Deb Reeves and Claire Guyton

June 19, 2008

Deb Reeves
Summer Nights

Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 30″
Inspiration Piece provided to Claire Guyton

Calling Chubby Checker
by Claire Guyton

I pay for room service. The nurse brings a tray with my medication, dosing being conveniently scheduled at mealtimes. Now I stay rooted to the mattress all day, the blankets my kingdom. I won’t see Abe Turner dribbling his cream of wheat down that bony chin, or Nannette Dee unload those yellow horse teeth into another glass of cranberry juice. We told her not to get her teeth on the cheap.

Nurse complains I’ll go to seed, she pokes a calf and calls it a wattle. I’ll wither off the bone if I don’t get some exercise, she says. I exercise at night, I tell her, and she rolls her eyes and says right, when you go out dancing with your friends, and I laugh at that, laugh hard, and get to coughing.

I read a while. Someone has murdered a bilious CEO with a predilection for cowboy hats, and although there’s motive aplenty, everybody has an alibi. I doze. Do a little knitting.

Did I mention Nanette? She bought these godawful choppers on discount. The teeth look like cubes of cheddar, and they refuse to stay in her mouth. We’re keeping count of how many times they tumble into her glass, her bowl, her lap.

The Three Biddies try to lure me to Wednesday activities. But Gishie can’t tempt me to make another mottled clay Christmas platter to pass along to a marrying grandchild, Ellen can keep her papier maché to herself, and Bernice should know I can’t see well enough to do embroidery. I was polite. They mean well, our Three Biddies, the self-appointed tour directors of our decline.

Wait. I’ve read that one before. The bilious CEO with a predilection for cowboy hats ended up in the gigantic bowl of icing at the factory because… he found his sister perfecting a new formula for their snack cakes, one she would use to take over the company! She couldn’t let him undercut her, nor cheat the public of a richer, surprisingly moist SnowDrift cupcake… no. He ended up in the gigantic bowl of icing because he saw the night watchman and his own wife in a compromising… no. It’ll come.

Once I could remember which pills I take before my Wednesday dinner of minestrone and apple sauce, which with, and which after. But I’ve lost track, so I rely on nurse, who presses the pills into my hand with more pressure than necessary.

Okay, it’s the sister, I’m sure of it, because she’s mad with creation. That’s what makes her reckless and cruel, why she lets the icing harden on the staring eyes of her murdered brother. Unless…. Sometimes I think I remember something real, when it turns out I’m remembering the mental image of what I fabricated. I’ll just read it again.

I’m cold.

That Nanette Dee, always going for a deal. She tried to get a bargain on dentures and you know what she ended up with? Chiclets for teeth. Totally useless. I can’t tell you how many times they’ve jumped out of her mouth. She just laughs and pops ‘em back in.

Hello, I’ve been sleeping, what time is it? Oh. It’s coming.

11:00 is lights out. I always tense up right before, the way I always felt strung on wire when somebody was supposed to call and the phone should ring any second. There. Even if the lights in your room are already off, the darkness thickens, and the sound of cotton replaces the day’s hum.

That next hour is like Christmas Eve when I was a child. At 12:00 I sit up and throw off my covers, swing my feet to the carpet. The mattress pushes me up, up, and I’m gliding to the door, through it, into the hallway. I pull the flashlight from my pocket, turn it on, and hold it in my mouth while I sweep my arms up and down, rotate my flexing hands. I swivel my hips and shift my weight from side to side, shuffling my feet. I am the ocean, eternal waves of life-giving water, the tide brushing the moon.

A few rooms down, a door opens, and out comes Abe in his plaid robe. He’s sinking into his knees and propelling himself into a smooth, smooth one-man electric slide. His flashlight is clipped to the robe’s sash, and it swings the light around him like a pulsing strobe. Another door and there’s Gishie in her gauzy pajama pants and cropped shirt, showing off her well-earned stretch marks, shaking her streaky belly over gyrating hips, her arms with the flapping, spotted flesh high above her head, each hand holding a flashlight. Doors behind and ahead of me open and close, the hallway fills with silent, spotlighted, gettin’ down.

We writhe and slither and scoop with our pelvises, we do the shag and the Charleston and the Watusi. One tiny woman—a corn husk in daylight—throws her sagging ninety pounds into the swim. I shimmy shimmy in my slippers, the ocean waves having pushed a sleek, finned creature to shore, who flaps her arms and skims the wet sand.

In the morning Bernice in her chestnut wig and Mary Kay lips will harangue the exhausted to get up, join the monopoly tournament. For now she lets her few white wisps of hair smoke up from her bald head and loses a slipper to the funky chicken. Ellen might have a spell and try to papier maché her television again, but tonight she makes up her own version of the hustle, slower and pre-war, soft as whipped cream.

Most of us will not smile tomorrow. Some won’t make eye contact with another soul. But tomorrow is another place. For now we move and groove, we shake, rattle, and roll. For now we just keep dancing. Even Nanette, holding on to her glorious, gleaming new teeth while throwing everything else she’s got into a floor-rattling, window-shattering twist that’s working its way right now into Chubby Checker’s fondest dream.


Deb Reeves
Bitter Coffee

Acrylic and vinyl paint on paper, 9″ x 19″
Painted using Claire Guyton’s prose poem (below) as inspiration

No Whip
by Claire Guyton

She strides into her favorite coffee shop, waving and laughing at her friends behind the counter—they love her!—love her voice, which, like everything about her, is confident when she sings, I’ll have a super-duper sparkiatto sprawly with a stardust-popping streak-or-ama of sprinkling sparkler, no whip! and oh oh how they do appreciate a pro, and so does he, from his place in the corner browsing the holiday-specific mugs for his wife, who loves holidays and anything stamped with the seal of this, everyone’s favorite coffee shop, where he steps to the counter, calling, Give me a gagariffic gimmick, gawker hawker, glimmering with glorious gorge; and no whip, please, same as the lady—wait! no whip!—they see immediately their bond and share a table, where he plays with the over-sized pink mug stamped with a heart, thin and bloodless, while she plays with the buttons of her blouse, pulling on her straw and then licking her lips and leaning into him, her voice soft, I’ve got a double-shot extra hot briefcase with a bun and spiky heels, and a Botox allowance of half-caf daycare and a 2nd mortgage she says shyly (it’s an act) with a Guatemalan housekeeper and organic spinach; there’s a little Green Card problem, but her foam is well frothed, and he replies, Me, I’m a haircut every 6 weeks of extra vanilla syrup for my snow blower lawn mower, four bedrooms with fraternal twins and full healthcare including dental—he flashes his bright whites—and a cinnamon sprinkling garage door opener low-interest platinum card caramello frappacino to go, and by this time their fingers are gliding across the tabletop, their tongues gliding across the foam, and yes! she touches his hand; he touches her buttons; and they meet for a while, betraying five kids, a wife, a husband, three dogs, a tank of fish and a flawless manicure before he gets bored and she gets nervous and the cherry falls off the top, but! they still have everybody’s favorite coffee shop and oh! how they love them! when they arrive at exactly the same time, and he gazes at those eyes that might, today, burn off the mist of boredom, and she measures the biceps that could, during her lunch hour, lift off the weight of her anxiety, which seems all the more possible when he says, Why not try something new, and so she says, What the hell, and then, Give me that gob-smacking smiter with simmering cider and mix in a streak of double-demi-delight and a half! to which he replies, I want your uber-grabber gimme-grammy, with a triple-shot shaker of shasta-blasta double-frasta! and they remember their adventures, smiling and tugging at their clothes, then decide to share a table, just a small one, where they pull on their fat straws, sucking.


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