|"Keep your hands off my baby," Celestine cackled as she ran the perimeter of the footy field. The game was over, her team had won (England 2, Columbia 0), and she had scrambled onto the field to grab the errant ball. Her best friend, Terry, was in the stand watching as Celestine kicked up her legs like a Radio City Rockette dancing in limbo. "See that girl?" Terry screamed above the din to her companion, Miss Otis. "She was never one to tread lightly at a footy game!" Turning back to the field, she yelled, "Don't run away from me now, girlfriend! Get back here!!" Celestine came running back to the stands. "I got it! It's hard to believe but I got it! Since my first footy game, it's all I ever wanted. Good for me!" Terry started laughing with her friends for what probably amounted to the fifth time since the game ended. "Golly, Terry, I can't stop killing you with my, how shall I say...uh...out of left field antics? C'mon, girls, we're outta here. Let's go find Patrick. He's on the beach at Festival Pier. We can track him down and be on our way to Clubland."
|The three girls took the rail from the footy stadium. They sat in the car quietly as if mired in a still life painting. Terry was looking out the window as they passed Soho Square; Celestine was clutching her ball and thinking of what a perfect day it had been thus far, and Miss Otis was ruminating on her lost innocence. Miss Otis, the youngest of the girls, was American. She was born and raised in Manhattan and left last month after her debutante ball. Her English friends refer to her life as the 'fairy tale of New York': her own floor at the Plaza (complete with the infamous Roman Gardens), summers in Berlin, dancing the Libertango and the Mambo de la Luna at Roseland, and being dubbed 'queen of the high teas' at the Russian Tea Room. Sure, it was a fairy tale but then, they don't know about the baby.
"All the tears that I cried," she thought. "My mother labelled me bad but it was really her fault. Rich mothers ruin their girls." She stopped for a moment. "Oh...what am I thinking? It was MY affair. And, despite the fact that the other half of my nooner was the butcher boy, a member of the middle class, I'm going to have this baby." Here, in the privacy of her thoughts, Miss Otis regrets the falling out with her family but her memories of walking down Madison Avenue, and the Manhattan moon shining through the nighttime clouds will always fill her mind with the titanic days of yore.
As the rail car cobbled over London Bridge, the sun on the water of the Thames reflecting in her eyes made her look to the right. She caught a glimpse of Celestine. Oooh, that smile pasted on her face; a smile that reminded Miss Otis of the tracks made by a camel crossing the desert. Celestine thought Miss Otis was her friend but every time Miss Otis saw her or heard that cackle she wanted to scream, "You can't be my friend. You just haven't earned it yet baby!!" It was this sense of entitlement, just one of those things Miss Otis felt in her self-described 'golden heart', that was on her mind when the rail car jumped the track and pandemonium ensued.
"Please help me I'm falling!!" yelled Celestine. Miss Otis snapped out of her thoughts and saw Celestine hanging from an open rail car door. She looked out the window again and thought, "Ohmigod, London Bridge is falling down!" Next to her, Terry started scrambling to grab Celestine and managed to shove her arm past the door jam. Celestine grabbed her wrist. "Celestine, as long as you hold me you'll be okay," yelled Terry over the sound of cracking metal. From all around her, Miss Otis heard screams of terror. "What if tomorrow never comes?" she thought. "Will I go to heaven or hell? Am I an angel? Will I get closer to god? Or will I be sticked and stoned in the netherworld?"
It was with those last thoughts that Miss Otis decided - whenever her time came, she was going up. "Celestine you can count on me!" she yelled and grabbed Terry around the waist. "Terry, can you grab hold of the seat with your feet?" Terry yelled back, "In these shoes? I don't think so." Miss Otis looked around and saw a man with a cowboy hat on his head, a western-style shirt and boots. He was sitting and shivering in the rear of the rail car looking, for all intents and purposes, like he was dressed for Halloween. "Hey, cowboy, throw me those boots," she yelled. "My boots, ma'am? No way. They're snakeskin and this is a free world," snivelled the cowboy. "Don't come the cowboy with me, Sonny Jim. Take off those boots NOW and throw them over here." The cowboy could see the force in her eyes and hear the rhythm of the real thing in her voice so he kicked off his boots and chucked them over to Miss Otis. "By the way," he said. "It's John."
"OK, Terry," Miss Otis yelled, grabbing the boots and ignoring John's last comment. "I'm putting these boots on your feet. Can you grab the seat now?" Stretching as far as she could, Terry managed to hook the boots around the bottom of the seat. "I got it, Miss Otis. I got it." Now Terry looked back to Celestine. "Celestine, you still believe in me?" "I do," Celestine yelled back. "But I am afraid. I want out of this! I don't know how much longer I can hold." Miss Otis knew that if Celestine let go she'd sail away like any piece of flotsam and jetsom on the Thames." Then she remembered the cowboy. "Dear John, you must come here and help us."
John had been watching the events with interest. Having seen the goodness in these other people's hearts, John sidled over to Miss Otis and said, "What can I do to help?" Miss Otis looked incredulous. "You want to help? Yea, and there's a guy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvis!" "No really," John said. "Here wrap your legs around that other seat there and hold on to my waist. What's the girl's name?" Celestine," yelled Miss Otis as she followed his instructions. With the wind whipping around his ears, John could barely hear Miss Otis and got Celestine's name wrong. "Caroline, grab my arm with your other hand." Celestine did just that and, with two arms to grab hold of, was now able to work her way back to the edge of the rail car where the two women and John grabbed her and pulled her to safety.
Miss Otis looked at John. "You caught me out when you asked to help. I didn't think you had it in you." "I almost didn't," John replied. "But I saw the mayhem all around and decided to start living in a new England - one of which I was a part." "That's beautiful," Miss Otis said. She put her arms around Terry, Celestine and John and continued, "But, you know, we'll never pass this way again. Our days of entitlement and self-imprisonment have just ended. By the way, John, what do you do?" "I'm a butcher," John answered and smiled. Terry started laughing again, "I don't care what he does I'm just glad he was around." And Celestine? As the rail car rocked in the wind, she was clutching her footy ball and thinking how this was now THE END of a perfect day.
Maintained and copyrighted 1994-2005 by Michael Teger.