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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

She Called It The Piazza

She called it the piazza. I'd been to the library and it isn't a piazza at all, but she says it just the same.

I don't say that and it's not like I know what to call it anyway. I wouldn't say it to her if I did because she is so fierce. They've pulled babies out of her and bits off her while the calendars repeated themselves, and when they bury her there will be an echo inside. But everyone loves her and fears her.

She never went leathery, she got adamantine. Basilisk to a stranger and a pitted madonna with the toe worn smooth where votaries come to her own. She'd press a quarter in my hand like a card trick when we left.

The piazza leaned drunkenly off the building and she'd send me to get the food that cooled out there. Thirty rickety feet and more over the jetsam of a thousand lives gone bad surrounded by chainlink and crime.

It was always hot and close and she had only two colors -- grey and the pink of her cheek. There was always things I didn't understand boiling. Everything on the plate was grey and pink, too.

The rooms were in a parade. The triptych of the parlor windows showed the sack of a forgotten Rome. No running in the hall! Her daughter lived down stairs so there was no one to bother but ... the very idea. But how could a child linger in that tunnel of a hall. The bedrooms branched off, dim caves that smelled of perfume bought in stores forty years closed by men thirty years dead. The indistinct whorls on the wallpaper reached out to touch your hand like a leper. You had to get past it to the kitchen table.

She'd spoon the sugar and dump the milk in the tea until the saucer was a puddle and you wondered how many times the bag could take it. But there was cinnamon and laughter now and then and sunlight that turned the battered battleship linoleum into a limpid pool. The cork shone through the scrim of the coating, a million footfalls revealing it over time.

And Catherine? The Cork showed through there, too.

2 comments:

Ron said...

Hey! There's a "piazza" joke in His Girl Friday too!

Cary's ghost probably dictated this post to you while you slept!

Everyman said...

We all understood, back then, and here in New England, the very big difference between the piazza, or veranda, and the stoop.

And we still do.

The house I grew up in had a front porch, up a small notch from a stoop but less likely to be a place for adults to sit and talk on hot summer nights before air conditioning became available to most of us.

The stoop was where the Catherines could just be themselves.