, playful swirling lines and geometric shapes to create dazzling displays of color and form. Their artwork was the inspiration for her to pack up her things, drain her account of its $600+ and head to San Francisco.

    She adored their one luxury. A Great Dane, Tory that smothered her with slobbery kisses when she walked in the door. But just as she thought things are looking up, she looked up and shuddered. A roach scurried across the ceiling down a corner and disappeared behind one of the paintings leaning against the dingy wall.

    Kate had prepared instant coffee she dug out of a drawer that almost fell on her toes when the catch failed to engage. She set the mugs of coffee on the table created by plywood resting atop two piles of books and magazines. Dannie told Kate and Ted of her plans to quit school and explore life and as always they had been supportive surrogate parents. But their reassurance did little to quell the ambivalence she felt about leaving school. Dannie had suffered the seedier side of life in San Francisco for less than a day but already yearned for the trappings of upper middle class living. When they went to bed Dannie drifted off to sleep dreaming of her queen-sized pillow top bed with 800 thread count sheets as her body sagged into the scratchy canvas of the cot.

    The next morning Kate called to Dannie but got no response. In the studio she found Dannie half sitting, half draped over her cot with a pencil in hand and sketches scattered around her. Kate marveled at the images – a homeless man leaning against a wall sharing half a sandwich with a puppy, the front of their dilapidated apartment house with a gathering of smiling tenants, a child peering out a bus window laughing and pointing at an unknown image. She tilted her head, put a finger to her chin and smiled to herself.

    It had been nearly two years. Dannie proudly held a publication of her artwork, “A Colorful Life”. It was a collaboration of Dannie’s charcoal sketches – images that evoked contrary emotions – contrasted against a background of Kate and Ted’s own brightly colored artwork. A year and half of pulling all-nighters and barely scraping by was well worth the effort. “A Colorful Life” was the second best-selling art publication in 2012.

    She sat on the sofa as Tory smothered her with kisses and she thought to herself things are looking up. She could hear her parents’ voices, “A good education and hard work are important. You don’t want to end up like Kate,” and she laughed as she stared at the Beach from the window of the high rise apartment she shared with her sister and Ted.

    • Excellent Lisa, I am happy to hear Dannie might have a brighter future than the rest of us gave her. Lovely descriptions and loved the tip to the bus driver. This was well worth the wait.

    • What a great conglomeration of ambivalences! I laughed, and loudly, when Dannie shared her “tip” with the bus driver. I thought it was great that you went beyond the expected distaste for poverty and let art come to the rescue. Priorities! And endless surprises. I really enjoyed it.

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