I get the impression Michael Stang has entered our contest again

(Baroque:  When you’re out of Monet) Ahhh! My Louvre-loving Literati! From time to time (actually, almost always) the graphics that I use to amplify a story submitted are a bit of a stretch…In this instance, the stretch of a canvas over a frame.  But to me this makes perfect sense. Mike Stang is an impressionistic …

(Baroque:  When you’re out of Monet)

Ahhh! My Louvre-loving Literati!

From time to time (actually, almost always) the graphics that I use to amplify a story submitted are a bit of a stretch…In this instance, the stretch of a canvas over a frame.  But to me this makes perfect sense. Mike Stang is an impressionistic writer.  A few words dusted upon a page leaving the impression of a thought. Dust only until you step back from the canvas and can see the whole. Dust as the dust of the wings of a butterfly, color of words in flight or words and story hovering.  Nuance requires a light touch, and collective impression.  Others write stories with nuts and bolts. Heavy. Well-constructed. Grounded.  But Michael’s stories fly.  At least, that’s the impression I get. See if you agree.

Here is

I Love You Too

By Michael Stang

“Ma.”

“What, Frank. Can’t you see…”

“How can I see anything with you stuffed in the corner all the time sitting and doing what you do?”

Clinks that muffle behind her overstuffed chair tell her age. Use to be, Ma could hide it from the best of them. Now she leaks, makes mistakes, and could care less. Frank doesn’t care either, he knows the pain she goes through, and maybe the whiskey helps. His own stash is never far away; up above in the cabinet where the phone hangs on the wall. No excuses.

“Letter came in the mail today. Not sure who, but I can hardly read it. Full of single short sentences, lots of commas.”

“Got your glasses on?”

“Yes—I have my goddamn glasses on. Jesus woman!”

“I will listen if you put out that stinking pipe. You know the smoke hunts me, it’s enough to choke a horse.”

I should have known. Frank grits his teeth.

————————–

Declaration is the path home,

Love’s instructions towed to the door.

Every step it’s not you but what I think of you,

Silver light to the end of the road.

————————–

Am I reading this right? Who would send such stuff? It’s three pages long!”

Ma shifts her crutches to the other side for the hundredth time and reaches back again. Interesting, she thinks.

“Do you hear me?”

“Yes, Frank, just fine. Do you think me deaf as well?”

“And there are other things…farther down. Things about horizons and breasts, and woman’s curves, between the legs—I don’t know. Maybe you should read this for yourself; it makes no sense to me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, you old fool. Try it again.”

Frank stubs out his cigarette. She’s so smart, always with the pipe, but it’s only a rumor.

———————–

Our purchase lay in debt,

Bones taked from body’s dust.

Form around each other,

Sunken hips,

Tethered tits,

What are these bindings but our own.

————————

 

“WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?” Frank says as he lifts from the chair in the kitchen and reaches for the cabinet over the phone.

Ma sighs and looks out onto the front yard. Shall I kill him…or let him live.

“Bring it here you goat.”

Frank turns the corner and gasps seeing his wife of fifty-six years. The sounds of their youth flapping in his ears.

Ma searches for her glasses until Frank points them out on her head.

“Give the letter to me.”

————————

You look as I do,

The looking glass of years.

Pressed as one against deaths,

We are we,

Until our dying breath.

————————-

“Listening? Stop fooling with your hands.”

Frank quiets and takes a seat on the edge of the leg-rest. His eyes survey the ace bandages that hold her arthritis; the old man takes off his glasses.

“Mary, I know how this ends.”

“You don’t know anything,” Ma smiles. “I love you too.”

23 comments

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    Hmmm…I can picture the scene very, very clearly, the relationship is well defined with the confusing letter sections being purposefully twisted in lyrical reference, the direction is death I believe, but upon the first reading I have little idea how soon their deaths will come or what the letter has to do with those deaths. I’m sure this story will take several readings for me to form a solid opinion.

    By the way Mr. Editor, impressionist art such as Claude Monet is found at the Musée d’Orsay not the Louvre, because there is a time line divide between the museums on opposite banks of the Seine, but fairly close to each other in distance. This Monet painting from 1900 is iris and violets from his garden at Giverny, outside of Paris. I could not find the location of this painting, but it shouldn’t be at the Louvre.

      • Parisianne Modert says:

        Thank you Julie. When people ask me where I would most like to live I tell them Musée d’Orsay in Paris mostly for the Manet paintings.

          • Parisianne Modert says:

            Yes, your painting is one by Claude Monet, but I am an Edouard Manet girl, because I believe I was Victorine Meurent in a previous life. She was a very famous model and later an artist awarded at a later Salon. This is the Manet which looks the most like I was…

          • Parisianne Modert says:

            This painting,
            Le Chemin de fer is also known as Gare Saint-Lazare from 1872-73 and is at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

          • Parisianne Modert says:

            Le Jour Des Rameaux or Palm Sunday by Victorine Meurent discovered in 2004 as her only known surviving painting located at Musée Municipal d’Art et d’Histoire de Colombes.

          • Parisianne Modert says:

            This painting was painted in 1885. Victorine spent her last years 1906-1927 until her death with Marie Dufour who followed Victorine in death in 1930. Most of there belongings including Marie’s violin were thrown on a bonfire in Colombes which is nestled in the northern outskirts of Paris by their neighbors.

