Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mildred Herman. The first character in the Old Ladies Murder Club.

Mildred Herman is 77 years old. She's neither tall not short, with large grey eyes and short grey hair. She has kind of a beaky nose, and a wide mouth. She never wears makeup, and the only jewelry she wears are her wedding and engagement rings. She was married for 52 years to Howard Herman. Howard died two years ago at age 86, peacefully, and in his sleep. They had one daughter, Nancy, who lives in Marlboro with her husband (Tom). Nancy has a daughter in college, and two kids in high school (Theresa 20, Christine 17, and Gregory 15).

Mildred is a serious lady. Not humorless, but she's not one to stand nonsense. She's smart, practical and blunt. She got her degree when her daughter started school and worked as an accountant. You do not want to be a neighborhood kid who breaks her window with a baseball, because she'll call your parents, make you clean up the glass, and keep the ball (there are three baseballs displayed on her mantel). You'll do it, too, because you're scared of her. Her father played for the Pawtucket Red Sox from 1925-1930, and her entire family are staunch baseball fans. When the Red Sox won in 2004, her husband claimed it was the only time he every saw her cry, and she SOBBED.

Mildred's best friend is her twin brother, John Abbott. John and his wife, Mary lived next door to Mildred and Howard for 40 years. Five years ago, Mary died of breast cancer. Four years ago, John got a mutt from the shelter named Louis. Louis isn't an unfriendly dog, but he only likes a few people. Namely, John, John's son Donald and Mildred.

Blame my Mother

Agnes is taking a nap on the fourth of July, and she's going to be napping a while. I'm stalled on her story, and it's kind of my mother's fault.

She got me onto my Old Ladies Murder Club.

It's actually a quilter's circle at the Lancaster St. Congregational Church in Worcester (which does not actually exist*). Five old ladies who meet three times a week to quilt, drink tea...and eventually start bumping off jerks. They're based on the old ladies who used to watch me when my Mother was pastor at her first church and I was a baby. As far as I know, they didn't ever kill anyone.

*the church does not exist. Worcester does.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Primal Tongues

I have been invited to read some stuff I wrote.

The first Thursday of every month, Adelle's Coffeehouse in Dover, NH hosts Primal Tongues .

I'll be going on between 7 and 8pm. I will be reading about some sassy little old ladies.

Here's the address:

Adelle's Coffee House
3 Hale St.
Dover, NH 03820
(603) 742-1737

I kind of hope I'm going on at 7, because the other featured reader is the writer of "The Simplest of Acts". Melanie Haney is one of my favorite authors and it would be pretty dang intimidating to follow her.

Here's a link to Melanie Haney's book at amazon:


Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Morning in September.

Breakfast is coffee and an apple on the porch. I slept badly, and I’m grouchy, but Sam was begging to go outside, and it is a beautiful day. Things change when I smell the air.

I love Autumn. Love it love it love it. I would gladly take a month from each of the other seasons to get an extra three months of this. The sky is so blue and the sun is so bright without being hot, and the breeze...ahhhh.

We’re in jeans and light sweaters, socks and sneakers. We can stay out longer, because we’re not sweaty and worn out, and no biting bugs! Sam wants me to blow bubbles, and since the air isn’t heavy and still anymore, the bubbles race each other up the driveway, then turn and burst on the tree. We draw bunnies in rockets and race cars on the driveway. We ramble around the yard with the red wagon, until Sam wants to pull the handle himself, and it whacks him in the face. He’s okay, but cries some big tears and wants to be petted. Then he sniffs a little and asks for Wallce and Gromit...and grapes. I pick up Arwen, who is contentedly trying to eat the lawn, and Sam takes my hand.

I am excited, though we’re going inside, because my favorite time of year is here again, and it has made me forget how I felt when I woke up.

Monday, September 14, 2009

“So, how is Eddie?” Amanda asks her brother “How long until he’s back?”

“Ugh. Eight more weeks. You’d think after a year it wouldn’t be so hard, but I swear the days get so much longer the closer it gets. And he’s fine. Misses me more than he can say.”

Literally. Eddie is Mike’s boyfriend of the last four years, the latest of them spent in Afghanistan with the Marines. Some people do not care how many lives you have saved. If the love you left back home is a dude, you could get into trouble. Mike tries not to be bitter about this, but months ago he was denied entry to a support group “for military wives”. He has found support on the internet, and what little his sister can offer him, she does. He does appreciates it.

Daniel and his ex-wife Debbie have tremendous pride in their gorgeous daughter, with her perfect marriage, blossoming career and healthy, bright children. Mike is regarded as the one they loves “despite his being gay”. It is not Amanda’s fault that they do this, but it itches Mike.

His two favorite relations are his Granna Agnes, and his cousin Caroline.

