Welcome to The Dettes

Follow the adventures of Claudette and Paulette - the twins.
Love and Kisses, Paulette and Claudette

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"A-Well-A Bird, Bird, Bird, B-Bird Is The Word….."

Claudette and I huddled together as we tried to formulate a new game plan.  We had just finished rehashing the past few days when our waitress reappeared with two unsolicited martinis.  A salacious grin spread across her face as she pointed to a man sitting at the end of the bar.  “These drinks are from your new friend over there,” she announced mischievously.  “He mentioned that he always admired the Doublemint Twins.”   

We peered through the dim lighting and cigarette haze at the lone silver haired stranger.  As we made eye contact, he nodded and mimed a toast with his aperitif glass.  “Claudette, have you ever seen that man before?  He looks so familiar to me.”

She shook her head in the negative. “No, I don’t recognize him, but he creeps me out.  I think that old cock of the walk has a lot of nerve trying to hit on two young chicks like us.  He is probably over there humming to himself, ...Double your pleasure, double your fun. Even the older dudes are interested in the twin factor.” 

I laughed out loud, but kept my eye on the waitress who was within earshot.  Transfixed, I watched as the flickering candles on top of the piano cast a wormy glow on her tightly permed hair.   I nudged Claudette. “Hey, let’s ask Medusa if she knows the name of our boozy benefactor.”  

Claudette smiled broadly.  “Well, it’s a given that most employees working in popular watering holes know the locals,” she responded.  “Hey, maybe our waitress thinks we are too petrified to ask his name for fear it might encourage unwanted advances.  We should put on our best stony expressions and ask the Gorgon if the guy is a regular.”

“You are a quick study, my dear.”  My sister was the doyenne of double entendres.   “Say, how do you know the man is even a local? He looks too right-wing to be a regular at Lefty’s, let alone a citizen of the 60’s.”

Claudette narrowed her eyes as she gave him the once over. “I can tell he frequents this place a lot by the way the bartender is flitting about.  My guess is that the old chap sits on the same barstool every time and orders his drink du jour.  Perhaps he savors a Dubonnet on the rocks, Campari & soda or a splash of Pernod straight up.  He is king of le beau monde at Lefty's…always holding court among the rabble.”

Claudette never ceased to amaze me with her vivid imagery and knack for story telling. “I think you are spot on, sis.  He is definitely Town & Country or GQ material. Why don’t we do some fact finding, okay?”  I signaled the waitress and she slowly worked her way back to our table. 

Medusa pulled a pad out of her apron pocket and a pen from her hair nest. “Do you ladies want to order something?” she asked impatiently. 

I tried to be diplomatic.  “We were wondering, do you know the name of the ..ah..gentleman who sent us these drinks?  We would like to thank him personally for his kindness.”  Claudette and I sipped our martinis and smiled in his direction.

I guess you girls are not from around here,” she replied.  “That man is Cyril Magnin, the famous department store tycoon. Does I. Magnin & Company ring a bell?   In these parts we refer to him as Mr. San Francisco, but I guess you wouldn’t know about that.” 

“Au contraire, Madame!” I haughtily responded.  “We know the store well, just not the man.”  Claudette and I were very familiar with I. Magnin’s.  It was our mother’s favorite place for a day outing.  When she took us shopping as children we were allowed to browse alone on various floors as long as we kept our hands behind our backs.  After we tired of exploring we would ride the elevator to the 6th floor- Lingerie Department.  Mother had an appetite for French silk undergarments which she didn’t keep a secret.  As an ardent Francophile she was fond of saying, ‘Oolala,’ when we peeked inside the pink shopping bag at her latest purchases.

Claudette cut in on my waltz down memory lane.  “I am not sure he is someone I’d want to get to know either.  He looks like the archetype silver fox and a major player.  The guy is no spring chicken either.”

The waitress patted Claudette’s back and lasciviously added, “He seems to have taken a keen interest in you two.  Maybe if you play your cards right Mr. S.F. himself will show you a real good time and... ”  

Cyril Magnin unexpectedly materialized in front of us.  “Thank you for such a rousing introduction, Lorna,” he interrupted.   “You can leave us now and go about your business.”  Without another word she picked up her cocktail tray and disappeared into the crowd.  “Don’t pay any attention to Lorna.   She enjoys ruffling feathers, it is her schtick.”

