Authors: Holden Robinson
|Becoming Mona Lisa|
|Black Rose Writing (2012)|
"We are not invisible because the world does not see us. We become invisible when we can no longer see ourselves." In a moment of epiphany, Mona Lisa Siggs, scratches a poignant quote on a lavender envelope. Faced with the daunting choice of saving her marriage, or killing her husband - which modern forensics has made nearly impossible to get away with - Mona decides to make one final effort to rekindle a relationship seriously on the skids. Cue the birds. Hours into their reconciliation, Mona and her husband Tom, find themselves surrounded by hundreds of crows who have made their home in Aunt Ida's trees. With the help of brother-in-law Robbie, the duo find themselves engaged in radical crow relocation methods. Effort leads to mayhem for the Siggs, as they dodge bird goo, a crazy neighbor armed with a potato gun, and local law enforcement. From the chaos, lessons emerge, those that save a relationship, and shape a life. Becoming Mona Lisa is a delightful story of love and self-discovery, delivered with side-splitting laughter.
Becoming Mona Lisa
Copyright Holden Robinson 2012
Published by Black Rose Writing, Publishing at Smashwords
Black Rose Writing
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© 2012 by Holden Robinson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publishers, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.
The final approval for this literary material is granted by the author.
First digital version
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Print ISBN: 978-1-61296-114-9
PUBLISHED BY BLACK ROSE WRITING
Print edition produced in the United States of America
Author photo by Jill Kraft. Photo retouching by Don't Ask Photography. Cover design by Heather Robinson. Cover model: Brittney Bufkin. Cover photo styled by Angel Jagger.
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Dedicated to Jill Kraft,
And to my Frederick
wherever you are.
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The Greatest Treasures.”
Blog excerpt by Mona Lisa Siggs
If you want to see beauty in its purest form, watch two people fall in love. Falling in love is a miracle, and a curiosity of sorts. What, if not love, will prompt a woman to eat an apple and convince herself it is better than cheesecake? What, if not love, will compel a woman to ride a stationary bicycle and believe it is more satisfying than an hour of prime time television and a just-delivered Joe's pizza with extra cheese?
Falling in love is a miracle.
Falling out of love is a tragedy.
I've done both.
My mother once told me if I looked at my reflection long enough, my features would become obscure, and I would gradually become a Picasso. I never asked how long it would take, this transition from me to someone I didn't recognize. It may be minutes for some. In my case, it took a few years. Thirty-four to be exact.
I guess it wasn't that I'd become a Picasso. I guess I'd become more of a pooka. A pooka is an invisible creature, like the rabbit in the old movie, Harvey, starring the incomparable Jimmy Stewart.
The distinct difference between me, and the pooka known as Harvey, was Harvey had always been invisible. I hadn't. I'd simply disappeared. Over time.
I watched Harvey repeatedly, long before I understood the similarities I'd one day share with the big, white rabbit.
I loved the rabbit, but I loved Jimmy Stewart even more. Every year, at Christmas, I'd hunker down with my mother, father, and my beloved Aunt Ida, and we'd watch
It's a Wonderful Life
, and string popcorn for the tree. Aunt Ida would watch through cataracts, I through tears, and by the time the credits rolled, I'd be emotionally spent, and Aunt Ida would have half a bowl of Orville Redenbacher's sewn to her skirt.
My mother, ever the teacher, would turn the movie's message into a lesson, one of many she'd pass along, and it was her voice I'd most often heard in my head as I battled my darkest days.
“Wear good shoes, Mona.”
“Wear good underwear, in case you crash your car, Mona.”
“Never miss an opportunity to tell someone you love them, Mona.”
I guess two out of three ain't bad. I wear good shoes, and good underwear. It's the third one I screwed up.
I was thinking of this as I pulled into my driveway on a Sunday evening, after an uneventful shift at WalMart. My old Jeep emitted a familiar groan as we pulled into the driveway that was once smooth, and now felt like driving a Radio Flyer down a washboard.
I shut off the ignition and we both sighed. The old truck and the unhappy wife.