Agnes slowly beings to rise from her chair. Her grandchildren begin to ask her if she needs help with anything.

“I’m fine, dears. I think I’ll just go lie down in my room for a while. Michael can help me in.”

She smells like sunshine and tea leaves. Michael has her on his arm, and he walks her into her house and down the hall to her first floor bedroom. She has a large bed with a plethora of crisp white pillows, ARL embroidered on them. An entire wall is covered with photos, all in black wood frames, spanning over seventy years. They are not in any order, but Agnes can tell you who they all are, and when they all are.

Michael helps her slip off her shoes. She removes her hat, and Michael takes it and places it into the pink hat box that is open on her dresser. Since the age of fourteen, Agnes has never left her house without a hat. She currently has twenty one.

She lies back and sighs. She closes her eyes, and Michael stands.

"Want me to leave you alone, Gran?"

"I think so, Michael. I'll just take a short nap. If I'm not up in half an hour, will you get me?"

"Sure thing, lady."

She is sleeping, with a smile, before he is even down the hallway.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The massive lunch is over.

Either the veggie burgers were discovered, or Karen didn’t know she wasn’t eating one.

Agnes’s son is sleeping in a lounge chair, his old fishing hat over his face. The baby boomers are in chairs around her, talking about work, politics, their kids. Amanda’s husband has carried their unconscious three year old upstairs to nap in one of the guest rooms. Amanda and Mike, sit a few yards away from the “old” folks, their heads together, their voices low. Sophie is halfway up the tree with a book. Maddison is sleepier than she wants to admit, and has retreated indoors to play with some dolls. When her father comes down the stairs in less than ten minutes, he will find his daughter face down in a small pile of Groovy Girls, out cold.

Agnes turns her head only a little, but she sees all of this. At the moment, no one is directly interacting with her, so she lets her memories of twenty, forty, sixty years occupy her mind.

Her mind doesn't wander much, but has its moments. Moments when she’ll speak to someone as though they were someone else, but catches herself before she gets to far. The other day she told Amanda to put “that pretty yellow dress” on, and realized only when she saw puzzlement that she had been thinking of her daughter Shirley. Shirley died twenty years ago. Not that Agnes had thought Amanda was Shirley, she just saw a pretty female with dark hair in a certain dress, and didn’t realize how old the mental picture really was.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Her name is Agnes Lorrimer.

She refuses to sit in plastic folding chairs. She does not like the lines they make on her slacks, she says, so the aforementioned great grandson (Michael) and his father (Danny) carry one of the Queen Anne dining chairs out for her to sit on. She sits under the shade of the big cherry tree, with a glass of lemonade in one hand and a paper fan in the other.

The tree is older that all of them, older than the house behind her.

Noise is coming from above. The high pitched squeals of girls whose parents are more permissive than Agnes’s were (little girls did not climb trees when she was one such, regardless of their desire to).

Twelve year old Sophie jumps down from the tree. She hastily plants a kiss on Agnes's cheek. “Did you see that, Granna? Did you see how high I was? That was awesome!” Seven year old Madison starts wailing “Sophieeeeeee” from the branch she is afraid to get down from.

Agnes smiles as the daredevil runs off towards the tree and turns her focus to the other side of the lawn, where a gaggle of men (how many make a gaggle, she thinks it is six) surround a grill (she can't hear this, but they are trying to figure out which burgers are the veggie burgers and why George didn’t mark them when he put them on). Beloved Micheal breaks away from the group and walks toward her, lifting his hands in a gesture of hopelessness.

“I said to just give Karen a regular one and tell her it’s veggie, but Uncle George said she’d know, and he’d be the one to suffer for it.”

He throws himself on the ground and gazes at Anges. “How you doin', you gorgeous old lady?”

Agnes answers him with a tilt of her snowy head and a soft tiny hand under his chin. She raises his face and beams. He looks the most like her son, his grandfather when he was a boy (this boy is twenty-eight).

It is the fourth of July, and it is Agnes’s favorite holiday. Her family does this bigger than Christmas and Thanksgiving combined. As many as can make it travel to this old house in the Berkshires. It has been years since anyone has asked Agnes why she loves this particular holiday so much more than the others, and she wouldn’t tell them the real reason even if they did ask.

"I am wonderful, dear. Wonderful."

Friday, July 17, 2009

This story starts with a hat.

A red felt beret, with a large silver pin. The pin is in the shape of a star, and studded with blue and white rhinestones.

The woman wearing the hat is 95 years old. Her hair is whiter than white, so white it seems fluorescent. She has a small wrinkled, face with snappy brown eyes in it. Though her lips lost their pout years ago, she wears lipstick in the same patriotic red shade of her hat.

She wears a blue and white striped shirt, the kind French sailors wore when she was a girl, and white pants that have been painstakingly ironed by her devoted great grandson.