Claudette reached her hand out and made the introductions.  “Hello Mr. Magnin, I am Claudette and this is my sister Paulette.  Of course, you know us as the Doublemint Twins." 

He cocked his head as if he had misunderstood her.  “Excuse me, I don’t know you at all.  Is that how you refer to yourselves?  You look much younger than those TV twins.”

“Well, now, according to Lorna the two vodka martinis were provided gratis, courtesy of one Mr. Cyril Magnin, and verbally addressed to the Doublemint’s.  If you ask me, that is one cheesy sales pitch,” scolded Claudette.     

Magnin frowned. “Yes, I did send the drinks over because you both looked so low. I thought a little highball would raise your spirits.  However those were Lorna’s words and not mine.  She acts like an incorrigible Irish terrier ...hell bent on roughhousing with the customers.  Pardon my French, but she is already on my merde list from a previous run-in.”

Claudette was amused by his last comment as it was something our mother would have said.  “So you say,” she teasingly countered.   “I might challenge her to an arm wrestling match.. to which I excel at, hands down.   Maybe I can even arrange an early retirement for her.”

He laughed heartily. “I see that verbal sparing is your forte as well.” 

I remained mute preferring instead to observe Magnin as he and my sister volleyed witticisms.   I guessed that he was in his mid to late sixties, and a man of refined taste by the way he was dressed.  He wore a burgundy cashmere V-neck over a white shirt and impeccably tailored charcoal slacks.  A fashionable paisley silk tie accented his otherwise conservative ensemble.  I welcomed his calm demeanor after a long and chaotic day.  As I listened to their meandering conversation the comforting timber of his voice began to ease my disquietude.  I could tell by Claudette’s body language and easy bantering that she was also unwinding.  

It was obvious by his compliments that Magnin enjoyed my sister’s light hearted sarcasm.  “My dear, you are quite a handful,” he remarked.  “You should pack your bags and take your show on the road.”  

As they continued their amusing discourse, I reflected on chemistry.  Not the laboratory type, but the immediate mutual attraction one experiences with certain people.  From the minute Magnin introduced himself, I felt the pull of his powerful magnetism.  As the evening unfolded, my instinct confirmed that he was a safe harbor and a trustworthy person.  I was thinking along these lines when I experienced a sudden and profound feeling that meeting Magnin was predestined.  My mind flashed, briefly, to Becky’s psychedelic reverie, and then to the crazy interaction with Chef Chicollini and his fine feathered friend, Troy D.  Both encounters had led us directly to Union Square. Then, as if on cue, Magnin stepped into the picture.  All at once, my urge to interrupt their repartee was overwhelming.  “Mr Magnin, I am sorry for butting in but I thought you should know that Claudette and I are in a bit of a pickle.”    

Magnin plucked a pair of horn-rimmed glasses out of his pocket and placed them on the bridge of his nose.  The thick black frames outlined his shrewd eagle-eyed stare.  “Let’s skip the formalities, shall we?  Call me Cyril.”   

Magnin reminded me of a Looney Toon’s character, a nearsighted baby chick named Egghead, Jr.  Since it was an inopportune moment for hysterics, I turned and addressed my sister instead.  “Sis, we need to trust Cyril.  I think that he might be the variable we have been trying to find.  Furthermore, he is a walking road map and knows the city and everyone in it."

Claudette glanced at me curiously.  “Paulette, he is a businessman.  We are so far down the rabbit hole it will take a magician, or maybe a supernatural intervention for us to see the light at the end of the tunnel again.”   She looked at Magnin with a hopeful expression. “Cyril, do you know any Professor Marvel types or anyone else of his ilk?”              

A sense of excitement seemed to animate Magnin.  “Girls, I knew you were different the minute you stepped inside Lefty’s.   My interest is truly piqued.  Why don’t you just cut to the chase and enlighten me about your situation?  Maybe I can be of assistance.”

I decided to press on with some facsimile of the truth. “We came to Union Square to do some research on the history of the Dewey Monument?”  I replied.  “We are particularly interested in Alma Spreckles.”

