Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~ Stephen King

Friday, July 16, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Fridays

I heard you missed me - I'm back...

Actually, it only took one friend saying, "Hey! What happens next to Marnie?" to light a fire under my ample butt. This is not my favorite chapter - which is probably why I stopped posting when I hit it. But Cal had to meet the family somehow, right? Be sure to tune in next week, when we talk about sex, baby...

Chapter 11

Cal arrived at her condo exactly on time. He had taken a little extra care with his grooming today and he looked yummy; nervous, but yummy. His wavy hair, usually tousled, had been tamed into place. A quick glance at the driveway indicated why: where she’d expected to see Cal’s bike, she saw instead a late 70’s model Camaro. Well this was a surprise. “Where’s the bike?”

“It might rain.” Marnie looked skyward then raised an eyebrow at him. “Ok, I didn’t want your family to think I was some sort of hoodlum. I thought this might make a better impression.”

“It’s making a good impression on me!” Marnie said as she locked her door and activated her alarm system. She ran to the passenger door and ran her fingers along the car appreciatively. “This is gorgeous!”

“I like it. I like the bike better, but, you know…”

“Good impression.”

“Yeah. Plus it’s starting to get cold. It was about time to bring it out anyway. So you like it?”

“I love it. Let’s go!”

As they rode, she got him up to speed on the Joan situation. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing her around for a while, if ever. I’ll miss her, but I guess that’s good. I mean, you know, for her.”

“I guess.” Cal was just relieved that there weren’t going to be any charges. “Speaking of which – do you want a little – uh - fortification before we get to your parents’ house?” It was pretty clear that he did.

“Oh, hells yes.”

He pulled over in a neighborhood park and they both took a couple little snorts from their fingernails. Marnie was slightly disappointed. No tap, tap, tap. She felt less tense almost instantly. She knew coke wasn’t supposed to relax you, but that had always been her initial response to it. Relaxation followed by a confidence that she could take on the world. How could something that did that be wrong?

Cal started the car up again and Marnie directed him to her parents’ place. As he pulled into the long circular driveway he said, “Shit, Marnie. I don’t know if I’m ready for this…”

“They’re very regular people. You’ll like them. I wouldn’t feed you to the wolves.” She smiled confidently and crossed her fingers in the hope that she was telling the truth. The fact was that they were both entering unfamiliar territory. She hadn’t brought a boy home since college. She’d had a serious boyfriend then – they’d even talked marriage. She brought him home with her every time she visited and her family had loved him. Everyone assumed they’d be getting married – including Marnie. When he put a ring on her finger on her twenty-first birthday, no-one was surprised. Her mother and her sisters swooped in immediately and started making wedding plans. His mother became involved as well. Then Marnie found more and more indications that he’d been seeing some red-headed whore behind her back. Well – she probably wasn’t actually a whore. And it’s quite possible that she wasn’t actually a redhead. But she was definitely fucking Marnie’s fiance. Bitter? Oh no. She was completely over it. But she was no Corrine. She wouldn’t be cuckolded. He was gone and she’d never looked back. But she also hadn’t ever felt strongly enough about anyone since to take them to her parents’ house. And here she was bringing Cal after less than a week. On paper, it didn’t make any sense. But Marnie knew it was right.

Lupe opened the door before Marnie could. “You must be Mrs. Hammond. I’m Cal.” Cal said, extending his hand before Marnie had a chance to make the introduction. Marnie rolled her eyes. It was going to be a long afternoon.

Lupe looked at Marnie and raised her eyebrows. “Nice to meet you. My name is Lupe.” Lupe turned and went back into the house towards the kitchen. Cal realized his mistake as Mrs. Hammond came to the door to greet them. She was a handsome woman; impeccably dressed with every hair in place. She extended her hand to Cal, “So nice to meet you, Cal, I’m Lucinda Hammond. Please come in.”

Marnie tried to visualize her home – her parents’ home, she reminded herself – through Cal’s eyes. The entrance hall was large, with high ceilings and a marble floor. There was a crystal chandelier centered above the space. As a child she had thought that the colors the prisms produced when the light shined through them were private little rainbows just for her. When she got old enough to realize what they really were, that became intriguing as well. She played a lot in the entrance hall because it was big and basically empty. There were no vases or fragile things to be wary of. She could throw her arms out and twirl and dance with her own private rainbows. She thought this room was beautiful and wondered if Cal saw beautiful or just big and cold. She looked to him for a clue, but he was following her mother and his eyes were looking everywhere.

