changed a lot since mom left
he keeps old furniture in there now
spiders live in the old armchair that was mom's
tools that are no longer used rust away
and open containers of gasoline stain the old rug
(more) inside dad watches Seinfeld on VHS and
cooks beans and soup in the microwave
on holidays i visit him
bearing gifts of ham and mashed potatoes
he plays a scratched CD:
"TUNES FOR CHRISTMAS"
i tell him that No dad, it's Easter
on his good days he bakes cookies
and we share a beer on the porch
he asks me about my job
mom and her new man live
in one of the big houses at the edge of town
their garage painted white
with a ferrari and
spiders are not welcome there
and gasoline is stored in stylish metal cans
painted with flowers
on the fourth of july
american flags flutter
the neighbors come for corn-on-the-cob and bbq
moms new man wears a kiss the cook apron
"i hope your father's doing well," she says
like she had never married him, had a child with him, broken him
i tell her about his cookies
and yes he still watches Seinfeld
on her good days she kisses me
with cherry red lipstick
and tells me that the divorce was the hardest thing she ever did
and asks me Is my old armchair still at his house
Between the cost of the hotel and the gasoline, was the gig even worth it? This was not a question Betsy ever asked. Shows were life.
"I'll take it, Stevie." That's all she said. Steven Little was her agent, and older than she was. "Give it ta me,(more) Steve." As if a show was something he would hold back from her, like punishment for her transgressions, the way a parent would hold back dinner.
She'd gone from famous to revered, from thin to fat. She lost all perspective on her own desirability as a talent, as a woman. She only knew what she was. What was life and bread to her, same thing. To sing her songs and not meet anyone's eyes. Just knowing she had them trapped in the bars her voice built, lilting over their heads and their cigarette smoke in clubs. She herself did not smoke anymore though she longed to. She'd kept drinking though, and it showed in her eyes and face. She requested pure white gardenias to pin above her ear and distract from her looks.
In 40 years there would be Auto-Tune. There'd be music videos and expectations of youth everlasting. A new aesthetic of propped-up tits and ass, liposuction and Botox, and yearning looks that spoke of easiness. Of being easy, never hard or difficult. But then Betsy (who would die young) only put on her good trim suit, not worrying if she repeated it twice. Opened her mouth and let the song do the speaking.
Before shows Betsy combed her hair straight up from her ears and pinned it. She lined her lips sharp red and colored them in fuller than they looked close-up. That was the great thing about the stage. The audience was close and she was distant. (less)
Muddy trunks and a sky as delicate as piano notes hugged the convulsing flames. Everything looked like stop motion. The gas was therapeutic, she could command her ghosts into the heat, then put them to bed.
This was the last step in 10,000. Her parents died, her ca(more)r took her to 100 new families until it passed, strangers took her to a further 50, then her feet took her home. She looked about her, happy to be alone with the voices inside. She thought home was where you are taken care of, but it was where she could be herself - where she could be insane. She didn't believe the voices lived beyond her, but she believed they existed; they thought therefore they were.
The quiet hill gave them space to speak. Aggressive rambles subsided into peacefully voices, talking civilly. They befriended one-another, and Sarah befriended them. They would move their voices into quiet melodic hums, and Sarah sang a lead. Sarah was finally home.
A slight whiff still lingered in the air. The unmistakable, addictive, aroma of gasoline - petrol! He must remember to call it petrol now. It was these types of colloquialisms, along with his other American idiosyncrasies, that could give everything away. Maths not math. Boot not Trunk. And silencer(more) not muffler. A slight whiff of petrol still lingered in the air, but it had almost been completely replaced by the much thicker and dirtier smell of smoke and soot. He threw his old passport into the burning car and watched it slowly curl and fall apart. He was ready to start his new life, a new fresh start, rising out of the ashes of what had become a tired and miserable affair. He walked back onto the main road and flagged down a car. "Hello, you couldn't possibly take me to the nearest gas station could you?" (less)