Magnin rubbed his chin before answering.  “Well, are you intrigued by the statue, or the actual flesh and blood woman herself?  I am very familiar with both ladies.  Actually Alma Spreckles and I worked together a lot over the years.  Of course, she frequented my store quite often during her heyday.  She always delighted in shopping after hours.  Mostly, we were passionate devotees of the arts.   Birds of a feather.....as they say.”

“God, is she still alive, or are you talking in the past tense?” inquired Claudette.  “If so, she must be really old.”

Magnin looked at us quizzically. “It is strange that you have asked about her since she just died three weeks ago.  I visited her shortly before she passed.  Out of the blue, her secretary called and had insisted that I stop by Alma’s apartment.  I thought it was an odd request as I hadn’t seen her for some time.  She had turned into quite the recluse, and I knew she had been ill.  I agreed to pay my respects...sooner rather than later.”

Claudette gave him a comforting pat on the arm.  “I am sorry if I sounded callous about Mrs. Spreckles age.  I was just amazed to think that the person who posed for the statue might still be living.   It seems like the Dewey Monument has been around for forever.”  Claudette must have forgotten that we were presently time traveling in the year 1968.   The monument had been around for over a century, at least in our real time.  

Magnin sat in a state of stillness staring off into space.   While he pondered, I wondered why the old grand dame wanted to see Magnin before she died.  At this juncture Union Square and Alma Spreckles were the only clues we had to work with.  We needed to solve this maddening riddle and find the right path ...or some key that would boomerang us back to the future

Without warning, Magnin started talking again.  “Excuse my mental absence, girls.  I was just thinking about the last conversation I had with dear Alma.   It was a rather strange experience, to say the least.”

Claudette asked him the big question point-blank.  “Why did she want to see you, Cyril?  Did she have some secret to divulge?”

Magnin clasped his hands together as if in prayer. “Let me explain and then you be the judges. I went to her apartment and her assistant received me at the door.  She led me into the living room where I found Alma propped up in a hospital bed.  Even in illness, she was still a commanding woman.  I sat on the edge of the bed and waited for her to speak.   She was wheezing quite heavily, but gestured for me to move in closer.  She said she didn’t want her busybody nursemaid, Bernice, to hear our conversation.  Alma always complained that gossips were the bain of her existence.”

I nodded my understanding.  “It sounds like she was running the show even as an invalid.”

Magnin nodded.  “Oh, yes.  She was a big powerhouse of a woman with a mercurial temperament.  One never knew which way the wind was going to blow while in her company.” 

“Well, what happened.” urged Claudette? 

Magnin continued.  “I leaned in and Alma whispered into my ear.  I can’t remember verbatim what she told me, but I’ll do my best.  She said that after she has flown the coop....meaning died, I was to ‘Visit the Dewey Monument with the scissors, and unlock the side door using the combination- ‘11 right, 1 left, 13 right.’  I memorized the code part afterward so I would not forget.  I asked her if she was joking, but she answered.... ‘No Cyril, I am dead serious.’  She informed me that once I had opened the door I’d find a small package that had important instructions inside.  Her final words to me were, ‘Tell them the answer is within.’  I acknowledged her request and she managed a wink. When she started coughing uncontrollably her nurse appeared with a scary syringe and shooed me out of the room.”  

“Cyril, you aren’t going to believe what Paulette and I are about to tell you, but we swear it is the truth.”    

Magnin's hand gesture signifed that he needed to finish his tale.  “Let me tell you the strangest part of all this cloak-and-dagger business.  When I got up to leave Alma’s pet parrot, Sugar, started squawking.  I turned towards the living room window and watched the bird as she paced sideways along her wooden perch.  I whistled and waited for her reaction.  The bird stopped, cocked her head and repeated mechanically, ‘Don’t get sassy with me, sailor.’  It was a humorous moment under sad circumstances.  In any event, as I reached the door Sugar “spoke” again.  She said, ‘Visit the Dewey Monument with the sisters and unlock the side door using the combination-11 right, 1 left, 13 right.’  It was unbelievable... Sugar had repeated Alma’s mysterious message ...word for word."

Claudette responded immediately.  Cyril, “Sugar said the word sisters, not scissors.  You just said so yourself. Doesn’t that make much more sense?”

Magnin’s eyes widened as he studied our faces.  “My Goodness, I stand corrected. It turns out that I am the birdbrain,” he interjected with a slight accent of amusement.  "Sisters….  Hummmmm, now what were you two going to tell me that I wouldn’t believe?”

Friday, March 2, 2012

If, and only If......

Claudette and I eyed our special invitation with both curiosity and suspicion. November 1, 2013, was either two years or forty-four years away, depending upon one’s vantage point in time.  I inspected the envelope hoping to find a postmark or an address, but there were no additional unique markings.  My sister returned to her side of the booth and we sat mutely staring at each other.  Our silence was finally broken by an insistent flapping movement followed by a three note whistle.  We turned towards the sound and saw the delivery bird inspecting us from the window sill.  “Did you know that the whistling warbler is called a Golden Crowned sparrow?  I remember seeing a picture of one in mother’s book A Field Guide to Birds.  Doesn’t the puff of gold on the top of its head look like a tiny toupee?”
Claudette smiled at my question, but kept her eye on the birdie.  “I didn’t realize that our cheeky little messenger was still hanging around.”  Just as she spoke, the sparrow flew out of the window and landed in a nearby cherry tree.
I was about to comment, but our toothy waitress returned unexpectedly with a tray full of food. “I’ve got two grilled cheese sandwiches, chips and fresh brewed coffee for you gals.  Mr. Chuck Chicollini sends his compliments, lunch is on the house.  Chef Chuck wanted me to tell you that any friend of Troy D is a friend of his.”
I squinted while trying to read our waitress's name tag.  “Ah, thanks Angora.  Please tell Mr. Chicollini how much we appreciate his kindness.  The food looks really good, but who is Troy D?
Angora’s protruding front teeth covered her lower lip as she answered, “Troy Donahue, of course.”
“As in Troy Donahue... the actor, Claudette questioned?  I am fairly certain that he is a goner.”  
I nodded in agreement.  “Yeah, he passed a few years back.” 
Angora appeared flustered. “Not the actor, I meant the bird.  Chef Chuck named the sparrow Troy D after the actor because they both have that thatch of golden hair on top.  Of course, Troy D has feathers and not hair, but nonetheless....”
Claudette smiled insincerely at Angora. “Oh, thanks for clearing that up for us. I thought you were talking about some new rapper on the music scene.  Now I get it.  Troy D is the same envelope toting tweety bird who sashayed across our table earlier.”  
This nonsensical conversation reminded me of a Drama class assignment I once had in college.  The purpose of the exercise was to explore The Theater of the Absurd and its ties to the idea that life has no inherent meaning.  Students were instructed to discuss random topics while our flights of ideas were recorded. Then, the professor turned our disjointed dialogue into a script and read it back to the class.  I stopped retro-reflecting on life’s little absurdities when I heard Claudette’s voice began to escalate. I tapped on her hand. “Hey, sis, maybe we should eat before our food gets cold.”   
Claudette dismissed Angora with a quick salute. “Oh, and on your way back to the kitchen, tell Chuck we would like to thank him personally for lunch.”
Angora’s unblinking eyes were hugely magnified as she stared down at us through her rose colored glasses.  After a long pause, she hunched her shoulders and unceremoniously hopped towards the kitchen. 
Neither of us commented on Angora’s springy gait as somehow it seemed fitting.  Instead, we hungrily consumed the grilled cheese sandwiches and the chips.  Simultaneously, we finished our meal and pushed our empty plates aside.  “Claudette, let’s forget about the present and rewind for a minute.  I noticed that you and Thomas really connected at the party. What happened?  I thought everything was fine until I saw you in the garden looking totally freaked out.
“Being with Thomas was amazing, Claudette continued. We both experienced some kind of cosmic and magnetic pull of attraction.  I was okay until I felt an overpowering need to find you. I’m fairly certain Thomas thought I had gone a little nuts, but I didn’t care.  I overruled him.
“Sis, I am really glad you followed your intuition.”
“When I found you in the garden, I felt an inexplicable sense of foreboding.  I don’t know how to explain it.  A few minutes later I locked eyes with the turbaned fortune teller, and that’s when she flashed me her ghastly grin.  Suddenly, I recognized Becky under the oracle get up and that’s when I lost my shit.”