I labored up the sidewalk onto the porch. My feet crossed the fifty-year-old timbers, and the wood moaned beneath my treading. A stranger's reflection stared back at me from the single-pane window, as my hand sought the rusty knob. I opened the door and crossed the threshold, into the abyss that had become my life.
I stood in the foyer and kicked off my shoes. The linoleum was cool beneath my feet, and the loneliness seeped in almost instantly, as if it had been there waiting. It was familiar, this sense of emptiness.
“Comfort in the evil you know,” I once read on the jacket of a book about bad marriages. I had come to a formidable crossroads, left with the choice of saving my marriage, or killing my husband, but advancements in forensics had made it impossible to kill anyone and get away with it, so I got myself a library card, and checked out every book ever written on how to mend what seemed unmendable. I returned them all, three weeks later. Unread.
“I'm home,” I called to a silent house. “Tom? You here?”
“I'm in the kitchen, Mona,” came the response from the roommate who was my husband.
“What are you doing?” I asked, finding Tom Siggs at the kitchen table, his nose in a crossword puzzle.
“Same old, same old. How was work?” he asked, as our eyes met, as a recognition almost occurred between two idiots in a relationship dying of boredom.
“It was like work,” I said.
“Work usually is,” Tom replied, his gaze back on the paper.
“Dinner?” I asked.
“Dinner?” Tom repeated.
“The meal you eat at night, Tom.”
“I know what dinner is, Mona.”
“Did you want some?”
“I'll light the grill.”
“Awesome,” I said, with no enthusiasm.
Tom left his paper in the waning sunlight, and I took his chair. It was still warm, and I felt sadness and heat creep into my body, joining the loneliness that had settled there. It was almost like being touched by him, but not, yet it was the closest thing I'd had to a connection with my husband in as long as I could remember.
I looked at the man who stood outside my back door. A man who was once a stranger, then my friend, my lover, my husband, a stranger. A perfect circle, one Dante would appreciate.
It was a question without an answer, a complex equation with an elusive solution, one that could be found over time, if either of us were willing to make the investment. We weren't.
“I'm troubled about something, Mona.”
The voice was unexpected. I hadn't heard my husband come into the kitchen. I looked at him, ready to bare my soul to him, willing to make one last effort to reach him.
“About what, Tom?” I asked, as I held my breath and mentally prepared for the conversation I'd wanted to have with this man for years.
“I had to press the automatic starter on the grill four times. Shouldn't it light the first time?” His brow furrowed in thought, and I stared at him and frowned. “Bothers you too, doesn't it?”
“Yeah, Tom. I'm losing sleep over it.”
“Jeez, Mona. It was just a question.”
“Sorry,” I mumbled.
Tom disappeared through the back door, and I followed him, but only as far as the stove. I filled the tea kettle, and returned to the chair.
The room was quiet, save the gentle hiss of an old gas stove, readying a pot of Earl Grey. I looked through the window to my left to see Tom performing his simple task. He had become an old man in a younger man's body, a man whose dreams had faded away, whose mind was worn from the mundane, a man who lived in a home obese from the weight of despair.
We'd become the perfect husband and wife. Miserable. Silent. Lost in a murky sea of hopelessness.
The kettle shrieked, and I jumped and fought the urge to wail along with it, to finally give voice to my misery. It stopped before I could rise.
“Didn't you hear that, Mona?” my husband asked, once he'd shut off the burner and quieted the screaming.
“Lost in thought,” I said defensively.
“You all right?” he asked.
“Not really, Tom.”
“What's wrong?” he asked.
Did I dare? Did I dare open the floodgates and let it all out?
“I guess I'm just hungry,” I lied.
“Grill's hot. Burgers should be ready in a little bit.”
“Great. Thanks, Tom.”
“No problem. Are you sure there's nothing else wrong?” he asked, looking hard at me.
The floodgates closed, and the misery splashed against them. “No, Tom. Everything's fine.”
Tom stood in the corner of the kitchen, looking at the despicable human being who shared his life.
“Was there something you wanted to say?” I asked.
