by Mary Lou Haberman
1678 words

Lindsay looked quizzically at Marilyn, hesitated, then accepted the pages. “These are the pearls?”

“Yes they are and now you must read them outload.”

“Do you mind if I sit down?”

“No, my dear. Please do. You are more of a familiar to me than you know.”

“A familiar?”

“Oh, silly me, I meant you seem familiar to me for some reason. Anyway, I trust you and Catherine. And you two are entrusted by others to nurture something. She giggled. “I just don’t rightly recall right now what it is, but I think these Walker Pearls will help.”

Tears came to Lindsay’s eyes and her lower lip quivered. She absentmindedly adjusted the infinity necklace she always wore. She felt whole when it hung right between her breasts, over her heart. It was a gift passed down through the women in her family from her great-grandmother, Eloise. She’d never known her in person, but always felt her presence when she was on the edge of change. Lindsay was aware of a pulsating sense of purpose deep inside her belly.

“Oh, Marilyn.” Her voice quivered. “Catherine and I and some of the others need so much help right now. We don’t want to lose the museum, but we have no money to preserve it and take care of it. We want to help the museum become all she can become, but we just don’t have the funds. And the board members are diverse enough, but not connected. There is no shared vision.”

Marilyn nodded the gentle nod of wise women, “Yes, my dear, I know.” She reached for Lindsay’s hand and patted the sofa, “sit down right here while I get our tea.”

Lindsay felt herself drifting to the stuffed sofa she hadn’t noticed before. She floated down onto the sofa and curled her legs under her—like she had been imagining she would when having a heart-to-heart chat with Catherine—someday, when things sorted themselves out.

On the way to the kitchen Marilyn mumbled to herself. “I think white tea is called for at this moment. As bad as my memory can get, I remember clear as a well that white tea is what Angie and I learned is good for cleansing, clarifying ,connecting with spirits and deities, psychic abilities, and new beginnings.” She felt a warm breeze on her cheek and knew that Angie agreed.

Lindsay was confused by the feelings bubbling up inside her: eagerness, apprehension, curiosity, anticipation. Then, she felt eager to unfold the pages and did so. She chose to wait for Marilyn who returned and alighted beside her.

“Here, my dear. For some reason, I think this is a magical moment.” She laughed lightly, “I have no idea why I would say that!” And she remembered the way the man who loved her would wink at her when they teased each other not so long ago.

Lindsay reverently opened the folded pages—there were six of them. The top one, on paper that seemed to shimmer were the words Je disparais mais retournerai. She frowned and looked at Marilyn. “I don’t know what this means.”

Marilyn clapped her hands together in glee. “Oh, sweetie pie, it means ‘I disappear I will return.’”

Not wanting to be rude, Lindsay shrugged and shook her head oh so slightly, “Oh.” And thought she hadn’t been mistaken about Marilyn’s lucidity.

Nonetheless, she read on the next page, “You Can Never Go Wrong Doing The Right Thing” and as if to be sure the pearls were to be taken seriously the next Walker pearl read, “ Better To Do The Right Thing At The Wrong Time Than To Do The Wrong Thing At The Right Time.” Although she thought, I’ll have to think about that one, she knew in her gut what it meant.

The next page read, “It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn.” That’s true for sure. The next page read, “Follow Your Dreams.” She paused and pondered that one. She had indeed been following her dreams despite several obstacles. And the last page, in large black block letters read, “You Never Know What Goes on Behind Closed Doors.” Ominous, she thought and shivered and smiled at the same time.

Lindsay felt lightheaded and turned to Marilyn. “So, these are the Walker Pearls of wisdom? All this time I thought the stories of hidden treasures in the museum, if true, were about things—items—something that could be held in one’s hands. But these words are from a loving guardian telling the way to live.” She stopped. “But I’m embarrassed to say, I should understand them all, but I really don’t.”

“That’s normal honey. It usually takes some time to understand certain things”. And then suddenly her voice became deep, gravely and, with glowing red eyes she growled, “But, you don’t have that kind of time. You must take action by the next full moon.”

