Saturday, September 25, 2010
MORE THAN A FEELING: CHAPTER ONE
Please read the prologue in the post before this one. A good read...if I don't mind saying so myself. :)
CHAPTER ONE -- MARIANNE AND SUSIE:
Aigean Bay, California -- 1978
The sound of the pinball machine could be heard throughout 'Susie’s Snack Shack'. Vinny continued to play while occasionally looking at the clock on the wall, mindful that he had to meet the others in about 30 minutes. Right below the clock near the entrance of the hamburger joint laid a bevy of skateboards. One of them his. Hell, when did this place get so busy, he wondered. He’s paid no attention to anything other than the game at hand and the sound of Elton John’s 'Crocodile Rock' overhead. Marianne Peyton only played rock and roll. Just one more reason to hang out there. Well, that and the fact that for a woman of 44, Marianne was quite striking. Not in an overly done and made up way. No. Marianne’s beauty was more natural with a toned, tanned body of about five foot eight that wore casual clothes of denim, T-shirts, tank tops and flip-flops. She hardly ever wore make up which suited her well. Her sun-kissed, girl next door, slightly freckled face didn’t need it. She had her big, brown eyes that brought it all together in a way that make-up never could. Her hair was strawberry blonde with slight streaks of gold, courtesy of the suns rays, waving through. Indeed, she was the quintessential southern California girl. Er, woman. Vinny corrected his thoughts.
Back to the skateboards: he’ll just have to sort through them when he leaves but as of right now, his two toned blue slip-on Vans were planted firmly in front of the pinball machine. He glanced at the clock again while Marianne herself gently reminded him of how much time he had until he had to meet the boys at the concert. “Okay, thanks!” Shit! He had to start getting ready. Game over. He headed into the bathroom with his back pack and took out small tubes of silver and black paint and a thin brush as he carefully crafted his art.
Out front Susie begged her mother to please let her go with Vinny to the concert. Marianne sympathized with her daughter as she told her; “Susie Peyton, you’re only twelve”, she said with only a hint of firmness, “and Vinny, Seamus and the others are nineteen and twenty. Murphy is even older than that and as much as they all adore you, sometimes they just need to be with kids their own age”. Men, Marianne corrected herself silently, not kids. That was a hard one for her to get used to. She’s known them all since they themselves were about thirteen. Now they’re grown, having graduated high school with some starting college and will soon be on the road to becoming whatever it is each of them was destined for. She hoped she would always be around to see for herself. “Besides”, as Marianne continued talking to her daughter, “you’re the namesake and proprietor of 'Susie’s Snack Shack', remember? If you leave, who will be here to run it? People need their charbroiled hamburgers, you know?” Susie wasn’t buying it. “You will, Mom! Like always!”. Susie was gravitating away from meat anyway and the very thought of hamburgers, charbroiled or otherwise, was unappealing. Susie crossed her arms in defiance and turned her back to her mother. She was actually more disappointed at not seeing Murphy more than she was at not going to the concert, but she certainly wasn’t going to share that information her Mom. Of course, Marianne knew of her daughters crush—and although she thought Susie was a little young for such a thing, especially since Murphy was 10 years older than Susie, she didn’t mind that it was he who held her young daughters heart. Nor did she let on that she knew anything about it. Murphy was always kind to Susie, as they all were, and he especially would tread carefully being mindful to never encourage her nor be cruel. Both the O’Neil brothers were indeed kind. Seamus was the youngest of the two and really considered Susie quite like his own little sister. What Marianne did dislike was that Suzie no longer called her Mommy. She hated seeing her young daughter so unhappy. She bent slightly down to be eye level with her daughter and twirled a strand of Suzie’s red hair around her index finger that dangled next to her daughters tanned face. “I’ll tell you what, in two weeks there’s a John Lennon concert. What do you say I wrestle up tickets for you, me and all the boys? How does that sound?” With delight Susie screeched; “Oh, Mommy, thank you!!! Yes!!!!” Oh, now she calls me Mommy, Marianne thought as Susie went off to collect the red plastic trays and baskets from around the diner. Just then Vinny re-emerged from the bathroom. Marianne caught a quick glimpse of him as he rifled through the skateboard pile by the front door. “Okay, Susie and Marianne -- gotta run. See ya!” “Bye, Vinny—have fun” Susie called out, too busy to notice his new art work. Marianne noticed, though, and tried desperately to stop him; “Vinny! Wait! It’s the wrong…..” but by the time she came out from around the counter and out the front door, he was already gone. Well, he’ll find out soon enough and she wished she could be there to see the look on the others’ faces.
