FathomOnline

 

 Fathom 1993

Cover

 

Inside Cover

 

Poetry

Jason Holt (3)
Dana Graham
Mariam Pirbhai (3)
r.j. inglis
Sean Maschmann
Graham Touchie (3)
Leslie Stockhausen
Nicole Fernandez
Helen Prosser
Sean Lawrence
Simon Gauci
Derrick Higginbotham

Prose

Ramona Ryan 1
Ramona Ryan 2
Quico
Urs Frei

[PDF]

Urs Frei

 

 

Beauty

     I knew two sisters once. One was ugly and one was beautiful. The beautiful one was called Adele and the ugly one was called Sophie. Sophie was two years younger. Their father came from Montreal, but he was dead. They lived in the apartment block across from us. Adele is Adele’s real name but Sophie isn’t Sophie’s–I won’t explain just yet. Adele is kind of famous now. She’s in New York. She wanted to be an actress but turned out as a model, which is just as good, I guess. She’s been in Vogue. She sends her mother clippings, and her mother shows them to my mother, and my mother shows them to me. She’s been married twice, my mother says. “Is she trying to get in the Inquirer?” my mother says. I consider myself her first lover, because when we were both six she lifted her skirt for me behind Jimmy Ramsey’s house. But as for Sophie, you’ll have to wait to find out what happened to her.
     When I say “us” I mean me and my mother and my dad. My dad doesn’t figure. He wasn’t mean or anything. All he wanted at home was quiet, and that was fine because it meant I got to stay out longer than most kids. It meant I got to know Adele and Sophie pretty well because their mother and mine were best friends, so when my dad was home I’d go over to their place to watch TV or whatever. And sometimes when my dad wasn’t home they’d come over here if their mother wanted to see a man or something.
Sophie wasn’t jealous of Adele. She didn’t seem to notice that for most people she wasn’t even there. She loved Adele. She followed her everywhere.
     People called Adele “Beauty” then, and I think she liked to have Sophie with her because then you really noticed her. Sophie called her Beauty too. The more beautiful Adele looked the happier Sophie was. By the time Sophie was six she’d picked up how to make Adele look beautiful. When she was doing Adele’s hair and putting the stuff on her face she wouldn’t have heard a bomb go off. But she wouldn’t do it to herself. The only thing that could make her stop was if Adele grabbed the liner or something and tried to put it on Sophie’s face. There was no way. Sophie would put her hands over her face, and all Adele could do was pencil over the backs of her hands.
     One thing they weren’t together on was animals. Sophie loved animals and Adele hated them. And that made it hard for Sophie, because her mother always agreed with Adele, and since she and Adele had the same room it was hard keeping a secret. But she did anyway. She kept baby mice once. She tried to show me how to feed them, but I hated it. I didn’t even want to be with her. It was never just me and her, it was me and Adele and her, or me and Adele and Jimmy Ramsey and Hubie Jones, and her tagging behind. For years no one liked her because that was all she did. We’d send her off for something and then hide. We did it all the time, but she never got mad.
     She was there when Adele lifted her skirt and I pulled down my shorts. She just sat on the grass and watched. I wished she’d go, but Adele wanted her. We did things Adele learned watching her mother, petting and kissing and stuff. It wasn’t much fun. She knew exactly how you were supposed to do it. And then there was Sophie watching. Adele must have liked that. It must have made her feel like her mother.
     When Jimmy Ramsey found out he was pretty mad, but he got his chance later. This was when Adele was fourteen. She was some fourteen-year-old. Jimmy Ramsey was two years older than us, but he looked like a kid beside her. But I guess those two years gave him an edge, maybe he didn’t lose his head like we did, just walking past her. Plus, they were neighbours now, because Adele’s mother had moved in with a man three years before. We used to go to Jimmy’s room and watch Adele’s window. Not that we ever saw anything. But we watched, because he was always telling us what he saw.
     One day someone caught them necking under the bridge. I don’t know who it was, but everyone seemed to know. Me and Hubie Jones and Ian Doig went to her house after dark, mad out of our heads. We didn’t know if we hated him more or her. We didn’t care. We chucked rocks and dirt and dog shit at their houses. If a man came out or the cops went by, we just ran for it and came back. We shouted out at her mostly, calling her a slut and whatever. Of course we’d have gone eventually anyway, but then something happened that we didn’t expect. When we saw her door open we thought first it was her dad, that man I mean (his name was MacGillivray), then we thought it was Adele herself. We didn’t think about Sophie at all. She came right down to the bottom step and said, “Why don’t you all go now,” like she meant it but was scared too. Then we threw things at her! She didn’t run, she just stood there holding her hands over her face. I felt so lousy afterward, for months I felt so lousy I couldn’t even look at her.
