November 8, 2009
Day 8 Nanowrimo
Well, I wasted a whole day yesterday ... wandered around feeling weepy about the news from Pat, wishing my legs were not aching, and worrying about going to the wedding feeling sick and down. I walked Kenya around the lake and felt even worse. And then I did the only sensible thing I'd done all day. I phoned the groom and said I didn't think I would make it to the wedding; that I was going to take a hot bath and have a sleep and then decide. As soon as I made the call, I felt as if a weight had been lifted. The bath was pleasant but neither sleep inducing nor reviving, so I curled up with a movie and a bowl of nuts.
The first movie was The Soloist. I didn't realize it was going to be about living on the street with mental health issues, and I found myself thinking about the old man and his dogs, and then about my friend who collects photos for story ideas. We call his collection his "Old Men and Dog Pictures". He's the friend I will likely ask to help me find out more about the history of the red light district.
Just as the nuts turned into a supper of junk food, and the first glass of wine into more, one movie led to another. The second, Silent Night, was about a hiatus at Christmas during World War Two ... not the one I expected, when the troops on both sides decided on a temporary truce ... but one in which a German woman imposes a truce as a condition to allowing soldiers to share her accommodation on Christmas Eve. There were the stereotypes of course ... and both German and American soldiers changed in predictable ways as they recognized the humanity of their enemies, but it was more than simply a sentimental movie. The woman made her stand because she recognized that her son was being swayed to the prevailing view of the enemy as a cardboard villain figure, and she wanted him to think for himself ... and stay alive rather than becoming fodder for this ugly war machine that was now swallowing its children.
I thought about my own German roots, and about my grandfather with the aristocratic Aryan blood flowing through his veins but very little evidence that he was anything but a rich spoiled American playboy. I knew there had to be more than this stereotype, that he had to be feeling something when he acted thoughtlessly ... but I had no idea how to find the key to the real and complex human being that Paul Donat must have been.
I turned off everything downstairs and went to bed at 8:30. Some time between then and 4:45 when I awakened in the morning, I had visitors.
Grandpa was in his usual snarly critical mood. "You drink too much to get anything accomplshed," he accused me.
"I know," I said, "But I do get things done. Just not what you seem to expect me to do."
"You didn't even go to your friends' wedding, for god's sake. Stayed home and guzzled wine and ate beans and toast. Were you trying to pretend you were being forced to eat the American k-rations in the film?"
I laughed. "It was the only tinned food I had that could be heated quickly."
"Not a good habit to get into," he retorted. And then he got down to the real reason for his visit. If I could find one of Eva's daughters or grandchildren, I might learn more about what happened to him.
"Did Eva shoot you?" I asked.
"Of course not," he snorted. "Eva loved me."
"They all loved you," I said, "but one of them killed you."
He looked startled. "What makes you say that?"
"It makes sense. You treated all of them as if they were disposable. As soon as the newness wore off you threw them away." I paused and then continued, "And you had a very short attention span. It took almost no time for the sheen to wear off."
"That's not entirely true," he said. "Talk to Eva."
"Eva will have to decide to come to me, Grandpa. I can't conjure up ghosts."
"Don't be too sure of that," he said as he left, and then added, "And don't call me Grandpa. I hate it."
Eva didn't come, but Mitzi dropped in. This time she was wearing a leopard skin coat over a revealing low cut black sheath. Her shoes were black patent with leopard skin heels. How did other women do it?
My spare bed was covered in clothing and shoes, and I would not have been able to put together a single outfit suitable for a wedding. The only black shoes I owned were laced up suede oxfords and the only outfit that matched my somewhat suitable brown shoes was an old pair of brown slacks and a patterned silk jacket I'd bought in Beijing about five years ago.. Several silk camisoles were splayed across them. Before I elected to stay home, I had finally decided to wear one of the black outfits with the sporty black oxfords I'd brushed in an attempt to hide their age, and hope that no one noticed.
"Your hair looks nice," she said. "Too bad you had to waste a good haircut in front of a small screen though.".
"I was beat," I said. "Did you know Eva?"
"Everyone knew Eva; she didn't work in the clubs, but she knew all the girls."
"What did she do for a living?" I asked.
"She was some kind of community worker. Ran a soup kitchen kind of place just for women and kids. When the girls were down on their luck they ate there. Sometimes she put them up for a few days. Not sure where she got her money from. I don't think it came from the city. Maybe she had a rich daddy."
"Did she know my grandfather well?"
"As well as anyone, I guess. But she wasn't one of his girls, if that's what you mean."
"He said she had kids; that they might know something."
"Yeah, maybe. I never met her kids. Not likely she'd have brought them down to the Main."
"I wonder if my grandfather did anything besides gamble and date pretty girls."
"He had a wife."
"I know, but he didn't live with her."
"She was a real humdinger, from everything I've heard."
I waited for her to elaborate. She didn't disappoint me.
"She was very beautiful ... classy looking ... even though she didn't have lots of dough. She was a nurse, you know, but not one that worked in a hospital wearing a uniform and clunky shoes. She went to people's homes and looked after them there. And she stayed there. Boarded like. Got to meet lots of rich people and their families that way.. That's how she met Paul. She looked after his mother."
"I remember someone telling me that now."
"She was smart, smarter than Paul. And she was different from the girls he was used to."
I raised a questioning eyebrow.
"The girls in the clubs took it all off right away. She held back like a good stripper. And I hear she teased him with tiny little peeks, just accidental, you know, for months before she started to date him. And even then it took him a long time to get into her panties."
"I'm surprised he didn't just say the hell with it." I said. "He sure didn't need to wait around for a cocktease. He had plenty of women willing to give him what he wanted."
Mitzi raised her own eyebrow, and whistled. "Boy you sure don't know much about men, do you? She was very good at holding back and just giving him enough to want more ... and then pulling back again. By the time he finally got her into bed, he was completely infatuated. And more important, so was his mother. She was like a member of the family."
"Why did he marry her if he could have had the sex without it, I wonder."
"She was a nurse, honey. She made sure she got pregnant right away. From what I heard, it took her only a month to get in a family way."
"Good thing," I mused. "His relationships lasted an average of two months. But he'd got women pregnant before. Why did he marry her?"
"His parents insisted. Told him he had a responsibility. And from what I heard his mother really wanted a grandchild."
"She could have had lots of them if she hadn't financed the abortions."
"This one was different. This baby would have a nurse for a mother."
"And maybe she thought Paul would settle down if he got married," I said.
"Yeah, but she hadn't really known the real Marie either," said Mitzi. "As soon as that baby was born Marie was back out working and the baby girl lived with her grandparents."
"How did Paul like that?"
"I think he was relieved. He was back in the clubs within two months of the marriage, and he didn't have anything good to say about Marie. My guess is she began to show her true colours as soon as she had the wedding ring on her finger."
"He said she was a bitch."
"The only person who really knew her was Eva. I saw photos and I heard she wasn't nearly as maternal as she pretended to be, but I didn't know her personally."
I wondered how I might conjure up Eva. I decided to do some research on soup kitchens in that area.
7:38 and another 1631 words