Blanche Shaw, at the Edge

I’d thought to start an overdue novel this month, but odds and ends of characters who belong in other places keep showing up. Okay, not odds and ends but characters not fully realized. Wrong again? Okay, fully-formed lively characters who crowd my mind, demanding time.

Frank Wallace, the one-armed taxi driver was one. He drew me to him by his squalor and need. Blanche Shaw is another. She draws me by her diffidence. She stands apart, looking unhappy and confused.

She’s wearing a navy blue shirtwaist with tiny white flowers. A white cardigan is draped around her shoulders, its pearl buttons winking in the gloom of the living room. Even at this late stage in life, she’s mindful of the upholstery. Mother taught her to be so.

Her hands are folded where her breasts would be if she had any, and she is shaking, not out of fear (though she was born afraid of everything), but from the St. Vitus dance which she developed as a child and has plagued her all her life. It gets worse when she tired, and she’s tired now. People wear her out, and she’s unhappy in this crowd of characters. Blanche has long narrow feet, size 9 1/2, and she taps one foot, then the other, anxious to be gone.

Not just yet, Blanche, I’ve caught you.

You’ve lived at home all your life. First as a child, then as the young girl who cared for her mother, then a maiden lady (when people bothered to use such a term) and now a maiden aunt. Old maid has never been used in your presence. You’ve got a nephew in San Francisco who calls once a month and tells you horror stories about the rampant use of dope, rapes, and the things street people do, which are so unspeakable that he can only repeat them over the phone.

You live for these calls.

You stopped living for love when it was denied you. He’s dead now, anyway, and the feeling of deprivation stopped long ago. Father said no and, with that, began the erasure.

Rest now, Blanche, we’ll meet later on.

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