     I guess I’d started liking her a little. But she’d changed by then. Adele used to play baseball and hockey with us if there was nothing else to do, and Sophie tagged along as usual. She didn’t mind being in nets or in the outfield. She wasn’t any good, but she really liked it, which you couldn’t say for Adele, and she got better. She kept coming after Adele stopped, just showing up and tagging along, and when we let her out of the nets or she got on base or a ball came her way, she’d play like she didn’t even know she could get hurt. Other than that, we never really saw her. When she was with her friends she could just as well be on another planet.
     That reminds me of something I don’t hardly know how to talk about. It’s what happens to girls at about twelve or thirteen (or eleven, with Adele). I mean, I know what happened to me. I turned into a machine for making hard-ons. So did my friends. It was all pretty simple. Maybe what happens to girls seems pretty simple to them too, but that’s not the feeling you get. It’s like they don’t really know what they want anymore, or don’t want to face it straight, and kind of hide it away and walk around it and pretend it isn’t there. If they wear pants, that’s hiding, and if they wear dresses that’s hiding too. But what I really want to say is that with Sophie it seemed like none of this happened. But I don’t even know what I mean. Maybe it was this, that she knew what was happening and somehow you could tell that she knew, and that made the difference, though you couldn’t explain it just by pointing at what she wore or how she had her hair cut. She didn’t stop playing baseball or hockey with us – that was one thing – though there wasn’t much chance, since we were mostly in leagues. Me and her went to the same junior high and had a couple of classes together, the ones where they put one grade in with another. I don’t remember much because I still wasn’t paying much attention to her. I remember she was quiet but not shy, that she stuck to her own group if they were around, but if they weren’t she didn’t mind coming over and talking to someone else. Adele was in one of those classes too, that almost killed her, because she hated doing anything with Sophie now. I have a picture in my head of Sophie looking at Adele and Adele looking straight ahead to the front like she was made of stone. That’s all I remember.
     I wouldn’t have no reason for telling any of this if it wasn’t for something bad that happened when I was seventeen. She was still in junior high. It was in the spring and I’d just got my license and was taking the car whenever I could. What happened was that one Saturday I hit Sophie’s dog. It wasn’t hers exactly, it was John MacGillivray’s, but she’d made it hers. When you talked about it, it was “Sophie’s dog.” It was a big yellow Lab that got some people angry by jumping on them and making messes. But Sophie wouldn’t leash it. She just cleaned the messes up, and anyway, it always came when she called. But I guess something went wrong. I wasn’t driving too fast, and there wasn’t nothing I could do. But it was still the worst feeling in the world when I saw that dog run out and I ran into its head. In the mirror I could see it moving, kind of shaking there, but when I got out it was already laying still. Sophie was just coming up to it. She just laid a hand on it as if to make sure it was dead. And it was, you could see by the way the head lay. Sophie didn’t seem to know I was there, and I wished I wasn’t, I wished I could have snuck off and hid where no one would ever find me. But I couldn’t. It wasn’t even any use saying I was sorry. But Sophie seemed pretty calm. She started trying to pick up the dog, it must have been half her weight, and I bent over to help. I thought all she wanted was to take it around the corner to her place, but she didn’t, she wanted to take it up the hill somewhere. So we carried it, facing across the dog but not really looking, especially not when Sophie started crying halfway up, just suddenly like that, without hardly a sound.