          • Laura Girardeau says:

            Sweetie, it looks like you now! I see such a resemblance…hope that’s a compliment! I’m French myself and somehow gravitate toward these…Is it in our blood?

  2. Glclark says:

    Getting old is a bitch and this is a beautifully written expression of the frustrations and frailties of old age. That time of life when careless, indestructible youth becomes frustrating, activity-limiting old age. This story is sad and sensitive, full of pathos and the final acceptance of the consequences of outliving one’s body. This is Mike Stang at his BEST!

  3. Julie Mark Cohen says:

    Your story, especially with the reading of the letter, kept my interest to the end. However, I’m wondering if you can tweak it a bit, so it doesn’t seem like stories we’ve heard before? The letter helps, but, in my humble opinion, the bickering and the ending are too familiar. This was probably just me, but that was my reaction.
    I’m not so sure that three POVs (narrator, Ma, and and Frank) work within such a short piece.
    Would Ma have a walker for stability, not crutches?
    Also, I’m the one who doesn’t care for titles used within the text of the story. I’m wondering if there’s an alternative title, perhaps something with a double entendre, that might be more suitable? Here’s a weak suggestion: Anew, Again

    Please kindly take or toss the above comments, as you wish. Belated Happy V’day.

    • Thank you, Julie. I always take kindly to any critique anyone (particularly a writer of your caliber) takes the time to give. I may indeed be quilty of going to the well one time too many, and, as I was working on this, thought so. Unlike “Seyfert” stories I could read again and again, they never seem to stale.
      Thanks again, wish more writers would do this; me included. After all we are a writer’s group.

  4. Beverly Lucey says:

    I like the idea that this moment is like most of their other moments, except for the intrusion of the letter. Have they taken to re-mailing each other old love letters? I assumed that, and it’s what made the story unique for me. It’s hard to remember who older people used to be, even for them, but perhaps one of them has kept all the cards and letters, or found them, and has taken to mailing them?

    During the opening, I assumed a son was speaking. I know that couples, perhaps even with the grown kids gone, might still refer to each other as Ma and Pa but it might be better for the reader to give them more unique ‘pet names’ or just use their names only.

    Otherwise, the daily routines and rituals without any real practical hope of the next day being any different seemed very vivid to me, mostly among the blue collar elders, relatives and neighbors I’ve seen.

    Oh, and this snippet? You know the smoke hunts me, it’s enough to choke a horse.” I love the first fresh metaphor and the slip into ordinary. Unless you mistyped ‘hurt’. Then, never mind.

    His awareness, amid the bickering, of how hard it is for her, how embarrassing it is to leak and creak and so on, as they hide their drinking from each other (needlessly, I’d assume) does show a kind of love beyond the rut.

    • Thank you, Beverly, you are most perceptive and kind. To answer some of your questions:
      The letter was generated by Frank’s wife, Mary (Ma), and mailed to the house. In the opening a grandson was speaking, that would be me. The essence of the story is true. Ma did write a love letter to Frank. I took it from there. These two larger than life people in my life have always been Ma and Pa. I mistakenly ignored the reader’s ease in this case.
      “Smoke hunts me,” is how it is meant to be written. Soke has a way of doing that to non smokers.
      There is no question these two loved each other. Here is but one example (humbly presented) of how age and the wearing can change the look of love birds. The thing is, love remains the same.

  5. KYLE Katz says:

    A kaleidoscope of textures! I could feel the tenderness of care in between the bickering, that I interpreted as a bond of familiarity, a love that Ma and Frank had nurtured through-out the years.”Every step is not you, but what i think of you.”, lets me know I have just been ‘Stanged’ by one of your classic lines that stands alone and resonates as if it were a stone thrown in a pond. Ripple upon ripple it lingers on your tongue like fine wine. I’m suspecting Ma mailed the letters as to remind Frank, she loved him. The dichotomy of the letter writing between past and present was rich with the stories once lived between this couple, but the strength of love that exist in each moment they have now, is coming to the end of the silver road. “We are we!”

  6. Diane Cresswell says:

    Dang Stang I almost missed this. Ah yes the path to old age now is filled with the pot holes, deep crevices, painful bones and muscles, words that snap and bite and yet underneath all of that – love still resides even though it may appear to be frayed at the edges. You have covered this with your usual insightful manner of crotchity old man and crabby old woman still hanging by the thread of love. Wonder what the whole ‘poem’ of three pages has to say? Yes tenderness does hide within the tough skin you wear.

  7. Kristine Rose Grant says:

    I am not so sure love does remain the same. Comfy old slippers swapt for romance. My prayer is that couples learn to forever court one another…why is the light and fluffy, exquisite, and teasingly tantalization wasted on the nubile.

  8. Laura Girardeau says:

    What artistic finesse: the juxtaposition of their daily lives with the poetry of emotion. You created an atmosphere revealing their entire marriage in just a brush strokes. Perhaps the poetry is from their idealistic beginnings that is a continuing current beneath their cantankerous habits of age.

    I read this as a surprise love letter from him to her, or her to him…or perhaps from their son to try to get them to understand that “silver light to the end of the road.” Which is it, pray tell? Did you write the poem? Beautiful! Some of my favorite lines are: “it’s not you but what I think of you, silver light to the end of the road.”

    • Laura, thank you. I am humbled within your praise. It is a poem from Ma to Frank, and even though Natasha Trethewey reaches for the scotch when she hears me say it, yes I wrote the poetry.

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