Wednesday, November 02, 2005

November 2nd Installment

To get anything out of this, you're going to have to backtrack and read the post from November 1st. Please realize this is raw, unedited, RAW writing... (cringe) -- GHC

Second day of NaNoWriMo:

Lydia and Dwayne Wiggins graduated in May. Dwayne went on to college, his tuition partially funded by money he saved selling Amway. Mr. Glunger convinced Lydia to stay at home and not waste his money going to college when she’d surely drop out in a year or two and get married. She moped around the house all through June as one by one her friends either married or prepared to go off to college. In July Carey presented Lydia with a peace offering -- her own car. It had belonged to Carey’s maiden aunt, Elizabeth Glunger, another in a long line of General Motors products purchased from the local George German Chevrolet dealership. Miss Elizabeth had purchased her Chevys from Mr. German for over thirty years and would continue to patronize his business as long as she lived.

Carey arranged the title transfer between Elizabeth and Lydia. Because Mr. Glunger believed entitlement or outright gifts weakened the character, Lydia would make a token $43 monthly payment to her great aunt before she owned the car outright. It was an electric blue 1969 Impala coupe, flashy enough for a seventeen year old and conservative enough to suit her father. The Impala had a respectable 327 engine and Lydia enjoyed its pick-up on the winding roads of her hillside community.
* * *
Two friends of Lydia, Delia and Arnold, got married the last Sunday in August. Arnold had recently bought a new Volkswagen bus to accommodate his rock band instruments. Arnold was particular about his personal appearance and the condition of his instruments, and he expressed concern about the wedding party marring the VW’s shiny new finish with shoe polish and shaving cream on the wedding day. It was customary to slather newlyweds’ cars with off-color messages made with shaving cream and white shoe polish. Lydia told Delia and Arnold they could conceal the van and use her car to drive away from the church, retrieve the VW and then take her back to her car. It sounded like a simple enough plan.

The wedding reception took much longer than usual, mostly due to Arnold’s pickiness. Someone in the wedding party basted his going away pants’ zipper as well as both pant legs. Furious, he demanded the pants be returned to their original condition before he and his bride snuck away for their honeymoon. This entailed someone finding an iron and re-pressing the slacks while Lydia and the rest of the wedding party waited around in the late August heat and humidity.

It took even more time for Lydia to escape the persistent wedding party who by this time were intent on seeking out the groom’s car so they could annoy him even further. She employed every trick she knew, crisscrossing from one end of town to the other, and eventually succeeded in losing their pursuers. It was one in the morning before she finally dropped her friends off at their own car.

The wedding preparations had begun before nine on Saturday. By the time Lydia arrived home, it was nearly two a.m. Sunday. Exhausted, she parked the Impala on the street in front of her parents’ house and went inside to bed.

The neighbor ladies woke up Sunday morning expecting nothing more exciting than a thick newspaper and possibly some juicy gossip later on in the ladies’ meeting at church. What a banner day it was! Parked in front of the Carey’s house was Lydia’s bright blue Impala, besmirched with “Sock It To Her,” “Congratulations,” and “She Got Him Today, He Gets Her Tonight.” Wilted crepe paper streamers hung from the car’s antenna and a shoe polish message on the back window declared “Just Married.” There were perhaps other conclusions that might’ve been made but the worst possible assumption was that Lydia had married the “black boy” who picked her up each week throughout the school year – despite the fact Dwayne hadn’t been around for more than more than three months.

Benefit of the doubt be damned, the Sabbath peace was broken and the phone tree put in motion. Whether it was standard black telephone or frivolous white Princess model, phones were jangling and every woman in the Edgewood Hill area was contacted with the scoop of the decade, except for poor Mrs. Carey. The scandalous, shocking news was whispered about over sausage and eggs at breakfast tables before Sunday school ever convened that late August morn.

Oblivious to the impending explosion, Lydia slept until early afternoon when Carey and Lila Glunger arrived home from church.
* * *
Lila Glunger had awakened that on that fateful Sunday morning in a good enough mood. Her husband had risen early to walk the dog and, seeing Lydia’s car still decorated from the festivities of the night before, waxed nostalgic. Carey had sought and won Lila’s rare intimate approval and the two of them had tangled the sheets while the rest of their peers sat on hard wooden chairs in Sunday school and studied the book of Timothy. After fixing Carey’s favorite breakfast of crisp bacon, fried eggs over easy, and biscuits with strawberry jam, Lila and Carey had flirted with one another as they enjoyed a rare meal alone together. Upstairs she hummed while she painted her face and on the way to church Carey whistled “If I Were A Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof. The usual summer haze didn’t make its appearance until later in the day, so the cloudless blue sky added to the Glungers’ jovial mood.

