Archive for February, 2008
Pinups – inspired by Billy Collins
The breeze lifted her skirt, which billowed around her waist, exposing her long stockinged legs and the secret apparatus of her garter belt and underwear. The tiny dog, frightened by the rustle and movement of clothing, spun around her legs and tangled himself in her red, high-heeled shoes. She gasped and pursed her crimson lips in a shriek of dismay, while simultaneously trying to hold her ridiculously tiny hat. Male onlookers on both sides of the street craned their necks in an effort to unravel the dark mysteries, revealed. Charlene had but nine days left before the twenty eighth of the month. She was dammed she was going to waste it on some boring married man who could only offer her an occasional roll in the hay. She had bigger fish to fry. What she was after was someone with money and without obligations. To her chagrin men like this often found her shallow. Why didn’t the men she wanted, want what she had to offer? Why did she only attract the desperate or the committed? Why did she end up with men who had grease under their fingernails, sawdust in their hair? She tottered further down the tree-lined avenue. It was if she had a sign attached to her back which read ‘Look but do not Touch’.
Miss Camel, Turkish Gold. A scrap of gold lame hardly covers her ample body. She smiles sideways while grasping her tiny packet of Camel. The Government warning is discreetly turned to the rear wall. Her right leg is cocked, like a cigarette, ready to be lit. Perched atop her auburn mane is a tiny Turkish fez, a counterpoint to the Turkish gold brand. A single blue ribbon cuts her neck. Her right breast protrudes enticingly from over her raised arm, as if it were a cigarette being proffered. Missy Country Cook bends over the table to place a bottle on the chequered tablecloth. Could it be tequila or is it soda? Her white breasts spill out of the top of her gingham dress. The delicate fold of her sex is clearly visible in the crossword-coloured folds. Her huge yellow earrings contrast garishly with her bright red slash of a mouth. A Mexican look-alike leers seductively as he unfolds a guitar or is it a rifle from his shoulder.
Michelle looked over the rim of her champagne glass coquettishly. She blinked her perfectly manicured eyelashes at Roderick who exhaled a thin line of blue smoke from the Cabana he clutched in his elegantly manicured right hand. If she played her cards right, the 1955 Giulietta Bertone Spider Alfa Romeo sports car with the cracked red upholstery and black and white dice suspended from the rearvision mirror would be hers before the thirty first. Roderick thought that there must be some catch to this. An extremely (that word wasn’t strong enough, maybe drop dead gorgeous would have been more appropriate but somehow it sounded tacky when applied to this goddess) attractive woman was literally groveling at his feet. Her thin strand of white pearls framed her sculpted breasts. They were the most beautiful breasts he had ever seen. Not artificial, perfectly tanned, and just the shape and size of his most secret fantasies. There must be a catch. Michelle quaffed her champagne and her sensuous tongue licked the stray drops from her barely parted lips. Roderick found himself transformed to a different time and place. By the fifth of the next month, Roderick would only remember the menu on which they had dined that night. He would not recall her name, or her features. She faded, as does the pattern of a carpet, exposed to habitual sunlight.
Rachel rolled over on the sand and revealed the full extent of her $10,000 boob job. If her calculations were right, she would be making more than hay by the thirtieth and she would be set for the New Year. Why it had taken her so long to work out how to beat the thirty-day deadline she didn’t know. That silly Charlene would have never dreamt up a scheme like this. She was destined to be Miss February, year after year, walking down a sunny street, waiting for the wind to lift her skirts. And that silly little dog. That would have got on Rachel’s nerves long ago. Why! She could be living in a sun filled Spanish villa by next year, looking out over a sparkling bay to sailboats coming to her own little cove for an afternoons picnic. She pictured herself in her room. Three candles, each a different height, burned and sung in perfect harmony. At her back an enormous white baby grand. She shuddered deliciously at the thought. She looked down at her body. The thong was a brilliant idea. No man could resist. Rachel had learnt that being an object of adoration had its limitations. Men could ogle you year after year, but a girl had to think of her future. Her future included some very opulent accessories. Here they came. As bees are attracted to colorful flowers, men will always be attracted to cleavage and curves. They pretended to gaze out to sea as they displayed their buffed bodies for Rachel’s perusal. She demurely lifted herself from the beach towel and sauntered past them to suspend part of her glorious body in the sparkling surf. Just the feet, and only to the ankle. She could not risk ruining the perfect line of her carefully selected wardrobe.
Natasha had no such thoughts. She pulled the fur tightly around her bare body as the snow drifted about her auburn locks. The distinguishable flakes blew sideways and looked like tiny spots of light, reflecting off a crystal chandelier. Her long sensuous legs were parted just enough to allow a glimpse of her sex. Her brown eyes gazed intensely at any male who looked her way. She was in control and that is how she preferred it. She knew how long she had to allure her prey and she knew what she would do to him when he succumbed to her charms. But it was a little cold. She felt her erect nipples rubbing against the soft inner material of the coat and she was instantly aroused. She almost felt her pupils dilate and she was suddenly and explicably, moist.
