Just a Note

The postcard showed five women in jazzy hats.  The backdrop was a dappled pink.  Not a scene, just something painted in.   June started to throw the postcard away, and then she hesitated.

38 responses to “Just a Note

  1. Wait. The torsos were wearing hats? No heads?

  2. Your comment made me laugh so hard. Great visual. The headless store mannequins with hats stuck on them to disguise their missing heads.

    Okay, I fixed it. (More fool I. Maybe the headless, hat topped torsos would be more interesting.) No more posting late at night!

  3. Molly held the postcard in her hands and marveled at the background rendered in pink bokeh. She had another postcard like this somewhere in the house, with the background in aqua. She should put this one with it, she decided. Molly liked putting apples with apples and oranges with oranges, or, in this case, postcards with postcards.

    Simetimes, though, the effort required to do that was just too much and Molly gave up. Her intentions were good, but with the way things were these days, she simply couldn’t manage.

    She looked around the room, wondering where her postcard collection was. “If I were a postcard,” she asked, “Where would I be?” She decided to start her search in the second bedroom, the one she hadn’t been in for years. She vaguely recalled seeing some postcards in there a long time ago.

    Molly struggled out of her chair and slowly made her way to the hallway and the second bedroom. She never called it a “guest room” because it had been so many years since she’d had an overnight guest, well… She just couldn’t remember when. That’s how things are these days, she thought.

    She stood at the door opening and said “Postcards, postcards, where are you?” A few minutes later, Molly decided she would save the search for another day, and made her way down the hall to the kitchen where she slipped the postcard under the edge of a stack of magazines on the counter—the ones she meant to read some day.

    “The keepers” she called them, but it seemed she never had time to get at them. That’s how things are these days, she thought.

    Exhausted from her efforts, Molly sat down on the pile of clothing in front of the washer and dryer. I really should get to these clothes, but I just don’t have the energy, she thought. After a while, Molly fell asleep on the pile.

    When she awoke, Molly thought she should make an effort at tidying the house because she was expecting guests the next day. It seemed such an overwhelming project that she was exhausted just thinking about it. It was so difficult to move these days, and, well, that’s just how things are now.

    Molly realized she was hungry and decided to order pizza. Now she had to find her cordless phone. She tried to recall when she’d used it last and figured it was the last time she’d ordered takeout. When was that? Was it last night? This morning? Two days ago? She couldn’t remember. Well, she thought, that’s the norm these days.

    She struggled through the few parts of the house that she actually used and finally found her phone in the living room on top of a large package of paper towels she’d left by the front door. At least I could put these paper towels in the pantry, thought Molly, but by the time she’d speed-dialed the pizza parlor, she’d forgotten about the towels and putting them away. Just like always these days.

    Molly woke up the next morning and grabbed a slice of left-over pizza for breakfast. Her guests would be here any minute, she realized. Whatever will they think? This is frightening, she thought, and realized she didn’t think she could go through with this. She jumped when she heard the knock at the door.

    “Hello, Molly. I’m Dr. Laurel Baines. I’m a licensed psychologist and I specialize in hoarding disorders. I’m here to help you today.”

    “Come in,” said Molly, “If you can find room.”

  4. You caught me looking at that fastball! Good job.

    • Thanks, Jeff. I waited in vain for your post at the previous prompt. Or, perhaps I should go back and see if you posted late–rather than in haste.

  5. My adult daughter didn’t know which emotion to show over the newly found photo card of five women wearing only hats.

    She found the card in the top drawer of my deceased husband’s desk drawer. I thought I had gathered them all and tucked them away before the family arrived for the funeral. I apparently missed one. Thomas did have a fondness for erotica which started with his father’s souvenirs brought back from France in 1919. He felt it his responsibility to carry on the collection. The tradition. These cards were nothing like the explicit images of today. Most were nude women, dressed in scarves or little else. Perhaps tending toward lesbian flirtation, they could be whatever the imagination wanted to see.

    I asked my daughter for the card and ushered her out of my room. I locked the door, went to my desk, lifted the scanner top, and placed the photo face down. My finger touched the scan button. A smile graced my lips.

