Rue and Bane were having an after-school blast playing at the park on every piece of equipment available for fun. Their squeals of delight could probably be heard from one end of Splinterbit to the other, and Effete couldn’t be happier. She was sitting against an old hickory tree, with an old plush pillow under her buttocks for added comfort, holding an old book in her hands that she was only casually reading as she watched the two greatest blessings in her life having the time of their life. It was an extraordinarily beautiful day – not too warm, not too cool – with wispy cirrus clouds meandering across the pale blue sky. What an enchanting, peaceful day, she thought. Kind of like a good, ole-fashioned family movie after watching some grotesque horror-thriller.
Morris was with Grace and Suijnwe in the chambers of Judge Love Fairman, along with Captain Ruff, the district attorney and Sage Wiseman. Morris had opted against having his mother present at this particular meeting. He said he would rather her talk more extensively to Grace, Suijnwe and Dr. Wiseman first, and then to the authorities. Everyone concerned agreed that this would be the better, healthier course of action for her; besides, Morris wanted to walk into the court and judge’s chambers without seeming like he had to have his mommy with him. So…
Able, Moxie and Angelica were making their rounds on the walking path bordering the boundaries of the park. Blue had opted to stay home for some “alone time,” as he said, but Able and Moxie knew he felt jilted and offended during their late-night dialogue, and really Moxie felt badly. She knew Blue could be overly sensitive, but he also deserved courtesy and respect. If she had disagreed with him as passionately as she apparently did, then they should have had an unobtrusive tête-à-tête on the back porch, or somewhere out of the way. After all, Blue was only answering Morris’ question, and he answered honestly and intelligently according to his convictions, and did so without insulting her. Why the hell do I pull that kind of shit? She shook her head, which the other two noticed even though they didn’t say anything. What the hell do I feel like I have to prove, anyway? Why the hell do I turn into the intellectual bitch ready to put somebody’s head on a platter? Moxie felt like kicking herself, and Able knew and he knew why … but it would be o.k.
“You know, you kind of know us, but we really don’t know you,” Able turned to Angelica. “It may sound rude, or something, to just up and ask you, but we’re interested in, you know, the life and times of Angelica Graver.”
Angelica bent over and laughed. “The life and times of Angelica Graver? Oh my God! You must be desperate! I hope to hell you’re not planning on making this a feature piece for the newspaper, or something, because it’d definitely go in the bottom of bird cages!” She laughed some more.
“No, really,” Moxie chimed in, especially since she wanted to get her mind off of Blue. “We’d like to hear more about you … honestly.”
“Hmmm, do I have to be honest?” Angelica smirked and winked at Mox. “That’s really boring, ya know? But o.k. What the hell?” She sighed and looked up at the sky just a bit before continuing. “I love this park. It’s the closest place around here to reminding me of home… I grew up out in the country about, oh, five miles or so west of Grand Oak. So not exactly out in the boonies, but it was definitely country. We had a few acres of land, three or four head of cattle, a couple of horses, and chickens. My folks never wanted anything to do with hogs, but anyway… We had a fair-sized pond, pretty well stocked. Sooo, this girl grew up gathering eggs, horseback riding, fishing, pond swimming, even doing some trapping with my grandpa and dad. And, oh, I had one brother and one sister; the brother was older, my sister younger… Guess I should say I have one brother and one sister; they’re not dead!” Angelica laughed again. “Neither are my parents, for that matter.”
“Any-who, I went to the little country school down the road and loved it and did well. In fact, believe it or not, I was an A/B student all the way through my senior year in high school.”
“Wow! Good for you,” Able remarked.
“Yeah, two thumbs up for Ange!” Moxie threw her hands out, thumbs pointing up.
“Yeah, yeah, right! But anyway, I was kind of a tom-boy, obviously, but I also loved reading. One of my favorite things was when the mobile library would come by. You could check out up to three books for two weeks, and I always did…” She shook her head at the nostalgia created by the memory. “Yep, I read and read and read. Somehow, before and between and after all my other chores and activities, I read. Ha! The Wind in the Willows, Five Children and It, The Secret Garden, The Heart of a Dog, The Hobbit … oh my gosh, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Angelical laughed an infectious laugh now. “And, oh, Black Beauty, Heidi, and The Jungle Book. Wow! Damn sure wish I could go back to that… Oh well, never mind. I also liked going to the ‘big’ library in Grand Oak anytime we had a chance, and the museum there fascinated me. It was a long time before I realized just how small the place really was, but at least the city upgraded and expanded it instead of just tearing it down! I’m glad for that… I just really need to take Morris sometime.”
“Well, what else? Hmmm … you probably know my name hasn’t always been ‘Graver.’ Duh? Right?” They rounded a bend in the path just then and caught sight of Rue and Bane. The two boys looked like jack rabbits on the sky-builder max-play. Moxie smiled widely and was tempted to run over and join them. “My name, which I’m probably going back to, was Gaieté … French, of course. I was Angelica Céleste Gaieté.”