On Sunday’s Marianne always closed 'Susie’s' at 8:00. Marianne promised her daughter she would take her to the boardwalk for a slice of pizza and an ice cream cone. In the office in the back of the kitchen, Marianne finished the schedule for the next week then doled out the tips that are left in an old pickle jar on the counter to her loyal workers, Phineus and Gwyneth. The tips were never much but Finn and Gwen never complained. They were late getting to the concert themselves because of the dinner rush but they were good hearted about it and didn’t seem to mind too much. Everyone loved Marianne and would do anything for her. She was theirs and they were hers. Her kids. She looked at the black and white picture on the wall behind the counter of her late husband in his sailor uniform and asked; “Did you ever think we would have so many kids, Ron?”. “No. Me either.” she said to herself. But she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Thanks to what Ron left her she was able to open up this little beach burger joint and not only earn a living for herself and their daughter, but give Susie “brothers and sisters”. Marianne looked around the place she and her daughter had 'built': red vinyl booths with fiberglass gold speckled tabletops, a few local beach snapshots she had taken were framed on the walls and the shack held one pinball machine. She even had a small patio outside. The diner was small and didn’t hold much but then again, she and Susie didn’t need much. It was enough for them.
Upstairs from The Shack were the living quarters; a small two bedroom apartment that overlooked the water. It was perfect for the two of them. Who needed a white picket fence when you had the ocean? It was convenient, too. When Susie didn’t feel like being downstairs keeping her Mom company or filling up salt and pepper shakers, she would go upstairs and play Atari, watch TV or read one of her teen magazines--usually when Murphy wasn't around. Wherever Susie was in the apartment, you can bet that “Elvis” wasn’t too far behind. Elvis was their cat, a Maine Coon who was once a stray. He’s as old as Susie is now but still lively and perfectly lovable with his thick striped coat of black and grey and congenial attitude.
One walked into their upstairs lair to find a small but airy living room—not too cluttered with knick-knacks. An oak wall unit stood against the one wall they had to put such things. On it sat a T.V., a stereo and Susie’s Atari game. On some of the shelves were pictures of Marianne and Susie and on the other sat large sea shells collected at flea markets and drift wood they found along the beach. Then there was Susie’s talent. She had a knack for turning little things like sea glass, shells and stones into beautiful pieces of artwork which Marianne displayed lovingly and proudly on the shelves. One shelf was just for Ron’s flag that was given to her by his commanding officer after he was killed in Vietnam. She was one of the lucky ones, she knew. Her husband at least came home to be buried. The flag was folded into a triangle at his memorial service which she had later encased in a wood and glass triangular frame. Next to it was the same picture she had of him that hung downstairs in the diner.
The vinyl sofa was grey and embossed with paisley's with throw pillows of avocado green, orange and gold adorning it. In front of the sofa was a brown rattan coffee table and two matching end tables next to each sofa arm—yard sale finds. On top of the coffee table sat a large conch shell and a smattering of magazines. On the wall above the oak wall unit displayed a macrame and bead wall hanging that Susie and Marianne worked on together. Behind the sofa were sliding glass doors that overlooked the ocean. Many evenings Marianne and Susie found themselves sitting on that small balcony in their yellow and orange flowered, plastic cushioned lawn chairs watching sailboats and making up stories about the people on those boats; who they were and where they were going. Some were from just down the coast west a bit, Palos Verdes peninsula area, perhaps going to Catalina Island for the weekend.
