Umber (51.1 — The Statues of the Saints

September 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

I picked up a group of photos taped together in a way that formed a panoramic view of the inside of St. Agnes’ church in Kearney.  In it I could see the statues of the saints that Vera had spent so much time studying, back when she was in high school and was caring for Kate’s baby, Alfred.


Umber (50)

September 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Oleander said nothing more.  I put her photo away, and picked up a picture of  young man on a tractor.  It was Ervin.

“Y’know,” he said, “sometimes I feel like there’s an invisible string tied around my chest, and someone or something is on the other end, tugging on it.  Usually I can ignore the feeling and it’ll go away, but this time, it’s stronger than ever.  I think I’ll ask Uncle Orville if I can borrow his old pickup, and I’ll just let whoever’s on the other end of the string reel me in.”

Umber (49.45 — Oleander’s Story)

September 21, 2012 § 1 Comment

“Ollie Belle, honey, are you alright?  What happened?  We could hear the priest yelling clear across the church.  Oh, honey, what did you say to him?”

Before I could answer she said, “Never mind, honey, we’re going home right now.  I’ll make you some nice hot chicken soup with noodles, and maybe some apricot tarts.”

She wrapped her coat around me and carried me all the way home.

Umber (49.44 — Oleander’s Story)

September 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

The next day was Sunday.  We got to church early.  Father Vanderweyden was hearing confessions as usual.  I waited in line, trembling, needing to unburden my soul of the guilt brought on by my unintentional but grievous wrongdoing.

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  I made magic paper dolls and put them in an envelope, and made my daddy love someone other than my mama, and now he has gone away and I’ll never see him again.”

“WHAT did you say, Oleander?”

I repeated it.  He didn’t answer.

“So,” I groveled, “I am a bad sinner, and I ruined everybody’s life.”

“OLEANDER!” the priest shouted.  I could hear gasps of shock from the people waiting in line outside the confessional.

He lowered his voice a bit.

“This is superstitious nonsense!  You did not cause your parents to divorce.  You are not responsible for their actions.”

I tried again to explain about the paper dolls, and how I was making things happen.

“Superstition is a sin!  You must not dwell on things like this, or it will lead you STRAIGHT TO HELL!”

I was crying now.  I said the act of contrition with shuddering sobs.  I left the confessional.  I’d forgotten about Mass, and headed slowly towards the vestibule.  I was out the back door and down the steps when Mama caught up with me.  She looked frightened.

Umber (49.43 — Oleander’s Story)

September 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Months earlier, when we got home from the rodeo where I first saw Miss July Benbow in all her flag-waving cowgirl glory, I made rodeo paper dolls.  Julie was the star, of course, along with her horse, but I made other paper rodeo performers as well– clowns, cowboys on bucking broncos, boys selling hot dogs, a man with a megaphone.  Since Daddy was the chute boss, I put his paper doll in with the rest of them, inside an old ledger book.

I felt a surge of weakness as I realized what I had done.  I had put the Daddy paper doll in with the Julie paper doll.  I was the reason our family broke up.

I carefully gathered up all of my paper dolls, their clothes, and the pink cake.  I folded up the tablet-paper castle Freida and I had made.  I laid them all gently in an old cigar box I’d found in the garage.  Not knowing what else to do, I carried the now-bulging cigar box into my bedroom and shoved it as far beneath the bed as I could.

Umber (49.42 — Oleander’s Story)

September 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

I tried more experiments with paper dolls and envelopes, and the results were always the same.  Whatever paper facsimiles I put in the envelopes would manifest themselves in reality the next day.  I made a turkey leg and put it in an envelope with my Mama paper doll, and the next day, Mama brought home leftover turkey from the hospital cafeteria.  I drew a mouse and put it in an envelope with my Miss Brigid paper doll, and the next day Miss Brigid was setting mousetraps around the kitchen, complaining about vermin.

Slowly it dawned on me that I might be able to straighten things out between my parents if I put them together in a manila envelope.  Well, on second thought, it wouldn’t be enough just to put them together.  They had to be happy about it.  I was out of envelopes by this time, so I decided to use a paper sack.  I drew a rainbow and the bluebird of happiness on the outside  and a pair of lovebirds on the inside, which was no easy task.  I put my Mama paper doll inside the bag.  I started looking for my Daddy paper doll.  Where was it?  I couldn’t find it.  I was about to give up when I remembered where it was.  In a sickening tidal wave of comprehension, I realized what I had done.