“Not really,” he muttered, before turning away.
He spoke the truth, this kind man I could no longer reach. There wasn't anything to say. Nothing. It was the end. It was only a matter of time.
I stared out the window, as the water in the kettle grew cold.
– a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence of experience.
If you listened, you'd hear a collective groan as the weekend ended and Monday arrived. I didn't groan, because I loved Monday. The workweek began; Tom and I were separated by a measurable distance, and the silence in the house became palatable.
This particular Monday began like any other. Tom was in the shower. I slowly made my way to the kitchen, intent on celebrating my first day off in ten. It was only a day off, not a trip to Disneyland, but I was somewhat elated, nonetheless.
Tom had made coffee, but as he often did, he'd forgotten to put the top on the carafe.
A teaspoon of coffee had made it into the pot. The rest was everywhere.
I noted my husband's indiscretions, like any fastidious wife, and added to his petty crimes: one puddle of coffee on the counter, a smaller one on the floor, and a wad of soggy, coffee-covered paper towels spewing haphazardly from the trash can.
I flushed the grainy mess down the kitchen sink and went about preparing another pot. As I did, I noticed smoke coming from the back yard.
What the hell?
I shuffled to the back door in my Eeyore slippers. Smoke billowed from the grill. I stepped outside, and headed toward the source of the smoke. My big blue feet disappeared into an autumn color spectrum as I tromped through the leaves.
I shut the grill off, and turned.
I turned back, and hit the ignition.
The grill roared to life.
I'll be damned.
The orchestrations of the coffee pot greeted me upon my return to the kitchen, which I found pleasing. I was tired and a bit pissy, which totally messed up the Zen-like feel of my much needed day off.
My bladder awoke, and I panicked. I needed to pee, but roommates didn't meet in the bathroom, they met in the kitchen, so I risked dialysis, and plopped down into my favorite chair. I crossed my legs to within an inch of their life, closed my eyes, and covered my ears, thus drowning out the teasing trickle, as the last of the coffee drained from the pot's innards.
I couldn't face my naked husband. Not today.
Finally, the water stopped and I heard the shower curtain, the tinny ringing of the metal hooks as they sailed over the rusty pipe on which the flowered fabric hung. I flew from the chair to the bathroom. Tom exited; I entered.
“Morning,” Tom muttered.
“You left the grill on,” I mumbled, slamming the door.
I stood in the quintessential shit hole that was my bathroom, and I could hear my husband breathing on the other side of the door. I waited until I heard him walk away, and plopped down on the old green commode. Nightly, I prayed for the HGTV fairies to visit my bathroom. Once again, they hadn't come. I imagined their handiwork, a transformation of magical proportion, new fixtures, plush towels, flickering candles and scented soaps. It existed only in my mind, but the current bathroom worked with the rest of the house, a twelve-hundred square foot, ready-to-be-condemned rambler filled with junk, hand-me-downs, and misery.
I had inherited the house ten years ago from my Aunt Ida, a feisty, old gal with purple hair and poor eye sight, who smelled like banana bread and moth balls. I loved the house, not because it was nice, but because it held memories, because it had been Aunt Ida's.
I had planned to remodel, but never got around to it. The days passed, I couldn't muster the motivation, and so the house remained as it was, with one exception - the missing strips of wallpaper Tom peeled from the bathroom wall each time he sat on the john.
I returned to the kitchen. Tom had helped himself to a cup of fresh coffee.
“Sorry about the grill,” he muttered as I filled my coffee mug.
“What's with the tie?” I asked, returning to my perch on the kitchen chair.
“Yeah, it's terrific,” I said, my voice flat. In truth, it wasn't that bad. Black tie, orange pumpkins. Nice mix of seasonal and asinine.
“My mom got it for me last year. Never had much use for it, but I guess with Halloween this weekend, it works. Do you think?” Tom asked.
“It's okay,” I replied with a chuckle, as a childhood memory picked at my brain.
“You're making fun of me,” Tom said, smiling weakly.
“No. I was remembering something,” I admitted.
“What?” he asked, sitting across from me.