Gypsy Chicks sends Mex back to New York to reclaim a piece of her long ago past: the shadowy figure of her long-absent father. Through a one-shot fundraiser by the social elite of the Big Apple for strippers who are also single mothers, Mex finds out just what part of her heart still belongs to Daddy. Seraphim plays Momma Rose in the benefit, and the two learn more about how their friendship might become the marriage of their dreams.
The Mex Mysteries Book Six
Live and let live, as they say in AA. Judgment is the great gift and the great bugaboo of the human experience. How irritating is that? I’m over judging other people for the most part, knowing full well where that lands me. Oh no, it’s not judging others that’s the problem. It’s judging (and damning) myself that’s on deck for serious soul-searching. Ouch is the short form.
The afternoon was drowsy, humid. I sat on the crimson sofa half in and half out of nap, meditation, an alpha state. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. And I had an ache in my heart.
My lover Veronica had asked me every day for months if I would be her bride. I hadn’t told her yes or no because I couldn’t get clear. Then, ten weeks ago, she died. But before she did, she pointed out that my new friend Seraphim—actress extraordinaire—was to fill that role in my life. My every cell still ached for my Veronica.
As if on cue, sturdy spark plug Seraphim stuck her head through the front archway of the living room. “There you are,” she said.
“Here I am,” I agreed.
Acting the role of King Sextimus in Once Upon a Mattress had been the easy part of the summer, believe me. A shockingly long interval elapsed whilst I recovered from the show and began to feel like my usual femme self again. At one point I’d wondered if Veronica’s death had meant the death of the Ur-femme as well; she wasn’t totally dead but she had been archived for a while. Besides, I was changed. Playing King Sextimus had made me search deep for the inner masculine in myself.
No mistakes that his name is King Sextimus the Silent. The masculine in me had been silenced for way too long. Or, compartmentalized, if you prefer.
Once the show closed, then I ached to finish The Pink House. It’s the details, you know. The throw pillows, the vases, the tchotchkes, and the artwork. I think architect Mies van der Rohe said, “God is in the details.” It’s true. Goddess too. It bears noting that Ambrose Bierce said, “The Devil is in the details.” I guess it all depends upon your perspective.
I stayed in The Pink House for the rest of the summer. Moving pillows, vases, tchotchkes, and artwork. Then, moving them again. Reading. Meditating. Getting to know Xennie, my new Gypsy housekeeper. Visiting the puridai, the Gypsy matriarch, who often pretended to be on death’s threshold but then, like Art Buchwald, would rise like the Phoenix.
“Sleepy?” asked Seraphim.
The front doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” Seraphim said, loudly enough for Xennie to hear her. Oh, one other thing. Seraphim Groves, the Guest Artist at the Camp, had become my dear friend as well as houseguest for the rest of the summer.
I watched her go through the process of directing college kids in a show not exactly suited to their ages. Night of the Iguana. Tennessee Williams at his finest, outlining the emotional dissolution of a clergyman, name of T. Lawrence Shannon. At the opening, despite the age problem, the company acquitted themselves admirably. The show, like Mattress, was sold out for the entire run, and a group of sixty-odd college students had their first taste of a hit, twice. Seraphim enjoyed directing. I acted as her sounding board, and savvy business operator. Her innocence is part of what lets her be a stunning performer. It made me feel useful.
Speaking of useful, I helped Gareth do the cases he’d taken for the summer, and I continued to reject all comers. Veronica, my lover of a number of years, was dead. I was raw, raw, raw. I needed space, time, stillness. Unstructured being time, to heal, to reflect, to question, to wonder. I sat with Spirit daily.
Spirit. How to explain her? I suppose she’s the name I use for my own inner spark of divinity. When she got her name, she became a flame inside me. Isn’t that what divine sparks are for? Growing into flames? They are. Hence, Spirit. She runs my life when I listen to her. When I don’t, I don’t like to think on it.
We had arrived at Labor Day weekend. The last hurrah of summer. Iguana had closed. The beginning of school is embedded in our cells. Or mine in any case. I loved school. Correction: I love school. To this day, I consider a day when I haven’t learned something a waste. It’s all learning on this green marble called Earth. No, maybe not all. There has to be teaching if there’s to be learning.
