Thursday, October 4, 2007

Story without a plot.... don't ask.

A hundred quiet conversations, laughter, crickets, warm music, all here in this garden. There is mood setting in with the setting sun, a spread of contentment. The lights in the mansion are low and they glow out through large-paned windows and onto the lawn. Inside, there are silhouettes of suits and gowns standing in small groups, an occasional gesture, or glass is lifted. Tuxedoed servers seem to glide in and out of these circles carrying trays of refreshments on white-gloved hands. Big band music is floating out from the darkened recesses of the open upstairs windows; a light but steady breeze holds the curtains out over the sills.

Candles flicker in the center of the tables around the garden, illuminating already beaming faces, and creating a myriad of dancing shadows across the garden floor. I’m sitting back in a patio chair and gazing at the reflections in the fountain beside me. I lightly stroke the rim of my glass. The hum makes a call to an evening bird somewhere beyond the hedged boarder of the lawn, and it responds after a pause of suspicion. My acquaintances from this evening are admiring the architecture of the fine home, and the landscaping that meanders down the hillside and onto the beach. They relish the champagne and hors d'oeuvres. Good food, good mood and an opening toast makes any man a gracious host. I watch as guests continue to arrive, most in stylish cars that the valets are obliged just to get behind the wheel of. at the bottom of the hill I see a steady cavalcade of headlights making their way up the scenic driveway.

The stars have begun to emerge. Likewise, an array of fireflies have resumed their plight. Couples begin to rise and slightly sway to the music, holding each other close, moving in harmony. The music softens more still, and beckons all within its reach to join the starlight promenade. This is my cue to get up and do some wandering, to satisfy some restlessness and curiosity.

I decide not to fight the traffic of the back door and opt to start my tour in the cellar. The entrance is on the right side of the house, smartly hidden by a meticulously trimmed hedge. I scale down a few stone steps and make a left-hand turn. All becomes pitch black as I reach the small landing. The heavy door is almost invisible, I trip the latch and a musty, damp draft greets me. It’s a pleasant stench, almost nostalgic. I enter eagerly and close the door behind me. There are excess kitchen utensils in one of the Dutch ovens on the shelf to my right, along with rows of cans and jars. The walkway is lined by wooden crates and cardboard boxes. A broken chair in a pile of kindling and firewood sits by the staircase that leads up to the kitchen. There are probably some potatoes on the shelves that reach beyond the feeble light of the bare bulb in the center of the room.

I take a moment to appreciate my solitude, I listen to the mixture of sound. Coming from outside there is still a faint hum of conversation, and the trill of a saxophone complimented by the sonance of laughter. From above me, in the kitchen comes the muffled din of productivity, plates and bowls clattering against each other, the thud of a cleaver, the hiss of hot water. And from here in the basement, there is only the sound of my breathing and the buzz of electricity in the light socket above me. For all of the clutter here there is a notable lack of cobwebs, but as I inspect the stone doorway to the left of the stairs, out of the way so as not to attract attention or absorb undue light, I find plenty of dust and cobwebs to go around. In this room there are 5 Isles of narrow lathed racks which comprise a modest wine cellar. The aroma is so rich that it almost trickles down my throat. There are a few dozen empty bottles in wicker panniers on the floor. I breathe in deeply one last time before ascending the stairs.

The light stings my eyes as I reach the top of the stairs, my sudden emergence attracts the stares of the workers in the kitchen, for a moment everyone pauses. Then, almost as if compensating, they jump back to their tasks with renewed vigor, their heads hung a little lower, their hands working more quietly. The pudgy Hispanic woman at the sink washing fruits looks at me with a glimmer in her eye that says to me "silly man, what are you doing here?" She seems amused, maybe a bit impressed. I nod to her as I head for the door.

In the hallway there are two of the servants against the wall. The man is leaning in close to the girl, resting his hand beside her shoulder, not in an intimate way so much as intimidating. They are having a conversation in low tones. I hear the young woman speaking of some irreparable issue between them. Her eyes are moistening, she is cowering directly under the light and the tears glisten like small diamonds as she looks up at him. The young man is notably affected but none the less intransigent. His mannerisms are telling of someone who doesn't take 'no' for an answer. I don't care to know their quarrel, nor to interrupt them. I duck my head and offer a benign wave as I pass them, feeling a little guilty for imposing on thier privacy. Aside from a slight pause to glance, they take no notice of me. I take the first door to my left.

Into an swanky lounge, vacant for the moment. The large polished black oak table is bare. the seats around it are extravagantly upholstered in red and gold. There's a full bar in the corner, crystal shined and waiting. The billiards table already racked and ready. This was a speakeasy at one point, now and exclusive joint that will no doubt be filled with cigar smoke well into the early hours of tomorrow by Our Gracious Host and his closest cohorts.

No comments: