Monday, 1 February 2016

THE PERILS OF PAULINE by COLLETTE YVONNE



THE PERILS OF PAULINE by COLLETTE YVONNE










I step out my front door to find my next-door neighbor standing at the edge of his lawn,

staring across at our yard, his lips compressed into a frown.

“Is everything okay, Lewis?”

“Your water sprinkler is too close to my property line.”

“How so? It’s on my lawn.”

“When you water your lawn, my driveway is getting sprinkled.”

I know better than to argue with Lewis. “Okay, no problem, I’ll position the sprinkler

further away.”

I better not mention the sprinkler issue to Donald or he might freak out. Over the years,

Lewis has complained about the height of our grass (too long), the color of our grass (yellow)

and the condition of our grass (weedy). He also demands that we cut down our shady maple

and repaint our porch.

 The mature maples lining our street are the best feature of this old sprawling suburb with

big front porches and quiet cul-de-sacs. Lewis chopped down all his trees last year, citing the

aggravation of leaves choking his gutters.

Our grass is admittedly scruffy but that’s because last month Donald spot-sprayed it with

a home-brew of salt and vinegar to kill the crabgrass and clover, and ended up pickling the

grass instead. He dug out the worst scorched areas and laid pieces of new sod, so now the

lawn has bright green patches interspersed with the weedy yellow parts and the dead brown

bits. Now all the neighborhood kids like to come over to play The Floor is Lava on our front

lawn. The green bits are safe. Step outside them, you die.

I hurry down the sidewalk to Bibienne’s where boring lawns go to die and reincarnate as

boisterous perennial gardens full of day lilies, climbing honeysuckle and chrysanthemums.

Hummingbirds chase butterflies through pink and purple peonies as I go around the side to

her garden doors only to find an abandoned wheelbarrow. Odd. Usually Bibienne is outside

pruning her roses on a day like this.

One of the doors is ajar so I rap on the frame and step inside. I love Bibienne’s roomy

kitchen: an inspired mix of antique cabinets fitted with granite countertops. A cook’s dream

but nothing’s cooking here. Beyond the kitchen, in the family room, I spy Bibienne reclined

on the couch watching TV, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles on the oversized

ottoman in front of her. Without taking her eyes from the screen, she frowns at me while

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laying her palm on top of her head, as if to hold down her thick auburn hair, which is

gathered away from her face in a hasty French twist. She raises a warning finger to her lips.

Camilo Villegas and Adam Scott are playing so I know enough to remain silent until the next

commercial break, when she turns her cool green eyes on me. I’ve interrupted men’s tennis

so this better be good.

“I’ve been fired. My assistant, Daria, stole my job.”

“Oh. Okay.” She gets up from the couch and pats my shoulder. “I’ll make you a drink.”

I nod and follow her to the kitchen. I’m safe. I can stick around and watch tennis with her

as long as I don’t make too much noise.

“I have ChocoLee chocolates too.” She drops ice cubes into tall glasses and fills them

with red wine and lime soda. What luck. Bibienne always drinks Spanish wine cocktails and

breaks out the chocolate when Villegas is winning.

Bibienne watches the end of the match with her lips parted and her hand across her heart.

After the final point, she turns off the TV, fans her cheeks and sighs. “Él está bueno. Oh well,

come see my new laptop. You can try it out while I top us off.”

The connection is lightning fast. I wish I had ripped-speed access to the Internet.

Bibienne sets my glass at my elbow and peers over my shoulder. “Career Search Australia?”

“Yeah. Look. They need a snake wrangler in Canberra. Wait a minute, there’s an

opening at the Bikini Car Wash.”

I click around. There are a zillion postings for jobs all around the world, from San

Francisco to Shanghai. Even Kalamazoo has a raft of listings. Here, in the greater suburbs of

the Boston Commonwealth, not so much. Unless I want to commute all the way into the city,

like Donald does when he isn’t at the branch office here in town. Since Doubles got so busy,

he has to go into the city more often than not these days.

Forget job searching for now. Bibi has a collection of fun apps on her desktop. I click on

a Tarot icon. “Is this site any good?”

“Yes, it’s one of the best,” she says. “If you want a quick reading, try the Celtic Cross

spread.”

Bibienne knows a lot about tarot. She’s so sharp and perceptive, her massage therapy

clients are always asking her to read their cards for them.

I type in my question: What does the future hold for me?

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The results show the Queen of Cups, seated in the auspicious Position One, which

represents the “Questioner in Her Present Situation.”

“The Queen of Cups is the good woman card,” says Bibienne. “She’s loving and kind. A

bit of a dreamer, distracted. But see? She sits on a throne, which means she wields power and

makes the rules. The suit of cups represents emotions. Overflowing emotions, hidden

emotions, secrets maybe. Who knows what’s in her cup?”

“Bra cups, cups of laundry detergent, cups of wine.”

Bibienne points to my glass. “Your cup of wine is empty.”

Position Two shows the Three of Swords: a lowly card suggestive of trickery and

betrayal. “That would be Daria and WiFi-Robes,” I say as Bibienne refills my glass and sits

beside me.

“Could be.” She examines the spread. “The Three of Swords usually represents sudden

heartbreak or betrayal. But look over here. Your Three is countered by the Two of Swords,

which is about the difficulty of making decisions. That’s a double whammy. See the

blindfold on the woman in the picture? She can’t see her way. She may not want to see, in

fact, she may be in denial.”

It all makes sense. I’ve been betrayed, lost my job, and now I have to make choices about

what to do next, right? More curious though is the appearance of the powerful and

authoritative Emperor standing in opposition to my Queen. Donald perhaps? But, if the

Emperor is my husband, who is the Knight of Cups occupying the near future position? The

Knight of Cups is a man of high romance, poetry and passion. Here, Donald doesn’t spring to

mind. How intriguing: the card drawn for the position representing Final Outcomes turns out

to be The Lovers. As I wander back home I can’t help but note that two cups makes a couple.



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ABOUT THE AUTHOR




Collette was born in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Canada where her father served as a fighter pilot in the Canadian Air Force (and where her mother once accused him of circling the skies in his grown-up "kiddy car" all day while she did all the real work of changing diapers and minding four children — not to mention packing and unpacking the household during the family's frequent moves to various Canadian and European air force bases).

Collette graduated from Toronto’s York University with an Honours BA degree majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in the Humanities. At York, Collette had the opportunity to study under well-known Canadian authors such as Don Coles, Susan Swan, Elisabeth Harvor and Bruce Powe, among others.







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