     At the top of the hill there’s a new church and a graveyard. I had the crazy idea that she wanted to dig a grave for it, and how was I going to change her mind? but that wasn’t it at all. In the middle of the graveyard is a patch of thorny bushes. I wouldn’t have thought there was any way in, but she knew one, and we went in with her going backward and me leaning down so that my face wouldn’t get whipped. In the middle we put the dog down. She scooped old leaves and twigs up over it. She’d stopped crying, but now she started again harder than before, standing there and rubbing her hand on her face, and me standing right beside her in that little space where you couldn’t turn. I couldn’t stand it, but I couldn’t go back neither, so I started talking, trying to get her to stop. I don’t remember half, it was whatever popped into my head, saying how maybe I could get a shovel and a pick and we could come back tomorrow and dig a proper hole, with a cross and all-s tuff like that. I don’t think she was listening. I ran out of things to say for a second, and put my arm around her. She didn’t cry any less, but put her arm around me and her head on my shoulder, and that took me by surprise. I started getting a hard-on. I didn’t want her to know, so I started talking again to make the stupid thing go away. It didn’t, though, not until we turned and went out. We didn’t talk or nothing on the way back, and I never told anyone what we did with the dog.
     But we was good friends after that, in kind of a strange way, kind of secretly. After she started going to high school we made a point of walking there together – that kind of thing. She took an art class that I was taking and, since I didn’t really know nobody else in the class anyway, there was nothing funny about us sitting together and helping each other out. She taught me more about drawing than the teacher did, though. Until then I didn’t even know that she could draw. Sometimes when my mother was out I’d call her and we’d just talk. She had opinions on just about everything, like her sister, but she’d listen to yours too – really listen, I mean, not pretend listen. If Adele was still around she’d have found us out for sure, but she was gone by then. She’d won a beauty contest, and a photographer got her to come down to New York with him, even though she was underage.
     But for three years, while Sophie was in high school and after I’d started working, we was just friends. For the first year I was seeing somebody else, that was how I wanted it. This girl was called Denise, and me and Sophie never talked about her. Denise wasn’t in Adele’s class but still nice looking, and pretty raspy too most of the time. But I knew it was hopeless. I knew I’d dump her when we graduated. It got so I wouldn’t hold hands with her in the halls in case Sophie saw us. Most of the time when we was alone I’d wish it was Sophie there instead.
     After we broke up I didn’t date for two years, trying to get my head together. I couldn’t make up my mind. I didn’t want nobody else, but I couldn’t see myself with Sophie neither. Then she graduated and went off to Yarmouth county to a farm for the summer because she was applying to agricultural college in the fall. For three weeks it didn’t matter, then I started missing her like crazy. I couldn’t believe how bad I missed her. I was scared to death she was going to find another guy. I didn’t even have her number. Why would she give it to me? I was just one of her friends, and she was coming back at the end of the summer. I could have got it from her mother, but why would I ask for it, and why would I call? In the end I asked for it. I didn’t care. I didn’t even bother with some excuse. When I heard her voice I was in heaven, she didn’t seem surprised, just happy. I don’t even remember what we said, but it was better than sex, afterwards I felt clean and light for days, like I was made of air. Then two days later I called again and proposed.
     But can you believe it? She turned me down. That was three years ago. No one thinks she’s meek or shy now, but she wouldn’t let me give her real name. When I was trying to think of one I wanted to give her the name of a flower. I can shut my eyes and see it, though I’ve never seen it, growing slow by a fence in some vacant lot, blending in at first, a sort of grey-green, and bristly, but growing and growing, putting out little spiky leaves, growing up higher than the other flowers, though you still never see it when you walk past, until one day it’s put out fifteen or twenty white flowers, and you just stop and wonder where that came from. And then if you’re fool enough to try and pick it you find out it’s got spikes all along the stem. But I don’t know nothing about flowers, and maybe there isn’t even one like that, so I called her Sophie, and that has something to do with being wise. And I guess all this comes down to is how I learned that beauty – But you all know that already.

THE END

 

last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul