Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Down The Rabbit Hole

This is for my challenge at Real Toads, where I've asked people to imagine that they've gone through a portal in time and into September of 1958.

Reds are the big bogeymen here.
"Russians, yanno, they got no freedoms, not like we do here."
Pardon my unladylike snort.

I spend most nights at Gracie's.
It's a club, but you have to know where it's at.
There's no neon sign, no Yellow Pages ad.
It's tucked away off the main street
and looks like a warehouse from the outside.
Martha Stewart would take one look and have kittens.

When I walk in, the bartender says, "Hey, sister."
She's wearing a man's white tuxedo and it never looked so good.
Women dance together or sit at tables in the low light and talk, 
while holding hands or wrapped together kissing.
It's a sweet place, where a girl can let her hair down,
or tuck it up under a fedora.

Like I say, it's a sweet place, but every few weeks,
the cops raid, and we get our names printed in the morning paper.
Last week, Elaine lost her job because of it;
she was really tired, I could see it in her face.
There's nothing like a long bath to restore a girl's spirits,
but she took a pack of razor blades in with her,
and we won't be seeing her here anymore.

Nights I don't go to Gracie's, I stay home and read.
I can only find two books--
The Well of Loneliness, that they banned in England, stupid Brits,
and The Price Of Salt by "Claire Morgan."
Claire Morgan is really Patricia Highsmith.
She published Strangers On A Train under her own name.

I want a job doing something more than waitressing,
but it's not easy.
I applied to Disney as a cartoonist, but they sent me a nice letter back
that said they only hire male artists.
Straight movies, straight people, straight world, and a man's world besides;
a girl could lose her mind.

Oh well, sugar, after three more years fly by,
I'll have Laura Petrie in her capri pants to lust after.
My cup runneth over.

One nation
Til then, I'll spend my time at Gracie's
under God
as a sister of the Order
indivisible
a Twilight Girl running under the apple pie radar
with liberty and justice
until John Law raids again to satisfy the national morals
for all
but I can't stop thinking about Elaine,
her life's blood slowly leaving her,
a sacrifice for the lukewarm tap water she couldn't survive in.
________

 
 

25 comments:

Lolamouse said...

I love the phrase "Twilight Girl running under the apple pie radar." This is so personal and so sad. Too bad it's still happening and that there are still "Elaine's" who feel so desperate and hopeless.

Daryl said...

while the entire piece is wonderful, i love (and re-read several times) the last stanza ..

Kerry O'Connor said...

It's a sweet place, where a girl can let her hair down,
or tuck it up under a fedora...

The freedom of choice you describe in these lines comes at a high price. I was deeply moved by the story within a story of Elaine's choice to end her life rather than live in a man's world.

hedgewitch said...

What's the French phrase, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, but at least now there are people telling other people, it gets better, and that being yourself is possible, even being loved for yourself is possible. Lovely language in service of a sad subject here, Shay.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh you took me back to those years of old ladies peering from behind lace curtains and reporting to girls' grandmas.........I got in trouble for "laughing too loud on the street". Your ear is pitch-perfect here: the way of speaking, the portrayal of those times.......had to smile at Laura Petrie!

TexWisGirl said...

wow. powerful stuff.

Ellecee said...

Powerful, strong, poignant and sadly reminiscent of those times and many since. Thank goodness these clubs existed,,,a safe haven in the dark,,

Susie Clevenger said...

Wow...kind of speechless. An amazing piece. I too read and reread the final lines several times.

Lynn said...

Laura Petrie in her capri pants - oh my - I'll bet she'd be flattered by that.

Kay L. Davies said...

I keep typing in this comment box and then deleting, typing, deleting, typing, deleting...and wondering if there will ever, anywhere in this world, be liberty and justice for all.
Kerry's South African women brought me to tears. Your Elaine brought me to outright weeping.
K

lapis said...

"her life's blood slowly leaving her,
a sacrifice for the lukewarm tap water she couldn't survive in"

I knew her too.

Kim Nelson said...

"The Price of Salt"... one of the best books ever. Thank goodness for Gracie's. A sense of belonging is of great value.

G-Man said...

FB....This is SO Daughter's of Bilitis days!!! You Rock!

Connie was HOT! But she was never the same after she was raped at a Motel...Too bad.

Sioux said...

This really did make me feel like I was plopped down in an era many decades ago.

Well done, Shay, as usual.

Helen said...

What I love about today? More and more young men and women are able to shout to the rooftops who they are! And it is high time ............

Cloudia said...

Should be required reading in HS History. Yes, My Sister, we both remember, and you have rendered a true service to my soul, you our beloved fallen, and to the living.

Cloudia said...

Daughters of Bilitis! G-man you blew my mind.....Dell & Phyllis? GLF? We lived history. The Pres' inauguration shout out freed me profoundly

HermanTurnip said...

Why do I find these morbid tales so fascinating? I can't get enough of your style, my friend. You rock so hard ain't no time to roll...

Isadora Gruye said...

must admit, I have not read the price of salt, but this has convinced me I must. I love your topsy turvy here, the 1950's gestalt clashing with the dancing and hand holding and kissing. And I love the tone you've evoked here: the yearnings of a narrator who knows years and years and years will pass yet before things change and the raids stop, until the pen names stop being used.

Just admire the hell out of the piece, viva la

Ella said...

Bravo-great approach!
I never understood why freedom for all didn't mean just that~
I grew up with many gay friends and am thankful the world is catching up!

I love this line:
"a Twilight Girl running under the apple pie radar"

darkangelwrites said...

I was giggling at Martha's kittens till the razor blades cut me short. Damn,love how you are all lalala one minute then, smack down.

darkangelwrites said...

p.s. I'm enjoying your book.

Emma Major said...

such sadness and such truth, it's easy to forget or recent past

Grandmother said...

That we did and do this to our sisters and daughters and granddaughters and countless Elaines is our disgrace. How you tell this story is so powerful.

Mama Zen said...

That 4th stanza slaps you right in the face. Brilliant writing.