Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dirty Laundry In Cézanne’s Country #3: The Message

Letty stumbled off the path but managed
to grab the trunk of a sycamore tree
before she fell. Heart pounding in her chest,
she said, aloud, “Thank God I didn’t break
a leg!” But then she thought of the laundry.
The clothes had scattered out of the basket
and the basket was up-turned on the path.

Oh, Letty thought, the clothes will get filthy.
Then she laughed at herself. So what? she thought.
They’re on the way to the washer-dryer . . .

Looking back at the path, Letty could see
the clothing spread out between where she’d tripped
and where the basket now was upside down.
Shifts of afternoon sunlight angled down
through the tall sycamores. The scattered clothes
seemed to glow in the shimmering sunlight.

Doesn’t look like they’re dirty, Letty thought.

Checking the ground in front of her, Letty
took a couple of steps back toward the path.

Looking up, closer to the path, Letty
gasped. In the golden sunlight, flickering
with reflected green from overhead leaves,
Letty saw that the clothing had fallen
and scattered not randomly but rather
somehow had fallen into a pattern.
A convoluted pattern of circles
and lines, some inter-linked, some tangent, some
crossing over and under each other.

Letty took a step sideways, studying.

It was just pants and shirts, skirts and blouses,
briefs, brassieres and socks. But they had fallen
with sleeves and pant legs forming lines, some curved
into rough circles. Other skirts and shirts
were folded into solid triangles
directly on the edge of some circles.
Some stockings had fallen end-to-end and
now connected the circles of clothing.
Some stockings were crumpled like little balls
and looked like dots in and out of circles.

“What the hell?” Letty asked, aloud. “It looks
like one of those patterns you see in crops . . .”

Letty thought, What the hell? She carefully
stepped over the path where she had tripped and
walked a complete circuit around the clothes.

She looked around, as if someone might be
hiding in the garden playing a trick.
She was alone with trees and potted flowers.

Letty stared. She thought, again, What the hell?

Letty thought, I’ve got to get some pictures.
She took one step back toward the house, then stopped.

She turned back to the strange pattern of clothes.
Wait, she thought. What’s going to happen here?

Regardless of whatever’s going on,
what’s going to happen next? If I take
pictures, even if I only show them
to Matt, everyone will hear about this.
Matt gabs. Matt tells everyone everything.
Even if most people don’t believe it,
some will. Heck, every summer we get folks
trekking through here thinking they are walking
in the footsteps of Mary Magdalene
because they believe she came to Marseille
at some point after the crucifixion.
If folks start talking about crop circles—
even weird ones made out of dropped clothing—
we’ll get those new age-Stonehenge-Druid types
coming around here. Not just around here.
But here. This cottage. This garden. This path.

This cottage is about the only place
Matt and I ever have relaxed, switched off,
just enjoyed being alone together.

In Paris photographers are always
bugging us because of who I am, and
back in the States Matt’s always jumping from
one media project to another.

The weeks we spend out here at the cottage
are the only times we have for ourselves,
just to walk up and be tourists in Aix
or down for a peaceful meal in Gardanne.

Letty took a step backward. Another.
She leaned back against a sycamore tree.
She stared at the clothes still bright in sunlight.

She spoke aloud. “Why did you happen here?
Why to me? What the hell should I do now?”

(Tomorrow: Dirty Laundry In Cézanne’s Country #4: The Reply)

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