From Are You Ready to Be Lucky? by Rosemary NixonAre You Ready to Be Lucky? by Rosemary Nixon

Roslyn high-steps up Bantry Street on an icy Alberta evening buffeted by late-December gusts, holding high her sixty by forty centimetre tray of pineapple-stuffed meatballs, trying not to look like a woman who, at the yearly No Commitment Book Club Christmas gift exchange, received a can of gravy and two books called How To Seem Like A Better Person Without Actually Improving Yourself and The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead. Roslyn steps lively, though it’s difficult through this latest dump of snow. By the time she’s crossing 10th Street at the four-way stop, she’s trying out the mien of a woman whose sashay declares, Hey! I’ve spent time in Peru! A guy in a woollen toque with strings, behind the wheel of a Honda Accord, honks. Is it working, then, or is he just pissed off she isn’t trotting? Roslyn plods faster. She fears there’s an air about her, a colloquial cast that reveals she’s never set foot off the North American continent. By the time she turns down Russet Road, she’s practicing nice-but-not-sexually-conservative. She imagines popping out of a giant toaster, singing gustily, “Butter Me Baby!” Sexy, but spritzed with positive attitude, so the faces of those watching her streak from lustful to inspired—Look at you!—dolloped with fascination at her role-modelling magnetism. She passes the burnt-orange house with the seven small windmills, where Stella, towards whose party Roslyn is trudging, says the mom sells pot. Well, Stella would know. Roslyn tries to look like the kind of person who is fun, yet speaks encouragingly to people. Six weeks since her divorce. Does she look divorced? Well, look it or not, she and Harold are kaput. Life lurches on. She skids off a sidewalk so snow-covered she wasn’t expecting its edge. Roslyn pictures herself a potted plant, flinging its diseased parts forth for pruning. Parts that twined Harold for twenty-three years. Harold who, for their last vacation together, booked a hotel in Seattle with a dog-eared Playboy under the bed and lice within it. And then he left her. Before his exit, the two of them, colliding under Roslyn’s ricocheting umbrella, walked Wanda who, terrified by Seattle’s cement, refused to pee, ululating in bladder discomfort. Harold, pushing his voice above the yipping and the wind, shared with Roslyn (and a passing woman with a package of fish and a receding hairline) that he’d slept with a woman at a boner convention six months before, and how much he liked her feet. Harold is manager of a company that inserts stays called bones into prepared pockets of women’s foundation garments. “I told her,” Harold explained, as Wanda emitted a series of anguished squirts, “if you could see inside my head, you’d realize how un-attracted I’ve become to my wife.” Harold values honesty. What a quality! “Did you say unattractive to your wife?” Roslyn asked, but the damp Seattle sea breeze hurled her words, cloaked in pee-spray, against a derelict public transit building.

For twenty-three years Roslyn tolerated Harold’s insistence on perfect grammar. His mother was a high school English teacher. Mix “me” and “I” in a prepositional phrase and Harold sulked for days. She tolerated his penchant for inquiring mornings if she’d used his toothbrush. Just checking! His Grandpa’s family on his mother’s side had had a hired man who used the family’s toothbrushes for weeks before a telltale splotch of Kits Taffy on Harold’s Grandma’s nailed the rotter. For twenty-three years Roslyn watched Harold stride grimly from the room each time she bit into an apple or a carrot. Tolerated his growing addiction for the purchase of eBay items they’d never use: a canoe, a hundred taped-together boxes of saran wrap, rat poison. Rat poison, when they live in the only rat-free province in the country. Well, here Roslyn is, a forty-two-year-old divorcée on her way to Stella’s Eyes Wide Shut New Year’s Eve party. Damn it! A woman can only bawl so long. With luck Stella’s kept on her meds.

Roslyn blows across Remington Road and climbs Stella’s pink-encrusted front steps. Stella had a short-lived summer fling with a feng shui instructor who took off after nine days, wishing her blessings. Said he was headed to Hidden Valley Ashram to contemplate entering a monastery. He left behind a pile of rose quartz stones which Stella had a workman embed in new cement steps—her wooden ones were rotting. “Rose quartz brings luck,” Stella told Roslyn. “Rose quartz is a love stone.” Roslyn had been standing in Stella’s kitchen, gulping her homemade lemonade without sugar. Stella was doing a Look Better Naked Organic Herbal Colon Cleanse. She was face down, hovering just above the floorboards, trying to hold plank position for a minute and a half. “Rose quartz attracts love, Roz,” Stella had gasped. And sure enough, didn’t Stella have a fling with the man who redid the stairs.

