rewrite lost 36
I’ve decided to put the prose novelly pieces from lost past first, leaving the nutsy prose poems for the stalwarts who hang in until the end, those with a nutsy streak (with an eye to possibility) to their own makeup. It’s been slightly edited already. I have begun to make better poems from the earlier lost pieces, but won’t put those on the blog as they’d be considered published. I know only the true soul-matches will go on to read them.
I’ve decided to rewrite this part of lost past, changing one factor. Now Phillip doesn’t die before Florence gives gives birth. I’ll go back and rewrite other parts later, but this is a start.
It was just a little house on Albert street. Perfect, easy for her to get to doctors, the hospital eventually. That’s the way you did it in Canada her friend Mrs. Haazen said. She’d met Mary Haazen years before at a church social; Phillip said she was one of his best customers and she always had water for his horse and tea for him and Frank. She was older than Florence, but the easiest person in the world to get along with. She and her husband lived in a teeny tiny house that Gwen loved. It’s like a witch’s house mum, a good witch’s house, Gwen liked to say.
Now the Haazens would have to take streetcars to get to see the Vincents and vice versa, and that made a good day out. It was the first time Florence had ever looked at the city really. She’d been into it now and then but now she could take note of the parks, the churches, the old buildings and the new ones. Their house was down by the old docks, near Griffintown. It was an interesting place to live because there were still a lot of Irish families there, and the griefs from the old world didn’t seem to exist here, not among the women anyway. She found new friends. She was happy really, except that Phillip was going downhill very fast. Thin and grey, nervous. He slept a lot now. She was seeing that her father might not be around when the baby was born.
He knew now, of course, but pretended to be as excited as if the baby would be his first, ignoring what was happening in his head. There were days when his own pretense of excitement was all that seemed to keep him going. The thrill of what Florence Louisa had finally told him, of two babies, not one, as the doctor had discovered. No wonder Florence was so tired, carrying all that weight in front of her. Yet didn’t she look even more beautiful to him. He tried not to think about what was going on in his head, couldn’t imagine how she would cope once he was gone.
It won’t help, Florence, to moan and groan. I hope I get to hold the wee babies, but if not, that’s the way it is. So try not to fret. You’ve got some money in the bank, and there’s some insurance. Not enough perhaps, but you’re a pretty woman, Flo, love. You’ll be the one marrying the rich widower. They’ll be flockin’ to your door.
He went with her to buy the cribs and all the things needed for two babies. It was slow going, but the excursions made his days, and all was right with his world until the pain was so bad, the painkillers not working and he willed himself to die. She knew this. He’d told her about it, about hypnotizing himself to die quickly. Still he hung on.
Florence was exhausted and wondered if she was strong enough for the birth. she was thirty-six and feeling it. Just in case, she spent time straightening out Phillip’s papers, making her own will, arranging for care for Gwen. They’d started to call Gwen ‘Winnie’ at her own instigation, but choosing a new name was a bit different from being grown up enough to take care of herself. Florence knew that if Mary Haazen took Gwen in, and Mary had already agreed to that, Winnie would get an education. And she’d be loved; Mary had always wished she’d had a daughter as well as a son. Mary said she’d take the twins too, though Florence felt that would be too much. Her Uncle Leonard’s daughter would happily take them if necessary. Gert and Bill didn’t have kids of their own after years of trying. All seemed set. She set about cleaning every cupboard, folded all the clothing neatly in drawers. Washed and waxed every floor. No one would say she’d been a slovenly housekeeper, remember her that way. Such grim thoughts. Florence was one to be prepared though, and if all went well, she would be coming home to a neat house.
A few weeks later she woke Frank at 3 a.m. You’d better take me in she told him. Phillip watched as Frank took over, sank back into his pillows. I hate to stay here while you go through this he said, holding her hand through a contraction. I’ll be fine she said, kissing him with a sudden passion, surprising both of them considering the occasion. He, of course, couldn’t read her mind, know she thought she might never see him again. Never kiss him again at all. Worried that he might not even be there when she got home, if she came home. Anything could happen to him or to her. In the taxi she wondered about love, how passion could remain so strong through long illness, through watching a love disappear slowly before her eyes. He was so thin and grey. Who ever thought the chances were that she might go before Phillip.