Carey let Lila out in front of the church and parked the car. Stands of people were grouped outside, enjoying a last minute cigarette or conversation before the sermon commenced. At once Lila noticed the body language of the crowd seemed odd. As Carey sauntered to join her, her sense of unease increased. A chill traveled her spine and she glanced down at the front of her dress to be sure she hadn’t missed fastening a button. There was very little that could be more embarrassing than to blithely walk up to the entire congregation with one’s bodice exposed. No, her buttons were all in place. The sense that something was out of place remained with her although she couldn’t put her finger on what it was. She glanced at Carey. His fly was zipped. Diana Scherr said something to Nancy Marx behind her hand. Nancy tittered and flipped her hair. Both women cut their eyes at Lila then turned away. Something was definitely wrong.

Before Lila could catch anyone’s attention to ask what was going on the final bells rang, signaling the service was about to begin. Carey extended his arm, Lila laid a gloved hand on his sleeve and together they entered the sanctuary through the rear doors and made their way to their usual pew.


(stuff – Lila finds out in the ladies room)

Once the full impact of the gossip struck Lila and the horror of it sank in, she fervently prayed to the Good Lord Almighty God that this horrible lie and terrible injustice be undone post-haste. She pleaded, reminding Him of her faithful tithing and church attendance. She humbly reminded Him of the many bandages she’d rolled for the lepers in Bangladesh, the dolls she’d made for orphans in Appalachia, and how she always baked cookies for the ladies aide society luncheons even when Claudia Jennings called her at the last minute. Despair set in and she realized God was unlikely to work a miracle of such magnitude for the Glungers. In truth Lila doubted such a miracle was possible.

Lila’s practical side kicked in and

Lila studied her reflection in the bevel-edged mirror in the ladies’ lounge. The war paint she’d so joyfully applied this morning had made her feel younger when she gazed at her likeness at home but now it made her feel dirty. She definitely was wearing too much makeup for a woman of her age and station. Lila used her handkerchief to scrub off the mascara and rouge. Once she’d removed the offending decoration, she powdered her face and re-applied her lipstick. It was time to paste a smile on and move forward. If nothing else, Lila Glunger had backbone. She allowed herself one tiny shiver of fear before stepping out of the relative safety of the lounge and facing the outside world.

Horrified, she grappled with the reality that the family’s standing in the community was forever lost and she sought to seat blame. Lila’s internal accuser flipped through a virtual Rolodex of blurry community faces until one face snapped crisply into focus – her husband’s. This entire fiasco was Carey’s fault. If he had driven Lydia to Junior Achievement in the first place none of this would have happened.

[expand on this]

Carey trudged to the parking lot to retrieve the car. Where just an hour before he’d felt on top of the world, now his chest felt heavy. He had a sinking feeling it would be a long time before Lila would permit such intimacies again --- if ever.

It’s a well-established fact that letting a wild horse out of its corral is easier than recapturing it. So it is with gossip, true or not. The not-so-well-meaning ladies who so eagerly spread the word of Lydia’s scandalous marriage were just as uninspired to douse the wildfire once it took hold. Within a week there were whispers of a possible pregnancy.

Despite the total and complete absence of Dwayne Wiggins’ presence at the Glunger house or any evidence suggesting that Lydia had moved or was preparing to move away from home, people continued to cling to the belief that what they’d heard over the back fence post was true.

Lila called and canceled her and Carey’s reservations at two of the local Labor Day soirees; she simply couldn’t bear going out in public under the current circumstances. Carey tried to joke with Lila about the situation.

“The whole thing will blow over in a week or two, sweetheart. No one with any sense can swallow this falderal, Lila. Lydia’s still going out on dates, for God’s sake!”

Carey Allen Glunger, don’t you patronize me. This is a serious situation. We’ll be blackballed for certain. All my hard work… the parties I’ve given, the work I’ve put in at church – why, I’ve worked my fingers to the bone bringing this family’s standing up to what it is. And you’ve ruined it, ruined it I say, all because you were too cheap to drive our daughter to her meetings. You’ve brought shame upon my head. I can never go out in public again. You caused this mess; you’d better clean it up!”

Carey was relegated to the guest bedroom until “the situation,” as Lila now referred to it, was corrected.

“I don’t care if you’re still sleeping there in your retirement.”