Catherine felt an unfamiliar sense of power. “I have to share these with Catherine.”

“Yes.” Marilyn nodded. “But you’ll both need your rest for the next few days. Go ahead and crawl into bed with her and we’ll all break the fast together in the morning before you go.”

That night, after she crawled into bed and spooned with Catherine, she fondly remembered the hours she spent with Mr. V, the docent when she was small and was puzzled to hear him say what Andrew had said several days ago, “A capital campaign can’t succeed until we make people care about the museum and to make people care, you have to make them notice.” She knew she had to take action and she couldn’t do it alone and gently poked at Catherine.

“Hey.” Catherine stirred, rolled over, saw Lindsay, and smiled. “Hey, yourself.”

***

Ted Davis found himself confused as he pedaled hard through the pounding rain. What’s happened to me? I used to think every revolution started with a single spark. But what the hell does that even mean? All I know is deep down I want to make a difference in this community.

He grabbed his toupee from under his helmet and tossed it into an open curbside bin. “Fuck politics. I might as well admit my mother was right. My energy is misdirected.” He started to cry. “So what in the world am I doing here? I like the people I’ve met here, but…”

He pedaled with more vigor up the one hill in town, squeezed the brakes in the middle of the street and screamed to the universe, “I hate committee work.”

Feeling deflated, he went home, drank a carrot juice spiked with vodka and went to bed. That night, he dreamed he was the chief decorator and landscaper at the Walker Museum. In the dream, he had all the resources he needed—money, tools, time, and permission to do things that delighted him and others. In one scene, he used exotic flowers to catch visitors’ eyes and their amazement as a Venus flycatcher ate a fly and then opened up and let the fly go all the while humming a vibrant colorful tune. He thought he heard the fly giggle. Then, he turned around and saw ponds filled with creatures long extinct and parks where dinosaurs roamed and—look, there are beaches for auks and manatees. In his dream, these were his creations and gifts to humanity. He saw some of the other board members rushing toward him with open arms and his smile was as big as the universe. He finally felt at ease. Peaceful. His mother would be pleased. She had never given up on him. In the morning, he struggled to get out of bed. He was distracted by the dream. It was incredibly intense, puzzling, unreal, but, oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have so much freedom, so many friends, and so much important work? He sighed, If only…

***

Toni found herself in a tizzy—not an excited happy one like she got when a big sale went through, but a tizzy of fury. Who did that Paul think he was anyway to tell me he needed to think about working with me? I’m the only way he’ll be able to do anything with the dilapidated museum and those moldy stuffed animals. Where did he find that goofball who said that crap about the orcas? Damn him. Now what am I going to do? She started to doubt herself. Maybe it wasn’t even worth selling. It was just too far gone and should be torn down. She didn’t bother to take off her stilettos or pancake make-up. She’d been up all-night pacing, smoking, and fuming until she decided to take another look—at least take a closer look at the outside of the monstrosity. Surely she hadn’t been wrong about selling it to Paul.

She jacked herself up on coffee at Subdued Brews and thought, what a sad excuse for a woman that girl is. Sunny, with her special powers, heard what Toni thought, and pondered the nature of evil.

Leaving the shop with her nose pinched and adjusting her Chipcard sunglasses, she marched toward the museum.

Soon she stopped, stared, and, with hands on hips, declared with a terrible screech, “Unbelievable. What a piece of garbage. Not even mediocre. Just crap. Thrown together like the architect was one of those disgusting narcissists who think no matter what they do, it’s a gloriously holy masterpiece.”

Just then, she felt a tremble under her feet. She wobbled. One of her heels broke off and pain shot into her ankle. Then she heard an ear-splitting gasp and cough as if someone were about to cough up a lung, looked up and saw a car-sized ball of dust coming straight toward her—closer and closer until tiny bits of dirt shattered her eyes. Toni panicked, froze and whispered, “oh shit” as she took in her very last breath. The museum snickered and her beloved children cheered.

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