Umber (49.41 — Oleander’s Story)

September 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

I decided to find out if the tea party with the pink cake had been just a crazy coincidence, or something more.  Maybe I had magical powers…

I drew a red and yellow striped box with a blue ribbon on top of it.  I found another envelope, decorated it to look like the kitchen, and put the striped blue-ribboned package and the Oleander paper doll inside of it.  I put it on my nightstand, went into the kitchen, and waited.  Nothing happened.  Miss Brigid told me to go play somewhere else.

I had forgotten about my experiment by the time Mama came home from work.  She took off her heavy coat and I followed her into the kitchen.

“Ollie Belle, I found this stuff in the nurses lounge at work.  The custodian was going to throw it away, but I told him my daughter could use it.  I thought you might be able to make something out of it.”

She handed me a paper bag.  Inside there was red-and-yellow striped wrapping paper and a tangled pile of blue curling ribbon.

Umber (49.40 — Oleander’s Story)

September 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

That night as I lay in bed, I reviewed the events of the last two days.  On Friday, I had come home from school, made a Frieda paper doll, an Oleander paper doll and a pink cake, and I’d put them all into a manila envelope that I’d made to look like our house.  Then Saturday afternoon, Frieda came over in her party dress, in the same colors as the paper dress I’d made for the Frieda doll, and we’d had a tea party, with a cake that looked just like the one I had drawn.  Surely this was more than mere coincidence.

Umber (47.39–Oleander’s Story)

September 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

The next morning, Mama shook my arm and said, “Ollie Belle, wake up.  Good news, honey.  Mama got a raise, so Miss Brigid’s going to make a cake while I’m at work.  I asked Frieda’s mother to send her over in a little while; the two of you can have a tea party this afternoon.”

Frieda showed up in a pretty pink and orange party dress.  I was so surprised when I saw the colors she wore that I spilled my hot chocolate down the front of my yellow blouse.  No matter, said Miss Brigid, it’ll wash out.  Since it was too cold to play outside, Freida and I decided to color.  I found my crayons, and we decided to work together to make and enormous castle, by taping together sheets of tablet paper.

We were engrossed in our work when Miss Brigid told us it was teatime.  I’d told Frieda that Mama had said there’d be cake, so we jumped up and scurried, giggling, into the dining room where we took out places at the table.  Dear Miss Brigid had set such a pretty table, with crepe-paper flowers and cloth napkins and Mama’s good dishes.  She poured us tea and then disappeared into the kitchen.  She was back a minute later, carrying the most beautiful cake I had ever seen.  It had four layers, covered with pink icing, and topped with maraschino cherries.  I could hardly believe my eyes.

Umber (47.38 –Oleander’s Story)

September 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

No matter how dismal or baffling life seemed, I could always cheer myself up by playing with my paper dolls.  Some Mama had bought for me, others we’d made.  Besides a bride, a groom, and a flower-girl, I had Shirley Temple, Judy Garland and Amelia Earhart.  There was Old King Cole, Humpty Dumpty, and Rudy Vallee.  My favorites were the ones I’d made myself: Miss Brigid’s sister Siobhan; Mama, Daddy, my teacher, Mrs. White, who for some reason had jet-black hair; Miss Brigid, Miss Julie and her horse (I still liked the horse), and Silvertip.

My best friend at school was a little girl named Frieda, so one Friday after school I decided to make a Frieda paper and an Oleander paper doll.  I drew them on cardboard from a cereal box Mama had given me, and cut them out carefully with Miss Brigid’s scissors.  Then I got out my tablet paper and colored pencils, and made beautiful party dresses with little white tabs to hold the dresses onto the dolls’ flat shoulders.  Frieda’s dress was orange and pink, and mine was black and yellow, just like a bumblebee.  Then I drew the most wonderful cake, four layers high, with pink frosting and maraschino cherries on top.  I found an old manila envelope, and decorated the outside of it to look like the front of our house.  I cut out the door and the windows, and put the Freida and Oleander dolls inside, so their faces showed in the windows.  I added the pink cake and a teapot, and closed the flap on the envelope.