“Claudette, I’m glad we left the party.  I think The Fates, or the great and mighty Oz, or who ever else is running this Magical Mystery Tour, prevented the two of you from intersecting.”  
Fate, butterflies, whatever. It made me so sad to leave Thomas at the party knowing she was there.  Seriously, seeing his confused expression as we were leaving was just too much.”  Claudette dabbed her eyes with a napkin.
I gave her my cheeriest smile. “I’m sorry, but at least you know the future story has a happy ending.”  
“Jeeze, I was so shocked when Becky smiled at me, Claudette sighed.  She looked so twisted.”  
Listen Claudette, let me explain what happened right before you showed up.  When I sat down to get my fortune read, I recognized it was Becky immediately.  My instinct told me to back away from the table, but I realized that she couldn't see me.  She was stoned to the bone, and I mean thoroughly trashed on something wicked.  I reached across the table and grabbed a hold of her hands.  I thought someone should try and talk her off the ledge.     
Wow, I wonder who spiked her Cheerios? I don’t remember hearing that she mixed with the drugs.”  
"At first, I used my sweet calming voice and we had a nice one-way conversation.  I talked... while Becky’s eyes rolled around in the back of her head.  She finally mumbled some cryptic stuff, but it was hard to decipher. She said something like, “All my square, or Luna square, or a circle meets the square.”  The strangest part of our tête-à-tête happened when I told her I wanted to read her fortune.   She stopped tripping momentarily and gave me her hand to read... palm up.”  
Claudette gave me her best slack jawed zombie expression.  “Oh, that sounds soooo Night of the Living Dead!
I laughed.  “Seriously, it was really weird. The dimmer lights were on, but nobody was home.”  
Claudette was always entertained when I performed my “energy readings.”  “What happened next, she urged?  Did you give her a reading?” 
“Yes, I ran my finger over the lines in Becky’s palm.  Truthfully, I decided not to dick with destiny.  I used my best portentous voice and told her the truth.  I said that she would soon meet a tall, handsome and fair haired stranger.  They would live near the ocean together, but the bloom would fall off the rose.   Eventually, they'd go their separate ways and marry other people.”
“Did your words register?  I mean, do you think she was really listening?”
“Maybe.  It’s hard to say.”  Oh, and I also told Becky that if she ever saw this fair headed man in the new millennium, she should run in the opposite direction. Otherwise, her bulging eyeballs would turn opaque and she’d instantly go blind.  I think she understood me on some deeper level because she flinched.”  Claudette and I dissolved into laughter.  
Just then, we saw a bouncing butterball of man coming our way brandishing a slotted burger flipper.  “Don’t you dare look at me, begged Claudette.  I swear I’ll wet my pants.”  
I lowered my voice. “That must be Chef Chuck. Doesn’t he look like a big Weeble from Weebleville?” 
“Yeah, and Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down," added Claudette. 
We both were trying to contain our hysteria as Chef Chuck rolled to a full stop in front of our booth.  He wore an impeccably clean apron, a puffy white chef’s hat and incredibly tight checkered trousers. Black diagonal-shaped eyebrows accentuated his forehead which gave his face a perpetually questioning expression.
“Hiya girls. What’s cooking?” asked Chef Chuck.  For emphasis, or as an exclamation point, he slapped his spatula on our table.  The sound of metal hitting Formica resonated throughout the dining room.  “I’m glad you finally showed up, he continued.”  
Claudette and I glanced nervously at each other before giving the chef our full attention.  “That’s strange.  Were you expecting us?”  Claudette asked.
“Of course, he said.  It seems like I’ve been waiting for you two bookends to appear since the end of the Roaring Twenties.”  His laughter boomed over our heads like an abrupt staccato of rolling thunder.    
Impatience seeped into my voice. “Do you know anything about the invitation my sister and I received today? 
Chef Chuck gleefully rubbed his hands together and snickered.  Yes, a little birdie told me so.”  He put his hands over his mouth to stifle a giggle.
“Paulette, this scene is way too weird. I think we should amscray, as they say in Pig Latin.” 
Chef picked up the spatula again and waved it over his head.  “No, you can’t leave yet.  I’ve got the scoop. I’m suppose to hand feed you some important information.”
“Well, let’s have it.  My sister and I are ready for a second helping.”