She led him through the formal living room – a room Marnie had never liked. It was beautiful, she supposed, but it always seemed so stiff. When she was young and had wanted to play in this room she was always warned about breaking things. Antique this, heirloom that. She was always warned not to jump on the furniture – not that she would’ve wanted to. It was all hard and stiff. Of all the rooms in her parents’ house, this was the one in which she felt most uncomfortable.

They continued down a hall that was filled with ancestral portraits. As they neared the end of the hall they gave way to more current photographs. The artful arrangement belied any sense of inconsistency. It flowed. This hall led into the great room which was where everyone usually gathered. This room was the polar opposite of the formal living room – warm and inviting. There was a fire burning in a large stone fireplace, as if to make tangible that sense of warmth. The furniture was overstuffed and comfortable. The color scheme was warm spicy shades of golds, greens, purples and reds. Corrine was sitting alone in the room, a cocktail in her hand. She looked tense. She always looked tense.

“Cal? This is my sister Corrine. Corrine? Cal.”

Cal nodded an acknowledgement and Corrine raised her glass to him. “Can I have Lupe fix you a drink, Cal?” Mrs. Hammond asked.

“A beer would be fine.”


“I’ll have a vodka martini.”

Mrs. Hammond summoned Lupe and she appeared. She gave her Marnie and Cal’s drink order and asked to have her own refreshed. Cal and Marnie sat on the sofa together and Mrs. Hammond took the chair next to Corrine’s.

“Where’s Alan?” Marnie asked.

“He’ll be here” Corrine answered, avoiding eye contact. “He had to run in to the office to handle some sort of…”her voice trailed off at this point, “thing. He’ll be here in time for dinner.” She then added even more quietly, “or at least dessert.”

“And the E’s?”

“Where do you think?”

In unison the two sisters proclaimed, “in the basement, playing with the Wii!”

“Is Brittany there too?”

“Is Brittany where?” said Brittany.

“Oh, hey Brit! This is Cal. Cal? My sister, Brittany.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“Pleasure. Where are the E’s?”

Corrine pointed towards the basement door.

“Of course. And Dad?”

“In the den. He should be out in a minute.”


“He’ll be here.”

Lupe re-entered the room with their drinks on a tray. She had included a martini for Brittany as well. This was not an erroneous gesture. She had offered Cal a frosted glass along with his bottle of beer, but he refused it. Conversation, such as it was, ceased as the drinks were distributed.

“Cheers” Marnie said, clinking her glass against Cal’s bottle.

“First of the day.” Added Brittany, taking a sip of her cocktail and sighing. “Damn, Lupe, no one makes a martini like you.”

Lupe returned with a tray of canap├ęs. She offered them to everyone then placed the tray on the coffee table.

“So Cal!” Brtittany opened, sitting on the other side of him on the overstuffed sofa, “Tell us all about yourself.” She leaned forward with her elbows on her knees and her eyes fixed on him. “Don’t leave anything out. Inquiring minds want to know.”

“Brittany Louise Hammond, you mind your manners!”

“Yeah – Brittany LOUISE!”

“Oh, like you guys aren’t curious. Where are you from?”

“I grew up on a farm out in the country. Marnie and I rode out there Sunday, actually. My brother and his wife still live there in the same house I grew up in.”

“It must’ve been fun, growing up on a farm.”

Cal shrugged. “Fun. I guess. It was a lot of work, but it was good honest work, you know?”

Mrs. Hammond nodded. She did indeed know.

“It was fun having all that space to run and all those animals to care for, but it sometimes got lonely. We were pretty isolated out there, you know?”

Mrs. Hammond nodded. She did indeed know.

“But my brother and I? We learned to do all kinds of stuff, so that was cool. We learned to be pretty independent and self-sufficient at a pretty young age.”

Mrs. Hammond nodded again, but didn’t say a word. She, too, had loved growing up on a farm. It was all she’d known. But when she’d learned that there was a bigger world out there she worked hard to become a part of it. She wanted more than the farm had to offer and she’d worked hard to achieve it. And here she was. She’d done it. She’d done better for her own children. She’d given them a better life – one in which they hadn’t had to work hard for everything they got; a life of privilege. She was proud of that.

“What brought you to town?”

“Well, my brother is a good bit older than I am. When our parents passed on, he took over the operation of the farm. I was sixteen at the time and I stayed on and helped him. But when he took a wife, I started to feel like I was in the way. They were trying to start a family of their own and I was always just around. When I finished school the next year I decided it would be best if I moved on out. They never fought me too hard on that.

I came into town and got into a technical school while I worked part time jobs doing whatever I could to pay my rent while I went to school. Turned out all of the skills I’d learned on the farm transferred real well. I was a good handyman.”

Mrs. Hammond and Corrine exchanged looks and raised eyebrows at this point. Marnie was dating a handyman. Lovely.

Cal looked to Marnie and she nodded for him to continue, resting her left hand on his knee, a gesture that was not lost on her mother or her sisters. “I finished school and got a real good job at the factory as a skilled laborer. The money was real good, too.” He looked around and stammered, “Not, you know, but – you know – pretty good. I was doing real well till the economy crashed. A lot of guys were laid off in front of me – that was the good thing about having a specific skill – but eventually the lay offs hit me, too.”

Marnie’s dad chose this very moment to enter the room. “Marnie! Brit! And you must be Marnie’s fellow – Cal is it?” he made his way over to Cal to shake his hand.

“Yes sir. Cal Grasso. Nice to meet you, sir.”

“Pleasure’s mine. Cinda? Would you ask Lupe to fix me another drink? How ya doin’t there, Cal? You need another?”

“I could use another, sir, thank you.”

Marnie sat back and relaxed. This was going just fine. What had she been worried about?

“So what’s your line of work, son?”

Lupe chose that very moment to ring the dinner bell.

“Did you want us to wait for Alan, dear?” Mrs. Hammond asked, taking Corrine’s arm.

“No” Corrine said, studying her shoes for a moment then jutting her chin out proudly. “No, let’s eat.”

Evan and Elizabeth came bounding up the stairs and stopped short when they saw Cal in the dining room.

“Who’s that?” asked Evan, pointing.

“Please do not point, young man, it is very impolite. We have discussed this.”

“Sorry. Who’s that?” he asked again, indicating Cal with a nod of his head.

“This is my friend Cal. Cal, these are Corrine’s little monsters, Evan and Elizabeth.”

Cal raised his hand in greeting. “hey”

“Are you her BOYfriend?” asked Elizabeth, cocking her head at him.

“Mind your manners, Elizabeth, I swear…”

“Do you KISS him?”

“Oh for God’s sake!” said Corrine at the same time that Brittany said, “Boy, does she!” Brittany and Elizabeth dissolved in giggles, Evan scrunched up his face like he’d smelled something bad, and everyone else at the table looked down to avoid the whole thing.

Lupe presented a beautiful dinner. The Hammonds and Cal engaged in beautiful dinner conversation. Marnie couldn’t believe everything was going so smoothly. The E’s had returned to the basement and the women had adjourned to the family room. Mr. Hammond had invited Cal to watch football with him in the den. Alan remained a no-show. Lupe returned to the kitchen to clean up a little bit before serving pie and coffee.

Brittany spoke first, when the women were alone, “he’s ca-ute, Marnie!”

“Tell me something I don’t know.” The girls clinked the wine glasses they’d brought with them from the table.

“He is quite nice looking.” Corrine acquiesced, “but the whole job thing? That doesn’t bother you?”

“Look, he’s a hard worker. He fell on hard times. He’ll find something.”

“And until then you’ll support him?”

“Support him? I’m certainly not supporting him! He supports himself. He had a little bit saved. And he’s looking hard for work.”

“How serious is this, Marnie?” asked Mrs. Hammond

“I don’t know, Mom. I really like him a lot. But it’s brand new. We’ll see.”

“I like him, too”

“Me too.”

Corrine sighed, “Me too.”

1 comment:

  1. Love the way you can see the entry hall and feel all the unspoken awkwardness.