Frank knew what to do, which was to take his mother to the University Lying-In Hospital on St. Urbain Street. Stayed, paced the halls like a couple of other people were doing. He was as frazzled as a new father, almost old enough to be one he figured. In any case, he was very much the man now, man of the family, a man who had to take care of two new babies, two boys as it turned out. Brothers. Two, after all the years he wished he could have more brothers. At fifteen, it was a lot to think about. Gwen, Winnie, he reminded himself, would help, but she was only twelve and upset about her father, how he did little more than stay in bed or on the sofa, how he barely could lift the newspaper, or be interested in what was happening in the world. He only came alive when talking about her day, or Franks’s latest exploits, or the babies to come. Frank couldn’t be her father after all, didn’t know how to respond to his sister’s bouts of crying.
And Florence had survived. now three months later, the little house was noisy with babies crying. Phillip loved having them near him, and the warmth of his body in bed or on the sofa seemed to calm them. He felt like he was being of some help. But Florence was worn out; so many diapers (and her babies would not sit in wet ones if she could help it…) nursing, sore breasts, the Victorian nurses’ visits, still getting meals on the table.
Winnie was getting fractious. No sooner had they moved to this new house and made new friends, than all her time was taken up with crying babies and their real or imagined stink. Florence felt for her, and let her go.
Frank was thinking about work now, because that’s what a man did. He went to work. Part-time to start, until something came up. He didn’t go to school much, but Florence made sure he was always registered, hoping that maybe he’d get a good teacher, or get interested in something, anything that would get him to graduation. Mrs. Haazen was a big help. Her own son Charlie was out driving a taxi now, and the little witch house didn’t need much cleaning these days.
It doesn’t matter Mary said to Florence. If I clean it it just gets dirty again all by itself. I’ll wait til it’s really filthy and do it up then. Makes sense, right? And she’d come and wash Florence’s floors, help feed the twins, sit with Phillip orbabysit for an afternoon so Florence could have an afternoon sleep. Florence would have collapsed without her, emotionally as well as physically.
She felt she had started to grieve even though Phillip was till with her, lapsed into melancholy, when nothing seemed good or positive about life. How could she cope when he was gone. She couldn’t imagine it, and she would remember how he looked when they met, her sailor in his shiny shoes and cocked cap, his grin, how he had seemed from the start almost more interested in being with her, being close, rather than rushing her into bed. What rotten luck to have this monster growing inside his head taking him away from the life he’d love on the sea, and later from his loved farm.
When the twins were old enough to sit up, she’d put them in the stroller Phillip had bought for them, one with a wide seat, room for the two babies. If they fell asleep, she’d sit down wherever she was, sometimes on a storefront steps or in a park or on the steps of a house for rent. Wonder why she couldn’t cry. Until eventually she did, and it came in torrents. She got thinner than ever, not minding much what she looked like.
Winnie’s bursting out this morning hadn’t helped. I hate the twins! I hate them, and I hate hanging diapers on the line, I hate washing bottles with a bottle brush. I hate scalding them. Shhussh, Florence whispered, going over quickly, cupping her hand over Winnie’s mouth. Your father will hear you. And that would start tears, both of them, clinging to each other until Winnie pulled away.
What could Florence say then. It was her fault after all. She should have turned Phillip away those nights, but how could she have. How could she not comfort him, let him do the one thing he was able to do. How could she not let him be a man as long as possible. Well that was her thinking at the time, her decision, and now here were the results. Two of them, each with a powerful set of lungs. Squallers both, as if they were in a competition. She was so tired. The y decided to name them Leonard and Albert after her own twin brothers. She hadn’t the energy to think of anything else. Leonard Frankland and Albert Phillip. That took care of the name problem nicely. Mary Haazen and her husband stood for them at the christening, through which they howled the whole time. The minister could hardly be heard.
Slight edit, peng peng
cloned with roundworm fat gene, the mining of asteroids in as little as two years, our stony next place in the universe to live never the opposite way round as the system tends to lock and jam. an average human sees a million; using four cones. peng peng, i’ve said this before: the thing about life is one day you’ll be dead. it is never the opposite way round as the system tends to lock and jam, utterly unremarkable in every way, a stationary mic. as soon as a wild thing is listed, seems it starts to disappear. when all the animals and birds are listed, well, in a shoe factory all stories need to look like something, have their own tongues, peng. the click and fricative gone after moving through a dipthong. a worm wheel, yes. if i’d agreed with you, would we both be wrong/ glands of intense physiological activity a drain on energy, and never the opposite way round.