Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sunday Scribbling #180: Tattoo

(Image: ignore the snow...)

From my novel Scarred Angels:

Three years after my adoption by Marvin, I answered an ad in the Express-News for a job as custodian and handyman at St. Ann, a parochial school three blocks from my apartment on Venice Street. Yet another job supervisor had tried my patience, though not nearly as much as I was trying that of my sponsor. Two days after storming out of my latest short order job, Marvin slid a copy of the classifieds across our booth at Jimmy's. He'd circled the job at St. Ann in red ink.

"What about that one?" he said. "Career change will do you good."

I'd seen the ad myself that afternoon and dismissed it for reasons I couldn't begin to specify. It would have taken more insight than I could possibly muster.

Marvin was undeterred.

"What are you afraid of? That they will, God forbid, actually hire you?"

On the Monday of my interview, I walked up a cracked sidewalk to the front of a two story blond brick building that ran the length of the block. Another wing of equal size extended back into the block, forming an L around what I was sure would be an asphalt playground for the kids. I walked through the front door to stifling heat and ghostly silence. Sweat formed under the back of my shirt and pooled in the waistband of my khaki trousers.

Behind the glass windows of the school office, a slim woman of medium height stood with her back to me, sweeping out a corner of the room. Her hair was light brown, cut to the middle of her neck; she wore a dark blue dress. She did not acknowledge me as I rapped lightly on the office door and entered the room. The air was somewhat cooler from a fan that blew on the high counter that split the office in two.

After a minute of watching the woman sweep, I said, "I'm here about the job in the paper." The woman still had her back to me and was working her broom under a large wooden desk. At her feet was a mound of dirt and scraps of paper. She bent down with a dustpan, swept the pile into it, and then banged the pan against the inside of an aluminum trash can that stood nearby. Still holding the broom like a staff, she turned and looked at me.

I did not see the scar at first. I was drawn first to her eyes, large deep blue eyes that both pulled at me and yet also held me firmly in place. There was a shadow of violence in them that seemed matched by the slam of the dustpan a moment before.

The scar was almost a trick¾a thin line snaking down the right side of her face, just out of reach of the hair that framed her jaw. At the moment at which I saw the scar, she spoke.

"And you are?" she said.

"Mac - folks call me Mac," I answered lightly, foolishly. I felt a tic pulse at the edge of my nervous grin.

"Mister - ?" she said, ignoring my attempt at informality. Her left hand gripped the broomstick as if she held a favored weapon. I felt both a fear of her and, oddly, a howling despair for her as well. She was a woman clearly younger than I, and yet in some way only hinted at by her scar, life had mangled her.

"Mr. Bollinger," I replied.

"Mr. Bollinger, I may presume that you are a drunk?"

Briefly, I saw the image of Marvin's face staring at me. "Yes, ma'am," I said, "I am a drunk."

She smiled ruefully. "Good."

"Good?" I said, lost by her answer.

Her cracked smile was gone. "Mr. Bollinger," she said, "all the men who apply for this job are drunks. You're just the first to admit it. In your case, when I fire you, at least we'll both know why."

She left the broom standing against the desk, walked past into a darkened office to my right and closed the door marked Principal.

That night, over our coffees, Marvin's sentiments were blunt. "Well, well, Mac. Damned if God didn’t send you an angel."



Blogger Dee Martin said...

I would love to read the whole thing. The woman with the scar hints at more stories than Mac has.

10:49 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Dee: They - and all the rest in the book - are full of them. Maybe I'll post Agnes' scar/tattoo story at a later date.

10:57 AM  
Blogger anno said...

I love every bit of this you've ever posted. And at the moment, these long, lyrical sections are just like a tall drink of sweet water: somehow soothing and awakening all at the same time.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous b said...

This rang so true with me...being married to a principal and all! Goody, goody people that we love.


5:41 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Anno: I'm glad you've been along for all the excerpts.

6:41 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

b: Agnes is definitely a principal - and woman - to love. Hope your principal's life was easier than A's.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

This is good, Murat. Love the spirit of that principal!

7:08 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

T: Agnes is definitely a keeper.

7:16 PM  
Blogger b said...

Well, I don't know if it was easier. In the end it certainly was rewarding. However, Agnes evidently dealt with those people that most of us disregard. That is a very hard life indeed.


3:46 PM  
Anonymous missalister said...

This excerpt reads so smooth, easy, so right and enjoyably. The principal is shown clearly, artfully and expansively in just a few words. Leaves me standing dumb in a pool of mixed emotions before her, at least knowing I respect her, that pity, even if I felt it, would be an abomination, and I’m in awe of and curious about her. If that mystery element’s not in there, I’ll be hornswoggled!

9:58 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

DOM: Sounds like you've got some of the same emotions Mac does while standing in front of Agnes (the principal). There's mystery a-plenty...down and dirty mystery.

2:46 PM  
Blogger San said...

You have painted quite a picture of this blue-dressed, blue-eyed, scarred angel. Angel with a blue dress on. Angel with a broom, making a clean sweep.

3:46 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

San: It took her quite a while, quite a battle, love and losses, to make the clean sweep, but the scars spurred her on...

7:59 AM  

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