“My story is not a pleasant one; it is neither sweet nor harmonious, as invented stories are; it has the taste of nonsense and chaos, of madness and dreams.” ― Hermann Hesse
Symphony of Whispered Madness
The night was thick with a damp chill. The nurse looked at Lee’s face in the yellow light. Lee dreamed and moaned in soft rushes of breath as her chest lifted and shuddered in rhythmic collapse.
The nurse put another blanket on Lee and in reverence for the mother, she leaned over and kissed her cheek. The Sister hoped to bless Lee with her adoration and in turn receive some blessing from the older sister that gave her life purpose. As she stood by Lee’s side, she lost herself in her thoughts.
The nurse thought dreams, like memories, are dances performed alone. One hears a song, falls in love with the melody, and tries to find meaning in lyrics. Often, the symphony is a cacophony of visionary notes too discordant to find a rhythm one can rest their soul in. And, there is another kind – the kind that never releases the dancer. The girl was afraid of the dreams she saw on Lee’s face.
Twenty-Two years earlier…
Rastaman stood with his back to the grill and leaned on the counter, watching Ivan clean off the tables. Rastaman suffered a mild form of burning hatred for Ivan. The sharp corners of his feelings, dulled by heavy doses of cannabis, clung to Rastaman’s mind in desperation. His dark eyes, set in sockets of furrowed brown skin, were permanently etched with raging red veins like fiery cracks in glass. Through the fog and burning thoughts in his mind, he saw a flash of white through the window as a van stopped in front of the diner.
Lee hesitated, looked at the driver and thanked him. He nodded and looked at the door. Miss Lee Kwan Che slid out like strawberry syrup and reformed on the sidewalk. She looked at the rail-car style diner and paused to gather her wits. The van rushed away causing the driver of the car attempting to go around to regret sneaking into this God forsaken country.
Two teenage boys high on paint fumes, bouncing a basketball between them, looked at the red dress and the form inside that made the dress seem alive. The ball, entrapped in various laws of physics, moved away unnoticed. They looked at each other and decided to wait and see what the other side looked like as the female form flowed toward the diner.
Rastaman looked up and broke into a lecherous grin. Ivan waved at Lee and mentioned how nice it was to see her. Rastaman looked over at Ivan in contempt for stepping on his charm and distracting the girl. Lee smiled at the two men. Ivan dropped a plate but refused to take his eyes off of Lee to pick it up.
“Hi, boys! I see you both have practiced your good looks to perfection.” They both believed she wouldn’t lie about such things.
“Where is Mario?” Lee inquired, careful not to rush things and seem rude. Both men pointed to the back corner at Mario’s office. Lee thanked them with a smile, wink, and a little wave as she turned to visit with Mario.
Both men grabbed their genitals and looked at each other with scorn. Then, in horror, they realized their body language allowed the other to read their mind. Hands dropped, and both men pretended to do something productive that didn’t need the other’s involvement.
Mario sat at his desk studying two open ledgers and changed the numbers in strategic places. His gambling debts were eating into the operation funds for the diner. He would have to cook the books again to avoid paying the mobsters their due. His other option was to cut back on staff or supplies, but that was a slippery slope and may ultimately require him to do something productive. The thought vanished in a wave of nausea. He changed numbers with more determination.
A small knock on the door threatened to distract Mario from his master plan to cheat the mob. Irritated, he yelled at the door. “Go away! I’m busy making friends with myself.”
Miss Lee opened the door and peeked at Mario. Seeing Mario distracted by his work, she spoke in her sweetest voice. “Thank you for inviting me in, Mario.”
Mario looked up in a scowl that melted into a love struck, slack-jawed stare.
“Oh! Hi, Lee! I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was you. Come in, what can I do for you?” Mario secretly loved Lee since she started coming in the diner back when his mother and father ran things. Mario was a bit too old for Lee, but he never let that interfere with the hot flashes when he saw her. He thought about all those National Geographics he read as a young man to try to find out more about her culture and hopefully to find some nude photographs of natives to help him form more exotic fantasies.
Lee stood as close to the desk as possible, trying to remember all the instructions she received from the elder women on how to conduct a proper job interview.
“I was hoping I could talk to you about a job here as a waitress.”
Mario’s brain went into overload. He didn’t have the money to hire another person, but Lee was no ordinary person. If she could wait tables, his business could triple just from all the tradesmen crowding in the diner for breakfast and lunch to get a look at her. As he stared at Lee’s feminine charms, he saw dollar bills. Most of all, he would have her close at hand so he could work on making her his girlfriend. Lee was the answer to many of his deceitful prayers.
Mario teetered between keeping Lee in his office longer and cooking the books before Petre showed up and removed a testicle for failing to pay again. They were old friends. Their friendship is why Petre never put him in a barrel and dissolved him in acid. Still, a missing testicle could interfere with his plans for Miss Lee.
“When can you start.” Mario blurted out as the severed testicle faded from his mind.
“I have the job?” This rapid development made it impossible to negotiate as instructed. Lee wasn’t sure what to do next.
“Only if you show up to work.” The criminal mastermind replied behind squinty eyes.
“I’ll start tomorrow then. If that is okay?” the jubilant Lee replied.
Mario detected Lee’s accent getting thicker. She appeared a little flustered. It was evident his charm was working on her. Mario’s heart thumped in a prideful victory.
“Be here at 5:30 am, and we’ll do the paperwork to get you started.”
Lee’s face glowed. Mario appeared smitten with himself for exuding such charm. Lee bowed and left Mario to his cooked books without a clue about the severed testicle that she just prevented. The red siren waved to Rastaman and Ivan and told them she would see them tomorrow morning. Lee wondered why they always seemed so dumbfounded.
As Lee stood on the sidewalk waiting for a ride home, the two boys peeked out the window of the upstairs apartment at the girl on the sidewalk in the red silk dress. The younger sister stopped and stared at them and ran to the back screaming. “Mom! Elrod and Jake are whacking off in the living room again!”
Meanwhile, Mario looked at his ledgers and shook his head. Nothing in National Geographic ever prepared him for this.
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