Miss November has no name. She sits astride a yellow bicycle which looks as though its speed has bled onto the footpath. Her hat-brim has blown backwards with imagined forward motion and is now uncharacteristically like a sail, flapping loose and untethered, in the breeze. Her look of astonishment arouses in the viewer a sense of wanting to rescue her from whatever fate has cruelly dealt her. Her long legs seem to never stop but they disappear into her body midframe. She is twisted in a way that must be painful; the way catwalk models contort their bodies to show the lines of some distant designer’s dreams. She does not appear to have any thoughts in her head aside from how she will get that damn hat-brim into its proper place. It looks as if she will soon be on holiday.
Holly sat at the kitchen table. The floral wallpaper in the background reflected the muddy light from the sixty-watt bulb over her head. She was irascible. Always last, always waiting. A single strand of hair fell sluggishly over her perfect face. A tiny tear appeared in the corner of her eye. A glass cabinet filled with alabaster pottery provided the only ambience in the otherwise drab kitchen. A solitary greeting card lay opened on the white linen covering of the table in front of her. A message from a lost lover. The year was over. December the thirty first rolled to its inevitable end and as the last seconds ticked away Holly felt the certainty that she had a full eleven months at the bottom the heap before she would see the light of day again. Her shoulders gave an involuntary shudder as she heard the chorus of ten-nine-eight-seven-six-five-four-three-two-one echo through her head. She blinked, and she was gone.
There were images of dead infants and toddlers, lovingly dressed and photographed for posterity. Although some of the children were shown simply lying on their beds, others were carefully posed with dolls or personal belongings. One picture taken by an unknown photographer was particularly haunting: a young girl had been propped up and made to hold drumsticks. In a small, hand-coloured daguerreotype framed in velvet, the little girl played with her favourite toy, even in death.
These family keepsakes may strike contemporary viewers as odd and perhaps even grotesque. Producing and circulating pictures of dead relatives or famous people is no longer an acceptable, everyday practice, even as there is a fascination with dead bodies in films and on television. When photographs appear at funerals today, they are more likely to replace the corpse than to image it. Typically placed atop a closed casket, modern pictures feature the deceased individual in life, often at a younger age or before illness struck
I don’t know if it was the light but he looked as though he were made from alabaster. His head was stretched backwards as if he had been straining to see something on the roof of the room. His mouth was open, jaw slack, and a fine line of spittle had spread down the left hand side of his chin. His face was stubbled with grey and white hairs; the nurses must have forgotten to shave him that morning or, figuring he was close to death, left him alone. His wife gently tried to close his mouth but, encountering pressure, her gentleness turned to anger as she forced his lower jaw shut. She wept inconsolably and, looking around her at the silent and unmoved gathering, she expressed loudly that he didn’t look good in death. His previously large vibrant body was parked now. Its engine had finally stopped, position at top-dead-centre. His pyjama top was open to waist level and his singlet barely covered the matt of grey hairs that grew form his chest. The bottom half of his body was discretely covered with a red hospital blanket, concealing the tubes and drains that punctured his body. He had not died peacefully. He appeared as though he had to be have been wrenched from life, unwilling to commit to this final ignominy.
So it was a shock to see the room where he lay the next day. He had been stretched out, dressed in his best suit (and underwear) and a thin smile had been carved on his face. He was wearing the blue shirt that he hated so much in life and what had the wife been thinking when she matched the suit with his cross trainers. He, who had been so conservative in life with clothing, was going to his final resting place dressed as bizarrely as the pet dog they dressed up and photographed when they had several gins on board. The coffin lay open and the lid was propped up incongruously on the nearby sideboard. A series of photo’s showed the man as he had been in life. Here he posed on his retirement day, hair brylceamed; tie gracefully tucked into his service jacket. Here he reclined on a bench in what must have been his trip to Italy to revisit his wartime haunts. Here, he playfully held his partner in a death lock while grinning at the camera. And here, on the front of his funeral eulogy was the same image. The ultimate revenge.
They spoke of him. Here was a man I didn’t recognise. Had I grown so distant from him that I had forgotten the tenderness he could show to a young grandchild? Had I grown so distant that I didn’t believe the words he said of his son? I didn’t recognise the man or myself.
Then I find myself working in a rehabilitation hospital where a large part of the client group are males with strokes. I wander down the ward and look into bright, airy rooms, some with beds surrounded by deep blue curtains. I see men, not much different in age to myself, bent over feeding trays, arms dangling uselessly mouths dribbling as they try to move neglected limbs and muscles to give a greeting. A cold, icy fear grips my chest and I hurriedly complete the tasks I have and return to the haven of my room. Did I notice cards and balloons? Did I notice the one litre bottles of sugar filled drink? Did I not detect the faint whiff of cigarette smoke and, in one instance, alcohol?