“Okay, okay,” he replied. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of twenties with an address attached.  “I’ve been instructed to tell you to take this money and stay the night at the Stewart Hotel in Union Square.  In the morning, walk across the street to the Dewey Monument.  It’s a tall white column with a bronze statue on top. The figure is holding a trident and a wreath, you can’t miss it.   
Claudette was annoyed.  “We know where the monument is located, but what’s next?  Are we supposed to wait for someone or something?  Where did you get this information?”  
Chef Chuck pointed out the window.  “Troy D gave me the envelope. It had the money inside plus a handwritten note.  The message read, “Give this package to the twins when they arrive.”
“How do you know we are the right twins?” Claudette snapped.
“You are Paulette and Claudette, right?  Angora was keeping an eye out for you two.  I guess she must have overheard your names in passing.” Chef Sherlock seemed pleased with his brilliant deduction.
Claudette was in a pissy mood.  “Chuck, what’s with all the subterfuge?  I’d like to know who trained Troy D.  I mean, he’s just a wee bird with a tiny brain. Who does he work for the CIA, UPS, SPCA?”  For the second time today The Theater of the Absurd crossed my mind.
“Girls, I want you to think of me as your special intercessor. Believe me, my sources are sound.  Truthfully though, I can’t give you any more details. My gut tells me that it’s time for you gals to follow  Troy D's directions and figure it out from there. The puzzle pieces will eventually fit together if you follow the breadcrumbs. 
Claudette read the note quickly before pocketing the cash.  “Alrighty then. I guess this tea-party is over.  Are you ready to split the scene, Dormouse? She grinned at me Cheshire cat style.
I nodded enthusiastically.  “Sounds like a plan, MaryAnn.”  
Chef Chuck suddenly slapped the side of his head. “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you something and it is very significant.  Re-think the date on the invitation.  November 1, 2013, might be a code or a password rather than a future date.  
“Now, that’s an interesting theory. My sister and I will definitely keep that in mind for future reference.  Chef, thanks for your hospitality and for interceding on our behalf.  I think it’s time Claudette and I and head on down the Yellow Brick road."
Chef Chuck gave us each a hug and walked towards the kitchen.  He did not turn around, but he called back over his shoulder, “I hope you find your way, On a wing and a prayer.” 
Once outside, my sister flagged down a Yellow Cab and we happily climbed inside.  “The Stewart Hotel,” requested Claudette.  The cabbie sped off in the direction of Union Square.  He had incredibly good luck with the traffic signals as we hit zero red lights along the way.  Claudette and I took it as a good omen.  
As usual, Union Square was crowded with cars and pedestrians vying for the right-of-way.  “Stewart Hotel, little ladies,” barked the cabbie. We jumped out at the curb and Claudette paid the man.  
I pointed at the hotel.  “Hey, we’ve stayed here before.  It’s The Handlery, or it will be at some point in the future.” 
Claudette smiled. “Yeah, and that means Lefty’s is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.  Let’s save the best for first.  I could use a cocktail right about now.  Do you think they will ask for our IDs?”
“I don’t know.  I guess it’s worth a try.”  We walked several doors down and stood under Lefty O’Doul’s green neon sign. I opened the door and was instantly overpowered by the scent of Hofbräu cooking.  The various carved meat smells merged with the odor of baked potatoes and overly cooked peas. “Sis, some things never change.”    
The place was crowed with tourist types standing in line for an early dinner.  We slid in behind the piano and maneuvered ourselves into a nice dark corner.  A harried waitress finally approached and asked what we were drinking.  “Two double martinis,” Claudette boldly answered.  The server jotted down our order and never once looked up.
“You sounded so mature. Great job.  A double should fix us right up, I said.” 
The drinks arrived without fanfare, and we spent the next hour reviewing our afternoon spent at the diner.  Claudette ran a hand through her hair and straightened out a few tangles.  “If you ask me, old Chief Chucky has been cooking with too much gas. And Angora...Jesus.  And maybe his bird friend, Troy D, is really a robot.”
I could hear my sister chattering, but my mind was stuck in a groove. I couldn’t stop thinking about the words Becky (the Exothalmic Oracle of Asbury) had spoken while hallucinating to the oldies.  It was like working on the Chronicle's Jumble word puzzle, I knew I’d get it eventually.
Claudette suddenly whistled to get my attention.  “Yoo-hoo! Is Paulette home?”
The vodka had worked its miracle.  It erased all my tension so I could think more clearly.  The answer suddenly “gestalted.”  “Claudette, I finally decoded Becky’s words and they are very apropos.  I believe she said, Union Square and Alma’s square.  Do you remember when we were visiting the 20’s and you told me about Alma Spreckels?  You said that she was the model for the bronze statue on top of the Dewey monument in Union Square.”
“I do remember talking about Alma Spreckles, but what do you think it means?  I think we need to isolate the common denominators.  What do you say, Paulette?
“At this point, I don’t understand the equation, but an old math saying comes to mind.  We know the answer, we just need to work through the problem.  I think our best bet is to study the variables.  After that, your guess is as good as mine.    

Monday, January 9, 2012

An Invitation

     Paulette!  Where are you?  I had lost my twin in the swarm of people.  I put my half-empty beer on a wee clearing on the counter and spoke into Thomas' ear.

"Where is Paulette?  This place is freaking me out."

He turned his face so I could hear him and responded, "I told you this was a bad idea."

"Well, whatever.  I have to find my sister.  I don't need your scolding me, Dad.  C'mon, we need to find her."  I reached for his arm to drag him along.

He stood his ground.  "Maybe we should split up for a few minutes.  Meet back here in exactly ten minutes, and every five minutes after that."

"Yeah, okay."  I turned on my heel and pushed my way through the crowd.  Strung-out hippies and derelicts blocked my every path, and I found myself pushing people aside, and hearing, "Hey!" in my wake.  I didn't care.  I had to find Paulette.

I squeezed myself into a hallway jammed with undesirables taking tokes.  "Have you seen a tall blonde who looks like me?"  I called.  No one answered, but one guy turned his head to look towards me.  "Have you seen my sister?  She's tall, blonde and beautiful," I implored.

"Hey, foxy lady," he responded, "You are some stone fox.  Come 'ere."  He stretched out his bony hand to encircle my waist.  I flinched, but held my ground.  "Hey, baby, we could have some fun.  Don't freak out."  He gazed at me through half-mast eyelids.

"Knock it off.  Look, I need to find my sister."  I knocked his hand back and put my nose close to his, even though he smelled like Fritos and limburger cheese.  "She looks like me and I believe her to be in danger.  Help me out.  Now."

The guy put his hands up in surrender.  "Whoa, you are bummin' my mellow.  I haven't seen her.  Back off."

I pushed my way down the hallway and went into the room where the orgy was taking place.  I disregarded the couple in full copulation and headed for a naked girl who looked no older than I in my current guise.  She rose to meet me and called out, "Hey you, tall chick - lose the threads, man."  She grabbed at my dress.

"Oh Jesus, get the hell away from me.  I'm looking for my sister.  Have you seen a girl (I had to remind myself to say, "girl") who looks like me?"  I softened my tone.  "Look, I am sorry to barge in on your, um, scene.  But I am really worried about her.  She's tall, looks sort of like me, but really pretty."  

The girl covered her breasts and looked up at me.  "Yeah, I did, actually.  I saw her walk by and peer in the room.  I was hoping she wouldn't come in because I think my old man would really go for her type.  But she just walked away."

"Which direction?"  The girl pointed towards the garden.

"Thanks,"  I hollered as I pushed my way through the throngs.

I arrived in the garden only a minute or so later, but it felt like a year since I had left the orgy room.  Where is she?  I was starting to panic, getting more aggressive in pushing people aside.  The masses weren't happy.  "Hey!"  "Fuckin' uptight bitch!"  "What the hell?"

And then I saw her.  She was talking with a young woman wearing a turban whose very long wavy hair `a la Botticelli's Venus snaked down her shoulders and back.  Her face turned to me, and I saw that she had big doe eyes, and a vacant expression.  But she was a sexy beast, I could tell.  The kind of woman that without seemingly putting forth any effort snags men.  I had to get Paulette away from her.  "Paulette!  Paulette!"

