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Gertrude

Posted by Cecilia Leger on 8:57 PM
I turned the radio down despite the din of the vacuum cleaner. I didn’t want to accept that my heart had leapt to my throat four times already thinking I’d heard the phone ring, only to discover the real culprit to be an aria from Madame Butterfly. That was humiliating enough, but let’s not even contemplate that the only reason I was even vacuuming was to give my nervous hands something to do while I waited, breathless, with sweaty palms and clenched stomach because a boy had said he’d call me.

At this thought a giggle erupted from somewhere that was far too giddy to belong to me. I covered my mouth to trap in the mirth and let my hands linger over my lips, daydreaming again—indulging memories of days to come. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the expression on my face in the mirror that hung in the hallway, the four foot expanse of space I’d been vacuuming for the past half an hour. I turned off the ancient appliance with my foot and approached my image with interest, as if seeing it for the first time.

There. That light in my eyes. He’d put that there with four simple words, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” I giggled again, this time because it was just so absurd. I continued examining myself in the mirror and a little of my smile slipped away.

“God, I don’t feel sixty-five.” But I couldn’t deny the evidence of it right in front of me. The lines that ridged my mouth; the bloated bags under my eyes. And my neck. Oh, dear Lord, I was so mortified about my neck. It didn’t waddle. Not exactly. The skin under my chin had one day decided that my neck was as good a place as any to go and have a lie down while it waited for the rest of my face to catch up to it. And despite the yoga class I attended with more regularity than Mass, there was a puffy, pasty doughnut in the place where I’d last seen my waist. I stuck my tongue out at my reflection and my insecurities: it didn’t matter. None of it mattered. He knew what I looked like and still he’d leaned toward me across the dinner table last night, covered my hands easily with one of his and said simply, “I like you.”

Andrew.

I smiled again, oh so glad I lived alone and no one, not even a pet, was witness to how I glowed merely remembering his name.

“Gertrude, get a hold of yourself,” I scolded good-naturedly.

Gertrude.

I sighed. The name of the unholy, humorless spirit that had possessed my parents on the eve of my birth, I’d surely like to know. Not that I let anyone call me that, of course. Gertrude was reserved for telemarketers and bankers.

The telemarketers always pronounced it with practiced familiarity hoping to convey trust and likeability. The banker had enunciated every syllable in it clearly as he endeavored to explain to the diminutive, crazy woman sitting uncomfortably in the faux leather chair across from him why it made no sense to want to open an art gallery in Midway, a town of only 1200 souls.

But no one who called me Gertrude would ever understand why one day twenty years ago, I’d awakened with a desire to create that simply would not be denied. I’d quit my job that day and used every last penny I’d ever saved to sustain my simple lifestyle while I took art classes in the community college. And from the caterpillar I’d been for the whole of my life emerged a sculptress. The worst thing I’ve ever done to her was to make her try to explain her dreams to that puny man, to reduce her talent to numbers for him to approve or deny. I was ridiculously joyous when he turned me out on my ear. My dream would never be beholden to the likes of him.

Andrew never called me Gertrude.

He’d called me Ma’am that first day when we met over coffee in the small lounge of the Motel Six that was his only option if he wanted lodging right in town. He’d seen my work showcased on network television six months earlier when I’d been part of a special report on female artists. He needed art for his home in Seattle and had agreed to come discuss it with me here, since the home had yet to be built.

With the architect’s plans spread out, but ignored, on the table in front of us we talked instead of life and dreams and the quest to find meaning somewhere in between. By the end of our time together he was calling me ‘honey,’ but he was originally from the South so I told myself not to make too much of it. Yet one day slipped effortlessly into the next and I couldn’t ignore that something inside me soared every time I looked into his eyes.

Last night at dinner, I flirted shamelessly for the first time in thirty years. Meaning that on exactly two occasions I “accidentally” let my hand brush his across the table. Both times I blushed furiously and thanked my guardian angel for the dim lighting in the restaurant. I couldn’t believe that at sixty-five I’d have a reason to feel like this.

The phone rang.

I turned my attention again to my reflection in the hallway mirror and coquettishly brought a hand up to smooth my hair. The sweetness of that ring turned sixty-five into sixteen.

1 Comments


Hi. I am a student from Kyoto, Japan.
I lived in the US for 9 years.(1~9yrsold)
I am wondering if I may have a chance to send my short story to you.
I want everyone to read this story.
I write many stories and I want one of my stories to be read by many people.

Is it possible?

If not, please tell me a site that might accept my desire.

Thank you very much for reading,
Takafofo.

please reply to
takafofous@msn.com

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