I did both: learning, as always, about myself, and teaching, often. Mostly teaching Gareth, my remarkable assistant rapidly rising to associate, to investigate à la Mex Stone. This means intuitively. I am no ordinary investigator, nor am I a detective. I am an intuitive investigator. Between me, Spirit and Gareth, we tend to get things done in a completely unorthodox way, but who wants to be orthodox anyway? Not me.
It had been two months since Veronica had eaten a poisoned apple (for real) and died of mercury and arsenic poisoning. Bless her. I missed her still, sometimes unbearably, but grief, in time, has a way of easing. For me, it doesn’t exactly go away but the spaces between the missing grow longer as the quality of daily ongoing takes over. Grieving is for the living, not the dead. They have already gone on.
I was more volatile these days than I’d ever been in my life. Something like living on a PMS roller-coaster all the time, although it wasn’t PMS. It was partly hormones, not pre-menstrual though, post-. Partly emotion. Partly a lot of things. My task for the summer had been to let go, lighten up and not try to figure it out. Instead I had to let whatever I felt be. Don’t judge, don’t draw conclusions, don’t (whatever you do) take action. Just be. As in, don’t just do something, sit there.
I am intimate with grief. In fact, I might even say that I’m an expert, although it’s a dubious credit. Prudence, my white long-haired kitty, bathed, as usual, in my lap. Money, my black short-hair, drowsed on the cool hearth of antique Moroccan tiles lining the mammoth fireplace in the living room. I thought of the many deaths I’d seen. In cases, in my family, with friends, AIDS, terrorism, the list went on and on.
Where does this familiarity with grief source, Spirit?
She’s available 24/7 with no advance warning.
Generally? Or for you?
I needn’t have asked her. I got where it originated. A place of murky stories, small oddments, convoluted ideas, strange memories too, maybe. What happened to my daddy? I’d wanted to know since the age of five and no one had ever told me the whole thing all in a row. I’d made a note to self for years that I needed to hire myself and make my father’s death a case. Perhaps this fall was the right time.
Gareth was on his way up from the City. Seraphim was usually to be found somewhere in the house. Xennie’s rich contralto hummed a muted Gypsy chorus. The girls were purring and accounted for. Contentment was available if I chose it. Did I?
We were expecting company for the holiday weekend. Susannah, my friend and design consultant, was on her way to do her final consultation on the interior of The Pink House combined with a long-overdue visit. She would bring her husband, Oliver, one of my favorite people in the whole world. He is funny and bright and interested in everything besides being a fount of information on all material theatrical. They have two astounding daughters who had gotten better offers for the holiday weekend rather than to accompany their mother to finish a job.
Seraphim’s best friend in the world would join us on Sunday. I’d not met her. She’d been away for the summer, I think in Nebraska, directing. An accomplished theatre director named Patience, we’d spoken on the phone, and emailed a couple of times. I was nervous to meet her. Don’t know why except that as Seraphim and I got to know one another, it appeared that a romance was in the offing. I wondered if Patience would give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down vote on the subject of moiself, to quote Miss Piggy.
So, we would be six and Xennie too, who insisted on never being included in the guest list though she could have been. Xennie, short for Xenobia, was my Gypsy housekeeper who had signed on in the early summer. I felt as if I’d known her my whole life. She behaved like she’d known me my whole life. My granny was a Gypsy so Xennie made sense to me. Her son, Daniel, would join us for a meal or two. When he did, I’d have to insist that Xennie sit with us at the table and let us take turns serving.
The heavy front door swung open. It not only has its own doorbell, it has its own creak. Seraphim said, “What the hell . . . ? Oh.” She staggered in through the archway with a very heavy box.
“What is it?” I asked.
“A box,” she panted.
SELECTIONS FROM “GYPSY”
Lyrics by STEPHEN SONDHEIM Music by JULE STYNE
© 1959 (Renewed) STRATFORD MUSIC CORPORATION and
WILLIAMSON MUSIC CO.
All Rights Administered by CHAPPELL & CO., INC.
All Rights Reserved
Used by Permission of ALFRED MUSIC PUBLISHING CO., INC.
Copyright Page is deemed continued on pages 314 and following
at the end of the book.
The Gypsy Chicks lapel pin is once again the magical work of the very gifted Suzanne Rhodes based on an actual shoe. Don’t you just love them?
Gypsy Chicks is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental—if you believe in that sort of thing.
© 2017 Susan Corso
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