Saturday, October 8, 2016

Road To Disturbia

. . . more snapshots from the life of Z . . .the treasure hunt continues with song, movie, and book titles . . .



Z’s new neighbors had just moved in, Roger and Cruella. They were newly married. They had an adorable Dalmatian appropriately named Pongo. Roger sold computers. She worked as a mortician’s cosmetologist. Z sometimes wondered like most anybody would how that came about. Upon meeting Cruella you’d quickly realize you could put her in a room with the Pope, George Bush, and Adolf Hitler and the woman would take charge, start directing operations and marshalling everybody’s thoughts. “If child is the father of man, what child could possibly have engendered this woman?” thought Z, parenting being her primary obsession for now. Cruella was raised in Connecticut, he in Narnia. They had met at a singles’ bar and a whirlwind romance followed. She was going to have a baby so they moved their wedding to May instead of waiting for December, besides her whole clan was coming to town for a family reunion. Relatives and congratulations were pouring in fast. But very, very sadly they lost the baby very early on, the week after the wedding. Cruella's mother had rushed her to the doctor. Cruella bemoaned that this was the end of the world and said she would look for an easy way to go, perhaps a fistful of something OTC, she was that unhappy and felt like she had failed Roger so he might not love her anymore. Roger was very sweet and supportive and pulled her through it all. Cruella informed Roger and everybody else she knew the doctor told her all would be fine and in time they could have a bunch of kids and that would lessen the pain of now.  Z could never really tell why Cruella, who chewed on bubble gum all day long, smelled oddly of arsenic and old lace. “My senses are getting all mixed up. Must be losing my mind,” she thought.

They were very sweet. Every evening they’d go for a walk the same time Z was in the yard, the boys running around, and they’d say hello and wave. Pongo was well-trained but he would amble up to the children and say a woof and deposit a slobbery lick on each little face despite several admonishments.

Z was outside one Sunday afternoon while the boys ate lunch al fresco. Looked like there was trouble in Paradise on an otherwise perfect day in spring.

            “Okay dear.”
            “YOUR DOG ATE THEM.”
            “He just needs some real food.”
    “Yes dear.”
In about two minutes Roger and Pongo were outside pacing the backyard apparently distracted by ants in the grass. Eventually Pongo said woof and the boys said woof back. Roger walked up to their little picnic under the persimmon tree and asked if they knew how to play football, rather “soccer” as it was called in this part of the world.
“Yes, we know, “ they said in unison. “We’ve heard that a gazillion times already.”
“Like to play? I see you have a goal post here?”
“Can we play baseball today?”
“Okay. I can’t promise I’ll know what I’m doing. I played cricket back in Narnia. Heard of cricket?”
“Yes we have. But we play baseball.”
“If it’s okay with your mom go get your things.”

Z said,The baseball  things are in a bag in the garage. There are extra balls in a box on the shelf. Can you get everything on your own?”
“Yes Mom, we’re not babies you know.”
“If you don’t mind staying with them for twenty minutes I’ll run to the library before they close for the day.         
“Don’t worry about a thing.”
“Thank you Roger. I’ll rush back.”
“You’re welcome.”

As Z hurried away the boys were back with two bats, a dozen balls.

“Let’s play,” said Adit.
“No pads, no helmets….just balls?” asked Roger, concerned.
“Well, the helmets are too tight. Our heads hurt. I cannot feel my legs if I wear those pads. So let’s play.’
“Now don’t get hurt or I won’t know what to tell your mom if you do. Why don’t we play soccer instead?”
“We won’t get hurt.”
“Heard of Beckham?”
“As in ‘Bend It Like Beckham’?”
“The one.”
“Want to play soccer like him?”
“I don’t know.”
“You mean you haven’t seen him play?”
“This isn’t Narnia, is it?”
“Let’s play.”

A month from this day a little old lady showed up at Z’s doorstep with a bag of dog food and said her daughter Cruella had sent her over to request Z to feed and walk the dog as she would be in surgery and recovery for a few days. Z was horrified. “What happened?”
“O nothing. This was scheduled months ago. She is having a hysterectomy to free her of pain and complications she’s had since she was fifteen. She ought to have done this sooner instead of putting the rest of us and herself through all the hassle of taking care of her for a week every month, putting up with her moaning and temper tantrums. I’m happy for Roger the nightmare is over. I don’t know how he puts up with her.”
            Z began to see the roots from whence came the shoots.



            Z was by herself half the day a few days each week nowadays as Adit and Anuj were off to school, and she pottered about the garden and learned the names of all the neighbors who were out in their yards the same time as her, or were out for their constitutional. She had been MIA vis-√†-vis neighborhood activities forever. Cruella was recovering nicely and had begun interviewing for jobs. The economy was in a bit of a slump so the morgue where she used to work had had cutbacks and she had been let go. She wanted to work in the community she said so she had applied in every neighborhood business that was hiring. The first offer of employment came from the daycare down the street. She was deeply touched.
            “They saw my heart and gave me this job. I’m so lucky to be able to spend the day with babies. I’ll be a 9 to 5 mom.”
            Z was happy for her. She had another friend who was also a 9 to 5 mom, the sweetest, kindest soul you've ever met, and envisioned joy entering Cruella's life and transforming her into a beautiful soul with its magical powers. Happiness does that for some people.

              A few weeks went by, and while Cruella was not given to displays of emotion, there was something BIG going on with her, you could tell from her body language and reckless driving. She drove like a bona fide maniac. Her large frame bent over substantially, shoulders stiff and raised, arms stiff by her side, and you could see thick sulfurous smoke emanating from her ears.
            Z had to ask if all was well. Cruella said she was getting very, very tired. This daycare bullshit was not her thing. Babies are so unpredictable.
            Z sympathized. Raising children can be hard. And someone used to caring for the dead must find it very, very hard to care for a squirming pooping burping bundle of joy.
            In a week or two Cruella stopped going to work. A neighbor told Z in a conspiratorial whisper she had been let go ‘coz the babies would cry when she walked into the room. “That’s okay. Perfectly understandable. It happens. People will be people, babies or grown ups. If they get along, they get along. If they don’t, they have to say their goodbyes,” said Z, very proud of her ability to smooth over that little wrinkle in neighborly relations with such smart thinking.
            Cruella’s troubles were just beginning it seemed to Z. Roger had been asked to travel to Taiwan for three and a half months. He was going alone as the company would not pay for his wife, and Taiwan, he had told her was not easy to live in if you did not speak the language. He’d be working in the vicinity of 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, traveling on local trains and dusty road most of the day, possibly getting lost a lot on account of not knowing Mandarin. She could spend more time with her mother and her friends.
            Roger left. Cruella threw a little party that afternoon for her friends she knew from school, five of them, just the girls, no families. She was a big girl now and did not ‘xactly need a husband or a mother in tow to socialize. She did not invite Z but told her about the cannoli she made and the pasta with pesto sauce from the grocery store that was a dream. Z had tried the pesto before. It was yummilicious. She decided that was what she’d serve for dinner.
            Over the next few weeks Z noticed Cruella lost that hunchback she had developed, she lost tons of weight, she became willowy, colored her hair very light and flattering to her face, whitened her teeth to a shade of ghoulish white-blue. “Something must have not worked quite right,” Z surmised.  Other than that she actually looked pretty. “Roger’s going to like that hopefully”. He was a handsome man and it must not escape him that any time they walked past anyone, that anyone almost always asked himself or herself what might have happened to lead to that union. But she had some good qualities. She was intelligent. How bad is that?
            Cruella was a busy girl. She joined pottery class, dance class, a book club, and was in and out of the house a lot. Off and on a friend stayed with her. She was newly separated after a ♫bad romance♫and was getting used to being single again, Cruella told Z. Cruella and the newly separated girl went to shows together, cooked together, and the single friend went on some ♫love game♫ thing one day and came back with some sizzling details that would singe your hair if I told you, so I won’t. The single friend had a new man in her life, so the week before Roger returned she took her things and moved in with him, this younger than her, very wild stallion from some exotic land over the Hindu Kush. Or was it the  Kunluns? Z was losing her geography in the moment.
            One afternoon Z was waiting for the school bus to arrive when she saw Roger turn into his driveway in a very dusty car. Perhaps he had left his car at the airport for almost four months. She saw him come out of the car and creep into his home like a thief. Z’s heart sank to her canvas keds. When you see a man sidle into his castle like that you know he’s been up to no good. She’d seen that before and knew it in her bones. She hoped Cruella would be too happy to notice.
            The next five weeks one saw neither Cruella, nor Roger, nor Pongo. Z imagined they might be on vacation. Then one day Cruella walked up to Z in the yard and told her the sad news that Pongo had died three weeks prior. Roger had taken it very, very badly. He was a mess. Cruella was holding up much better.
            Z did not see them again for weeks, maybe nine or ten. Z imagined that they might be on an overseas trip. The house was not on sale, so what else was possible?
            Once again, waiting for the school bus, she saw her neighbors. Then Cruella drove away. Roger walked up to Z and said, ”You must have heard. Pongo is dead.”
            “I did. I’m very sorry. I heard you were very upset.”
            “I raised him from a week old. We had him with us all our courtship and marriage.”
            The kids were here. Z had to go. In a month or so she met Roger again while she waited for the children. She asked where Cruella was, for Z had not seen Cruella in many weeks and wondered if she was okay.
            “She moved out ways back in March. I knew you hadn’t realized that she isn't living her anymore,” he smiled.
            “WHY???” Z asked. “I hope she’s coming back.
            “I don’t want her back.”
“Don’t be silly Roger. This was probably your first disagreement and since the divorce rate in this part of the universe is 50% you think that’s the answer.”
“I have to do what makes me happy.”
Cruella started to show up once or twice a week, just the same time as they used to go for a walk, her skirts getting higher, thigh high boots with dagger heels once or twice, dark pleather tights with studs once, and then suddenly a baby blue chenille sweater and long khaki skirt, then a red bandana for a sarong with a one cup in blue sequins and one in silver bikini top. It was dizzying, this girl’s very outr√© wardrobe. Weather played no part nor occasion in her choice of clothes. She’d be neighborly, invite people going by on bicycles or their jogging route to stop for lemonade, she’d chat up a storm with Z, put the garbage out every Sunday night. But she never seemed to go inside the house. This was monumentally confusing for Z and uncomfortable too. Roger and Cruella seemed to be trying to get Z to take sides! That was so not her place. Z started to avoid them but not too obviously she hoped. Cruella would seek her out and pour her neighborly affection in oodles out to her. Z started to feel guilty about being Roger’s ‘adoptive’ older sister in this mix. Society dictates women side with women, especially when a woman is a hundred percent behind her man like Cruella was, especially since Z had figured out his dirty little secret.
 One day Cruella came no more. She had driven away ♫Rude Boy♫ blaring on her car stereo one night never to be spotted again in the neighborhood, at least not by Z, in her tenure in that house. And who drives with their windows down at nine thirty in the night in September when the mosquitos are multiplying and children have been put in their beds? Cruella apparently does.

Z had seen recycling bins overflowing with liquor bottles of all ilk lately at Roger’s mailbox every Monday so she took it on herself to say, ”Happiness cannot be found at the bottom of a beer bottle.”
        That must have gotten to him bad because from then on, she’d find beer bottles between the two yards, precariously positioned between potted ferns, every day, for two whole months. Z ignored them.
       This conversation went on, a few minutes at a time, for months. Roger, being six or seven years younger than Z, had found a kid brother spot in her life. She wasn’t about to let him die of cirrhosis of the liver. His parents and siblings saw him much less than she did anyway. She’d watched Kaku die and no one had done a thing about it and that was a crying shame. Then he said something she had not expected to hear, ”There are people in this world who are married who should really never have been married in the first place. What do you think of that? You are one of them.”
            This brat was going to ask her that?! The kettle was going to call the pot black, in a preemptive strike???!  The cheek!! Z stopped nagging him about his marriage. Roger was toying with the idea of moving back to his parents’. It sounded like a good idea. Z wished him well. As for her secret desire for saving Cruella from bacchanalia and rehabilitating her, Z realized you might as well save fish from drowning. Z and her family had moved out of the state the several months down the road so she never really knew what happened next, except the lady from the cul-de-sac who sorta knew everything about everything had insinuated Cruella was living with that newly single friend or hers and partying to the nines. Z did not quite know what to make of that.



            Z had been prone to flights of fantasy as a child anyway so as she watched multitudes of butterflies in the yard she began to forget who she was and where she was. A beautiful calm descended on her. Her soul took wings and floated about in the sunshine with those pretty little things who had not a worry in the world except if you were going to be a terrible realist, predators. She saw birds in the yard and worried a little about the butterflies but the cycles of life must be honored so she let that ounce of discomfiture pass and continued to revel in her new found freedom

As they say, a butterfly flapping its wings in Rio de Janeiro might change the weather in Chicago.

            Z had had her fill of flying about on gossamer wings the instant she saw this vision of powerful geometry in motion against the big blue sky, a red-tailed hawk gliding by her window, intricate patterns on its wings, silent as night, swift and decisive, controlled as anything in nature could possibly be. Z could see from the kitchen window the hawk spent hours each day perched on a limb of a pine tree in the backyard, taking flight to find food every now and again, otherwise still. One day while Z was outside, the boys rough and tumbled on the grass and rode their trike, she found a feather, a gift from the hawk, that she picked up, thanked the bird, and kept in her book for a bookmark. The bird had moved on to another place but the memory stayed with Z a long time, a long long time after the feather frayed and misshapen had been cast away in favor of a picture postcard.

            One night Z had fallen asleep watching the movie "Ladyhawke" and she drifted into a dream in which she was woman  between sunset and sunrise, and while the sun shone down she was a hawk, a common bird, grey mainly, a red tailed lady hawk. She was moving south for the winter and here she was on a leafy suburban patch, homes with shingled roofs, yards with children at play, farms dotting the landscape.

            Lady Hawk Z swooped down on a snake in the grass and demolished the snake soon enough. The scurrying of dirty rat feet had not escaped her. She was after the rat. She got the rat too, then discovered what the rat was after - parchment, an old, expensive, mystical-looking object. It had lines all over it,  kudzu vines intertwined with vines of desire. You had to relax to let the vines slip away, like the Devil’s Snare in the Harry Potter books and let the sun shine on them. ♫Mr. Brightside♫ hadn’t known.

At the edge of this land of poor judgment and partial understanding, leading up to the land of the living, lay a narrow suspension bridge but Lady Hawk Z knew not exactly where. 

She’d heard of sexual napalm, but this here looked like Armageddon. On the bright side of things you could say this was lanka dahan, annihilation, of the dark side of the soul.

How that works out was a puzzle to her.

As the sun rose to its perihelion her gaze landed on the dark lines on this template. She knew this was no ordinary piece of paper. It contained, she began to see, the schematics of a dark but visionary mind. This was dangerous and powerful. It had to be understood and dealt with. You don’t just leave plutonium lying around.

At least now she knew what the maze of Cruella’s mind contained. It is not often that you are privy to such closely guarded secrets. That she knew had to be of some value to someone somewhere and she knew in her human hours she had to do something constructive with the unusual information.