Paulette saw me and scurried over to where I stood.  "We have to leave, Claudette.  Right now.  This place is bad news."

"I know, I know.  I was so worried about you."

"There's nothing to worry about.  But let's grab Thomas, and beat feet."

"No, leave him.  He is meant to stay here."

"You already know then?"

"Yes,"  I said resignedly.  "I know.  I don't like it, but as you said earlier, we can't screw with the butterflies."

We were passing through the front door when we heard our names called.  We turned to see Thomas standing alone in the middle of the living room.  "Where are you going?  You're leaving without saying goodbye?"  He approached us and we all walked out to the porch.

Paulette took a breath and explained, "Thomas, my sister and I have to go, but you have to stay."  She paused and Thomas' eyebrows shot up, as he was about to speak.  Paulette raised her palm. "Thomas, listen to me.  You have to stay.  This is your destiny.  This evening will help you on your path, but our staying is neither beneficial to you or us.  You must stay."

"What?  What do you mean?"  Thomas was getting annoyed.  Typical, I thought, but then I stopped myself.  We were at a critical juncture.  It was important I kept my mouth shut.

Paulette continued, "There are forces at work here that none of us understand.  You'll just have to trust me.  There was a reason we had to go to this party - well, there was a reason you had to go to the party.  So go look for Sam.  Take your time.  See what transpires.  But we must go.  We have to leave immediately."  And with that, Paulette grabbed my hand and we ran down the stairs.

"Where to?" I cried.

"We aren't far from a diner on Haight.  Let's go there."  We ran nearly the whole way, panting as we entered the restaurant and slung ourselves into the booth.

"First, are you okay?  I mean, no one slipped you drugs, or anything? Right?" I asked my sister.

"No, no, I'm fine.  And what about you?"

"I'm hanging in there."  My sister and I were holding hands across the table and leaning in close to one another.  Right at that moment, a waitress approached.  She had white billowy hair, pink translucent eyeglasses and wore a bow tie as part of her uniform.

"What can I get you?"

We were both taken aback by her appearance and stuttered our responses. "Uh, uh, we'll have coffee."

She tentatively walked away.  I rubbed my eyes for several seconds and dropped my hands.  "Now what?  Was that another bunny?  Are we going be a part of Arthur's Round Table?  Is this diner going to turn into a rocket ship?"  I find sarcasm to be the cheapest form of humor and expression, but I was practicing it regardless.

Paulette laughed.  And then I laughed and we found ourselves doubled over in our seats, wiping our eyes and then laughing all over again.  We both took a deep breath at the same time and were silent for a moment.

"So you saw Thomas' old girlfriend, Becky?  The girl in the turban?" Paulette placed her hands on mine.

I sighed again.  "Yeah, I am just so jangled.  This sort of thing shouldn't bother me in the least.  I mean it was years and years ago - 1969, for Christ's sake!  But I'm human I guess.  I wanted to claw out her thyroidal eyes and shove them down her spindly throat.  But even in a different dimension, one must hold oneself to certain standards."  I sniffed.

Paulette stared at me for three seconds and then laughed heartily.  "Oh God, I wish you could have tackled that limp dish rag.  And I wish I could have been there to see it!  That would have been great. But you are right.  The butterflies!  We can't go messing with the order of things.  I'm glad you took my lesson to heart."  She looked to the side; I could tell Paulette was ruminating.  She then continued, "Look, I don't know what's going on here.  Are we in some time warp?  Are we on an expedition?  Is this experience a metaphor for some, some... thing?"  She looked up at me.  "Thoughts?"

"Aw, geez.  I wish I knew.  I know I'm getting weary.  And in fact, I'm getting pretty tired of looking like this."  I waved my hands across my mini muslin Mexican frock.  

 The waitress brought our coffee and asked, "Anything else?  Maybe another piece of wood for the pile?"

"Huh?"  Our puzzlement over the strange question was interrupted by a sparrow fluttering in through the awning window above our booth.  The little bird landed on our table, looked completely at ease, and carried a large envelope in his mouth. Paulette and Claudette was imprinted on the front of what appeared to be an invitation.  Paulette grabbed the envelope and ripped it open, as I ran around the table to look over her shoulder.  The invitation showed only the following:  

November 1, 2013.