    From the back of my top closet shelf I pulled down a relic from my past, the hat I wore on my honeymoon decades ago. I pinned it to my head at a rakish angle and stepped from my dressing gown. The digital camera was already in place, timer button set for ten seconds.

    The funeral that afternoon was a buoyant affair with friends from afar and from the ages coming to pay their respect. Visitors at funerals are a curious lot, often divided into two groups: those trying to act properly distressed, and those trying not to show their distress. And sometimes tucked in the middle are those of a more frivolous vent. That was me that day.

    Amidst the tears and hushed murmering, everyone gave me, the grieving widow, her privacy at the open casket. My opening of my purse likely appeared to be retrieving a fresh tissue. My hand in the casket upon Thomas’ body a farewell pat.

    But it was only I who knew that when the casket was laid to rest that Thomas would not only rest in peace, but he would have company. In his coat pocket lay a newly printed photograph of ladies wearing only hats, but now they numbered five.

  6. Aach! last line should read “but now they numbered six!”

  7. How crazy are our imaginations! I actually have the postcard I initially described, and it was purchased in Spain, showing five very 1960s women with Doris Day hairdos wearing straw hats. Never did I dream that your imagination would see women wearing ONLY hats. Nonetheless, your piece is my big treat for the evening because I will be laughing repeatedly as I remember six, sexy, naked, hat-wearing women rather than dazed-looking models who seem to be thinking of not one single thing except perhaps to remember to smile for the camera.

  8. Alvin took one look at the postcard June offered him and sank to his knees on the kitchen floor. June looked at the postcard and saw the torsos of five ladies wearing only colorful hats. The photo ended at a discreet point.

    “No, please, no,” he said. He put his face in his hands and wept.

    “Alvin? Alvin, honey? What’s wrong? Are you okay?” said June.

    “No, no, June,” he answered and began to sob.

    “But, honey, what happened? Are you sick? Can I help?”

    “June, please. Just leave me alone. “ Alvin slowly stood and staggered down the hall to the bedroom where he collapsed face down. June could still hear his muffled sobbing, but she made herself a cup of chamomile tea and stayed in the kitchen.

    Hours later Alvin came out of the bedroom and drew a glass of water from the kitchen sink. He sat at the kitchen table across from June and said, “I guess you’re wondering what’s wrong.”

    “Yes, I am,” said June. “You obviously upset about something. If you want to talk about it, I’m here to listen. If not, I’m here in silence.”

    “It was the postcard,” said Alvin. “It brought it all back. All those years of work, hard, hard work with a shrink. And all that money? God, if only I could have all that money back, I’d be a rich man. Now I’m back where I started and I don’t know if I can go through this again. If I can go on, for that matter.”

    “Tell me, Alvin. I’m here to listen, not to judge. Is it something that happened before we met?”

    “Yes, yes. Long before we met. I never told you, but I used to be a firefighter. I was in my early twenties then. I was so proud of being a firefighter. I spent my time off at the station, you know, polishing the truck, sweeping up, just hanging around the guys. Ah, man, it was so wonderful.”

    Alvin sniffed and wiped his nose on his handkerchief.

    “Then one day the ladies auxiliary decided to raise some money for us. For new stuff that the city budget didn’t include. Just a public-spirited thing, you know?

    “They decided on making a calendar with f-f-f-firefighters posing in….” A sob escaped from Alvin before he could catch it. “P-p-posing in-in-inthenude. Nude. Bare ass naked.”

    “But, Alvin, you don’t…”

    “No, don’t say it. Please. Just let me finish.” Alvin drank some water, took a ragged breath, and continued.

    “Everything went okay at first. They auditioned all of us and chose eleven. I was one of the eleven. The twelfth month would be a group shot. So, on the day of the photo shoot, they had each of us pose discreetly, you know like they did in ‘Calendar Girls?’ Like, one guy held his fire axe over his…you know? And another, Charlie, held his helmet down low.

    “Well, everything went fine until it was my turn. I was November and they were running out of prop ideas. They decided my prop would be the fire hose itself, and the shot had to be done outdoors so it would look real. That didn’t bother me. I just wrapped a towel around my waist and went out on the concrete apron in front of the fire hall. Jerry brought me the hose, I dropped the towel, and posed with nozzle covering my…you know.”

    “Honey, lots of groups are doing those calendars for fund raisers. You don’t have to worry about that.”

    Alvin looked at June for a long time, then said, “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” He headed for the attic. When he returned, he handed her a yellowed calendar from 1967. June opened the calendar and her eyebrows shot skyward. “WOW!” she said before she could clamp her mouth shut.

    As each month went by, June’s eyebrows ratcheted up higher. Alvin stopped her when she reached October. “Please don’t laugh, June.”

    “Honey, I won’t. I promise.”

    “Before you turn the page, I want you to look at the postcard you showed me earlier.” June dug the card out of the trash and looked at it. All she saw were the five naked torsos. She looked at Alvin and shrugged.

    “Look closely,” said Alvin.

    June leaned closer. “OH! Oh, how funny! This was taken in Brussels, wasn’t it? Oh, it had to have been taken there. Did they do it intentionally? That’s Manneken Pis in the background.”

    “Yeah, that’s it. A fountain with a little boy peeing,” replied Alvin. “Turn the page now, June.”

    June hesitated, wondering what could have caused Alvin so much trouble that he’d seen a shrink for so many years. Then she fold October back and looked at the photo. There was Alvin, all buffed up, body oiled to make his muscles stand out. Lordy, but wasn’t he a stud muffin?
    Alvin was pacing around the kitchen. “You see it? You see it yet?”

    June shook her head and said, “No. I don’t see… OH! OH, MY! Now I see it!”

    “Yeah,” moaned Alvin. “Nobody paid any attention to the background when they took the shot because everyone was making sure the fire nozzle covered my privates. They never saw the guy across the street who’d been watering his lawn.”

    “But, Alvin. It looks like…”

    “Yeah, he was just turning off the hose when the shutter clicked. It looks like I’m… I’m dribbling IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE! DRIBBLING! THE NOZZLE’S POINTED UP AND I’M DRIBBLING STRAIGHT DOWN FOR GOD’S SAKES!!!

    “After the calendar came out someone at the station noticed it, they all started calling me The Nozz. Some called me The Mann, meaning Mannekin Pis. Then they laughed. At first I thought it was a compliment, you know, because of the size of the fire nozzle. Then I finally realized what they were talking about. I had to take that every day. Finally, I quit. I quit the job, moved west, and started seeing a shrink.”

    June took the postcard and tore it again and again and again. Then she opened the cabinet door under the kitchen sink and threw the shreds in the trash can.

    “Did you just snicker? Did I just hear you laugh, June?”

    June bit her tongue before she turned around. “Alvin, honey, I would never laugh at you. Honest.”

  9. The postcard showed five women in jazzy hats, the backdrop a dappled pink. June started to throw the postcard away, and then she hesitated. She turned the card over and reread the note: Will you come to a 40 year reunion of the Fabulous Five (remember those days??) at my beach house Santa Barbara for the weekend of July 13 and 14th. Can we forget and forgive? I’d love to see you all again…it’s been too long. Love, Gladys (503-838-8288)

    Had it been 40 years ago? She closed her eyes and remembered the excitement of those days. Riding from town to town on whatever bus was going the right direction. Lugging their suitcases to the cheapest hotel they could find. Dancing at whatever venue would have them. She recalled the feel of the slick wood floor of the stage through her dance shoes and the smell of sweat and perfume that permeated the air after a performance as they rushed from the stage to the make-shift dressing rooms, usually set up haphazardly in the back. The lights were relentlessly hot and they giggled at each others dripping makeup when their routine was done.

    The postcard was their calling card. Gladys offered to cut the photographer’s hair if he’d take their picture. They stood outside a Mexican restaurant for the photo, its pink dappled wall contrasting with their red hats and purple flouncy dresses. They made copies on heavy poster paper and cut them out in postcard size, writing their contact information on the message side. She remembered sitting in hotel rooms thumbing through the phone book, addressing the postcards to places they could perform.