Whoops! Roslyn slips on the stones’ slick surface. Her tray of pineapple-stuffed meatballs skids, teeters, and a meatball plops at her feet like an enthusiastic turd. Roslyn pivots—no one watching—scoops it up and sticks it back against its smudge on the tray. The streetlight gives a white-light-otherworldly glow to the pink translucent chips. Despite herself, a funnel of excitement plows through Roslyn’s goose-pimpled skin toward her coffee-dregged heart. A series of chances. That’s what life is. A Russian roulette of heartbreak and passion. Click. Hear that? The spin of the revolver’s cylinder. Maybe her time has come. Roslyn scrapes boot soles against the pink quartz to dislodge hardened snow clumps. Has she not risen from the crumb-laden crying-nest of her unmade bed? In four hours it will be a New Year. Roslyn bends over her meatballs, holds her finger to the bell. Stella’s invitation said, Costume party. Roslyn pulls a cigarillo from her pocket. She’s come as a knock-out cowgirl.

The door swings open to a wallop of moist heat, wafting curry, and a technicolour Stella, buck-naked, body-painted in hues of tangerine, turquoise, and green. “Welcome!” Stella twirls her hand and bends in a sweeping bow. “Jez, Roz. Shut the goddamn door!” Roslyn hands over her tray of spongy globes, each impaled with its own toothpick.

Stella squints at the tray. “Meatballs. Not feeling great, I take it.”

“Like a bunion,” Roslyn says cheerfully. “But an early-stage one—whose time has come.” She relinquishes her coat, keeps on her cowboy boots, clips into Stella’s tackily-decorated living room, and stands very still on the makeshift party dance floor. She squeezes her eyes tight shut and—Whoooot! —blows Harold, the boner, like a smoke ring, from her life. Then she turns with—hopefully—an air of carefree abandon, only to be run amok by a gentleman gyrating gustily across the dance floor in the arms of Shirley Turlington, nursemaid costume riding her chubby thighs. Shirley Turlington, who brought a ten-dollar bottle opener as her gift to the No Commitment Book Club Christmas gift exchange, and took home an eighty-five-dollar boxed set of steak knives. But what’s this? A distinctly British voice saying, “Blimey! Were you waiting for the aeroplane? Let’s get you off the runway!” And yes, Shirley Turlington, nurse’s hat askew, is left to bebop ungracefully off the dance floor, seule, while Duncan Bloxham, Yorkshireman—for so he introduces himself—reaches a manicured hand to help Roslyn up, apologizing, laughing heartily, touching her hands, holding them really, exclaiming that they are bloody cold, and where did she get such a get-up, she needs a man like him to dress her. He winks. The man actually winks. Oh his voice! That accent! But Roslyn has barely staggered to her feet before Stella is dragging her into the kitchen, and propping her against the devilled egg tray on the counter, Stella’s nipples rising indignantly like the avocado wedge tips standing guard atop the devilled eggs. “I only invited him because Tamai met him on the ski slope.” Stella clutches Roslyn’s arm, leaving tangerine residue. “We don’t know anything about him!”

A gentle bump against the kitchen’s swinging door. A shadow looms beneath it.

“The man took over my chocolate mousse!” Stella whispers. “Told me I was shaving the chocolate curls incorrectly! What kind of man thinks chocolate curls can be shaved correctly?!” Roslyn wrenches free, takes three quick tiptoes, and swings open the swinging door. Duncan Bloxham, mid-sprint across the living room floor, halts in a stance of frozen tag. He recovers, strikes a pondering pose, nose lifted, and flicks his coral sweater over his rounded shoulder.

“Eavesdropper!” Roslyn calls. Duncan grins, and tips his glass in her direction. The last wisps of Harold, the boner, bob bob bob away.

 

Copyright © Rosemary Nixon, 2013.