Mr. Glunger had no doubt Lila meant every word she said. The guest bedroom was a nice enough space, but he had no intention to be denied the charms he’d worked so hard to earn. He had to formulate a plan.


Lydia’s life remained essentially unaffected by the phone tree’s latest gossip. She found that shoe polish, once baked on a car’s finish by the brutal August sun, was nearly impossible to remove. Carey suggested that she try using rubbing compound. She followed his advice. The rubbing compound removed a good bit of the reflective layers where the shoe polish had been. As a result, if she leaned her head at a certain angle, she could still see dull blue telltale remnants of “Sock It To Her” on the Impala’s passenger side.

Lila had long ago turned Lydia’s raising over to Carey – both her daughter and husband were headstrong and neither cared a fig about social niceties. Carey wore a suit coat and tie only to please his wife, and Lydia rarely wore a dress. Lila’s self-imposed sequestering following “the situation” had had no impact on Lydia’s day-to-day life.

But Lydia felt sorry for her father. He was definitely suffering the effects of the party line problem. Lydia noticed the guest bed covers were rumpled in the morning when she got up and figured her mother had kicked her dad out of their room.

The Friday following Labor Day, Lydia decided to drive downtown and have lunch with her father to cheer him up. She parked in front of Glunger & Reece, stopping briefly to admire a pair of deep purple velvet trousers on the mannequin in the store’s front window before walking through the revolving doors. One of the vulture-ous clerks made a bee-line toward Lydia before recognizing her and falling back a step.

“Oh, hello, Miss Glunger.”

“Good afternoon, Miss Stockton.”

Lydia despised professional department store clerks. She perceived them as a vicious lot. She could recognize them anywhere. Every hair was plastered in place. Their makeup was always perfect, reminding her of a death mask. Their voices were sickeningly sweet, their conversation always fawning but pointed solely toward a sale. If they deemed a customer unworthy or unable to afford an item, the customer would often be snubbed. Sometimes Lydia disguised herself in patched jeans and a big floppy hat and roamed her father’s store just to see how long she’d be ignored by the clerks.

In those days elevators were hand-operated. The departments located on each floor were announced by an elevator attendant. Lydia enjoyed hearing the floors announced by Miz Lucy, a kind black woman who’d worked at Glunger & Reece since the store first opened. Lydia much preferred riding the elevator over the store’s escalator since the time she’d gotten her dress caught in it when was she five years old. Lydia hugged Miz Lucy.

“How are you today, ma’am?”

“I’m pretty good, Lydia. How is your mother?”

“She’s fine, Miz Lucy. How is Eric? I haven’t seen him graduation.”

“He’s doing real well, got a good job at Carbide. You going up to see your daddy?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Lydia let her mind drift to “the situation” and her father’s dilemma as Miz Lucy called out the floors: “Mezzanine – accessories, toiletries, fineries and housewares; 2nd – children’s, boys’ and girls’ shoes…” She began to formulate an idea.

Miz Lucy announced “Fifth floor, credit department.”

“See you later, Miz Lucy.”

“Bye now.”

Lydia brought the seed of the idea she had on the elevator to Carey.

“Daddy, since I’m supposed to be married, shouldn’t I have registered my preferences on the Bridal Registry? Where are all my presents? Why didn’t these fine upstanding Christian women see fit to send me wedding gifts if they really do believe I’m married?”

Carey guffawed so loud that it startled a blue-haired woman at the next table. She clattered her tea cup in its saucer, causing the tea to slosh down the front of her pale yellow two-piece faux Chanel suit.

“You’ve got something there, girl. Let’s put our heads together and see what we can come up with. We should be able to turn the tables on these old biddies, satisfy your Momma’s broken heart, get me back in my own bed, and get you some recompense to boot.”

The two chatted nonstop for over an hour, ignoring their roast beef sandwiches. After lunch, Carey escorted Lydia to the housewares department where she spent the remainder of the afternoon gleefully choosing and registering her preference of silver, cutlery, wine glasses, china pattern, casual dishes, cookware, linens, towels, and a set of American Tourister luggage. At Carey’s urging she registered for a toaster, blender, mixer, iron, warming tray, electric skillet, and a vacuum cleaner as well. Mr. Glunger made a call to stationery and placed an order for invitations. Immediately afterward he called Bream’s Florists and had a dozen pink roses delivered to Lila. He reminded her to follow through on her part of the plan.

“Well, my daughter, I think this scheme has a chance to set things right. What do you think?”

Lydia giggled. “Either that or totally ruin the family, Daddy.”

Carey took a deep breath.


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