Others were from Orange County, where Marianne and Susie also lived, making their way to Hawaii they imagined. In the same room as the living room was a small dining area with an overhead light brass fixture that hung low. The table was made of a glass top with brass legs and four brass chairs with tan built-in cushions.
The kitchenette wasn’t much; it had a green counter which overlooked the living area and divided the dining room and kitchen. It housed a few cabinets, a two burner stove and a medium sized second hand avocado green fridge covered with sea shell magnets and pictures that Susie had drawn, sketched and/or colored. Yes, she had quite the talent.
To the right of the kitchen was a narrow hallway with wooden door beads of tan and blue dangling from its entrance. On the hallway walls hung Susie’s baby pictures and Ron and Marianne’s wedding and honeymoon photos. But Marianne’s favorite photo of all time was the one taken in May of 1966 of Ron and Susie, just right after Susie was born. Ron is holding Susie in his arms as he’s looking at her and Susie is looking at him. Marianne titled it; “Getting acquainted”.
Just down the hall on the left was the bathroom. The shower/bathtub was adorned with a blue and brown striped plastic shower curtain. Mounted on the bathroom wall were two plastic ringed towel holders that held blue and brown colored hand towels with embroidered owls. There was a mirrored medicine cabinet for toothpaste and such that hung over a single pedestal sink.
On the right side of the hall was a small linen closet and Susie’s bedroom was next to that. Her walls were bubblegum pink—which she’s now asking Marianne to paint another color. ANY color other than pink. Her bedspread is a pattern of rainbow colors with matching curtains. She has a white dresser with a mirror and a matching nightstand next to her bed. On her bed lie a few dolls that Marianne places there everyday, after Susie makes her bed, which she then always later removes and shoves in her closet.
Marianne’s bedroom was directly across the hall, next to the bathroom. Her room was only slightly bigger than Susie’s but enough for Suzie to beg her Mom to switch rooms. Marianne’s bed was a double, not a single like Susie’s, and covering it was a brown satin bedspread with matching throw pillows. Susie hated that her Mom got the bigger room and hated even more that her Mom couldn’t see she wasn’t a little girl anymore. In Susie’s rebellion, she took down the posters of the Cassidy brothers and put up Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. Much to her surprise, her Mom didn’t seem to mind. Wasn’t it her Mom, after all, who highly approved of Seamus giving Susie Fleetwood Mac’s 'Rumours' album for her 12th birthday a few months earlier?
Even Susie must admit that when it came to music, her Mom hit all the right notes. It was Marianne who had connections to tickets for upcoming concerts —- a benefit of being a long time and well liked resident of Aigean Bay where they lived. Marianne knew who would be playing and where -- John Lennon would not be Susie’s first concert. She’d already seen Boston, E.L.O. and Peter Frampton. As much as Marianne wanted to incorporate music into Susie’s life, she also wanted shield Susie from the darker side of concert going. Susie was old enough to know that drugs sometimes played a role for those in attendance. Before and after each concert always came a lecture from Marianne.
Susie knew about marijuana and had even smelled it in the distance at some of the venues -- she knew it was simply part of the times. Of course, Susie had never tried it, nor did anyone dare offer it to her—especially with Marianne around. Susie knew some of the boys smoked it, too. She had seen them around the back, when she was taking out garbage, lighting up on more than one occasion -- and even they tried to protect her by shooing her away. She knew her Mom knew this about them, too, and that she would never say anything. They were adults, after all, and had their own parents for such lectures. The exception was whenever Susie went to the beach or somewhere with the boys. She’d overheard her Mom’s warning to them more than once: “That’s precious cargo so you all be careful what you do in front of her today or you’ll have me to deal with tomorrow.” Susie was not only well loved but well protected by all of them. She knew she would always be in good hands.