    They made it four years before the infighting started, all because of a Robert, the manager they hired at the start if their third year. He got them more shows and they were busier than ever. But then he started dating them, one after the other until he finally married Gladys. Their tight-knit group couldn’t withstand the glib manager and soon they dissolved. She sent and received Christmas cards from all but Gladys for a while, but had lost track of them in the past twenty years.

    She picked up the framed picture of her husband. Charles’ death two years ago had opened a hole in her heart and life that had not yet been filled. She missed their conversations, his companionship, and his sense of humor. Their two children, grown with their own families, lived on the east coast and although she saw them several times a year, she felt truly alone.

    She walked over to the desk and flipped the calendar to July. Nothing written there that would prevent her from flying from Denver to Santa Barbara.

    She picked up the postcard again and studied the faces of the five young women. They had been like sisters and she did miss them. When she’d shown Charles pictures of the group and told him about the years they spent together, he’d encouraged her to reestablish contact with them, but she hadn’t.

    June pushed the boxes aside in the closet until she found the shabby hat box. Inside, the red hat was nestled in tissue paper, her dancing shoes underneath. She pulled out the hat and stood in front of the mirror, placing it on her head. She turned to one side then the other, struck a dance pose, and smiled ruefully at her seventy-year-old figure.

    She walked back to the kitchen, still wearing the hat, picked up the phone and dialed. “Gladys, its June.”

  10. The postcard showed five women in jazzy hats. The backdrop was a dappled pink. Not a scene, just something painted in. June started to throw the postcard away, and then she hesitated. She looked closer at the woman on the far left. The woman was her sister to whom she hadn’t spoken in ten years. April looks fantastic, June thought. She felt a twinge of jealousy, a feeling that had gotten between her and April since they were children.

    June flipped the postcard over. JOIN US FOR THE TIMES OF YOUR LIFE. Call 800-771-7172 for more information on this women’s group or see our website at http://www.funlovingwomen.com.

    The postcard was addressed to Resident at June’s address. That assured her that this was a mass mailing. Her sister hadn’t mailed it specifically to her. A part of her wished that April had wanted to see her again and was using this opportunity to reach out to her. As the years of separation added up, a reunion had seemed less and less likely.

    June threw the postcard on the counter in her kitchen. Over the next few days, she passed the card as she went about her daily routine. The weekend arrived. With a cup of coffee in one hand, June picked up the postcard and went to her computer. She found and scanned the website. As she looked it all over, she occasionally looked at the women in their wild hats. Her sister’s sweet smile was like a call from home. The negative memories June had been harboring seemed silly and petty now. We could start over. We really should, she thought.

    Three weeks passed. June felt excited and nervous. She would be seeing April for the first time since 2001. The May program for the Fun Loving Women’s Group was at the Ramada Inn. As June parked and walked toward the main entrance, her fears nearly turned her around. April was unaware that June would be there that evening. June needed a bit of control to help her do this.

    June could hear women’s voices in the small conference room that was signed “The Times of Your Life Women’s Group Meet Here.” She stood in the doorway for a second before going into the room. She was greeted by a matronly woman wearing a bright red, floppy brimmed hat and a wide smile. They chatted for a few seconds. June’s hands were moist and her heart was pounding as she looked around the room.

    “Junie. Oh, Junie.” She heard April’s voice before she saw her. Tears and embraces came next. They walked out into the hall and headed for a small gathering area in an out-of-the way corner. An hour later, arm in arm, they re-entered the women’s group.

    Differences had vanished. Maturity had taught them what is important and what isn’t. “I’m not sure what kept me from tossing that postcard from your group into my wastebasket. Somehow, I felt a tug when my hand reached out to discard it,” June said.

    “Our jazzy hats are magic, you know. Tomorrow we go shopping for yours. I have one in mind that’ll look terrific on you, June,” April said.

  11. We were kind of on the same wave length here! Great job and glad to see you writing again, Shaddy!

    • That’s amazing, Linda. I didn’t look at any of the posts before I wrote mine. I didn’t want to be intimidated since I haven’t been writing much for quite some time.

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