“Very beautiful name, Angelica,” Moxie said sincerely. “By all means … I wouldn’t blame you a bit for going back to that name, not at all.”
“Well … when I have the chance. Anyway, there’s not too much more to tell, really. I got married when I was 16-years-old to my lifelong boyfriend, I guess. He was 18 and we had our first and only child the same year. We got along well enough … but, then, it wasn’t really ever a marriage anyway. We were two adults who lived together and were able to cooperate, and … that was it. He worked and did his part, I guess, and I did mine, including taking care of Morris as best I could. Two years and some odd days ago, he died. We had a short, non-descript funeral without any tears, and that was that, as they say. Since both of you are in college, and so obviously intelligent anyway, maybe it’s worthwhile mentioning that I graduated high school cum laude and went on to earn an Associate of Arts Degree in Home Economics. Not much to brag about, really, but hey! There ya have it! The life and times of Angelica Céleste Gaieté!”
The three companions opted to rest at the next park bench, nicely positioned beneath two oak trees offering plenty of shade. They stretched and sat silently for a few moments, simply enjoying the peace and beauty of the day.
“So, if you don’t mind my asking, how did you and Morris get caught up in Ebenezer Bible Church?” Able had been chomping at the bit to ask for quite awhile, so now he just plunged ahead.
“No, I don’t mind. Really there’s not much to tell there, either, at least in the beginning.” Angelica raised her eyebrows and thought for a moment. “After my husband died, three families brought by food and sympathy cards and, of course, invited me to their church. Now, I’m upfront and honest with folks, so I thanked them for their kindness but told them we probably wouldn’t be coming to church. Hell, I even held their baskets, or whatever, back out to them so they could take back their food. They didn’t. They just smiled, offered their sympathy again, and went on their way … except the third couple.”
“The man kind of threw out some bait when he said, ‘Well, that’s o.k. But if you ever get bored, and especially if you like learning, we have a deacon in our church who’s going to present an eight-week series on the Middle East during the time of Jesus. He’s an excellent speaker, who won’t bore you a bit, and educated. He earned an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Zion Christian University and an M.S. in Biblical Archeology from the John Phagee Institute for Christian Studies. Anyway, he’s spent I don’t know how many years trooping around the Middle East, mostly in Israel, but he knows an awful lot, and every time he makes a presentation it’s enthralling, just enthralling, so … it’s not a church service, really, and so … maybe something you might enjoy.’”
“That grabbed me, because I really wanted to break my routine and I loved learning and the folks I’d met so far seemed warm and friendly enough, so guess what? I went for it! I took the bait! After that, it was young people being especially friendly to Morris, which didn’t last a helluva long time, but it was damn nice and worked its magic well enough. And so, since Morris decided to start going to some of the youth meetings, I thought I’d try their Tuesday morning Martha Guild meetings, even though it meant getting up an hour earlier! But it was coffee and donuts, or bagels, and other little pickings along with nice, fluffy, meaningless chatter … but friendly enough, and I thought I needed that kind of socialization for my own good. And actually, this is how it was for about a year… I mean, that was really the extent of our involvement in Ebenezer Bible Church.”
“But then…?” Able couldn’t help pursuing.
“Morris got ‘saved,’ and that was pretty much it,” Angelica threw up her hands. “I had grown up nominally Catholic, so I didn’t really understand everything that was going on, but… Well, he then got baptized and, all of a sudden, he was a full member of the church. After that, what can I say? Morris was at Ebenezer every time the doors were open, and I felt compelled to at least go each Sunday morning to support him and … well, to pick up the pieces when it all fell apart, like I knew it would. The whole hell-fire and brimstone, come to the altar, pray the ‘sinner’s prayer, and get-ye-baptized thing seemed hokey to me from the get-go. You know, getting together with some quirky but friendly ladies each Tuesday morning for coffee was one thing, and Morris making some friends and participating in activities was o.k., too, as far as I could see. All the rest, though? I guess I made a really damn big, fat mistake ever getting us involved at all. Period! But I did and, well, the rest is history. Right?” She hung her head and started crying. “Or really it’s still history in the making…”
Moxie pulled Angelica into a warm, strong hug, and Able reached his arm around Angelica’s shoulder.
“You know, most of what you’ve shared with us – I mean, your ‘history’ – is really interesting and good,” Able offered. “And the history that’s still in the making’s not something you’re writing alone; you’ve got an awful lot of people who love you and Morris with pens in hand ready to help you guys write one of the best, most exciting, rewarding chapters ever! And you know what? Every one of us want you and Morris to help us write our histories, too.” Angelica looked up and both Moxie and Able smiled.
“I wish it were that easy,” Angelica whispered through tears.
“Yeah … we do, too,” Moxie, now crying as well, softly answered, “but we’re with you all the way… all the way.”